Pregnancy Is Triggering

I have often seen adoptees mention how becoming pregnant or becoming a mother had surprising effects on their emotions and experiences. Here’s one story for today –

I’m 28 weeks pregnant and just need some support, anything you have to say will help. When I think about explaining the different ways families are created I get pretty upset inside. Introducing adoption and what that entails seems like a huge battle and I’m not understanding why, I grew up knowing I was adopted before I even knew what adoption meant. Is it possible I have a fear of passing on adoption trauma to my child ? Also my adoptive dad called me and explained he just hadn’t thought about me being adopted and what it must feel like to be going through this pregnancy, now at 28 weeks. As much as I value the validation, it almost felt like a blow, like “oh thanks, glad you are able to forget about it, while I sit here and it seems to be ruling my train of thoughts lately.” Then there is my adoptive mom, and well, she’s just too old to have any good conversation about it, but she’s been very defensive lately anytime adoption comes up. I’ll tell ya, I knew pregnancy would bring a lot to the surface, but I did not expect to not be able to articulate my thoughts and feelings. Even when I’m writing In my journal, I feel blank, and tired. Definitely not handling it in the most positive way, most of the time, and I’m finding my self stuffing down my feelings. Almost reverting back to ?

One comment – One thing i hear a lot of people say as they are doing the “normal” selfless mom thing, taking care of baby and all that (good nutrition, getting stable, etc), is that they are feeling so hurt, that they could do this for their kid but their moms didn’t “get it together” for them, when they were babies. Experiencing triggers around one’s own pregnancy is super common.

Another one shares – One night when my son was about 2 3 weeks old, he was inconsolable. I looked down at his face and realized when I was his age, I was crying in a crib, alone. That realization was devastating.

And this – I hear you and feel your stress. Breathe deeply and try to relax. Sure you are thinking about what adoption meant to your life and how it affected so many things, many more than you ever realized because now you have a small, vulnerable and completely dependent on you human being growing inside you. At various points of the day, you will try to forget all of this, but then you will be reminded by your work-in-progress with a kick or rollover… and guess what: all of the emotions will become even stronger as you get closer to due date. The worries and so much more. Be kind to you and let yourself cry, if you need to — once you meet your baby, this stuff will stay just below the surface (most likely) but you will also have a biological person who needs you and adores you and you won’t understand how anyone could ever willingly give such a precious beauty away to someone else to keep. Don’t stuff down your feelings – don’t be too hard on yourself (your hormones are doing enough of that crap – you don’t need to assist them!).

More – Being pregnant and having my daughter brought up a lot of feelings like this too. Finally understanding how messed up and abusive my family was, especially my mom. Realizing that I couldn’t imagine treating my daughter the way I was treated. Everything felt so fresh and raw, and I was experiencing triggers left and right, having breakdowns all the time. Therapy and meds helped a lot, but I know those things aren’t accessible and/or helpful for everyone. I might suggest doing some kind of mindfulness exercises, when you find yourself sinking into those feelings, affirmations about the choices you’re making and how they’re different from the things you experienced. Other than that, I don’t really have advice, just solidarity. Everybody talks about how having a child makes them appreciate their own parents so much more, but nobody ever tells you how it can bring your childhood trauma to the surface. I’m sorry you’re part of that second group. I’m sure you will be a wonderful mama.

Another from experience – My pregnancies undid all my pro-adoption programming. I thought a lot about the importance of genes, bonding, familial traits, and family lineages. Pregnancy is an emotional time, even more so with the additional layers of adoption. Take care of yourself and give yourself permission to process your feelings. 

Clearly, though every person is different and every adoptee has had different kinds of experiences, the stories are many and on some level rather universal. HUGS if you are an adoptee and pregnant or have recently given birth.

So Many Questions

Today’s blog is thanks to Elle Cuardaigh – If Adoption Is Beautiful.

*Adoption, meaning the current concept of it in the Western world. The complete legal severing of the natural relationship between child and parent(s), replacing the original family and (sometimes) culture with another, including changing the child’s identity and sealing the original records, keeping information from everyone involved.

If adoption is beautiful…

  • Why do people lie about it?
  • Why isn’t it the first choice for couples who want children?
  • Why has it been this way for less than one hundred years?
  • Why doesn’t everyone give up a baby to someone who can’t have one?
  • Why does rehoming not only happen but is completely legal?
  • Why does Biblical scripture have to be twisted in order to justify it?
  • Why does the Quran condemn it?
  • Why isn’t it done this way all over the world?
  • Why are people in other countries horrified when they learn what adoption means here?
  • Why have several “sending” countries banned international adoption?
  • Why are adoption agencies being sued or forcibly shut down?
  • Why do adoptees turn to DNA testing to avoid dating a sibling?
  • Why is family medical history still the first question asked at doctor appointments?
  • Why are records kept from the very people they pertain to?
  • Why is a court order needed to see the records?
  • Why are adoptees terrified to ask their adopted parents questions about it?
  • Why do adopted parents swear their families to secrecy?
  • Why did the Catholic church get rich off its corruption?
  • Why is coercion routinely employed to get “birth mothers” to relinquish?
  • Why are there consistently over 100,000 eligible children waiting years for “their forever families”?
  • Why do white children cost more than black children?
  • Why is it okay to think of children as commodities as in the above question?
  • Why do the American Adoption Congress, Adoptee’s Liberty Movement Association, Bastard Nation, Concerned United Birthparents, and numerous other organizations like them exist?
  • Why do so many adoptees search?
  • Why did the Australian government officially apologize for its role in it?
  • Why are adoptees who are murdered by their adopted parents still considered “lucky”?
  • Why were adoptees used for medical and psychological experiments?
  • Why are adoptees the punchline of jokes?
  • Why is it recognized as a childhood trauma?
  • Why are adoptees considered “as if born to” their adoptive family, yet are subject to conditional terms for incest?
  • Why in cases where the baby goes back to the natural mother is it called “failure”?
  • Why are teen adoptees overrepresented in mental health services?
  • Why do so many rely on it as an industry for their paycheck?
  • Why is it patterned after the system Georgia Tann – a known kidnapper, trafficker, child killer, and pedophile – developed?
  • Why is it used as a tool of war and cultural genocide?
  • Why can’t all adoptees get a passport? Why are others deported?
  • Why are adoptees four times more likely than the non-adopted to attempt suicide?
  • Why can’t we have this conversation?

And again, Why is it that we can’t have this conversation?

Elle Cuardaigh is author of The Tangled Red Thread.

Healing Trauma

I’ve only just learned about this book and have not read it but didn’t want to wait for whenever, if ever, that might happen to pass it on to readers here.

Many adoptees and foster children have some degree of trauma. It is said that this is one of the best-known books about trauma, and in particular early life trauma (which especially applies to the topics I cover in this blog). 

It is not light weight reading, has almost 500 pages that includes a significant reference section. Someone who did read this (link at bottom of this essay) says – “It’s very in-depth, giving plenty of detail, but it’s not unnecessarily complicated. There’s some technical terminology used, particularly with respect to the functioning of the brain, but I thought this was explained well.”

Van der Kolk is a psychiatrist who initially began working with trauma while treating war veterans. There was a lot that wasn’t known about trauma then. He’s been an active researcher throughout his career and often considered at the forefront of new trauma-related knowledge.

In this book, he repeatedly stresses the importance of recognizing the changes that occur in the brains and nervous systems of people who’ve been through trauma, and targeting treatment accordingly with the goal of getting back the functioning they have lost. He is quoted as saying, “Trauma results in a fundamental reorganization of the way mind and brain manage perceptions. It changes not only how we think and what we think about, but also our very capacity to think.”

Imaging studies have produced some new understandings about flashbacks. There’s activation of the right brain along with a drop in activity in the brain structure called the thalamus, which prevents the events from being remembered as a coherent narrative, as would be the case with other kinds of memories.

Brain scans have also shown an impaired self-awareness. Van der Kolk explains that this is why it’s important to work on breathing, mindfulness, and recognizing the link between physical sensations and emotions. He writes further: “The body keeps the score: If the memory of trauma is encoded in the viscera, in heartbreaking and gut-wrenching emotions, in autoimmune disorders and skeletal/muscular problems, and if mind/brain/visceral communication is the royal road to emotion regulation, this demands a radical shift in our therapeutic assumptions.”

The book pays a lot of attention to early life trauma, including issues like attachment and attunement. The author explains that trauma increases the need for attachment, even when the only attachment figure available to the child is the abuser.

Van der Kolk championed adding complex PTSD as a separate diagnosis from PTSD. He was part of the working group that proposed C-PTSD for inclusion in the DSM-IV, and the group that proposed developmental trauma disorder for inclusion in the DSM-5. American Psychiatric Association did not approve any of these suggestions as new diagnoses.

I am indebted to Ashley of The Mental Health @ Home blog for her review which is the basis of my own blog today. You can read more about this book in her article.