Monday, October 25, 2010

Life Givers, Highly Recommended Adoption Book

I have been reading a LOT of literature on adoption lately. Reason one: learn more about the journey from all sides. Reason two: to find other voices out there closer to my views because I am just tired of the negative that I am plagued with when I read online. Reason three: to help others understand a little better why I am who I am, and therefore write about adoption.

Life Givers: Framing the Birthparent Experience in Open Adoption by James L. Gritter is one such book. I just read it again, for the second time. The first time I read it was for The Open Adoption Examiner: Life Givers: Ten Years Later Book Tour earlier this year. Lori had assigned the book to a diverse group of people in the triad, and then asked us to answer questions about what we thought of the book and how it compared to our experiences. I think I was on a mental hiatus when I participated because although I read it before, I guess I did not fully absorb this book. Well, this time I did and I cannot recommend it enough! It is a very raw look at the decisions that birthparents make and what could and will occur in the often difficult journey of life lived without the children that one gives birth to. I went crazy with the highlighter and reread over and over again, just trying to sponge up things I had missed before. The thoughts I had, the memories that were brought up produced a healing of sorts: almost a validation of what my life has been, and become as of late. I could go on and on, but I will eventually have to sleep so allow me to tell you how this book can help just about anyone in the triad of adoption.

Let me break this down without giving too much away.

Birthparents should read this because .... if you ever wanted to feel validated in ANY emotion that you have felt in your life as a birthparent, you will find it in this book! Guilt, regret, joy, pride, envy, grief, letting go, hanging on, worthiness, self love, on and on. I am not kidding, just about any and all of the inner fight that birthparents have within themselves, happy or not, content or outraged...there are amazing revelations to be found in these pages.

In the chapter Why the Public Dislikes Birthparents:
"Pregnancy at an inopportune time in life raises complex moral questions. I believe we learn at least as much about the moral strength of these folks from the way they work through their situations as we do from the circumstances leading to their pregnancies. The adoption choice reveals a great deal about their character and basic values." Why yes it does! I am a firm believer that life is what you make of it, things happen that are out of your control and you learn to deal with what the Good Lord gives you.

In the chapter The Pursuit of Worthiness:
"How sad that the extraordinary strength underlying the adoption decision is so often mistaken for failure - but that's the way it is with adoption." ...and goes on to say... "Those who ignore the complicated nature of adoption will never understand its astounding depth and its mysterious capacity to enrich even those who endure loss." This was profound for me to read again. I have felt that mysterious capacity of enrichment over and over in the last few years, and I wouldn't change it for the world.

In the chapter Circumstances of Necessity:
"Women who are thinking about adoption should not base their ideas on propaganda: They deserve a reasonable description of its costs and benefits." So important to educate yourself completely before entering into adoption, and even after to keep learning to feel what your heart needs to feel in order to live life.

My favorite chapter, Holding On and Letting Go, had this to offer when speaking of a birthparents ambivalence and the heart - head factor:
"...she faces a conflict between mind and heart, between thought and emotion - a potent clash between different internal systems of perception and appraisal." ...and goes on to say ... "We find inventive ways to deny, avoid, delay, ignore, and minimize those factors that move us down a difficult trail." This whole chapter could be highlighted, yep that good!

Adoptive Parents should read this because ... it will help you understand so many different factors that birthparents must go through in order to help your family grow. Respect and communication are two factors that I find are imperative in adoption and Mr. Gritter reaffirms these thoughts. This book will help you so much with understanding that your child's birth family will be very important to them and it could help your child adjust in life, help them understand that there is a difference between abandoned and adopted.

In the chapter The Pursuit of Worthiness:
"The decision to entrust a beloved child to more promising arms requires great strength of character, for it is never easy to stand alone and counter conventional thought." So true and good to keep in mind throughout your life as an adoptive parent. There will never be a way for you to show appreciation to them with words, it is your actions that will speak volumes.

In the chapter The Distinctive Grief of Birthparents regarding loss:
"Equally upsetting, she eventually encounters the unsettling recognition that the child is becoming a different person than he would have been if she had chosen to do the parenting." There are so many odd emotions that birthparents have throughout life that it is good to know some of the specifics, as quoted above. It is quite difficult to watch your child grow without you and the loss can change forms without warning.

In the chapter How Birthpatents Fit In, when speaking of envy:
"If the hurt and frustration of infertility has not healed to some degree, it will be predictably difficult for adoptive parents to honor and appreciate the importance of the lifegiving role." Learning to accept the things you cannot change, and live with what you can make of what you have been given will play a huge role in your relationship with your birthparents. This same idea of acceptance will be experienced by them as well.

In the chapter How Birthparents Fit In:
"...children are not confused by the involvement of birthparents (in their lives). To the contrary, open adoption kids are especially well-positioned to figure things out." ... and goes on to say ... "And when children feel the unconditional love and affection of all the crucial contributors to their life stories, they are positioned to thrive." I am living this proof right now. It can, and DOES, happen.

Adoptees should read this because ... it will help you understand the mind of a birthparent. Plain and simple, plus I think there are many worthy thoughts in this book that might help with all the whys (?).

From the chapter The Pursuit of Worthiness, regarding answering those difficult questions from an adoptee:
"A question from his soul deserves an answer from hers, and she prays she can somehow find ways to explain her lonely experience, all the while knowing this is an experience for which there is no adequate language." No truer words have been spoken. There is hope that understanding will be there, but feelings have no laws.

In the chapter Birthparent Regret:
"An expression of wistful regret that simultaneously wishes things could have been different yet accepts the reality that they cannot be is important and constructive information for an adopted child" ... and goes on to say ... "It reassures the child that she has always been loved and that she is where she belongs." Somewhere down the line, hopefully, your birthparents thought long and hard about letting you go.

In the chapter How Birthpatents Fit In:
"Adopted children deserve a firsthand account of their pirthparents' rationale for adoption." and goes on to say ... "So many people are uncomfortable with the pain of adoption that adopted children often learn to deny their feelings of sadness." I feel very strongly that every adoptee deserves the right to know where they came from. There should be no secrecy about who you are.

Soooo, as you can see ~ I think this book has a ton of information and could be beneficial to anyone who wants to learn more about a birthparent's choice. This book had me working through some thoughts and thinking about my own open adoptions. Just proof that in adoption life keeps evolving, growing and shifting with each and every year. I thank you very much Mr. Gritter for writing so in depth about this point of view and shedding light on some very personal issues in the life as a birthparent.


LeMira said...

You know, this is a very detailed, good review. I'm putting this on my "to-read" list! Thanks, Kelsey!

Amanda said...

I have had a crazy week, but wanted you to know that we received the book you sent! It is wonderful. I read it to my boys yesterday, and when I looked up at my husband, I noticed he was crying. We are deeply touched by your is such a wonderful expression of the birthmother's voice. Thank you!


Lavender Luz said...

Good review, Kelsey!