We were FINALLY ready to begin our happily ever after.
We never thought this day would come. After years of heartache and disappointments, my wife, Mary Beth and I were finally parents. Because of all those disappointments, we had kept our adoption plan a secret. Our families were aware, but only a handful of friends knew what we were doing.
I remember calling my Mom from the hospital. We had gotten there minutes before our son was born, saw him minutes later and then on the next day after the papers were signed, we took him home. But just before we took him home, I called my Mom and said, “you can tell everyone.”
She told me later that one of the families she called cheered when they heard the news. People were so happy for us! We were happy! Our happily ever after was a reality!
Or so we thought.
We thought that we were prepared to raise an adopted child. We had gone through a lot of training. We worked with a wonderful woman. She was such a special lady. She counseled us with questions that were going to come up. She told us how to deal with those. We had books that we read and would eventually read to our son.
There were so many things that we did. We had met another birth mother and talked about her experience. We tried our best to understand what the children of adoption feel, what birth mothers feel, and what we would feel. Our social worker even came to our house after we had been home a few weeks to evaluate the situation and make sure everything was fine.
She noticed something physically that we hadn’t caught about our son and said, “you need to make sure your doctor is aware of this.” Fortunately he had noticed it too. As it turned out, it wasn’t anything that needed to be addressed, but it showed us that she really knew what she was talking about and really cared. She was retiring soon and told us, “you guys are one of the reasons I have done this because I want to place children in homes like yours.”
We thought we knew what we needed to know to raise an adopted child. Unfortunately, as we found out over the years, we didn’t know some of the things that we should have known. I’m not blaming our social worker. I don’t think those things were really well known or even talked about at that time. Otherwise she would have told us. I’m confident of that.
The myth that we believed and I think the myth a lot of people believe is that when you adopt a child as an infant, you are not going to experience the potential issues that could be present when you adopt an older child. Because you’re starting with a clean slate, you get to raise that child and instill your values in them. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily the case.
I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t understand all of the science behind what is called in utero trauma or in the womb trauma. But as more research is done, it has been determined that babies are affected by external circumstances that are going on around them while they’re in the womb. They can sense and they can feel when things aren’t right. The problem is that after they’re born and get older, they feel something isn’t right, but they can’t put those feelings into words.
We understand when a woman drinks or does drugs during her pregnancy, the effects can be more readily apparent and understood. However, when a child is affected by stress and other negative issues, it’s not necessarily apparent. It’s not something you can put your finger on right away.
As our son got older, we could tell something wasn’t right but it wasn’t his fault. Just like it isn’t the fault of the babies who are born to mothers who do drugs and alcohol. The question is how do you deal with adoption trauma?
There are ways and there are people who understand this better. There are tools and there are techniques and there are professionals who can help children with adoption trauma to cope.
That is what we eventually discovered for our son.
In my next column, I want to deal with a mistake about adoption that unfortunately we unintentionally made.
I hope you’ll follow me as I share more of our journey in adoption story.
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