"Open Adoption, Open Heart: An Adoptive Father's Inspiring Journey" by Russell Elkins. Coley actually received an email about the blog book tour and forwarded it to me. Without reading much about the book, I signed up to do a review of the book here and an interview with the author on my personal blog. I will be posting my interview with Russell on my blog on December 2nd (this link will not be live until December 2nd).
Here is the book summary:
"The world of adoption has changed dramatically over the past twenty years. No longer do biological parents have to say goodbye to their child forever. They now have more options when deciding the type of adoption to pursue, such as open adoption. Open adoption creates the opportunity for a special relationship between biological parents, the adoptive parents, and the child.
Open Adoption, Open Heart is an inspiring and true story, which takes the reader deeper into the feelings and emotions experienced by adoptive parents. As you read this incredible story, you will experience the joys, difficulties, and amazing victories facing adoptive couples. Russell and his wife, Jammie, invite you to share in their inspiring and heartwarming journey."
In reading the title of the book as well as the summary, I was excited to hear about the process this adoptive father went through with his wife in making the decision to not only adopt, but have an open adoption. I was hoping this book would talk more in depth about why he and his wife chose open adoption and the practicalities of the open adoption decision. I'm certain that my desire to want to read more in general from the adoptive parent "side" on the start of the adoption journey instead of the actual process of adopting caused me to enter reading this book with quite a bias. My bias was skewed as well by the fact that I'm a birth mom and am very opinionated about adoption in general. Of course everyone interacts with others and with situations based upon their own experiences and opinions due to those experiences. Adoption seems to bring out more passionate opinions and bigger divides in those opinions because of the high emotions inherent in both the decision to relinquish and the decision to adopt.
Frankly after reading the book, I was disappointed. I do value hearing others' experiences and think that the adoptive father's voice is a very important one. However, the language he uses throughout the book doesn't bring to mind "open heart" as the title of the book implies. "Another reason why pictures and updates proved to be harder than we anticipated was because we didn't like to feel like we were babysitters anymore. Even though we understood and respected Brianna's role in the situation, Ira was our little boy." That quote was taken from near the end of the book. To me, that is not having an open heart. Quotes like that cause me to think of selfishness and possessiveness. Granted, feeling possessive toward your child is a good thing. I will never argue that. But possession of a child acts like that child is a thing to be bought, sold, or traded, much like any other item you'd buy at a store.
Also, the means by which they adopted their son caused me to cringe in many ways. The book details the fact that they connected with their son's birth mom via a long distance relationship (meaning several states away). Their son's birth father did not want to relinquish his rights so their son's birth mom discontinued the relationship briefly. The book does state that she was telling them things during and slightly after this period that caused them to believe she still wanted to relinquish. In order for them to assist her in relinquishment, they relocated her to their house, away from all the support systems she might've had, so that a judge in their state could rule that the father had no say in the matter of relinquishment at all. If you've read any of my personal blog, you would know that I'm very much in favor of making certain the biological father has just as much say in what happens to his child as the biological mother, with the exception of abusive or threatening situations. I'm also very strongly against relocating an expectant mother considering adoption away from her friends and family because I think it's extremely coercive.
The book does go on to explain that they proved to the judge in their state that their son's biological mother gave the biological father multiple opportunities to lay claim to his child and that the only thing he seemed interested in doing was using his son as an excuse to harass his son's mother. Apparently there were other issues with his son's biological father that he describes briefly in an answer to one of my interview questions.
I did feel slightly better about the book after reading Russell's responses to my interview questions though I still wouldn't personally recommend this book to any hopeful adoptive parent. Their particular situation, though they love their son's birth mother and have a continuing relationship with her, is not typical of what I personally believe an adoption should be. I also know a fair amount of birth moms and adoptive parents in working open adoption relationships that do not fit the story as depicted in the book. I know that humans make messes out of the perfection we or others have in our heads, but from all the other stories I've heard about adoption, this particular story seems to be an anomaly instead of the norm. I'm concerned that people considering open adoption might read this story, expect that they'll have to endure the emotional ups and downs that Russell and his wife endured, and decide to adopt in a closed situation so they won't have to "deal with the birth mom at all."
I appreciated a look into adoption from another point of view even if some of the terminology and expressions as well as some of the actions from the Elkins' side caused me to cringe quite a bit during my reading of this book.
For other reviews and interactions with the author, please go to "I Am A Reader, Not A Writer" for the list and links. Enjoy!