Musings and Personal

Adoption Trauma, pt. 1

The other day, I read and participated in a Twitter conversation about adoption trauma.

Here’s the background of the conversation:

A person retweeted a blog post from the Twitter page of Adoption and Fostering which posed the question Is adoption trauma? The author then listed reasons as to why the answer is yes.

The person who retweeted this article disagreed. He works as a developmental psychologist with children affected by abuse and neglect, who enter the foster care system. His assertion was that adoption heals trauma.

Of course, this is a highly emotional subject and as you can imagine, some strong words were exchanged. I’m not writing this post to get into a debate or piss anyone off, but share my point of view.

Rather, this Twitter exchange got me thinking about adoption and trauma, so much so that I’ll probably post more thoughts on this subject.

But before going any further, we need to define trauma:

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According to the English Oxford Dictionary trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.

As a foster-adopt mother, I get a bad taste in my mouth when I hear someone say adoption is trauma. I am raising two girls, both of whom have experienced trauma through neglect, intrauterine drug exposure, and perhaps other adverse early childhood experiences. I spend each day trying to undo their subconscious reactions to the trauma they lived through.

But when someone says adoption/being adopted is a distressing experience, I don’t have that knee-jerk reaction. I am willing want to follow up with “Why do you say that?” or “What do you mean by that?”

I’m not advocating anyone change the words they use to describe their adoption experience, but rather we all try to understand the meaning behind the words.

After all, we’re all in this together.

 

Linkup

Words on Wednesday – Introduce Yourself

Welcome to the first Words on Wednesday!

Each month* I will post an optional topic, but you can write about whatever you like as long as it is about writing in some way. This includes promoting your work!

The first topic is Introduce Yourself.

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About Me:

  • I’ve been writing since I was five years old. I was a prodigy – my very first poem went: There’s a rainbow in the sky; Oh I do, do wonder why.
  • I wrote my first story when I was ten years old. It was about a preteen girl volunteering in the hospital and meeting a girl in her late teens who was dying of leukemia.
  • I wrote a lot of poetry in high school. It was a form of self-therapy for my undiagnosed depression.
  • Four years ago I began working on a memoir about adopting my daughters through foster care. I’ve been revising (does it ever end?) and have begun working on my proposal.

I love to write because it gets everything on the inside, on the outside. The paper is kind of like the pensieve from Harry Potter, and the words are my memories.

OK, now it’s your turn…

When you have written your words, click on the linkup button to add your post. It’s that easy!

I hope… I haven’t actually tried it yet.  Note: WordPress does not support a linkup plugin so please follow the Linky Tools link below to add your post. 

My most beneficial experience as a writer has been building my writing community on Scribophile and Twitter.

This is the reason I created the Words on Wednesday linkup.

With that in mind, please read and comment on at least one other post (suggest the one linked up before yours). Of course, your writing community will grow faster if you visit more than one blog in the linkup. And sharing the linkup with your writing friends is another great way to grow our community.

If you have any questions, please send me a message.

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

* This may become weekly after the kids are back in school.

Adoption · Musings and Personal

Why I Chose Adoption

One of May’s topics from Erin Bohn’s Adoption Talk Link-up was Why did you choose adoption? I went with her other topic, What’s the Best Advice You’ve ever Gotten, but today I’m going to address why my husband and I chose to adopt.

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WHY WE CHOSE ADOPTION

Many people adopt because they’re unable to have their own biological children; however, that was not the case for my husband and I. Our hearts broke knowing there are children in the foster care system who age out of the system without knowing the permanency of family.

Shenandoah Chefalo talks about this in her memoir, Garbage Bag Suitcase.

Andrew and I wished to provide a home for a child (or two, as it so happened) in the system.

Admittedly, it was partly selfish, too. I hated being pregnant. I had a rare condition called cholestasis, and a very difficult delivery (almost 48  hours of labor, four hours of pushing), and had no desire to go through that EVER again.

People say you forget all about the pain and discomfort after it’s over.

I didn’t.

In my defense, though, we made this choice before I got pregnant.

As cheesy as it sounds, I always wanted to make a difference in the world. It was the motivation behind every career I dreamed of as a child: nun, psychologist, occupational therapist.

And now, writer.

Many adoptees get upset because they don’t want to be viewed as a charity case. I don’t look at my daughters, or any other adopted person, as a charity case.

I look at it as being practical. Why would I go through the hell of pregnancy, labor and delivery again when there are children in the foster care system who need homes?

And that why I chose adoption.

Linkup · Writing and Blogging

Words on Wednesday – A Linkup for Writers

Writers are an odd bunch hovering between the lines of creativity and madness. I’ve found through the 4+ years I’ve been writing my memoir that a supportive writing community is crucial.

 

To that end, I was thinking of starting a weekly (or monthly?) linkup for writers.  

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Here are some topic ideas:

  • A writing prompt
  • A poem, short story, or your other writing
  • Joys and challenges of being a writer
  • Advice and information about writing
  • Information about events (contests, classes, open submissions)
  • Writing resources
  • Reviews on books about writing
  • Interviews with writers, agents, etc.
  • Anything having to do with writing

Are you interested?

Adoption · Musings and Personal

An Unplanned Adoption

The journey to adopting my daughters could be summed up in with one sentence:

In his heart a man plans his course but the LORD determines his steps.
(Proverbs 16:9)

When Andrew and I began the adoption process, we were looking to adopt a child around 5-8 years. Because we had learned in our foster-adoption classes that older black boys were the least desirable* and most difficult to place, we filled out the pre-placement adoption paperwork with that in mind.

What we planned to do and what we did ended up being two completely different things…

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Paige, a white baby girl, was three months old when we began visits, and five months old when she moved in. Even though she had severe drug withdrawal, she was still considered the most sought-after type of child.*

Payton, her older sister, came to live with us just before she turned three. As a young white child, she was also considered highly adoptable.*

Andrew and I did not have problems conceiving nor did we desire another baby, which was why we didn’t want to adopt an infant, or even a three-year-old.

So, how did we veer so far from our planned course? 

Ruth: The mother of my daughters.**

The whole story started when I became Ruth’s birth coach. My plan wasn’t to adopt Ruth’s baby but that’s what happened. And then we adopted Payton, Ruth’s older daughter when they were unable to reunify.

I was thinking about all this tonight while walking my dog because Ruth and I met for coffee today. Things are still up in the air about how and when we will open up the adoption; however, there is one thing we both know without a shadow of a doubt.

It was God’s plan that we meet and be the mothers of these two beautiful girls.

* These aren’t my words but what we were told in our foster-adopt classes and by the social workers.

** For the most part, I’ve decided to forgo any sort of qualifier when referencing Ruth. She is the mother of my daughters, just as I am the mother of her daughters.

Adoption · Musings and Personal

Adoption Meanings

The following is a post from my other blog, which has since been taken down. I thought it worthwhile to share as we approaching the one-year mark since this occurred:

 

Today is the month of school for my kiddos. You’re probably expecting a blog post about my kids, all their milestones, my hopes and dreams, etc.

But that’s not what I’m writing about today.

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I want to introduce Bonnie, the dog we adopted from the shelter.

I named her Bonnie for two reasons:

  1. The shelter named her Tawnie, which I didn’t like, so renamed her Bonnie, which rhymes.
  2. It is also to honor my beloved cat Clyde, whom I lost three years ago.

I’ve used the new addition to our family to talk about adoption.

“We’re giving Bonnie a home because she needs someone to take care of her. She will be part of the family and live with us forever.” (barring the cats acting out…)

Although I didn’t state directly how Bonnie’s situation correlates with theirs, I hope the message got through on some level.

Adopt has numerous meanings but these three are especially fitting for the situation surrounding Payton and Paige, and Bonnie:

  1. To choose or take as one’s own; make one’s own by selection or assent.
  2. To take and rear (the child of other parents) as one’s own child, specifically by a formal legal act.
  3. To take or receive into any kind of new relationship.

Number one reminds me that adopting Payton and Paige was not an accident or unplanned event, it was a choice. We chose to help them, help their biological family, and expand our family through adoption.

Number three points out that not only did I enter a new relationship by becoming the mother of two little girls, they went into a new relationship with a different mother.

 

Even though the second definition is technically how all three of them became part of our family, I find myself preferring the first and third definitions more.

Because adoption is more than a formal legal act, it is a choice to enter a new relationship.

 

Adoption · Musings and Personal

Dear Birthmother – A Mother’s Day Card

PicsArt_04-24-10.51.05Dear Birthmother,

I think of you every Mother’s Day.

I’ve always wanted to give you a card expressing my love for you. Unfortunately, no such card exists. So I decided to write one.

After all, aren’t the homemade gifts the best?


Happy Mother’s Day to my Daughters’ Mother

I see you reflected in their eyes

glimpses of your sunshine in their smiles

As a child connected to her mother by umbilical cord

I am connected to you by love for them

both of us a life source for these radiant flowers

wipe their tears with your fingers

embrace them with your arms

watch them play with your eyes

hear their giggles with your ears

I feel you through the miles

these moments of connection

between you, me, our daughters

You are my sister

as they are sisters

and like all sister bonds

ours is

Mysterious

Beautiful

Bittersweet

Happy Mother’s Day to one of the strongest, most beautiful and inspirational women I know.

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Adoption · Linkup

Best Advice I’ve Ever Gotten

Today is Erin Bohn’s monthly Adoption Talk Linkup.

If you have something to say about adoption or need some support, click on the link above or the badge in my sidebar. This is a link up for all members of the adoption triad.

There are two possible topics for this week:

  • Why did you choose adoption?
  • What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

I’m choosing the latter topic for today and will blog about the first topic next week.

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The best advice I’ve ever gotten was from my cousin, Karen. After giving birth to my biological son, Eli, she told me: 

“No matter what other people think, listen to what your intuition. They may have the best intentions but you’re his mom and you know what’s best.”

And she was right.

As much as I tried to rationalize what my intuition was telling me, I knew there was something going on with Payton, my older adopted daughter.

Payton moved in with us just before she turned three. We expected acting out as she adjusted to her new living situation; however, we were surprised by the frequency, intensity, and duration.

But the real clue there was something off had to do with her lack of affection. She was only expressive when:

  • She was competing with her younger sister. For example, she didn’t initiate affection with my husband or me unless Paige gave us a hug or wanted to be held.
  • She was seeking attention in public. For example, when she gave us a hug in front of others, she would do so loudly and watch others’ reactions.

But to the outside world, she seemed like a well-adjusted child.

When I tried to speak with other parents about our these things, they would say things like:

  • That sounds normal.
  • All kids have temper tantrums.
  • You expect too much from her.
  • Mine do that, too.

Finally, we got to the end of our rope and sought therapy.

And the therapist validated what my intuition had been telling me for over a year.

“It sounds like attachment issues,” she told us.

Because I listened to my intuition saying Payton’s behaviors weren’t typical, we found an excellent therapist who has helped our family immensely.

I don’t think Payton would be doing so well if I hadn’t followed my intuition.

I don’t think I would be doing so well.

So this is my piece of advice to all parents: Listen to your intuition. 

 

Adoption

Adoption Pet Peeves, part 2 (edited)

Dear Adoptee,

This is my second installment to clarify the things I wrote in my prior post, Adoption Pet Peeves. The last point in my original post was also upsetting to a number of you.

The section of the original post is italicized. I’ve added comments/clarifications in bold.

Here is part 2:

A word or two about the proper adoption terminology.

Apparently, the term “biological” isn’t PC anymore.  However, I don’t like the term “birth parents” because only one person is a birth parent, the mother.  Where does that leave the father? [Someone said this point indicated I thought the child-parent bond didn’t extend beyond that of the birth. I argue the exact opposite. The meaning of birth is, as quoted from dictionary.com, “an act or instance of being born” and “the act or process of bearing or bringing forth offspring.” When I consider the definition of birth, it seems to use the term is to say the parental bond DOES NOT extent beyond birth.]

Also, I was there for Paige’s birth, so couldn’t I also be called the birth mother[That same person said my presence in the birthing room was coercive but if she had read any of my other blog posts, she would know I had no intention of adopting Ruth’s daughters when I became her birth coach.]

A second term I’ve heard is “first parents.” I don’t like that one because we adopted through foster care and technically we are our girls’ third parents. 

Another term I’ve heard is “life parents.” This is true because they gave my girls physical life.  However, I am giving them a life by raising them so that term isn’t accurate either. [All of these terms are a matter of semantics, I suppose. I’m a bit of a perfectionist in that regard and it comes out here.]

I recently heard the terms “real parents” or “natural parents.”  These terms absolutely disgust me!!  (The other terms don’t bother me; I just choose not to use them.)  It implies I am not an actual parent and my daughters don’t have real parents.  It also implies our family is unnatural, or wrong. [Until recently, I’d only heard “natural” and “real” parent used by adoptees who didn’t have good relationships with their adoptive parents and thought there was nothing good about adoption. Obviously, the tone with which those words were used put me on the defense. Thanks to adoptee activist Angela Barra, an absolutely amazing and lovely woman who uses the term “natural parent,” I’ve been educated about the term natural parent. I still don’t like the term but now I understand it.]

To me, biological birth parents is exactly what they are; people who gave my girls their biology but are not raising them.[I recently asked both my daughters and Ruth what term they prefer. They all said birth parent so that is what I am using from here on out. I still prefer the term biological, but will use the term they chose because I love and respect them.]

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Though, to be honest, I think Payton came up with the best term of all.  Shortly after she began calling us mommy and daddy, she began calling her biological birth parents “my other mommy and daddy.”

I have absolutely no problem with that – she does have two mommies and two daddies. [And this, Dear Adoptee, was the whole point. I am not the only mother in my daughters’ lives; to deny that is to deny a vital part of them. That is something I will NEVER do!]

Adoption · Linkup

Lost Toes – Adoption Talk Linkup

I’m participating in Erin Bohn’s Adoption Talk Link-Up for today’s blog post.

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The topic is Embarrassing Adoption Moments.

The one that comes to mind involves my older daughter, Payton. She moved in with us shortly before she turned three. Having only the experience of parenting my son, Eli, I assumed she would benefit from the same parenting techniques he did.

This parenting thing is all a trial and error, as you all know. 

This was more of an error…

I was in the kitchen making lunch (maybe it was dinner) when Payton walked in and stubbed her toe on the table.

 

My son gets distracted and laughs if we exaggerate how we’re going to fix his injury so when Payton started crying, I said, Oh, no, we’re going to have to cut off your toe!

She didn’t understand I was joking.

Her brown eyes got huge and she grabbed her toe, screaming. 

Both Eli and I had to do a lot of talking to convince her I wasn’t serious.

The therapy jar got a $50 bill after that one…

Do you have an embarrassing adoption moment? Or do you just want to get involved with an adoption support community? Click the Adoption Talk badge in my sidebar or the link above to meet others involved in the adoption triad.