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.

 

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.

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 · Musings and Personal

Adoption Pet Peeves, Edited (part 1)

dear-adoptee

Dear Adoptee,

I upset you a while back when I wrote a blog post titled, Adoption Pet Peeves. Believe me when I say that was not my intention. My hope is the edited blog posts will clarify my intent.

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

I’m starting with the part of the post that caused the most upset:

“I have been told that I’m a wonderful person for adopting a child through foster care; most people couldn’t do it.  Breaking news! Having a biological child is a crap shoot just as much as adopting a child through foster care. [I don’t sugarcoat things. My daughters’ parents are drug addicts/recovering drug addicts; the 16 scars from my heart surgery are ugly; my husband is bald. You get the picture.] In some ways, having a biological child is even more risky!

There is no return policy [I just added quotes to return policy so you know I’m not using this term lightly. I phrased it this way to make my writing succinct, not disrespectful.]  on your biological child but, believe or not, there is with an adopted child.  [I included believe it or not in the original post to express my surprise, not to promote adopting because you can dissolve it.]

A trial period of at least six months is required before you can finalize.  You also have two weeks post adoption to change your mind. [When this was explained to my husband and me when we signed the adoption papers, I was surprised. Guess I should have included believe it or not here as well.]

Regardless of this somewhat controversial fact, [I say somewhat because I believe the six-month trial period is a good thing. Children adopted through foster care have been through a lot. Making sure the family and child are a good fit is a good idea to prevent further upheaval in the child’s life.]

[THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH WAS MY WHOLE POINT OF THIS PART OF THE BLOG POST. It was originally written about five years ago as a note on my Facebook page. Its intended audience was friends who have no experience with adoption. My hope was the tongue-and-cheek wording would demonstrate how absurd it was to say I was a wonderful person for adopting through foster care.] I think there is something even more important to consider:  Why do you want children?  Is it for selfish reasons?  Or is it to unconditionally love and raise a child, regardless of challenges and joys?”

So there you have it, Dear Adoptee – the intention behind this post. Please forgive me for not taking into consideration how these words could effect you.

Dear Adoptee, I love you and support you on your journey.

Lynn Sollitto
Adoptive Mother

Linkup

2015 Book Blogger Love-A-Thon Questionnaire

I am taking part in a Book Blogger Love-A-Thon.  I don’t know much about it aside from it runs February 21 through February 22.  The first thing is a About Me type questionnaire.

1. What’s your name?
My name is Lynn.

2. Where in the world are you blogging from?
I’m in Carmichael, a suburb of Sacramento.  I’m typing away at the antique piano desk in my Writing Room

3. How did you get into blogging in the first place?
I created this blog to accompany my memoir:  Born in My Heart:  A Bittersweet Adoption Blessing.  At a writer’s conference last week I learned this is called a platform.  🙂

4. How did you come up with your blog name?
It was originally the same title as my book; however, I wanted to blog about more than my book so I changed it.  Written Reflections seemed a more accurate description and it flowed nicely, so I went with it!

5. What genre do you read and review the most on your blog?
As of yet, I haven’t reviewed any books on my blog.  I enjoy reading chick lit by British authors and memoirs.  When I read a book that I love, I often “binge” on that author until I’ve read them all.

6. What other types of posts do you do on your blog, apart from reviews?
I blog about my experiences as a foster-adopt mother, which includes foster child adoption advocation.  I blog about day-to-day experiences with a creative twist.  I blog thoughts and feelings and general musings.

7. Best blogging experience so far?
I had some great comments on a blog about my memoir.  I’ve only been blogging about a month so I’m still a newbie.

8. Favorite thing about the blogging community?
Getting to know other people from all around the world, their differences and similarities.

9. Name the 5 books you’re most excited for this 2015!

1. The Melody Lingers On by Mary Higgins Clark
2. Host by Robin Cook
3. None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio
4. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (I know it’s not a new book but it was recommended by my book club.)
5. The stories in my writer’s group

10. What’s an underrated book or series that you think everyone should read?
Hmmmm, have to think about that one…

11. Which book boy or girl would be your book BFF?
I always thought CC Bloom from Beaches by Iris Rainer Dart would be an awesome best friend.

12. Apart from reading, what are your other hobbies or interests?
I love to write and am currently trying my hand at poetry that isn’t inspired by teenage angst.  I love jigsaw puzzles and Sudoko.  I like to bake with my kids.  Travel is a passion of mine but is on hold until the kiddos are older.

13. Apart from book shopping, what else do you like shopping for?
Honestly, I don’t do much book shopping – I am a library lover!  What I do love to purchase, however, are clothes from consignment shops, especially local, charity-driven ones.  I always get great deals!

14. At a party, the DJ suddenly changes the song – and it’s your song. What song would be playing?
You Spin Me Around by Dead or Alive.  Honestly, any 80s music would have me shaking my tail feathers.

15. Pick out either a book you want turned into a film/TV show, or a film/TV show you want turned into a book.
I love reading books that were made into movies, even though they generally are not nearly as good.  At this point I can only think of books that were made into movies and I really wish they hadn’t been.

Musings and Personal

The Truth

“Never be terrorized away from the truth.  Now, more than ever, please take up your pens and your laptops and WRITE.”

This phrase gave me the strength to write this post:

I can’t keep being bounced around like a ping pong ball.

Yesterday was a stressful day with Payton.  I had her correct errors on her homework.

You’d think I’d told her to cut off her thumb instead.  The ebb and flow of crying, yelling, door slamming, stomping…

That night she couldn’t get to sleep until I got home.  When I tucked her in, she said she didn’t want me to go out of town for four days.  I reassured her that we would video chat.  She said she still didn’t want me to go.

And then this morning.

I told her to bring her backpack to me so I could make sure she packed everything.  She hadn’t.

I told her to find her homework folder, put her homework in it, and put it in her backpack.  A moment later “I have to find a stapler and staple these sheets together,” with the unspoken accusation that I took them apart.

I told her to put her name on the homework pages because they were all blank.  She tried to control the situation by acting helpless.  She got agitated when I ignored her control attempts.

I told her to go calm down in her room.  A full-throttle tantrum ensued.

“It’s your fault I act like this!  It always happens because you make me do this stuff!”

She ran into her room and slammed the door.  And over and over I heard stomping and yelling and angry tears.  I closed the French doors to cut off the sound.

My son no longer asks why Payton is crying.  Instead, he silently walks over and gives me a big hug.

Paige has begun noticing her sister’s storms are a regular occurrence.  Now she either tells me Payton is crying or asks why she is crying.  All I can say is “it doesn’t concern you.”

But it does.  It concerns us all.  Because it affects us all.

A good 15 minutes of this and Payton has calmed down.

It’s time to leave.

Payton walks over and gives me a sideways hug, takes my hand, smiles up at me and walks me down the hallway.  Then she walks out the front door without a hug or “I love you.”  When she hears my son say it, she hollers it as an afterthought.

This has been a daily occurrence since school resumed after Winter Break.*

It makes me wonder if I should publish my story.  Because as much as I believe we need to change lives of children in foster care, there are days I question my decision to help with that change.

When I read “Never be terrorized away from the truth.  Now, more than ever, please take up your pens and your laptops and WRITE,” I knew I needed to do this, regardless of how terrified I am.

*  If your inclination is to say all kids do this, please read my prior blog “NEVER say these things to the parent of a kid w/ RAD.”

Adoption

Shooting Up In Utero

My youngest daughter, Paige was exposed to high amounts of drugs in utero.

I know she was exposed to meth and prescription drugs, and perhaps other illegal ones.

Her biological mother had a prescription for Klonopin, a very strong medication used to treat anxiety and seizures.  Even when this drug is used for seizures, patients should not continue use during pregnancy unless absolutely necessary.

She abused other prescription medications, such as Vicodin and morphine.

My daughter spent three weeks in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) suffering withdrawal.  She experienced:

  • excessive stooling
  • tremors
  • weight loss
  • difficulty eating

When she moved in with us at five months, she experienced:

  • failure to thrive (inability to gain weight)
  • GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux)
  • Bouts of constipation alternating with diarrhea.  She went days without a bowel movement and when it came, she screamed because it was so rock hard.  Her bouts of diarrhea caused horrendous rashes no matter how much we kept on top of diaper changes and Buttpaste.
  • Tremors

The tremors were the worst.  If we hadn’t been told they weren’t seizures, we would have raced to the ER with that presumption.  It was heartbreaking.

you-know-that-we-are-lost-when-babies-are-addicted-to-drugs-when-they-are-born-quote-1Paige would tense up and after a moment would begin to shake uncontrollably.  The tremors themselves generally didn’t last more than a minute.  However, they were always followed by high-pitched screaming and inconsolable crying.  Her intensity often lead to hyperventilation.  NOTHING soothed her… I could only walk her up and down the hallway singing, and hope she knew I was there and I loved her.

We MUST educate society about this, especially our impressionable youth.  Schools need to show teens a video like the one above.  If we teach our children the negative consequences of using drugs, perhaps we can prevent them from making these mistakes.

What do you think?