Posts Tagged ‘open adoption’

Or rather, off the bookshelf and in my hand.

I’m in the middle of reading Lori Holden’s book: The Open Hearted Way to Open Adoption, which I open up every chance I get.


What makes Lori’s book so interesting is her perspective on openness, which she sees as a way to heal the split between biography (our upbringing) and biology.

One point that she makes that resonated with me is that all adopted kids need their parents to behave in an “open way” towards their children’s birthparents, whether known or not. It doesn’t matter if your kids have no knowledge of their birth-history, a closed adoption, limited contact, an occasional in-person relationship, a touch-and-go relationship, or a roast beef on Sundays kind of relationship, as adoptive parents, we need to keep the story of our children’s origins alive in our children’s hearts and minds.

Lori gives a great example of a mom who writes to her son’s birthmother despite the fact that she hasn’t heard anything back for many years. She’s doing it for her son. And her son in an overheard moment tells a friend how his mom always writes to his birthmom anyway, and it’s clear that it means a lot to him. The mother keeps all the letters and photos tucked away as a journal of her son’s life.

This all digs into another deep (and rather obvious) fact about adoption: our kids came from someone else, and that’s where their story begins  – whether we know the details or not. So if a child was adopted from an orphange or a hospital or through foster care, prior to that “first meeting point” was a woman and a man and a baby. This part of the story may be a mystery, and the facts may never be known but it’s still something we need to acknowledge and honour.

Even for us, in a situation where the birthfamily is known –but only really seen online for now– I need to constantly remind Theo of who they are and why they’re important.

I know an adoptive mom whose kids, adopted from Africa, write notes to their birthmoms and tie them to helium balloons and let them go on Mother’s Day. That pretty much says it all.

Do you talk to your kids about their birthparents regularly regardless of your situation? Is this just all a bit much? 

PS: I’m trying to blog daily as a creative undertaking so feel free to unsubscribe me! I won’t be insulted.


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Movies, TV shows and books make great conversation openers about adoption, or so they say. Take the opening episode of Pingu where sister Pinga is born for example.

Pingu and his baby egg sister.

Pingu and his baby egg sister.

Pinga started her life as an egg nurtured and warmed by the bottoms of various family members. Pingu, of course, just made mischief with the egg. Miraculously, the egg survives, and eventually, Pinga’s pointy beak pecks through her shell et voila, a mewling baby arrives on the scene much like any other cartoon penguin-person.

I immediately asked Theo if he also came from an egg, thinking this would be a great opportunity to talk about his beginnings.

In typical three-year-old fashion, he exclaimed loudly: “No! I crack through the egg, jump up and poo!”

Surprisingly, he didn’t squeeze in a monster reference.

Laugh. Sigh.

Nothing brings the facts of life up close and personal quite like adoption. After I stopped laughing, my brain wheels started spinning, and I thought I should say: “No … actually, you didn’t crack through the shell of an egg, you came from your birthmother [insert name].”

Then the second-guessing and backtracking began. Hmmm… nah … maybe I should say: “No actually, you came from your birthmother S’s tummy (oh no, then she becomes the dreaded ‘tummy mummy’)…. No… belly! No stomach… No … uterus! … [Mom – what’s a uterus? – no not ready for that] … how about … “Well … you see your birthmother S. and your Birthfather K., well they, um… anyway… Do you want a juice?”

Next time.

When did you explain the facts of life or adoption to your kids? And how?

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Open Adoption takes courage

Open adoption is much more than a contract or a philosophy or an ideal. It’s an act of bravery and courage by all who enter.


It take courage to:

  • to place your child in the hands of relative strangers for life.
  • to trust that parents have their child’s best interests at heart.
  • to experience and express your grief.
  • to share a life.
  • to reopen lines of communications when frayed.
  • to trust that you can have a foot in two families and be a whole, confident person.
  • to reach out when your arms are tired.
  • to say “This hurts.”
  • to bear witness to grief and pain and know that it’s not yours to bear.
  • to ask for what you want, accept the response, wait, and ask again.
  • to say “I need a break.”
  • to set boundaries when needed and relax them when they no longer serve a purpose.
  • to nurture relationships that are difficult or challenging.
  • to know you are loved, and accept that love.
  • to change, adapt and shift your perspective over time.
  • to put away your ego, set aside your feelings, and do what’s right for your children.

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I’m finally starting to see a flicker of brightness after a trying Christmas break that included a trip to the ER for Theo, a excruciatingly painful upper back strain for me, and the death of my  Auntie Julyan, a bright spark, who claimed her part of the universe on December 30th.

Auntie Julyan, full of joy, with her young family in the 1970s.

Auntie Julyan, full of joy, with her young family in the 1970s.

Amid that physical and psychic discomfort, I can only be thankful that we have such a responsive children’s hospital; that my brother-in-law, the uber chiro was able to work out some of my back issues, and that my aunt died peacefully in the comfort of her own home surrounded by her husband and children.

I also have to give a huge shoutout to SNOW on the north shore mountains and a short spurt of glorious sunshine. It took a while for us to get our health in order but we made it up to Cypress Mountain for a spectacular day of snow-laden branches and trails, forts and hot chili at the rustic Hollyburn Lodge.


Ridiculous view from Cypress.



Finally, a little nod to tech magic that allowed us to have an hour-long Skype with Theo’s birthmom and nana who might be the only people as captivated as we are by Theo’s lengthy monologues that roam wildly from monsters to fighting to “Elf” and punctuated by short readings from The Gruffalo.


And then a monster…

Are you feeling thankful or optimistic for anything heading into the New Year?

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This week’s Gratitude list:

  • Twinkly lights: The dancing lights at VanDusen Garden’s Festival of Lights top the list for artistry, magnitude and magic while our East Van neighbourhood gets the award for the loudest, tackiest light displays, all of which Theo loves.
  • The man with the bag: Theo was a little miffed by his first real visit with Santa, one where he kind of recognized the bearded man in red. He wasn’t sure what was expected so he listened diligently and when prompted asked for a truck.
  • Hand-me-down trains: A box of assorted trains and tracks arrived from Ontario much to Theo’s delight and total devotion. Sidenote: Putting train tracks together is a skill!
  • First carols: Theo’s got the general gist of Jingle Bells and wants to yell it, er I mean sing it, constantly. The words are bit of a mashup but it’s pretty sweet.
  • December birthdays: Shoutout to all those whose birthdays are co-opted by Christmas every year. I promise not to wrap your gifts in Christmas paper or double them up with a Christmas Open House!
  • Modern technology and open adoption: We all finally conquered our technology communication block, and had a lovely pre-holiday oovoo.com call with Theo’s birthmom. I’m grateful for her commitment (and the courage that requires) to staying in touch from afar.


Addendum -> Men who Craft: Above wreath made by my husband “Marktha.”

Are you feeling grateful for anything during this pre-holiday crazy season?

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By now, this book needs no introduction. Secret Daughter, by Canadian author Shilpi Somaya Gowda, is an international sensation and runaway bestseller.  Then it called to me from the Fast Reads library bookshelf. And a fast read it is. It’s not a nuanced book but it is a fast-paced, tear-jerking, page-turner.

The story covers the intersection of a birthmother in India, an Indian/American couple and their adopted daughter (the secret daughter of the title). It’s a deeply emotional book that covers issues of infertility, culture, identity, class, relationships and politics.

Things I liked

Kudos to Gowda for tackling openness in international adoption. The story shows how oceans, continents, language and culture don’t stop adoptees from wondering or searching for the story of how they came to be.

I loved the depiction of the extended family in India, in particular the grandmother who enfolds her adopted granddaughter (who she meets as young adult) in the warm embrace of her deeply traditional family. The food, the ceremonies, the love, are all richly described.

The pain that the birthmother feels for her lost daughter is moving. She is haunted by her image and constantly wonders what happened to her. It’s nice to see a birthmother’s perspective captured so well.

The novel does a great job of depicting the feelings of cultural alienation, class and identity in the form of Asha, the adopted daughter.

Things I didn’t like

I took issue with how unsympathetically the adoptive mother was portrayed. She is  emotionally distant, in denial of her daughter’s heritage, roots and feelings. I don’t know any adoptive mother no matter how devastated by infertility who would so thoroughly discount her child’s feelings around culture and adoption.

The portrayal of the poor Indian birthmother and her family’s horrific life seemed  extreme. Every hardship that could befall a family befalls theirs.

The men are either sketches (the adoptive father) or caricatures (the birthmother’s son).

Overall, you can’t ignore this book. It’s an engaging read and offers a lot of food for thought for adoptive mothers.

Have you read Secret Daughter? What did you think?

November is Adoption Awareness Month.

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The latest Open Adoption Roundtable  posed the question: “How do you feel after a visit?” The question is aimed at birthparents, adoptive parents and adoptees. I imagine the answer varies radically depending on where you sit in the adoption equation.

Before we adopted I was very pro open adoption. I knew it was best for our son to know his roots and also felt closed adoption was cruel to birthparents. I failed to factor in how our relationship would unfold or how I would feel over time. Open adoption is hard emotional work, something I didn’t fully realize until I became an active participant. We’ve had regular in-person visits with Theo’s birthfamily since he was born. In earlier visits, it was common for one of us to break down under the sheer unspoken weight of what was going on. Fast forward almost three years, and our visits have lightened considerably. We now leave Theo with his birthparents and go out for brunch returning later to catch up.

But on to the question at hand:

How do I feel after a visit from Theo’s birthparents? I feel euphoric. I feel extreme joy. I feel relieved. Why? Not because “it’s over” but because inevitably, it went really well. Theo knows his birthparents better each time he sees them as do I. I get to see them grow up and make plans for their future.  I like them as people. I want to hear about their lives and their opinions. I hang onto every word. I want to know everything. I find myself starting at their features and mannersims looking for clues. I feel privileged and grateful that we get to unabashedly share Theo amazingness. As another adoptive parent pointed out, birthparents may be the only people as enamoured with our child as we are!

Now ask me how I feel before a visit. Anxious isn’t a big enough word. ANXIOUS is more like it. The prospect of a visit brings up all my deepest fears around adoption. In an attempt to manage them, I obsessively clean the house: scouring, sorting, rearranging and fretting. I worry that the house will be a disaster. Then I worry that it will be too clean. I worry that Theo’s room won’t be cute enough. I worry that the fridge is too empty or too full. I worry that Theo will be a toddlery disaster, and we’ll look like bad parents. I worry that if Theo is in fine form, we’ll look redundant. I worry that when his birthparents see him, they’ll regret placing him for adoption or feel guilty that they did. I worry and worry and worry … until they arrive, and then all my fears vanish.

The more visits we have, the better I feel, and I believe the feeling is mutual.

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