Oh, yes indeedy, learn I did. And that's because, as one reviewer put it, "this is the adoption book the Internet wrote." For starters, I learned a lot by asking others in the adoption constellation about their experience with adoption.
All that was great wisdom, but it was second-hand experience. Synchronistically, with my daughter's birth mom Crystal (who contributed a great deal to the book), I also got to learn first-hand how to work through conflict. While writing Chapter 4 about establishing boundaries, a situation arose that Crystal and I had to work through.
Crystal and I had had mostly smooth sailing over the years, and with our cruise control on I had gotten complacent. The situation that arose (details remain private) required me to go off auto-pilot and figure out what was really bothering me by going deep within: breathe, be mindful, dig, gain clarity. Then zoom back out with clear communication with Crystal and a commitment to our relationship -- and to Tessa the daughter we both claim.
It's clear, in hindsight, that this uncomfortable episode was actually an amazing gift.
Another reader asked,
The additions from Crystal are a lovely and informative piece of the book. I'm curious how this collaboration took shape. Did you develop the framework of the book together? Did you have an idea of where you thought Crystal's voice would be most helpful and just ask her for that specific input? Or did you work to find or create spaces for things she wanted to add to the conversation?
Crystal and I had talked for years about how we might help others develop the kind of relationship we stumbled into with each other. First we had to take a look at what we did and didn't do and what has made our efforts a openness successful. For years we taught classes in Denver to share not only that such a relationship doesn't have to be contentious, but that it can also be enjoyable. More than anything we say in these sessions, people seem to get a lot just out of seeing a template for how an open adoption can look.
The framework of the book was mine. Crystal and I had extensive interviews about her thoughts and emotions at various points of our journey, as well as her own deconstruction of how we got to where we are. For a book that is largely about how adoptive parents and birth parents can be on the same "side," rather than the traditional concept of competition between the two sides, it seemed important for us to work together on this book.
As for which came first, her words or a space for her words, I believe it was mostly the former. We had a few jam sessions in which we put as much on the table as we had in us. I took notes and the book began to take shape. Sometimes the book fit around her words and sometimes her words fit into the book.
I suppose in that sense, the way the book took its form is much the same way Crystal and I have taken our form.
Lori Holden blogs from Denver at LavenderLuz.com.
Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, written with her daughter's birth mom, is available in hardcover and e-book through Amazon or your favorite online bookseller.