One of the biggest challenges for me as an adoptive parent has been finding the right resources to meet the needs of my children. I mention in my previous posts When Love Is Not Enough and When Love Is Not Enough Part 2 what some of these challenges are which we have faced. When we began our adoption journey we spent a tremendous amount of time researching our children’s special needs, which are cleft lip and palate (two children) and congenital missing ribs resulting in tethered chord syndrome and scoliosis (one child). We interviewed doctors, researched hospitals, talked with other parents raising children with the same special needs. I spent a lot of time researching language acquisition, cultural traditions and holidays, and what it would mean to be a transracial family. The latter was the topic of an entire course we were required to take before adoption #2 to ensure we were sensitive to our child’s birth culture and not raise our child “too white.” You know what really wasn’t on our radar? Reactive Attachment Disorder.
The main message communicated regarding RAD was primarily children adopted from Eastern Europe who spent their days in dank orphanages laying in cribs presented with attachment issues. We weren’t adopting from an Eastern European country, whew, no worries there. This is the biggest lie that used to be perpetrated in a lot of pre-adoption training we went through. I say “used to” because as I mentioned in my last post, research and literature from professional like Dr. Karyn Purvis, Dr. Daniel Siegel, Deborah Gray, and Daniel A. Hughes have brought to the fore the fact that any child who has suffered from trauma, has been separated from birth mothers, have lived in multiple placements, or in an institutional setting, suffers from some degree of attachment issues. It is another spectrum disorder which can be mild to severe. Some people believe because they brought their baby home from the hospital, they won’t have attachment issues, but even those babies spent nine months in another woman’s womb learning her heartbeat, her voice, rhythms, etc, and CAN develop attachment issues. “Can” not will. My own personal opinion is that a child’s resiliency has a large factor in determining how severe the degree of attachment disorder can be. This is my opinion drawn from the experience of being the mother of four children adopted between the ages of 3-almost 7 years of age.
It was our fourth child and my youngest son who was the driving factor in my need to find resources for attachment. First, I would like to highlight a couple of blogs of adoptive parents who really get it and are not afraid to be authentic about their parenting journey.
Confessions of an Adoptive Parent and the Honestly Speaking Parenting podcast. Mike and Kristin Berry are the adoptive parents of eight children, and they have fostered many, many more. Unlike me, their children came to them through various means of domestic adoptions, but I identify with their struggles to wade through attachment issues. They have made it their life mission to provide information, encouragement, and resources for adoptive parents with special needs children. I love their honesty and how the guests they bring on to their blog or podcast help me to feel “normal.” They are passionate about special needs parenting, they are honest about how truly exhausting it can be, and when you read their posts, you will feel like “these people are my people.” Here is one particularly good post just published a week ago exploring the solution to the question “How do I parent a child who constantly fights for survival?” I recommend poking around their blog and listening to their podcast for both words of wisdom and words of affirmation.
Jen Hatmaker. This woman is funny. She makes me laugh hysterically sometimes. More times than not, I don’t really agree with her stance on weightier topics like faith and how we live it out, but she is also and adoptive mother who has traveled a similar road. One of my biggest “aha” moments was when I read her post “Parenting Kiddos Who Sabotage Big Days.” One of the biggest stresses my late husband and I had would be on “big days” like birthdays, Christmas, and Forever Family Days (some people call them “Gotcha Days”). It seemed like our kids would just fall apart, they would ruin the special day for each other, and often my husband and I would be left angry that they day we tried to make so special for them was in fact ruined. Then I read this blog post and it all made sense. While my kids still get more stressed out around holidays, I am better at strategizing how to head off the really big meltdowns. Jen has revamped her blog so I couldn’t link directly to the post there but found it in its entirety on Goodreads.
Lisa Qualls from ThankfulMoms.com is a parent of many, has had a child they had to place in residential care for a time, and has lost a child in a tragic car accident. This woman has been through the wars, and she has done so with beauty and grace, with strong faith, and with some humor. She knows the effect trauma has on a child’s brain and the devastating consequences. I have learned a lot from her journey. Her post about hunger on her Learning Curve series really struck a chord because I have a child who has food scarcity issues. My child literally feels she will die if she doesn’t eat. She will scream out, “I am hangry!” (hungry/angry at the same time) and it will not matter what I offer, she is too panicked to eat any of the choices I give. I have to calm her down first by assuring her she will not starve in my house, I will always feed her, but she needs to make a choice on what she will eat. One of the ways we initially helped her to feel food-secure was to keep a snack in her room that she could eat immediately upon waking. Each night before bed we would grab a piece of beef jerky, or some nuts, or a protein bar, anything that would give her some protein upon waking, and stave off the empty feeling in her stomach that would lead to a meltdown. As will many areas of trauma, this has dissipated tremendously and we only place food in her room once or twice a month when she feels she needs it. Most of the time now, she just gets up and makes herself something, but those previous days, if my daughter didn’t eat within 30 minutes of waking, I would have an utter and complete meltdown on my hands.
Now for the weightier resources, I decided to split my posts into one or two additional posts which will come out in a few days. I did this because as I began to write I was getting upwards of 2500 words again and I didn’t want you, my readers, to get bogged down in a lot of information all at once. So look for the next post to be on books and website resources.