A Good Read
by Lisa Ritter Starr
The Story of David: How We Created a Family Through Open Adoption, was written by adoptive parent Dion Howells, with Kdren Wilson Pritchard, and published in 1997 by Delacorte Press. In just over 300 pages, the author relates three years in the lives of their family and by family he means the Howells, their extended family, and the entire birth family of their adopted son, David.
This book is a quick read, and engrossing from the start. The first few chapters deal with the Howells marriage and their decision to have a child. While Dion, the husband, believes he could live without a child of his own, his wife Carey feels compelled to be a mother. When she did not get pregnant as expected, they began a nightmare of infertility treatments. This left them both with feelings of frustration and a lack of privacy.
They decided to look into traditional, domestic adoption. They researched agencies and sent off applications but hit a wall when their first-pick agency declined their application. The author makes some good points about the application process here, such as how difficult and expensive it is to find just the right one. Also, the agencies are not required to explain why they decline an application, so the shock of being rejected is often followed by perpetual mystery.
Feeling depressed and confused, Carey and Dion do not want to accept that they might never adopt. When Dion, a determined and focused police officer, calls a Catholic bishop to ask for help, the wheels finally are set in motion. They are introduced to another agency, enter the applicant pool, and prepare to wait up to five years for an adoption to take place.
In Chapter Four, the author explains how the concept of open adoption is brought to their awareness. They immediately take to the idea and easily find ways to relate. Carey explains that, when they got their puppy, the woman who raised the mother of the puppies asked a lot of questions and wanted to be able to check up with the Howells now and then. While a puppy certainly is not the same responsibility as a child, Carey and Dion could see how a caregiver wouldnt pass on her charge without knowing something about the new caregiver, and without having future access to see how things are going.
Chapters Five, Six, and Seven deal with the waiting process and training for prospective parents to enter into an open adoption. Since it was an even newer concept in 1991 than it is now, open adoption had to be explained in almost every aspect. In addition to discussing many issues, the agency arranged meetings for the couples with birth mothers and with adoptees.
One day, the Howells receive the call they had been waiting for. When they are chosen by Nancy, their sons birth mother, Dion and Carey cannot stop thinking about her not about the baby, or the idea of being parents, but about Nancy and what she must be going through. They quickly set up a meeting with Nancy, her mother, and her social worker, since Nancy is due to deliver in three weeks.
Their meeting is filled with emotion and new information. Nancy is described by the author as an incredibly mature, honest, and beautiful young woman. Her mother is very supportive but upset, not only because of what Nancy is doing, but because she herself relinquished a child in a closed adoption.
After their initial meeting, Nancy, Dion, and Carey feel compelled to talk every day. Dion and Carey focus solely on what is best for Nancy. Nancy happily chats with them by phone and invites them to share in as much of her pregnancy as they want. She also wants them to be there when she delivers the baby, believing that Dion and Carey would need the memory in order to be able to tell their child about it someday.
The rest of the story is compelling, as it details almost every fragile nuance of the birth and adoption process. As a birth mother, I would have loved to have access to this book, in order to have some idea what to expect after the birth. For me, that part of the process was a complete blank. While this helped us all to create what we wanted, rather than try to copy what someone else has done, I still think it would have helped me to know how another open adoption unfolded.
This book tells a compassionate story, not only of David, but of all the adoptive family members. It tells the story of the Howells and how they realized their goal of having a family. It tells of Nancy, the young birth mother who knew what she wanted for her child, and was determined to get what was best for him in her eyes (what more does any mother want?). And it tells of David, the child around whom families united to create a new, bigger, better family of love and support.
The author covers the basic adoption story, but he also includes many intricacies that many never even think about until they come face-to-face with them. For example, for birth family members such as birth grandmothers and birth aunts, The Story of David contains valuable information. Nancys mother, Marilou, who relinquished her first child, had an extremely difficult time with the adoption and even tried at one point to persuade Nancy to consider parenting. The lunch scene of Chapter 20 is especially sweet, as Dion guides Marilou into realizing that she can, in fact, be Grammy Lou to David, just like she is to her other grandchildren.
Although The Story of David is non-fiction, it also contains its own plot twists and turns. Nancys story is followed through to her eventual marriage, second pregnancy, and to the disturbing fate of Davids birth father. The book ends with an informative epilogue on open adoption, and makes a wonderful piece on its own.
This is an excellent book for many reasons, and for many people. For those looking to adopt or for more information on open adoption, it is a wonderful introduction from people who have first-hand experience. For birth mothers and their families, the story provides real-life examples of how birth family members can fit into the open adoption family. It can also inform professionals, such as social workers and pregnancy counselors, and anyone who wants to know, about the option of open adoption.
Howells, Dion, and Kdren Wilson Pritchard. The Story of David: How We Created a Family Through Open Adoption. New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 1997.
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