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Open Adoption and Returning to the Well

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Lori blogs from a Denver suburb about mindful living at Weebles Wobblog and about her twisty journey to become a mom at Drama 2B Mama. She also dishes about good buys at All Thumbs Reviews.

A few weeks back, my friend Crystal offered to have my children come play at her house for a few hours. Rob had been out of town, and some down time for me sounded reealllly good.

It was a no-brainer. Responsible child watcher? Free time? Of course!

But I had to stop to think a moment.

Because Crystal is Tessa’s birthmom.

“Is this weird?” I thought. “It doesn’t feel weird. It should feel weird. Other people would find it weird. But I am definitely not sensing weird.” The thoughts chugged through my head as I searched for some rain on my parade.

I brought the kids to Crystal’s house for an afternoon with her, her son and her stepson. I knew Reed would be in heaven with all the weapon-wielding that was about to take place, and I suspected Tessa would find Crystal’s purse endlessly fascinating.

I told the kids to behave, double-checked that Crystal knew she could call me no matter what, and left, almost giddy at the open hours laid out in front of me.

Now, let me expand a bit on my relationship with Tessa. We are going through what seems like teen years, in spite of the fact that she’s not yet 7. She and I butt heads on everything from too-long showers to homework, from talking on the phone to doing her chores. I am hopeful that we will not duplicate this tension when she actually becomes a teenager, but rather that we will have already been-there/done-that (please — don’t be the one to burst my bubble). We each seem to “miss” each other often. I am frustrated with our disconnect, and I imagine Tessa is, too.

When I returned after Me Time, Crystal had trimmed Tessa’s hair (they have the same wispy hair, and hairstyling is Crystal’s line of work), painted her nails, and had given her a pair of hand-me-down spiky-heeled purple boots . A beaming Tessa cuddled in my lap while Crystal and I talked.

Once we got home, Tessa said, “Mom, I’m a new person!” I’m not sure if she meant the beautifying activities or what. But for days afterward, SHE WAS DELIGHTFUL, and the fight in her was gone. Witness this:

Tessa wanted to wear the spiky boots to kindergarten the next morning and began to have a meltdown. I said, “I’m telling you that those shoes are not appropriate for school. You do what you think will get you the consequences you want.” I was fully expecting her to wear the shoes to school, which would earn me the Bad Mother of the Week Award, and then I would have to throw the boots in the trash after we got home as the logical consequence.

But Tessa came to breakfast, smiling and cheerful, wearing her sneakers. I can’t tell you how out of character this is. I was so impressed with her response that I brought the boots when I picked her up from school so she could wear them to the dentist (not as inappropriate there).

Tessa and I are simply more sympatico since her time with Crystal. It’s as if Tessa has been to the well.

I must admit I am pleased with myself that I don’t feel hurt or threatened. I don’t know how to pull teeth, so I take Tessa to the dentist. I don’t like to play house for hours at a time, so I arrange for playdates with friends. I simply can’t fill this emotional need that Tessa seems to have, and another woman can, so I wholeheartedly support these trips to the well.

On Saturday, October 11 from 9-11 a.m., Lori and Crystal offer a two-hour class at Colorado Free University about creating a successful open adoption. For more information, contact Lori; to register go to

Lori Holden
Author: Lori Holden

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  • comment avatar Amber Johnson September 16, 2008


    You are such a shining example of how to make open adoption work. I think so many of us would let our insecurities prevent us from allowing our adopted children have a close relationship with their birthmom. Thank you for this post!

  • comment avatar Kari September 16, 2008

    I’m with Amber-you totally put a new face on how open adoption can work wonderfully.

  • comment avatar Lori September 16, 2008

    Thanks, ladies.

    The odd thing is, it really hasn’t been that hard.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • comment avatar Melissa September 16, 2008

    Girl, you are my hero! :o)

  • comment avatar Daneen September 17, 2008

    My husband and I just adopted our 2nd baby, who was born in March. Both of our girls’ adoptions are very open; we wouldn’t have it any other way.

    However, with this baby, I’m experiencing feelings and emotions that I never had with our first. After reading your other blog about post adoption depression syndrome, there is now no doubt in my heart that I’m in the midst of that.

    In fact, I’ve been looking all over the web to see if adoptive moms can get post-partum depression. I have found very little until this minute! Now that I see a name for this, what do I do? I would appreciate a direct email, if you have time. Thanks.

  • comment avatar Lori September 17, 2008

    Hi, Daneen.

    I would love to help you the way others helped me.

    Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome is a very real thing. The good news is that it WILL pass, and there are ways to help it move along so you can feel better sooner rather than later.

    Let’s get in touch via email. I’ve left you a message on your blog.

    You are not alone.

  • comment avatar trs September 17, 2008

    That’s really great.

    I am adopted myself. In those days there were only closed adoptions – and the thought of these modern ‘open’ adoptions make me squirm.
    It’s great though that your daughter has two beautiful spirits to draw from.

    The only thing I ever felt I missed out on was knowing anyone who looked like me. I think it factors in to one’s self esteem – if you can see that you have dad’s nose and mom’s eyes… maybe you can accept your looks during that awkward stage. But I’m not harmed by it that’s for sure.
    I wonder what it would have been like to be able to go to the well. But I also know that I have a well at my parent’s house – fills me up and good!

  • comment avatar Lori September 17, 2008

    TRS, thanks for chiming in. I always get a lot out of hearing from people with points of view similar to my children’s.

    It seems that many people from closed adoptions are made to squirm by the idea of open ones. I think I can understand why.

    How affirming that your parents ARE your well.

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