Monday, December 21, 2015

The "Trauma Survey" - Part 1

Mama and Daddy in
the Christmas spirit
Merry Christmas! This is NOT a Christmas post.

A few weeks ago, a young friend contacted me about a project she was doing for her sociology class. The topic she chose was "trauma in adoption" and she was contacting various adoptive parents requesting their input. Her questions seem to reflect the general curiosity of folks not connected to adoption, so I thought I'd share her survey and my answers.

My friend's survey was relatively short, but I ended up writing a 6-page paper in response to it!  I can only write from my perspective, based on my own experiences and observations.  Not being a professional in this area, I can't speak to the scientific side of the topic. For your sanity's sake, I'll break this post in half and post the other half soon.

Adoption Survey 
At our friend's construction-themed party
  1. How did you come to the decision of adopting the child? It’s a long story, but we love other cultures and wanted to bring that into our home. There are 5 million orphans in Ethiopia, and as we researched the country and the history and culture of Ethiopia, we decided to pursue children from that country. The need is huge. Ethiopia is one of the oldest nations on earth, and it’s people and customs are so beautiful. 
  2. How old was the child when adopted? Jayce was 21 months and Anya was 15 months when we brought them home (at the same time). They are now 3 years 2 months, and 2 years 8 months old.
  3. How old were your children?(if any) I did not have any children at home when we brought home our two kiddos.
  4. Was there any trauma that came with the child? Adoption itself, by nature, is born of heartbreak, trauma, and great loss. There is always trauma in adoption. The question is, “how have my kiddos’ experiences shaped them into the people they are today? How have they been affected by the difficult circumstances they have had in life?"  Jayce was almost 6 months old when he was placed in the care of the orphanage. He had experienced a mother’s care until that time, and leaving the mama to whom he had bonded was very traumatic, as it should have been. He was placed in an orphanage where he didn't know anyone, didn’t know what was happening, no one and nothing was familiar. Jayce is wise beyond his years, and as he stayed in two very different orphanages, experienced at least 4 sets of caregivers (including us), 3 languages, and two cultures, he grieved each change and loss, and he hurt. My daughter was born at the orphanage. She didn’t know anything different than orphanage life until she came home with us. She also experienced many sets of caregivers and multiple languages, but transience and change was a part of life for her. It was more difficult for her to feel “permanent” in our home because she has never had a place of permanence before. It is more difficult for her to feel safe and secure and connected to us as parents because she has never been safe and connected before. Jayce, however, did have those experiences, and they were ripped from him. 
    Baby Girl playing with
    her auntie's scarf
  5. How it affected your children?(if any) Jayce had a more difficult time adjusting to home because he understood from past experiences that nothing was permanent, even the things that were supposed to be permanent. He grieved deeply, usually manifesting itself in hours of screaming, wails, and thrashing. Now, he has a more secure connection to us, and he acts like he feels pretty safe. Anya had an easier transition initially, since change was all she has ever known and the strong parent-child bond was never there for her. However, she continues to struggle to feel safe and attached to us, since developing those strong ties is a new concept for her. She has never done it before, and does not have the innate skills to develop those significant bonds. Often her struggles will manifest themselves in a lack of eye contact, unresponsiveness, and difficulty understanding that “mama and daddy” are different from other people-- we are not just more caregivers that will eventually be changed with new ones.
  6. Were the biological parents easy to deal with? “Dealing” with birth parents was not part of our adoption equation. I think a better question is “How did you feel about your interaction or lack thereof with any birth family?” I know this isn’t something people intuitively know how to
    My daughter being adorable in
    a hard hat and glasses
    phrase in a way that expresses their kind intent. Here’s the thing: I met my daughter’s birth mom. It was a privilege I will never forget. I never got to meet Jayce’s birth mom. I wish I could have. Both of those ladies have been through hell and they have my eternal respect for what they did on behalf of their kiddos. I know that in many situations and in many adoptions, birth family can be challenging, and it is a tough balance to weigh and decide what is best for the kiddo. Because of our international adoption, we did not have direct contact with birth family. In an adoption, there is a TON of pain and loss that the birth family experiences. Not just the birth mom, but all the members of the birth family experience loss. Part of respecting the birth-mother is acknowledging what she and her family have gone through. My time meeting with Anya’s birth mom was precious and priceless. The opportunity to share with Anya someday my memories of her first mama will be very special, and hopefully encouraging to her. I hope that what I know of both their birth families will help both of my kiddos work through some of the pain and loss they have experienced in their lives.
  7. Getting ready for the church
    Christmas program
  8. How long did the adoption process take? From the time we submitted our application to the agency until the time we brought the kiddos home was 4 years.  We received our referrals (matches with a child) a year before we were able to bring them home.  Most adoptions do not take this long, but because we were working with a third world government and all the uncertainties that brings, our process was more complicated and lengthy than it normally would have been. 

Questions in the next post:

Did you have to deal with any problems that the child had?
Did it take long for the child to feel accepted into your home?
What were/are the positives and negatives?

Feel free to ask other questions as this post unfolds, and I will answer them to the best of my ability.

Our whole family in costume by the manger

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading about your adjustments as a family! :-) Obviously life is not as peachy as we like to share on social media. Interesting to me that Jayce had his times of adjustment, even being a child of two. Even a newborn baby has that wound.... the "primal wound".... I still need to read that book! :-)