Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I realize it has been well over a week since the last time I posted. And yes, there is a reason for my silence. When I created my blog, I wanted it to be about everything this side of heaven. Obviously with our life now centered on our children the blog has also centered on our children. I keep thinking one of these days I will watch the news or have a stimulating conversation that does not involve potty training and what type of vegetables our children will eat. Then I could blog about something important, controversial, and make you/me think. But I realize as our family has had some real struggles this week that my blog could still be about something important, controversial and make you/me think. It just won’t be about the war, our president or any other number of subjects that pricks the hairs on the back of people’s necks. Instead I will choose another subject that just so happens to be at the heart of my life right now.

I have contemplated about sharing my/our struggles this week with you. I have been afraid that I might offend someone or that my feelings will be too raw or personal for some. But then I look over my blog and remind myself of why I started it in the first place. I started it to share with others the journey of life. My goal has always been to be honest…even if that means we may not agree. Even if that means that all of my posts aren’t about sharing cute pictures or funny little stories. If life was that surreal there would be no need for the self help section at the local book store and all psychologists/psychiatrists would be without a job.

So…here I go. This post may or may not make you angry and it may or may not offend you but I will not apologize. This blog is my little corner of the blog world where I will freely share my feelings and views even if they are not shared by all. More than anything, I hope this post will give you a chance to think and maybe see things from a perspective you may or may not be familiar with.

Can I just tell you that parenting adopted children is NOT the same as parenting birth children? It is not the same, it is not the same, it is not the same! I know many of you are sitting there saying “how would you know? You don’t have any birth children.” I do not need to have any birth children to be able to see the difference. There are thousands of books out there that address parenting from the perspective of birth children. Reading them alone clues me in that there is a difference. But I also have the privilege of knowing many people (friends, family, etc…) who do have birth children. I have also babysat many of those same children. I have been preparing to be a mother (or so I thought I was) for many, many years. And it is NOT the same!

Do you hear the frustration in my words? Do you know tears well up in my eyes as I try to write this? Can you hear how tired am I? If you can’t let me just tell you I that am. I am so tired of so many things right now.

I am so tired of people being around my children for a few minutes and then saying “they have adjusted so well” or “see Kelli you have nothing to worry about they are just fine. They’re normal.” Really? How can anyone be in the presence of another person for a few minutes or maybe a half hour and evaluate their total being as adjusted or normal? It is so frustrating. And I am tired of trying to educate people as to why they are not just fine and that they have not completely adjusted.

These fragile little beings are not quick fixes. You can’t pick them up and dust off the last 20 months of abandonment/attachment issues and say “all better.” Do you know what it is like to try to get a toddler to understand they do not need to be afraid? Do you know how hard it is to try to help them understand they are safe, secure and they do not need to fear us leaving them?

Go anywhere online and take a minute to study the importance of the first 12 months of a child’s life and you will learn that a great deal of how a child gets wired happens in those first 12 months. In those first 12 months this child is wired (or learns) whether or not their needs will be met when they are hungry, when they are afraid, when they need to be changed, when they need love, etc… So why is this so important and makes such a difference? Because in a child who lives in a healthy environment with his/her birth parents all of that child’s needs are met. That child is wired to know he/she is safe, secure, fed, and cared for. There has been no traumatic experience (again in a healthy birth family) that would make this child question or fear their needs being met.

Many children who experience certain trauma and or conditions in the first 36 months of life can have attachment issues or what is also called Reactive Attachment Disorder. There are approximately 10 or so conditions that will leave a child ripe for attachment problems. Of these 10 or so conditions Isaac has experienced at least 5 and I believe Jocelyn has experienced 6. It is painful to admit. It is painful to know that all professionals in the field of early childhood development agree on this one thing…these event/conditions cause trauma. After reading an article the other night I also came to realize that Jocelyn’s clinging to me those first few days was not out of immediate attachment but out of sheer terror from Post Traumatic Stress. It is hard to swallow that one of the most wonderful days for Hubby and me was probably one of the most traumatizing things for our daughter.

I am tired of hearing that raising an adoptive child is no different than a birth child. It is NOT the same! How can anyone see the two the same? A child coming from a healthy birth family has had a completely different experience than a child that has been orphaned and adopted. I will stick to my sweet peas to explain. Our little ones lost their mother when they were 3 months old. As far as we know she loved them and never planned to give them up. The father who had no clean water to be able to feed them formula gave them to a missionary asking the missionary to find them a family. Within the first 3 months of life our beautiful precious sweet peas lost their mother and father.

They were sick with yellow fever and underweight from not having formula. The missionary cared for them until they were well enough to go to the orphanage. A month or so later they were transferred. After approximately 6 months at the orphanage they were transferred to another orphanage due to some unfortunate circumstances. They were then transferred to a transition orphanage just before we adopted them. Have you counted how many moves? Have you counted how many people they loved and began trusting and attaching to before they were moved once again?

5 moves in the first 20 months of life…this does not include the move to our home!

6 care givers in the first 20 months of life…before we ever met them

…5 times they went through being moved to a new place, new smells, new sounds where nothing was familiar to them.

….6 times they had to put their lives in the hands of someone they didn’t know. Six times they had to begin to trust again that the care giver would meet their needs.

How can anyone say raising them (or any other adopted child) would be the same as a child who has only known one set of parents who have been a constant in their lives?

An article by Jessica Gerard gives a tiny glimpse into why life is so different for a child who has faced trauma. For our sweet peas the trauma has been the loss of care givers, home, sickness, and other things I will choose to keep to myself. In her article Jessica states the following:
Professionals who deal with children with attachment, reactive attachment disorder and post traumatic disorder do not agree on much. But one thing they do agree on because there is so many studies/research to prove it is that children with these conditions in the first year of their life end up with brains that are completely wired different. Some studies state that if their brains are not re-wired by the age of 6, the damage is permanent.
"Because these children lack a loving family to mediate traumatic experiences, and because the traumatic experience may persists for weeks and months, they cause long-term changes in the brain. These early traumas remain stored in the brain, and they will experience the same traumatic arousal when a later situation reminds them of that first trauma. Because their brains are flooded once again with the stress chemicals, and they focus again on surviving the trauma, they are incapable of thinking or doing anything else."

You CAN NOT raise an adopted child the same. If the child has experienced abuse, spanking will most likely feel like abuse. If the child has experienced abandonment, shutting that child in their room for a time out will most like trigger fears of abandonment. I could go on and on with tons of scenarios but these are the easy ones.

What I am most tired of right now are the things that are so hard to information on like toddler specific issues. Do you know how hard it is to try and understand if you are dealing with a “normal” toddler issue or if you are dealing with a stress/trauma triggering issue? Last Sunday we saw such an awesome high with Jocelyn to only feel like we have plummeted back to when we first brought them home. Eating issues that have always been present have gone to a whole new level. I have reverted back to holding her while she eats and have started to “bottle” feed her at least once a day.

It is hard to understand what has happened. It is even more frustrating trying to find answers and help. What adds to the frustration is that those who specialize in this field can’t agree. Sometimes their recommendations are polar opposites. You will find many criticizing anyone who does not believe in their method. But as frustrating as it is for me it has to be 10 times more frustrating for Jocelyn. I can’t imagine what she must be going through and I fear that my inadequacies and inability to handle things well at times just adds to her stress. I am left to ponder many things. I wonder…maybe she is finally at a safe enough place to feel the emotions inside of her…maybe learning to trust us scares her…maybe she is afraid we will abandon her soon…maybe…maybe…maybe. No matter what, I long for her to be healed. I long to understand so I can meet her needs.

One last comment: If you see around town and you have read this post, don’t be surprised if you don’t see anything different in Jocelyn. Like most children with attachment issues, these issues come out while trying to connect with their primary care givers. It is why so many adoptive families feel the need to connect with each other. It is hard to get others to understand what they cannot see.


  1. THANK YOU FOR SO ELOQUENTLY STATING EXACTLY HOW WE'VE BEEN FEELING!!!!!!! We are experiencing some challenges too. We appreciate you sharing your heart on this subject! Love, R & SJ

  2. I just stumbled onto your blog and I feel as if God himself wanted me to read your post. We have been home for 2 1/2 weeks with a sibling group, 3 & 5. I am feeling discouraged and overwhelmed and it is so good to see that someone else understands. I have four biological children and I will completely agree with you that it is not the same parenting an adopted child.
    This is not news to God. He can heal all these hurts that our children feel. It is hard and confusing and frustrating and yet I know that we are completely in His will and have to trust Him for the strength to continue this path of showing these little ones that we can be trusted and will keep them safe.
    God bless you. You will be in my prayers.

  3. Very well written! Thank you for sharing. Its good for those of us who are looking at people who have adopted (I am close to a family that adopted 4 siblings) to know what it is like.

  4. I too just stumbled on your blog. i can not wait to read more into it. What a amazing (scary) story these blessings will have to tell

  5. Just found your blog and want to THANK YOU for your honesty.

    We have 10 bio. children, and we adopted 3 siblings (ages 6, 9, 12) from Ghana almost 2 years ago. The past 6 months we have walked through a huge CRISIS and we have heard (even from professionals), "You wouldn't deal with it this way if it were your bio. child." Ummm ... no ... this wouldn't have happened if it was my bio. child. YOU CANNOT COMPARE!

    We are in CRISIS ... and we have gotten so much judgment from the Christian community that it is totally unbelievable. Horrible!

    THANK YOU! Don't be afraid to speak from your heart ... others need to hear what you are saying.

    mama of 13


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