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Openness In Adoption Is A Mindset: Interview With Lori Holden
Lakshmi Iyer
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Lakshmi Iyer

Managing Editor at the Parent Voice, Magazine
Indian by birth, American by choice, Lakshmi identifies more with the hyphen in Indian-American. Read More under "Meet the Team".
Lakshmi Iyer
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As a new adoptive parent, I relied heavily on the internet to help me navigate this parenting journey I was on. Of the many voices (and there were many!), Lori was one I turned to often. I found her writing refreshingly balanced and very respectful of all members of the triad. Lori is an author and speaker. She is a fierce open adoption advocate. This month’s cover features her take on all things open adoption and her book The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole. The review is here.


You go by your blog name Lori Lavender Luz. Given the weight of names and naming in adoption, was this decision serendipitous? What are your thoughts on names and how they influence personalities? Do you see it in your or your children’s lives?

Back in my early blogging days, we infertility bloggers used to choose our “Appalachian Trail” names once we’d been blogging for two years or more. So in 2009, I got to choose a name that fit me. That wasn’t easy! Have you ever thought about what you’d name yourself if given the chance? I chose Lavender for my favorite color and Luz because I love the Spanish expression for “to give birth” — dar a luz. Isn’t that lovely?

I love the Spanish expression for 'to give birth'-- dar a luz. Isn't that lovely? Click To Tweet

And yes, I do see my children have leaned into the names we gave them as if somehow their names influenced their emerging personalities.  Naming is serious business!

My children have leaned into the names we gave them. Naming is serious business! Click To Tweet

You work with Dawn Davenport as part of Creating a Family. How did that association come to be? Is it a learning experience for you?

I love what Dawn Davenport and her team have put together at Creating a Family. I appeared on one of Dawn’s radio shows (she’s a terrific interviewer) and have listened to many others. I also participate in CAF’s Facebook Group, which does a good job of bringing forth so many perspectives in adoption. I’ve gained a lot by listening to these varied voices.

I got to meet Dawn in person a few months ago when we both presented at the annual conference for the NCFA (National Council For Adoption) here in Denver. She’s as warm and wise in person as she is online.

Lori Holden

I love your Open Adoption Advice column and have found myself frequently browsing for information on how to deal with specifics in our adoption. When you receive questions for which there are no clear answers, how do you respond? To narrow it down, is there a network of people you turn to? How does one build such a network?

Since it’s not possible to come up with a solution to Every.Single.Issue that can arise in adoptive parenting (it’s just so complex!), what I aim for in my advice column and in my book (The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole) is to help people develop an orientation from which to find their own answers as situations appear over time. Once you have that orientation — a parenting GPS of sorts — it’s easier to figure how to get where you want to go.

I aim to help people develop an orientation from which to find their own answers. Click To Tweet

I do rely on a cadre of compassionate and circumspect people to help answer the questions that come in. I love that there are such diversity and wisdom in the online adoption community. Listening is so important in adoptive parenting.



Is there a seminal moment in your open adoption journey? If so, can you share and talk about how it has influenced your mindset toward adoption?

I wrote about a seminal moment that changed everything for me adoption-wise and writing-wise. At the time, I saw only the win-win of adoption. Fortunately, that moment happened early in my journey, in time for me to proceed more cautiously about sharing my children’s stories. Unfortunately, it was painful!

Listening is so important in adoptive parenting. Click To Tweet

Your children are teenagers. How do you figure out how to share parts of their life without compromising on their privacy? What do your children feel about that?

Part of that spanking was adult adoptees chiding me for sharing too much.

It was excruciating, to be publicly ridiculed like that, but I was grateful to get the message early on that it’s my responsibility to protect my children’s privacy until they are of the age to do so. I took steps to do just that. And you’re right. With my kids now teens, their permission is given any time I post about them. Which, longtime followers will note, is not less and less often.

It was excruciating, to be publicly ridiculed like that... Click To Tweet

A reader once asked about oversharing by adoptive parents. I responded with a post about 3 questions parents must ask themselves to avoid the blurt, advice that goes back to that early seminal moment I had.

Your book has been receiving rave reviews and having read it, I can see why. What prompted you to co-write this book with Crystal Hass? Were there any difficult moments while birthing the book?

 

Crystal and I had a really easy time liking and respecting each other in the intense early days of our relationship. Over the years, we wanted to figure out what it was that made things work well for us, so we began speaking around Denver about “defreakifying open adoption.” We realized in answering the questions people asked us that we had a few things to help point people toward “success,” whatever that may mean.

But the book isn’t only about our experiences — I crowdsourced quite a bit to get a wide array of perspectives. There’s something in the book for not only adoptive parents but also for expectant and birth parents, for people involved in foster adoptions and international adoptions and third-party reproduction (donor sperm, donor egg, donor embryos). The premise is that adoption creates a split in a person between their biology and their biography, and openness can help heal the split.

Adoption creates a split in a person between their biology and their biography. Click To Tweet

I’m most gratified when an adoptee leaves a positive review, saying this is the book they wish their parents had had to help them heal the inherent split between biology and biography.

 





 

What words of advice would you like to share with our readers on adoptive parenting and raising children who straddle multiple worlds?

Over the years, my advice has boiled down to a really simple fix but not an easy fix: be mindful. Be mindful of your own triggers and hurt spots around how you became a parent to your child, and that you’re not genetically connected to him/her. When you can remove your own issues from any adoption situation — just know what they exist, not necessarily resolve them — you are then in a better position to help your child deal with their issues. You don’t want yours in the way, especially when you don’t even know they are in the way!

When you can remove your own issues from any adoption situation — just know what they exist, not necessarily resolve them — you are then in a better position to help your child deal with their issues. You don’t want yours in the way, especially when you don’t even know they are in the way!

This is the heart of that GPS orientation I mentioned: keeping the focus on your child and attuning to him/her over all the intense parenting moments that occur over the ages and stages. When our own fears or insecurities get in the way, that’s when we can’t find answers. The first step in getting unmuddied, to my view, is to observe our inner dialog and find out what’s really bugging us about a situation, which may require digging below the surface a few layers. Once that hidden trigger is identified, maybe it can even be healed and resolved, leaving us free to again focus on the child, and offering more clarity in a path forward.

I addressed this in a post about perhaps the most fear-inducing situation adoptive parents face. My Son Wants to Live with His Birth Mom. Now What? 

Lori Holden writes from Denver at LavenderLuz.com. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is on required and suggested reading lists at adoption agencies across the country. Follow her at her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

 

the author

Indian by birth, American by choice, Lakshmi identifies more with the hyphen in Indian-American. Read More under “Meet the Team”.

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