November 30, 2009

Books About Open Adoption for Grandparents

DrSpouse asks...
This is completely irrelevant to your post, but I'd really appreciate recommendations on open adoption books for prospective adoptive grandparents - we are working up to telling our (mainly my) parents (mainly my mother!) about our adoption hopes...
I'd love to see an anthology some day specifically about grandparents in open adoptions: reflections from first and adoptive grandparents as well as adoptees writing about their relationships with them. They each have their own unique challenges and opportunities in open adoption--that are different from the ones the parents face--and I believe it would be so valuable for them to find commonalities and possibilities in other grandparents' experiences.

In the meantime, here are my recommendations:

For grandparents--or anyone else--looking to understand more about the whys and whats of open adoption, an excellent primer is Making Room in Our Hearts by Micky Duxbury. Ms Duxbury is an adoptive parent who interviewed a ton of open adoption participants, many more than two decades into the adoptions. It's thorough, grounded, realistic but also decidedly optimistic. I wrote a little more about why I liked it a couple of years ago. If you're scoping out open adoption books, you'll likely see it recommended a lot because it's one of the (a) newest and (b) best currently available.

For extended family members who just can't grasp why open adoption can be a mixed bag of happiness and struggle for first parents ("Why should she be sad? The baby is so happy. And you still let her see him!"), I recommend Birthparent Grief by Brenda Romanchik, a first mom herself and longtime advocate of open and ethical adoption practices. It's a slip of a book, really a booklet or a extended pamphlet. It's written for first parents, but serves as a good window for the rest of us. Think of it as a distillation of the most insightful first parent blogs in your reader. It, as well as the other pocket guides in the series, can be useful for family who are having trouble seeing things from the first parents' perspective. It also gives insight into reasons first parents sometimes back away from contact, which can often be really hard for grandparents--who feel like they would hang the moon for their beloved grandchildren--to understand. Beth has copies of this set and speaks highly of them. Don't be put off by the 1997 vibe on the website. If you mail in the order form and a check, you really will get a book. (There is an excerpt here.)

Finally, we come to the extended family members who are completely convinced that open adoption is the most ridiculous idea in the history of adoption, ever. It pains me to do this, but in those cases I suggest the pink book. It is a crappy piece of outdated propaganda in which adoptees are always children, all the triad members are happy-dappy, and open adoption solves every possible problem. However, propaganda can be useful in extreme situations--like outspoken grandparents who won't shut up about how open adoption will ruin all your lives. The strategy here is to hit them hard with the positives and only the positives. I'm not above targeting the message to bring them into the fold, then fleshing out the nuances and realities after I've got them on our side. It's better than avoiding them for your kid's entire childhood.

There you have my recommendations for grandparents, from the reasonable to the starry-eyed to the belligerent. If anyone has come across some others that have been helpful for the extended family in your world, please do add them in the comments.

(And best wishes to you, DrSpouse, as you gear up for the "we're adopting" conversation! My mom is still embarrassed about what she blurted out five years ago...)

7 comments:

DrSpouse said...

Thanks so much - I'm thinking perhaps round the Christmas dinner table is not going to be the best place to share this information but my mother has a birthday shortly after Christmas so perhaps a subtle book slipped in with her presents will help...

Elly said...

I bought 'Adoption is a family affair' and passed it round my relatives. I can't honestly remember what I thought of it, as it was so long ago and I'm sure my opinions have matured somewhat, too. My MIL still doesn't really 'get it' though. She's fine that we adopted and adores DS, but just doesn't get open adoption or why we still include his bmom the way we do. My mom is very willing to be educated and informed, which is nice.

Heather said...

@Elly - I struggled with the tone of Adoption Is a Family Affair. It's too bad, because has some good information about the adoption process in it and hits a lot of common questions/concerns. But there's this underlying assumption throughout (at least how I read it) that the readers are being nosy, overbearing oafs. I think the author may have been going for lighthearted, but I was really put off by its "Oh, you ignorant grandparents!" tone.

I was able to make the crack about my mom's comment at the end of the post because we laugh about it now. Ever since, she's approached adoption with a supportive attitude and a sincere desire to learn more. I wouldn't have wanted to hand her a book that treats her like she's doing something wrong, you know?
What did you think?

Jamie said...

i had a difficult time with "adoption is a family affair" also.....however, i read "making room in our hearts" and that's the one we chose to hand out to our families. :) i loved it and think it's a wonderful introduction for those unfamiliar with adoption and especially open adoption. :)

Elly said...

You are probably right, like I said, it is a while since I read it!

Debbie B said...

Great list. I'm going to try and order the Birthparent Grief one for our family.

Which one would you have given your mom 5 years ago? We're struggling with my mom and it's only going to get worse when we start adoption #2 I'm afraid. That is if we can't educate her properly. Our main issue is she doesn't want to be educated.

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