Mile High Mamas Author Dishes on Adoption
posted by: Amber Johnson
In celebration of the third anniversary of the release of her highly acclaimed book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption, we are pleased to present this interview with Mile High Mamas columnist Lori Holden. Lori grew up in Denver and remembers the Broncos’ very first Superbowl appearance (make those miracles happen, baby!). She blogs at LavenderLuz.com and has been a Mile High Mama blogger since 2008.
Lori, what led you down the path of adoption?
We came to AdoptionLand through the inhospitable region of Infertilistan. Though the journey presented us with Fireswamps, Rodents of Unusual Size, and other harrowing experiences, it was worth it to get to our destination: the Parent ‘Hood.
The topic of Adoption can be pretty contentious online. There are pro-adoption people and anti-adoption people and loaded words and entrenched beliefs. You said in a radio interview that you “got spanked” early on. How did that experience shape your views?
Oh, what a painful experience (but one worth going through). I had yet to learn the nuances of adoption, that it’s not always considered a win-win by everyone involved. Adoption involves loss, and adoptions have not always been done well — some might say that’s the understatement of the century. People have been hurt.
Back when I was new to the adoption online world I had posted something (obnoxious, as it turned out) that was rooted in the idea that “Adoption is Awesome!” — and an adoptee called me out on it in her space. She wasn’t talking TO me but ABOUT me. Her comment section blew up with full force of people who had endured adoption loss — primarily adoptees and birth mothers. Their words stung. Stung badly. I wanted to lash out and meet their hurt with my hurt. Did they know nothing about the pain of infertility? How dare they ridicule me. They didn’t even know me.
For a couple of days I seethed and licked my wounds, staying away from the site — after I printed the post and comments and tucked the pages away. Eventually I was able to read the paper version (visiting the site was too scary) and try to figure out where these people were coming from. It required that I put the hurt aside and just read. Just open up to understanding their experiences with adoption, which were different from mine.
It was transforming. And it completely changed not only the way I view adoption, but also how I navigate conflict online. I am grateful to each person who took part in that skewering for their part in my evolution.
I read Sherrie Eldridge’s 20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew when my kids were little and it was helpful. Later I read many of Jim Gritter’s books, including The Spirit of Open Adoption, LifeGivers (for which I led a book tour), and Hospitious Adoption.
And though it was hard to read, there’s a lot of value in Nancy Verrier’s The Primal Wound (which was the subject of another book tour). Each of these influenced the book I wrote with Crystal, my daughter’s birth mom: The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption.
Crystal and I somehow figured out how to be in a healthy relationship together. We’re not the only birth-and-adoptive-moms to do this, by any means, but when Crystal and I began teaching classes locally about HOW do do this freaky thing, we ourselves had to figure it out. How DID we move from the Either/Or mindset that traditionally goes with adoption (either she’s the mom or I am) to a Both/And heartset?
Crystal and I had to deconstruct how our relationship first formed, which included two big leaps of faith in the early days (one for each of us), and analyze how we had continued to be clear and honest and respectful with each other, dealing with any internal insecurities that arose in a healthy way, and continually setting healthy boundaries with each other.
By the late-2000s, people were beginning to accept that we SHOULD be doing open adoptions. We aimed to write a guide that showed HOW. Along the way, we realized that openness is about more than just contact between birth and adoptive families — it’s also about how open we are within ourselves and with our children.
You talk about the importance of listening to adult adoptees. Why do you advocate for this?
I didn’t want to get my children to adulthood and THEN find out things I should have known about parenting an adoptee. There is value in listening to adult adoptees because I can understand perspective that my kids might also have, challenges they might endure, feelings they might harbor. I’ve read memoirs like The Sound of Hope and Adopted Reality, and each has helped me understand what adopted people need from their parents, as well as what helps and what hurts.
Adding in my son, we now have relationships with four birth parents — plus birth grandparents, birth siblings and other birth relatives. What helps me navigate these relationships is having insight from others who have experienced adoption from different angles. Of course, no one view represents everyone, but by listening to many voices, one can begin to put together a mosaic.
So basically, I simply want to understand all sides of adoption. Doing so helps me have healthier relationships, helps me better understand my children at various developmental stages, it addresses the curiosity I have about experiences I’ll never have, and it helps me to be more compassionate to all involved in adoption.
A terrific ongoing resource for understanding adoption perspectives is the weekly radio show — archived — called Adoption Perspectives and based here in Denver. It offers interviews with fascinating guests, conducted by Rebecca Vahle, creator of the hospital-based Family-to-Family Adoption Support Network. CreatingAFamily.org is another super-helpful resource for community and thought-provoking adoption issues. Treasure troves, all of them.
It’s available on Amazon in hard cover, paperback, and ebook. And I’ll announce right here that my publisher is coming out with an audiobook sometime mid-year.