Finding an adoption story that is similar to yours is like looking for a needle in a haystack. All adoptions are different. To Have and Not to Hold is an adoption memoir written from the birth mother perspective. In 1981, Lorri Antosz Benson made an adoption plan for her daughter in the Chicago area. This is a real-life account of the journey through unplanned pregnancy, to adoption and to open adoption.
Three main things stood out to me in Lorri’s story that made the book an easy and compelling read.
1. Her placement story is relatable.
The details around unexpected pregnancy are typically followed by a collection of judgment and stereotypes which are more than likely why women who have been in that place choose not to share their stories. Lorri takes you through her life, coming from a loving supportive home, attending and graduating college, to dating and her career. Lorri doesn’t have what society would call a “typical” birth mother story. At 24, she was able to parent. It was just not what she thought was best for her child. She outlines her three options as she explores each one thoroughly. As the reader, you are also exploring what you would do if you were in her shoes. Her story is so relatable. It is hard not to attach to her situation.
2. Adoption has changed a lot in recent years.
In my world, adoption is very open from the start. A woman who is experiencing an unexpected pregnancy and considering adoption chooses a family to adopt her baby. They meet. The baby is born. The birth family and the adoptive family know each others’ contact information. They discuss what type of communication is appropriate for them and they keep in touch. Not necessarily everything identifying is exchanged, but for the most part, definitely their names and the states they live in.
It was surreal to me that so very recently, Lorri and her daughter’s mother were communicating without even knowing each others’ names for years! My heart hurt for Lorri, not knowing what state her daughter grew up in. Lorri doesn’t seem to dwell on the things that would have been unbearable for me if I were in her place. Reading through the timeline in the journey to openness struck me in unexpected ways–especially how grateful I am to have my son’s birth mother in my life. For whatever reason, it gives me peace knowing where she is and her knowing where I am.
3. Adoption creates family and family is forever.
There are a lot of misconceptions about adoption, open adoption, birth mothers, and adoptees. Lorri and her daughter’s family are a family. All of them. Lorri and her husband took time and built relationships with not just the daughter who was placed, but also her family. You can see her intentions when she asks for information from the agency. It was never to degrade or take away from the family she helped build. It was purely out of love and innocent, normal curiosity that she wants pictures and updates to get to know her daughter and her family as a unit and as individuals. They all take time and slowly integrate to one family which was beautiful to follow.
To Have and Not to Hold is a beautiful memoir about a woman who made an adoption plan and lived to tell about it. It is a fantastic read for everyone touched by adoption or even those who are curious about it.
Have you read this adoption book? What stood out to you?