Knowledge

The full title of this support is: Knowledge of parenting and child development.

My Birth Mother chose well. She did so intentionally. She chose a Doctor and a Teacher to raise me. Granted big T Trauma was not a thing yet, but who else better to have a good grasp on child development both physically and mentally? On top of that, my younger sister’s needs forced them to keep up with current research and development (It’s O.K. I have permission to talk about my sister’s story). My parents had a great grasp of what kid’s needed at each stage in their lives. However, it needs to be stated that they were not perfect. At all. They too were humans and battled their own imperfections and personal struggles. Many that I did not become aware of until I was an adult.
Adoptive parents. What I am about to tell you is KEY. And it is backed by current research. In order to be a “successful” parent, you only need to get things “right” 30% of the time. I know. That seems low. But it’s true.
Whew. Breath that in. Breath in that release of failure and shame and guilt.
The fact that you are reading this means you are most likely functioning well above that 30% mark.
So. What is “successful” and “right” parenting? It’s less about getting discipline right and more about connection. (THE CONNECTED CHILD *AHEM HINT HINT*)
Successful parenting is when your child feels connected to you even in the hard moments of dysregulation and heck… are just being turds. (Children are turds 95% of the time. That’s not scientific. That’s just a SAHM Mom who is in the middle of a snow day and has done nothing but growl and yell in frustration.)
Now.
How does this translate for adoptees? Buckle up.
We all become adults. No matter if our adoptive situation was stable-ish like mine, or whether you’ve been in and out of placements… we all turn into adults and become responsible and…

We all have to take care of our own shit. We just do. Floundering throughout life blaming others and playing the victim and being an “angry adoptee” doesn’t do a thing for you. In fact, it’s damaging to you and to those you love.

I’ve been there. I’ve wanted to wallow. And it is an essential part of healing… wallowing and being angry. But at some point, we have to heal. I know it’s hard work, and it’s dark, and it takes us into the scariest memories including the somatic ones. Educating ourselves on child development and re-walking ourselves through those stages through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, EMDR, and story is essential.

But at some point, we need to educate ourselves on parenting and child development in order to heal. Especially if we are or intend to become parents ourselves. Instead of trauma, we need to pass down healing to our own children. We can only do that by putting our baggage on the table and sorting it into  keep and throw away piles.

And let me tell you from personal experience. Deal with your trauma before it deals with you. Before you find yourself passing on trauma to your children. Before you wake up and realize one day that the environment you have created for yourself and those you love is toxic and damaging. Before you find yourself starring into the eyes of your own frightened child or spouse or friend who is afraid of… YOU.

Yes. We may have gotten the short end of the stick without consent. But we, just like everyone else, have to do the work. The “adoptee card” isn’t a get out of jail free card.

But we can heal. And we can do so through understanding child (and adult) development.
If you are an Adoptee or an Adoptive Parent and you are not sure where to go with this… what tools to look for and use, don’t hesitate to DM or look through those I follow in order to connect to other resources, tools, etc.

I am not a therapist… yet… but I can point you to some great places to start.

 

Support

Really truly this Protective Factor is entitled Consistent Support. Yes. There are times we need “support bailouts,” but those bailouts are not what help lay a foundation.

So.

What supports answer the question, “How’d Ya’ do it?”

First. My Adoptive Parents. Hands down. I know as adoptees we aren’t supposed to say we got lucky. (Or is that other people aren’t supposed to say it?) Either way the word lucky isn’t that popular in the adoption community. But I have to say it about these guys. I got lucky. Another way to word it would be that my Birth Mom chose well. She knew what she wanted for me and I am grateful that what she wanted led to my placement with my parents. I could go on and on about the “stuff” they provided me. The opportunities and the sepia-colored childhood… but that’s not support. What I needed, and got from them, was love. Consistent unconditional love. Even to this day my Dad will shake his head at my antics and my dramatics, but he thoroughly enjoys it. He thoroughly loves me even though my personality is the complete opposite. My Mom is always there. Always. To listen. She no longer runs to my rescue, but she listens. She offers suggestions and advice when I ask, and she encourages me when I am low. Always.  From my earliest memory until this very day, their UNCONDITIONAL LOVE has been my greatest protective factor. No matter what idiotic thing I did or have done. And I once bought a 12,000 car on a loan without consulting them.

Siblings. I have a love and annoy relationship with all of my siblings. But I have them. And they have stretched and challenged me in ways I cannot begin to fathom. They also have loved me in their own unique ways. Consistency.

Therapy. I have not always needed it, but I have always needed access to it. I did not start until I was in my early 20s. Therapy was not a thing my family did until my senior year when it became necessary for all of us for varying reasons. If my insurance didn’t pay for it, my parents covered it. Even now as an adult, my parents still offer to help pay for my therapy, my marriage counseling, my kids therapy etc. if we are not able to. Find a therapist and build a relationship NOW. Before the crisis. Consistent relationship with a therapist.

Do you see a theme here? Support means consistency. Each family is going to translate the noun support into many different verbs. However, whatever the supports are, they need to be consistent.

Neuro-typical people need concepts to be repeated about 7-8 times on average before we form a new neural pathway in our brain tissue. For an adoptee there is no number. Some of us need messages and concepts to be repeated multiple times a day every day for the rest of our lives. I will never not (yes I know that’s a double negative) need my husband to tell me he loves me. Because if he is not consistent, I don’t remember. Why? Because my foundation of life is built upon abandonment and rejection.

Support is consistency.
Adoptees: Be consistent in getting help. Be consistent in therapy. Be consistent in self-care. Be consistently patient and gentle with yourself.
Adoptive parents: Be consistent with your unconditional love. in every other support… be consistent. Be willing to invest your time, your money, and stretch your every belief and your comfortability level to the max. When you have reached what you think is the end. Start praying and look to your own supports. Make sure your own supports are consistent.

 

 

 

 

Continuing my series: How’d Ya’ Do It?
2nd photo is of my little sister on my Birth Mom’s side. She admitted tonight that it’s a little freaky to her how much I look and sound like our mom. 😉

Protective factor #2: Relationships.
Before I knew what trauma was. Before I had any sort of diagnosis. Before I knew something was wrong but didn’t have words or a name… There were people.
There were two kinds of people.
The people who didn’t know what to do with me and held me at arm’s length.
And then there were the people who didn’t know what to do with me and pulled me in closer.
Adoptees. It’s hard. We have a hard time trusting. We have walls. We have trauma. But our brains are hardwired for relationships. It keeps us healthy. It helps us heal. We don’t have to have 100 friends. Just a few. A few we hold close. Who can hold our trauma without judgment or shame. Who can handle our heaviness as well as when we flake out or trigger. We heal and grow when we hold space with people who love us in pain, in joy, and in the day-to-day.
Adoptive parents. Create, provide, and cultivate your own relationships. When you are healthy and you have healthy people acting as your village who truly love your kids… that’s a protective factor for YOU and them.
Allow your child to cultivate other adult relationships that are SAFE. Teachers, mentors, youth leaders, counselors etc. Let your child cultivate good safe relationships with people their age. No. You won’t get to choose them all. Yes. there will be some you don’t like. Yes. They will get hurt, but it’s all about learning to develop and navigate relationships.
Also. Let’s talk genetics. AP’s if you have the opportunity to have a relationship on any level with a bio parent, a bio siblings, or a family member, it can be transformative for your child. EVEN when it is hard, icky, rough, and difficult. To find a place to have genetic mirroring can regulate your child in ways you will never fully understand. Yes. You are home to your child. But having genetic mirroring can feel like coming home. It can feel like settling into an old chair with a comfy blanket.
Relationships are one of the hardest protective factors to participate in. It can be hard to place ourselves in positions of vulnerability as all members of the triad. However, our brains crave it. Our brains require it. Our brains need it to heal our trauma.
I did it through my parent’s friends, a few teachers, a few lifelong high school friends, some mom friends… I did it because I had people who were able to pull me in and hold my heavy confusing crap even if they didn’t understand it.

Big O: The Storyteller whose side hustle was garbage.

I grieve best through words. Please bear with me.
The thing about being an adoptee is that you can tell who in your adopted family really accepts you. Not just “is fine” or used to your presence in the family but who really truly warms to you. As an adoptee, being fully accepted, embraced, and taken into the fold, is one of the best protective factors we can be given as we struggle with our identities. If ever this man had any negative inclination towards adoption or myself, he never once indicated in my presence. I was his niece. He always had a hug, a knowing glance, and a, “How are you doing girl?”
This man gave some of the best hugs. As a child, he loved having us over to spend the night and let us lose to play among his own children. He was a person who either got on your level or pulled you up to his (usually on a chair or couch right next to him).
His life experiences never brought him to hatred. Even those who he struggled with had a story or background which would evoke grace and understanding. He saw the best in people. He wanted you to succeed. He held you accountable but gave you a million chances.
He called my son Ford Edsel. Which he said, the last weekend we spent with him, he should probably stop doing because he didn’t want to give him a complex. (There is some car trivia for you to research).
He loved Jesus. His faith, instilled by his mother and her two-foot-thick Bible stacked with notes, was steadfast. Last thanksgiving, our yearly family reunion, we sat around him as he reflected on life and how good it has been to him. Hard, but good. How blessed he was by his wife, his kids, his grandkids, and how much he loved his family. How full he felt sitting there surrounded by those who loved him. But above all else, how thankful he was to God for his life. How full it’s been and how when the Lord says you are done… you trust him. Just as you’ve trusted him with everything else.
If you are wondering how it feels to hear someone give their own eulogy… it’s not fine.
But that’s truly what he was a master of. No matter how many tons of trash he picked up, toated, and disposed of in the greater Chicago area over his lifetime, he will always be remembered for his stories. He had perfected the craft. What stories to tell. What inflections to use. When to speed up and slow down. The body language. In an age where everyone’s heads were pinned to their screens and phones, my uncle was a pillar that held fast to the old way of passing along history. He was a true raconteur.
I would crave his stories as children. Even if we had no idea who they were about or what they meant, we would sit in awe as he told of how he was on vacation and ran into Mrs. so-and-so who was the daughter of a man that Aunt-so-and-so and had taught at the school just around the corner. Anyone who had any connection to garbage, the Dutch, the Dutch Reformed, the Deckingas, the Lanings, Chicago, Aurelio’s… they were instant family. You were now in his fold.
I am sure there are things I do not know about him as just a niece. Everyone’s perspectives are always different.
But I know that it was through him, and his five Dutch Reformed brothers raised in Engelwood, Il. by John and Anne, that the art of storytelling was imprinted in me. This weekend we lay to rest a husband, a father, a grandfather, a brother, an uncle… and a million stories he has told still being whispered in our memories.

This photo was taken the moment we said what we both knew would be our last goodbye. He gave me his usual hug. He looked at my husband trying to wrangle my kids into coats through the crowd of cousins and commented on how I have a good bunch. His last words to me as I walked through the screen door were, “I love you girl. Keep doin’ what you are doin’.”

What struck me in that moment were not the words he spoke. He didn’t say this because he had nothing else to say or as a trite cliche’ as we parted ways.

He said this having just talked about our adoption, and my writing, and my master’s degree. He wasn’t acknowledging my busyness or my parenting or my chaos.
He said this with a tilt of his head, a knowing glance, and a wink.
He wasn’t talking about the what.
He was talking about the why. Because his legacy is more than hauling trash around Chicago, his knowledge of garbage trucks, or having an affinity for McDonald’s.His legacy is written in the stories we will all hear this weekend told by people who he told stories about.
His legacy is in the interweaving of the relationships, the love he put into those relationships, and the faith that fueled that love planted in him by his mother.

 

* You can read my Unce’s book about the history of hauling trash and his stories of hauling trash free on Kindle: Every Stop has a Story.
It’s fascinating, but will never be as good as the in-person version.
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Resilience

Resilience:

1. the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.

2. ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.

It was in the crook of a tree that my neighbor had “gifted” me. A harsh old man who had a problem getting along with adults and who sometimes used us to gain information as to the workings of the neighborhood saw my attention to the tree and said it could be mine. It was the perfect climbing tree with branches in all the right places and about two-thirds of the way up there were three branches that had grown out of the trunk in such a way a reclining seat was formed. I would climb up there when the inner workings of my home were filled with tension. I would run to that tree when I wanted escape. I would flee there from fights and when I was told no. I would seclude myself there to read Anne of Green Gables, Animal Farm, and Sarah Plain and Tall. I would hoist books, and paper, and pens and write poetry that would make Elliot cringe. From that tree, I could hear the birds twitting about, and the squirrels chortling, the waves lapping up on the beach of my lake, and the trees brushing their leafy branches together flirting with each other as the breeze tickled their thick bark skin. It was there that I found the ability to calm my body and return it to peace. It was there that I found hope laid out in the foundations of nature. There I discovered myself. There I first realized that I was separate from those around me. There I realized that gurgling in the depths of my stomach was a longing for more and a thirst for hope. It was there I realized I could have control and manipulate my responses and it was there that I learned that I would have to rise up myself.

It was there that I learned that I was my own protective factor. I was resilient. I did not know this term until I turned 34. But hearing it put a name to the fire that had been kindled in that tree.

How did I do it? How did I get to where I am at today?

I saw the strength inside myself, leaned into it, and cultivated it.

Sometimes in a healthy way… but more oftentimes not. Resilience can turn into the bitter fires of stubbornness, or it can be used to ignite hope.

Adoptees. We are all born resilient in different ways. Mine was laid in my gene pool through Viking DNA. But in others, it can appear calmer, more passive. It can look like a slow steady determination or a sprint to the finish line. Look for ways you are resilient and lean into those strengths. Call them out in a positive light in yourself. Make sure you are not using them to hurt yourself or others.

Adoptive parents. Your child’s resilience may look like anger, a temper, passiveness, defiance, the need for control, the need to have quite and calm… Children often present their strengths in the unhealthiest ways. It’s frustrating and can be alarming, but it’s up to us to recognize those and cultivate and guide them into positive attributes.

Side note:Pinterest has many great ideas and printables on how to re-name those qualities positively.

How’d ya’ do it?!

In social work, we call them Protective Factors. There are five of them.

They are the skills, strengths, character traits, supports, resources, tools, and coping strategies that benefit an individual, family, community, race, or group.

I was recently asked how I did it. How I do it. How did I get to where I am at as an adoptee with trauma.

And there is a huge element of not having a clue.  I want to shrug it off and say something cliche like, “one step at a time” or “baby steps.”

But it’s not one cliche’ or one magical concept. It’s a gathering of protective factors. It’s a mix of nature versus nurture. It’s a few good choices among a field of mistakes and failures. I’ll spare you the gory details of my history and over the next few posts will be highlighting something that helped me directly relating to each of the five protective factor categories.

Adoptees… you may not have all of these. My list isn’t the end-all. I hope that you read these blogs and are able to identify your own list. Don’t focus on risk factors (what has harmed you or you don’t have). Focus on what you have. You have the recipe for your own success within yourself.

Adoptive and Foster parents, don’t think that magically using these suggestions will mean your child will be O.K., succeed, or work wonders. Each adoptee and their story is as unique as they are. Each story will have it’s own strengths and weaknesses. Pay attention. Your own children may be showing some of them off in sneaky ways.

My goal here is to help you all start thinking of your own protective factors. As an Adoptee and as an Adoptive or Foster parent… both for your children and yourself.

And if I have any Birth/First Parents out there… You have them too. Many things that I list that helped me get to where I am at today were genetically given to me. Many of these things you may have used or are using to deal with your grief. But I am not a birth parent. So, I can’t speak directly to your journeys.

Here we go. Buckle up. Grab a pen. Take notes. Start jotting down your own ideas.

I expect to see some Venn Diagrams here people!

Inertia

The first time I knew something was wrong with me I was talking to a friend in my kindergarten class and the teacher called my name and asked me to stop. I kept talking. I already knew what she was teaching. I wasn’t interested. I was bored and talking to the little boy next to me was more stimulating. She called my name again. This time her tone was different. She didn’t understand me. She didn’t understand why I wasn’t listening. She didn’t ask. She just led me to the hall and picked up the paddle. And she swatted my naked bottom three times. I walked away confused and shamed. Shamed for being different. A different she didn’t understand. For not being respected enough to be asked why I was talking. And each tear that fell as I walked back to my seat from the hallway bred seeds of shame, rejection, and misunderstanding.

I knew I was different when I couldn’t read in the 3rd grade. I knew I was different when my classmates were soaring ahead of me. I felt dumb and other. I could see the letters. I could see the words. I knew they had meaning, but the meaning wouldn’t connect in my head like learning a new language. One kid liked to point out what I couldn’t do and he was so convincing the other classmates fell in line behind his witty words of harm.

I knew I was different when I created such vibrant stories in my head that I started to believe they were true and I would lie to my friends in order to see their reactions. I would base my next lies off of what they believed and over time developed a system of lying that was so intricate and psychologically well developed for a 6th grader that I convinced my class I was pregnant just to see if they would believe me.

I knew I was different in high school because everyone feels different in high school… but I knew I was different because of the way people would cock their heads at me and whisper in tones they thought I couldn’t hear, “There’s something wrong with Andrea… but I am not sure what…” They would shrug and no one asked. No one asked what was wrong with me. The few who tried didn’t understand why I felt alone. Rejection. So completely other. “But you are well-loved Andrea. You have a great family Andrea… I don’t understand Andrea…”

I knew I was different when I was in a fight with a boyfriend in his car. He’d promised to marry me and he was taking back his promise. I was volatile. As my hands and arms were swinging and my mouth was screaming and my eyes burned and my pulse raced and my body shook with a rage I didn’t understand. A rage that was fueled from something deeper than this initial rejection. I detached from my body and it watched my limps pound away with rage almost in slow motion. And I thought, “this isn’t me. What am I doing? This is horrible. Only horrible people would do this.”
I knew I was different as I was escorted down a dark, erringly lit, abandoned hallway in the dead of night. Lights flickered and there was a jerking beep as the social worker buzzed to be let into the metal doors end of the hall. I knew I was different when I was escorted into a room and asked to remove my belt, my shoelaces, my jewelry then escorted into a dimly lit brown covered room with multiple beds that crinkled from the stiff waterproof covers underneath. I knew I was different when instead of fearing death as I usually did, I sat there welcoming it. Begging for it. Reviling in the drugs they game me that shut everything off. I just wanted to be shut off like a toy robot. The love of my life had just told me he didn’t love me anymore… that I was too complicated. That I was too unstable. That I was too much. And he told me he had found someone else. And the abandonment that began around the same time my heart started beating in the womb beat louder and louder and louder until the pain inside and the rhythmic thumping in my head made me want to die. Yet my own hands couldn’t do what they had done to everyone else around me… induce harm. They were lifeless and uncooperative. And I was so angry.

And so, I thought I wasn’t worth living.
I thought I was a horrible abuser.
I thought there was something wrong with me.
I thought that I was lying to myself about other memories and emotions I had.
I thought that I was shameful.

And I knew I was different.

This is the adoptee fog. For me. This is how it looked in my life… with the whispers that something was wrong with me. With the misunderstanding. With the questions on why I couldn’t remain stable or keep a relationship or a job or stay at the same college or do anything for any amount of time. Why I couldn’t move over hurdles or humps.

Yet to the naked eye there was no reason for my behavior. There was no logic or sense behind it.

I knew it.

Those around me saw it.

And both parties were confused and tilting our heads at my life. Both misunderstanding and beguiled by the two different personalities that made me.

But no one asked the right questions.
And I didn’t have the right dialect to describe how it feels to have your heart, your body, your mind, and your soul being suspended in air as they are in a constant state of being sheered and ripped apart by invisible forces. A constant state of pain and death.

And so, I was different. Of having my body living in this state of hypervigilance and control so that the multiple different pieces of myself wouldn’t be broken or loosed from their state of gravitation and sent exploding in all directions. I must keep it all together. And if I couldn’t, then I would die trying.

This is the fog that I was in before I heard the word that reached down like the hand of God and touched the very core of my gravitating existence and brought life back into my thumping heart. That brought breath back into my lungs and feeling back into my limps. A word that changed the inertia of my gravitational pull.

Trauma.

And now I am on the other side. Slowly pulling back in the pieces of myself and weaving their frayed edges back together again. Thread by thread I weave and stitch and mending. Re-aligning my center of gravity as I attach the fibers.

And it’s the story that I hope becomes my legacy.
Not the shame.
Not the disabilities.
Not the lying.
Not the abuse.
Not the mental illness and thoughts of suicide.
Not the volatility of “what’s wrong with Andrea.”

But the artistry of weaving.

 

Little Clay Pot

This morning on the way to school I told my kids… no…
I screamed at my kids, “What is the point of being a mother if I can’t enjoy it! If you are going to treat me this way I will leave!”

Like all the terrible things we mothers say…  not you. I am SURE you have NEVER said anything like this to your kids. … Of course, I immediately regretted it as I saw tears well up in all of their eyes. Not tears of rejection or sadness or remorse. Tears of fear.

Fear I WOULD stop being their mother.
Fear that I WOULD leave.

The automatic response to gaslighting is fear.

The automatic response to narcissism is fear.

The automatic response to your mother threatening is fear.

I thought all day. While I subbed and handed out tests and joked with the kids and asked them all to be quite 176 times and attempted to answer their Math questions with an Intercultural Studies and Marketing degree… I thought. I rumbled my failings in my head like a rock in a rock tumbler. I beat that thought to death until it was smooth and shiny.

I thought this: I am knowledgable about parenting, trauma, and parenting trauma… but I know very little about parenting WITH trauma.

When my kids agitate me… when, like this morning, they push my trigger buttons over and over and over, even after I BEG for them to stop…

*insert 27-second pause in the fighting*
*all four children give each other the side-eye and nod*
*all four raise their hands annnnddd SLAM! They push my last button dramatically at the same time*

Boom. Trauma explosion.

My fight, flight, or freeze kicks in and I do all of those in order.
Fight: Yell.
Flight: Yell about running away.
Freeze: Regret every parenting decision I have ever made.

When I am a good mom, I am an EXCELLENT mom. We do art projects. We laugh. We sing. We have dance parties. We cook their favorite foods. We do fun activities.
The problem with parenting with trauma is that those moments are few and far between BECAUSE as a parent with trauma, I have to put SO much energy into self-regulating so I DON’T explode on them.

It breaks my heart. That I have it in me to be a great mom. That I have these moments where I am the mom I want to be, but my own brain and body fight against my ability to provide that for them. It creates a very rough-edged anger that boils in me.

And that right there is why I am compassionate towards bio parents in foster care. Because before I was a parent and addressed my trauma, I was very judgemental.
Those women that snap? That drive their kids into the ocean? I hated them. I judged them. I thought they were weak, terrible, and evil people.

But now.

Now that I have children. Now that I’ve been correctly diagnosed with trauma?

Those Momma’s I want to hug. I want to weep with. I want to go shoulder to shoulder with. I want to validate and heal. I want to say to them, “I know this pain.”

Parents do bad things. All of us have slipped up and if you say you haven’t, you are the world’s worst liar.
We all have our baggage and we all will damage our kids in some way. It’s an imperfect world. We just will.

You mommas out there. The ones who are struggling…. The ones who have diagnosis and trauma and heavy baggage…. The ones who’ve crossed lines and messed up…. The ones who wear pajamas to the store because it’s the only thing they have clean or they just don’t have it in them to put pants on… The ones with depression and diagnosis…. The ones with tattoos and dyed hair…. The ones who’ve been marginalized and pushed aside… The ones with pasts and histories and tangled families…. The ones who’ve yelled at their kids or the ones who’ve actually left… The ones with addictions and anger and shame and fear… The ones who feel they have parts of them they need to hide…. The ones whose Mommas or Daddys or Brothers or sisters or babysitters have hurt them and they don’t know how to face that darkness…

The ones who are parenting from the last oil left in the clay pot.

I’m with you. I got you. I GET you.

Tonight I let my body do what it knew it needed to do. I fed them a meal I knew they would eat.  I put my spectrum kid in the tub to regulate instead of fighting with him. I made a huge effort not to yell and simply did not talk unless I needed to. I asked my husband to help me specifically with the two-year-old.
And I spent at least ten minutes snuggled deep down underneath a load of blankets cuddling with each child. And we breathed together. And I stayed silent. And I listened to their thoughts come out like whisps as I grabbed them before they floated off through the air. And I tucked those words deep down as treatures collected this day. And they all went to bed so calmly because I’d taken just a little bit of extra time to regulate with them.

I’ll yell again.
I’ll be Monster Mom again.
I’m human.
I live with a broken brain.

But that’s not who I am or who I was created to be.
If I am going to teach my children how to be their true selves, especially my trauma kids, I have to teach myself how to embrace, love and live into my true self.

Even if that means continuing to pour out from an almost empty clay pot into the realtionships around me until I have the faith enough to believe a miracle can come out of it.

– your mental health trauma momma

 

 

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The Great Inquisition​.

When I was pregnant with each of my children I got a lot of tips on, “how to correctly leave the hospital.”

Ask for more mesh underwear… you will wear them now until you are 40.
Stay as long as you can. You don’t have that kind of help at home.
Let the nurses take the baby so you can get your last good sleep.
Here’s how you put the baby in the car seat…
Here’s how you put the car seat in the car…
Here’s how you put the base of the car seat in the car…
Here’s a sticker telling everyone you have a baby in the car…
Don’t worry about looking good when you leave. Be grateful you fit into any clothes.
Take all the diapers, ask them to stock them up again, and then take those too.
Take the nose suction thing.
Ask for more mattress pads so you don’t ruin your mattress at home that the baby will pee on and ruin anyway during potty training.
Take all the diaper sized pads unless you want people to think you are hemorrhaging in the grocery store.

Each time I left the hospital I took heed to all of these tips.
I would leave with bags full of necessities.

And the baby.

Don’t forget the baby.

As mothers, we replay these moments over and over in our head again and again. Taking the baby home.
As an adoptee, I replay my own “going home” moment over and over in my head too.

Jim taking me from my biological mother’s arms as my Aunt stood next to her.
Grief flooding that room in crashing waves.
Being carried down the hall filled with halogen lights as we traversed one life to the next.
The door opening to the consultation room where overwhelming joy filled that space as I was placed into my adoptive mother’s arms.
I’ve heard the story over and over so many times from both sides of the hall.
SO many times my mind has created its own memory.

Being carried to the car on that brisk December day.
My adoptive mother carrying all the gifts from my biological family. All the diapers. All the wipes. All the bottles. All the formula. And the suction bulb.

My other mother packing up.
The mesh underwear.
The pads.
The mattress pads.
The maternity clothes.

And I the baby.
I carried home the questions.
As my body felt a dropping feeling deep in my stomach. As the cold winter air brushed across my face. As my insides tightened with the fear of new sensations. As my instincts tried to grip onto at anything familiar. As the distance between me and familiar grew wider and wider as the car turned onto the road towards a new life.
As my body listened to voices and heartbeats that weren’t familiar.
As my body adjusted and twisted yearning to find comfort and regulation.
As I grew, my body and my mind continued searching for the familiar…

Searching for what was missing.

And when something is missing you ask where it went.

And I’ve been asking where it went my entire life.

Questions became a lifestyle and a way of survival.

Where did she go? What did I do? What is safe? Is this unsafe? What happened? Why me? What’s the story? Am I worthy? Am I lovable? Why did they reject me? Where are they? What are they like? Am I like them? How am I like these people? Why couldn’t they love me? Why couldn’t they make it work? Why did they have to lie? Why was my conception a terrible thing? Am I a terrible thing? Why did they have to hide me? Why was I such a bad thing they had to get rid of me? Who am I? Who are my ancestors? Do I look like them? Who do I take after? Whose ears do I have? Whose personality do I have?  What’s my medical history? What if…?

When I left the hospital for the very first time I took home questions.

Questions that cracked the very foundation of my growth and development.
Even to this day, even after a lot of my questions have been answered, my body defaults to questioning my very existence. My very presence on this earth.

Because adoptees know, that as harsh and basal as it seems… we were deemed unworthy at our very conception. We were cast out. We were rejected. We were abandoned. We were declared outcast. We were shamed by simply taking our first breath.
And we will spend the rest of our lives questioning every breath after.

 

 

I am Other.

L is for Loyalty.

This year will mark 20 years since the day I met my biological mother. This month in fact. A fact I have not thought about until right this second as I sit down to write this.
20 years. We wrote letters prior to meeting. My adoptive parents arranged our meeting. They have stayed steady and supportive, but wise and logical throughout the entire situation. I’ve heard my adoptive mom complain one time that she had to “share” me on a Christmas Day. Sometimes I forget they are also loyal… to me. That was their job.

Situation you say?

Yes. Situation. I learned this year that 70% of reunions don’t work out. The researcher in me asks the definition of “don’t work out” but we will stick in general terms for this.

At 17 something deep inside me, from the depths of my bones…something instinctual, drew me toward my Bio Mom. Something fierce and wild. Something yearning and longing. I threw myself into her hoping to reattach the umbilical cord between us. Bone of MY bone. Flesh of MY flesh. Love me. Accept me. Need me. Cherish me. Make me feel safe. I threw myself in completely… to the point of immeshing our personalities together. If I was like her than she would have to love me.
But as years passed and the excitement had been worn away by time and living and my raw open heart lay bare, reality set in.

The reality of individual trauma on our two points of the triad. The reality of stories covered up  and replaced by lies in the body and in the brain. The reality of nature versus nurture. The reality that a relationship cannot be built on facial structure or character traits alone. The reality of unrealistic and unmet expectations.
Growing up I believed the gnawing at my soul would be relieved by the presence of her love.

And it might have been.

But the question on my part became is this love or is this loyalty?
And after 11 years of my heart being beaten, bruised, disappointed, neglected and rejected all over again… I walked away. I let my heart shut down. I let it slowly and mercifully lower the rickty squeeking garage door on a relationship that couldn’t function with broken parts.

And still to this day, 9 years later, I watch the years tick by. With every birthday my oldest son celebrates, it also marks the day I knew I could not continue placing myself in the line of fire. Grief pops up in the most random of places Dressed in the form of loyalty… wearing a dark cloke and holding out its hand at me hurling guilt and yearning in my face. It splatters like sticky mud threatening to seep into my being and take control.  I’ve seen this over and over and over again in the foster care system. Where fractured children remain loyal no matter.
Other people shudder and wonder how they could be so blind and keep returning to the scene of the crime with a smiling face and an eager heart over and over and over and over again.
But I know.
I know the demon that haunts.
His name is loyalty and he makes me question even my most sound boundaries.

His name is loyalty and he is engrained in my bones by DNA and spiritual bonds.

His name is loyalty and he makes me live in the In-Between, not being able to fully submerge myself into connection.

His name is loyalty and he has taught me I am other.

 

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