More on attachment disorder & post placement trauma (Guest Post)

I received the most heart wrenching email from a fellow adoptive mom after yesterday’s post. It broke my heart to read her struggle and her anguish and to listen to the pain and trauma her children are experiencing.

While Ava’s issues are mild on the spectrum and Hannah’s were a little more extreme, nothing could have prepared me for this mom’s daily struggle and for the emotional pain and trauma her son’s, Lyle & James (not their real names) are experiencing.

Adoption is very close to my heart and I get so annoyed when people down play the differences between parenting an adopted child and a biological child. Adopted children, do, on some levels have special needs when it comes to parenting and nobody has any right to take away from that. The trauma and grief these innocent, little beings experience when they are so tiny and defenseless should be acknowledged and treated carefully and with compassion and never just dismissed.

Here is what she had to say, in her words:

I’ve read your latest post. Yes isn’t it sad that no one is talking about it? Everyone just wants to blindly make you believe adoption is this angelic experience.

Myself as well. All I wanted was to become a mom. To love a little girl or boy and shield them from the horrors of life. I wanted to love them and show them a different world to the one I was expose to as a child. I was ready to give unconditional love. Come hell or high water I will give LOVE. The love that was kept from me when I was a child I will pour it out over my children.

What I got is hell. Pure hell. The adoption glow has long gone and I’m feeling guilty about thinking why did I adopt?

James is 9 turning 10.

He has got major depression and ADD, he’s got zero self-esteem, sees the glass always empty, makes up tall tales, lying telling his friends we got an ps4/Xbox/Explorer etc etc…

He lies constantly. And then acts so hurt when you catch him out. He will wail and cry and play on my emotions. It has come to a point where I don’t believe him anymore. James is an introvert. I don’t always pick up when he is depressed. He is good at hiding stuff from us. He is also overly empathetic, he will cry over the littlest thing that will make him sad. He struggles to accept why IF his bio mum loved him, why did she let him go. We told him from the beginning she did it out of love, she could not support you. She did not have a job. He said he loves us, but wants to go and find her when he turns 18. I told him it is his fullest rights to do so and I will support him. He also has Sensory Processing Disorder and is struggling with sight, hearing, touch, smells, tastes and vestibular  (inner ear) function, he also has NO filter, he will say what he is feeling then and there,  no matter who is in the room.

James’s birth was in a hospital, he was with his mom for an hour or so, and we met her and she kissed him on his forehead and told us to look after him. You could see the pain and longing in her eyes.

Then Lyle.

Lyle, oh Lyle. He turned 8 in April

He is driving us crazy. He has tantrums and cries non-stop.. It is HELL coming home after work at the end of the day. He is always in a bad mood. Lately ‘I hate you’ has become his mantra. He will curse, he will shout, he will make irritating load noises. He is vindictive, he is violent, he is angry. He’s got NO empathy or a sense of humour. If you make a joke you are teasing HIM and then he will erupt in a massive volcanic outburst.

At school he is a shining star, a happy child. As soon as he gets in the car he explodes, then James is a fat pig, Granny is a stinking old witch, he hates everybody, he screams non-stop.

And all this points to Attachment Disorder.

His bio-mum bound her tummy so no one could see she was pregnant. She did a home birth and left the child with the midwife. The adoption agency struggled for 7 weeks to find her to sign the adoption papers. Lyle’s rejection is basically since conception. When he was a baby he did not want me to put him down, he could not bear to be alone, and would scream 95% of the time he was awake.

We tried sleep training with him to teach him how to self soothe… what a disaster. We tried it for 2 weeks. I think unknowingly I caused more rejection fears in him by doing sleep training. When he was a bit older he used to sit on my lap, and lift my shirt, then he would lift his t-shirt and lie  against me for skin to skin contact. Sometimes he wants a blanket over us. The therapist says he was acting out womb caressing. His bio mum did not talk to him and touch her belly to let him know he is loved and wanted. The therapist says his rejection is so bad it is imbedded in his cells. I then used to caress him and talk to him, telling him that he is loved and that he is wanted. Almost as if I was caressing my pregnant belly and he was inside me. We did that till he was about 7 years old. The therapist said when he is ‘full’ of womb love/experience he will move on. We did bonding therapy for almost 6 months, Play Therapy. Sensory Therapy. Act out your anger Therapy name it and we did it. Speech Therapy, occupational Therapy.

But he is still angry. So very angry. He hates everyone, he wishes he was not in our house, he hates James, and he calls James the most disgusting names. He said when he becomes a dad one day he will still hate James. He is vindictive, foul mouthed, impulsive, talks non-stop, screaming hateful things, calling us names, hiding things, hitting his brother, pounding on doors, slamming doors, making irritated noises, disrespects us, his parents & his grandparents, got NO time for James, his favourite thing to say is he hates that fat pig, his gran is a stinking old witch, he demands my undivided attention 100% and will throw a hissy fit if someone talks to me while he wants my attention, he asks the same questions over and over and over again, he needs reassurance over and over and over again, he cannot sit still and he cannot keep still.

When I scold him or reprimand him he will shout at me that I hate him and everyone else is responsible but that HE is getting the blame. I’m not fair towards him and he hates everyone in the house, it is THEIR fault that he gets punished, he WILL NOT admit he is in the wrong.

No one can calm him down, I’m the only one, I will usually take him to my room he will rant and rave and scream about how stupid everyone is then I will calmly talk to him about it, to  try and see what triggered it, in those calming talks I will re-direct the conversation to something completely different. For example like we  were talking now about Granny that is only giving love to James accordingly to Lyle, so I will try and redirect  flow to something like ‘Did you know that Avengers is showing at the movies? Do you think we can go and see it? I hope it is not PG then we will not be able to get in’ what do you think? Must we google it on the tablet, in an instant he will become this chatty lively child who hopes the movie is not PG he would love to see it.

I need to keep my ducks in a row on how to calm him, because what worked last night might not work tonight.

For example, last night what calmed him was when I asked him did he know he’s got a blue gown? He can wear that after he baths? 2 seconds and he was calm. He totally forgets that he owns one, and was jumping up and down on the bed exited to go and get it. NOTE 2 seconds earlier he was still screaming that James is a fat pig, he is an asshole, James pushed him when he was getting out of the bath, and ALL hell break loose…

I’m done. I told Lyle last night that I’m sorry that we adopted him, I shocked myself. It just slipped out. I’m done. I don’t sleep, get constant migraines, fell off the LCHF banting wagon. Fight with my husband all the time, ignoring my mom and gran, strict with James, and just say yes to everything Lyle is babbling on because I don’t have the strength to focus on him. All the therapy is costing us thousands, and we are going to do another assessment 25 November that is R3000 … I’m broke, I’m drained, I’m sad, I’m guilty, I’m at a loss for empathy for my children.

But I know myself, I just need me time, I need to go inside myself. Sooth myself, then I will be ok for the children. Also, my husband got a mental illness. schizophrenia   affective Disorder. So he is also leaning heavy on me. Luckily he is stable on his medicine J

Attachment Issues are a bitch, my own dad rejected me. He told me I’m not his child, my mum was sleeping around and then trapped him into marriage. So my own self-defense was always building blocks around my sorrow, and hiding my emotions, I’m the only one who can lift up my spirits again. If I’m down, I pick myself up. If I’m depressed I kick my own butt!

As soon as I’m feeling better I’m going to read more about attachment & trauma therapy.

The ‘cure or treatment’ is to became a Therapeutic Parent  (7 Core Issues in Adoptee)  (7 Core Issues in Adoptive Parents)

I think Adoption grief must be treated like any other grief or PTSD.










Much love, light, healing and strength to you M! Thank you for so openly and honestly sharing your story.


  • Gail Schimmel

    October 29, 2015 at 10:48 am

    I’m wanting to make a comment, and struggling to say it in a way that doesn’t sound dismissive of the unique challenges to adoptive parents and to children with attachment disorder – but a lot of the described behaviours sound like the challenges that ALL parents face. Both my (biological, wanted – one is IVF, never rejected in any way) children have shown some of the acting out behaviours described here – saying they hate me, they hate each other, throwing tantrums for nothing, showing a lack of humour, being an angel at school and a devil at home, all of it. I get that there are additional challenges and that it is overwhelming when it happens constantly and at once, and when the parent is trying to compensate for a rejection that they were not responsible for. I think that what I am trying to say is that parenting is really, really hard; and I think adoptive parents sometimes put too much pressure on themselves to be kinder and better and more accepting. You’re allowed to think your child is a brat. You’re allowed to regret having them. You’re allowed to say things that you regret. You’re allowed to do those things, because it’s what 99% of parents are doing. It’s not because you are failing at adoption – it’s because you really, truly are a parent. (I am so worried this sounds patronising – it is not meant to – it is just that the article resonates with me and I’m not an adoptive parent.)

    • Lise

      October 29, 2015 at 10:54 am

      I agree with you. Not that I have any bio kids, but it makes sense that all kids act out at home. I do think that this mom is exhausted and at the end of her rope. We all know what that feels like!!! There are days when you just want to walk out and it would be great to have someone to come and step in and help.

    • Sharon

      October 29, 2015 at 11:03 am

      I do think there is a difference tween acting out and this though. I really do. All kids act out from time to time, they don’t require thousands of rands worth of therapy and don’t (hopefully) tear a family apart in the process.

  • Jenny

    October 29, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    This boy’s behaviour issues sound very extreme. I wonder if his biomom also didn’t drink or do drugs? Sounds like a chemical imbalance is adding to all of this. I hope he doesn’t harm himself or anyone else. I wish her strength and courage in finding the answers.

  • Straight hair Mama

    October 29, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    Being a parent is really hard, some of us have children with challenges that make it even harder. No one has walked your road, you are the only one who will. Often it feels like everyone else has shiney, happy kids compared to yours. Just remember, these precious children are yours, no matter how you got them, and you just keep on trying. The only thing you can do wrong is to give up!

    The reason all this hurts so much is because we love them so much. And sometimes all we can do is just love them.

  • shirley76

    November 4, 2015 at 7:22 am

    This is aweful and i really feel for this mom, I hope she eventually sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

    On a side note- this really makes me question the benefits of telling young children they are adopted. Are they truely able to grasp or understand the implications of what adoption means?

    • Sharon

      November 4, 2015 at 8:53 am

      I’m not sure what the answer is but do believe honesty is always the best policy, you cannot lie (by omission) to a child, when the truth comes out, as it has a habit of always doing, it will make them question and feel insecure about everything that they are and what their identity is.

      • shirley76

        November 4, 2015 at 2:14 pm

        Sure- I understand that, but its such a catch 22. My daughter was also told from a young age and according to her mom, also suffered severe rejection issues. I almost feel that it takes away from the innocence of their childhoods when they are consumed by the trauma of rejection and attachment issues. Ive really valued these past few posts Sharon, thanks for sharing.


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