A Sacred Task – Parenting Through Adoption

There are a number of blog postings doing the rounds at the moment that focus on the complexity surrounding adoption. One of the posts that really struck a chord with me was Mash’s post titled Some Thought Provoking Conversation About Adoption.  I was most interested in one of the commentators, Rebecca from Love Is Not A Pie.  As an adoptee and now a mother through adoption, she raised some valid points. I went over to read her blog and loved reading the section titled An Adoption Journey: From Trauma to Healing.

I have been very conscious of the trauma Ava must have suffered when she was separated from her birth mother and what the long term effects will be from that trauma. But what has surprised me often, is how little is know about post placement trauma and the effects it can/could have on the adopted child. When I’ve discussed this with the people closest to me, I’m often met with blank stares or with comments that imply I must be crazy. After all how could a 5 hour old baby know she had lost anything? How could a 20 second old baby know, when being placed in my arms that I was not the person who had nourished, soothed and grown her for all the previous months. But I believe she knows, I believe she did know, I believe she suffered and is suffering some level of trauma from her placement. I believe that all of us are born with a unconscious knowing of our mothers that permeate every cell of our bodies and we know when we’re separated from that.

I often try to imagine what it must have been like for Ava and other babies born and then placed for adoption. Too helpless and powerless and without any ability to tell someone how scared they feel? How insecure they feel that the only thing that is familiar to them is gone. I believe we experienced some of that anxiety when she was a newborn, her colic, her inability to sleep for long stretches, the uncontrollable crying and of course her over developed Moro reflex, these all point in the direction of feeling insecure or mourning of a loss.

People always comment on the wisdom they see in Ava’s eyes. They often comment that her eyes are wise, like she knows something the rest of us don’t. And this is true, she does know something we all don’t, she knows the sense of loss and the sense of trauma that most of us will never know. There are snap shots of her that seem to capture that very deep sense of loss. Here is an example that is very poignant for me, while my little girl is a happy and precious child, there are moments when one can almost visibly see what’s going on behind her childlike innocent eyes:

But as her mother and as her father, both Walter and I have committed to raising her with no secrets and with no false pretenses. She will always be allowed to ask anything she wants to ask about her BM and BF. We will always welcome those questions and answer them as honestly and age appropriately as we can. She will always be allowed to feel whatever it is that she needs to feel surrounding her start in life. We will always be there to love, guide and support her as she comes to terms with her placement throughout the course of her life.

She is a miracle, she is our precious miracle but that does not mean that placement was necessarily a miracle for her and as such she will be encouraged and allowed to feel whatever it is that she feels without having to suppress her natural instincts, thoughts and feelings because we see her as our miracle. I believe that this is what will make us successful in our attempts with such a sacred task as raising an adopted child.

As Ava’s mother, I have often thought about the Bible story of King Solomon:

One day two women brought a baby to Solomon. Each woman said the baby was her child. Solomon said, “Cut the baby in half and give half of the baby to each woman.” (Of course, he didn’t really intend to kill the baby. It was just a test.) “NO!” screamed the real mother, “Give her the baby. Do not kill him.” Then Solomon knew who the real mother was because of the way she loved the baby. He gave the baby to its real mother.

Now as a mother, this story has so much more meaning for me. While I never conceived Ava, carried her in my womb or birthed her, I am Ava’s mother heart, just as much as her BM is. I love her more than I can ever put into words and will never ever knowingly allow any harm to come to her.

And it is for this reason that I will continue to read, research and blog about our journey through the sacred task of effectively raising our beautiful adopted miracle.

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  • Reply shannon

    Lovely post, I think your way of approaching it is fantastic. She is so lucky to have you as her mommy.

    February 8, 2012 at 1:27 pm
  • Reply Rebecca Hawkes

    Thanks for the mention! I love how you _see_ your daughter.

    February 8, 2012 at 3:58 pm
  • Reply Bratty

    Love this post….no words to say

    February 8, 2012 at 4:13 pm
  • Reply Tanya

    Great post and pic of Ava!

    February 8, 2012 at 4:51 pm
  • Reply TJ

    WoW! What a way to look at that story! Love the post.

    February 8, 2012 at 8:33 pm
  • Reply Maggie

    It makes me sad to think of a little one suffering placement trauma like that 🙁 We all have to go through loss sooner or later, but it must be terrible when one is so young. I never even thought of this before, but it makes sense. We are creatures of instinct, after all. I love that you are going to encourage and help her to cope with it when she is older. And the photo is unbelievably stunning!

    February 8, 2012 at 11:24 pm
  • Reply Kimmie

    Sharon I love the way you think and feel. I close my eyes and see you working in this field educating others in the future. I sense this is your true calling.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:51 am
  • Reply Nisey

    Hey Sharon, I worry all the time about J for the same reasons – only of course he spent 12 months with BM before spending 3 months in place of safety and only at 15 months coming to us.

    Its little wonder he has aggression problems and doesn’t handle change well. I’ve found though with him that clear boundaries that are never transgressed and discipline that is consistent and balanced with a lot of love has helped him to understand our role in his life.

    When he first got to us he couldn’t be hugged or held – now he seeks out hugs, loves holding my hand, bathing with me and will call me back at bedtime for one last kiss. I know that he will always carry his past with him but I can see how hugely he has benefitted from a stable and loving home and I have great hopes for the future.

    Everyone that meets him tells us that he is destined for big things – its the glint in his eye and the fighting spirit that has made him who he is today.

    The challenge for us as parents is to teach him to use his survivors spirit to make the most of his life and make it his biggest asset rather than his weakest link.

    Ava is truly blessed to have spent her entire life with you – but I agree that to some degree her adoption will still affect certain aspects of her life.

    February 9, 2012 at 8:54 am
    • Reply To Love Bella

      I like that, Nisey – “survivors spirit”.

      February 9, 2012 at 9:25 am
  • Reply To Love Bella

    loved this post, Shaz. i forgot about that bible passage …

    i agree with you 100% and there are many people who will probably never understand it. heck, WE will never understand the trauma that our children went through at placement! i firmly believe though that through the unconditional love and guidance that we are showing and giving our girls, they will grow.

    i chatted to a fellow parent at isabella’s school this morning and told him she’s adopted. he seemed intrigued and asked if the process was ‘hectic’. i explained it all to him and was surprised at how interested he was about it. i also told him that it’s not just the initial placement and the 60 days; adoption is a big deal and requires ‘work’ throughout our childrens’ lives. having to deal with how we go about telling them, how we raise them, how we teach them about the love of their BP’s, how to deal with any hurt they may encounter from the mouths of children / people who do not understand the concept of adoption. It really is a long journey for a whole lot of people to travel on.

    BUT I wouldn’t change it for the World. to have been ‘chosen’ to travel this path in life is a wonderful thing.

    February 9, 2012 at 9:23 am
  • Reply Cat@jugglingactoflife

    Beautiful beautiful post. At the end of the day, it’s all about our children, be they bron form our wombs or our hearts.

    February 9, 2012 at 9:46 am
  • Reply Melinda

    That is the most beautiful photo of Ava.

    One thing our SW discussed with us the circle of loss – the loss the BM feels, the loss the baby feels and the loss we as women, unable to have children of our own, feel.

    Emma has an empathy far beyond her years and I also put it down to the fact that she has experience more sadness and loss than a lot of adults I know (does this make sense?)

    February 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm
  • Reply spiritedmama1

    wow! I have a 2yr old, biological, and can’t imagine what you or your kids or their BM have gone through. But I’d like to commend you all for your bravery and for giving someone(both child and BM) another chance at life. You are definitely a special group.

    February 10, 2012 at 9:34 am
  • Reply Mash

    What an amazing post. I love the way these connections get made, and I love that Rebecca and you found each other through my blog, because you and Ava were the first people I thought of when I read her comment. I wanted to send her here 🙂

    Ava doesn’t look sad to me in that photo, but I agree with you, on some level somewhere, she knows of the disconnect. Although I’ve also read that “being ripped from the womb” (born) is traumatic for everyone. Imagine being in a safe, warm, cosy place and then suddenly having all your senses assaulted by sights, sounds, smells, temperatures… feelings of hunger etc? It must be terrifying.

    You’re doing a great job though!

    February 10, 2012 at 4:03 pm
  • Reply Julia

    Beautiful post. THank you for blogging about your adoption journey and your thoughts about it all. I have found it to be a very educational experience.
    You are an AWESOME Mama.

    February 15, 2012 at 10:09 pm
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