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.

An Adoptee’s First Biological Child

I have read about this from the point of view of several different adoptees in the past. I have wondered what my own adoptee mom (or even my adoptee dad) felt as they created a biological, genetically related family of their own. They are both deceased, so I can no longer ask questions like that of them.

Today, I read – I’m curious about adoptees first experience being pregnant. Thought I was infertile all these years and I’m finally pregnant. I thought I would be flooded with more happy emotions. I often feel paralyzed and scared shitless. I’ve done the leg work to not put my trauma on a child, plenty of therapy when I was younger and actively trying to start a family. Not using a child to fill my holes as my adoptive mother did. Now I just feel disgusted and worried sometimes, feels somehow adoption related. My first parents non stop on my mind lately too. Any first child experiences good or bad would be very helpful! Thank you! She later added – I am very worried about not looking at my first mom the same. We aren’t the closest but our relationship is what I need it to be, I’m nervous I’m going to resent her after going through this; even though I know she didn’t want me. It’s almost like I’ve been in this weird limbo of not fitting in to either family and the thought of starting my own makes me want to run for the hills.

I am in reunion and have a good relationship with my First Mom but never cared much about my biological dad’s side, until I was pregnant and really until I had my son. It does make me sad that my son won’t know his aunts and cousins on that side but I haven’t had the bandwidth to try to make contact yet. Dealing with my maternal side has been enough drama and stress for one lifetime.

These feelings are totally normal, even for those without trauma. There are layers for many who feel this way, but even those I know who had ‘normal’ childhoods often feel this way too. You’ll also feel like failure frequently, out of your depths, like a bad mom, etc. those are all normal too. I have layers to mine due to trauma, so as time and healing have allowed, I have worked though different layers as they’ve come up (and up again and again). It was VERY important to me to avoid adding birth trauma, so I found a midwife and worked hard at allowing the natural biology and oxytocin stuff, breast fed etc. those all help with attachment and bonding (which I still greatly struggled with due to a severe attachment trauma).

I have 4 currently, and recently had a still birth, so I am now dealing with new levels of trauma added to those previous layers. Dealing with secondary infertility and a loss after 4 healthy pregnancies really rocked my internal dialogue (since fear of losing them through accidents/etc, just general anxiety like falling down stairs while pregnant (which I didn’t) etc). My mom hit a brick house (blogger’s note – I do not know if this is literal or figurative) while pregnant with me, so I’m sure there’s a layer there too.

I don’t know if my trauma has made it better or worse to be honest…the death of my son broke cracks into the structure that trauma built to protect myself from bonding and attachment. Though feeling (some) grief, I’m having glimmers of hope and joy, which is really mind fu**** me to be honest but I’m trying to roll with it. I deal with it small bits, here and there, denial in a box is its default space but when it does come out, I try not to stuff it automatically back in there. I try to give it space and observe it and know it won’t kill me, even if it feels like it will or should or could…sorry if I’m not making sense.

Give yourself space to feel the things you do and do not judge yourself harshly. Know you are not alone, the feelings WILL pass (even if it takes time, for me – it has been on and off for almost a decade) and no one is a better mom to your baby than YOU.

I experienced something similar with my pregnancies. I think fear is very common in any pregnancy, everything’s so new and life-changing. I think it’s an especially complex time for adoptees and a resurgence of feelings is common. Talking about how I felt helped me. I hope you know we’re with you and cheering you on.

I was fine while pregnant and when giving birth but got horrific PPD/PPA (Postpartum Depression/Postpartum Anxiety) despite being surrounded by love and support. I think giving birth brought up a lot of unresolved feelings and trauma and contributed to my PPD. I got through it with therapy and medication. It didn’t last forever thankfully and I had a lot of support.

I experienced PPD and difficulty bonding with 2 of my 6 babies. With the other 4, I felt that immediate attachment when I saw them. It took a few months with those 2, for me to feel like they were truly mine and that I was a good enough mother for them. In the long run, there has been no difference in the level of attachment or love I feel for them. (I’ve been parenting for 17 years.) Becoming pregnant with my firstborn was what awakened me from the “I should just be grateful” fog. I honestly believed I had no trauma from being separated from my mother, up until then. When I became flooded with instinctual feelings for my baby, I wondered if my original mother ever felt those things for me.

Not every mother gets that first glimpse of their child and immediately feels attached and wildly in love. It’s *not at all* uncommon for it to take time to build that attachment and have trouble bonding with your child at first. Then of course there are things like PPD and PPA that make bonding harder. But none of these things make a person a bad mother. Often people with a history of trauma – *especially* if that trauma has to do with abandonment or attachment issues – will have trouble bonding with their child. And it’s completely normal.

I wonder about this with my own mom, some of the things I have learned recently related to her second (actually third, because she had a miscarriage first) pregnancy as well as how I describe my own parents as being weirdly detached. Good parents but that cut thread of connection to their original families, I believe, had an impact on their perspectives related to parenting. They were good parents, not at all abusive, but quick to want us to be independent of them.

Another adoptee writes – I felt awful, disgusted, fearful when I was pregnant. I was terrified I would project what happened with my birth and adopted parents on my little girl. She’s 8 now and I’m not going to lie, it’s hard. I make mistakes with her but I am quick to apologize and let her know when I am wrong. I explain that I shouldn’t have projected my negative emotions on her. I also let her know it’s okay to not be okay. I had severe PPD and for a couple days when she was a couple weeks old when I wanted nothing to do with her. I told my ex husband mom that I needed her to take her for a day or so because i didn’t know what to do. Luckily that passed very quickly. I love my daughter more than anything in this world and would give my last breath to her. Also if you do have awful feelings, talk to your doctor. Medication did wonders for me with my depression. It honestly helped so much.

There’s a couple layers going on. I also got pregnant after miscarriage and sort of infertility. I don’t think I really processed or felt safe in my first successful pregnancy until after 30+ weeks. When I held my son, it was really the first time I saw and loved someone I was biologically related to. It was powerful, odd, terrifying. So many different emotions. I didn’t think as much about my first mother’s pregnancy with me. But we were in reunion and in a tough place then, so it was complicated. Give yourself time, space, gentleness. Pregnancy is a wild hormonal ride, even without added layers to it. And those added layers aren’t easy. 

And then there was this very different but honest perspective – I considered adoption, but I was stealthed/forced and thus very scared to have a baby so young even while married. I remember ridding that idea before the half mark because I felt him kick. And then at birth my very first thought looking at him was I could never give him up. Even totally unprepared I couldn’t have done it. I was actually really ashamed of that and told no one how I thinking or feeling, because I had solely considered my bio strong for doing so (drug addiction) and here I was poor and sick and barely legal to drink while a college student in a shit marriage… and I could Not fathom even leaving his side. I love him but sometimes I still don’t know if that was correct because he’s suffered a lot… my son was deeply abused by my now ex-husband and I have a lot of trauma from it I’m still working through… my own biological parent, I don’t think could have given me half the life I got from adoption, and even though my adoptive parents were super abusive. There’s so many mixed feelings and traumatic thoughts and memories that get brought up when an adoptee is pregnant. I hope you at least know all of your feelings and fears and joys are all valid all at once.

This perspective from another adoptee was interesting to read because I do know my mom saw a psychiatrist at one time but I don’t know her reasons for it – “It’s hard, I feel like I focused too much on doing the ‘right things’ and not traumatizing my kids, which often made me a hands off parent. I had to get my butt in therapy and put in the work to be a better me. Now I’m not a hands off parent and learned boundary setting with my kids.” I do know that I was surprised at the degree that my two sisters were dependent on our parents at the time of their deaths at 78 and 80. Maybe my mom overcame some of what I experienced in the decades before that.

Definitely worried I was going to fuck my kid up like I was fucked up. To the point of almost terminating. My second pregnancy was a lot smoother but I still experienced horrendous PPA with both. I had happy moments and sad moments in pregnancy. Despite my PPA though, I was lucky enough to avoid PPD and feel a determination I have never felt before in life when they placed my son on my chest. I looked at him every damn day and promised I would give him a better life. My husband and I weren’t in the best position at all. In poverty, high crime area, barely surviving. But I promised my kiddo I would get him out of there every single day. My husband is aged out former foster care youth, so he was just as determined as well. 3.5 years and another (planned this time) pregnancy and we made it. Our kids will never have to experience a life even close to what we lived. Having kids made me afraid and feel powerless and worry I was gonna be a horrible mom, but more than anything it made me, and my husband, WAY better people and helped us get out of the cycles so that we were not perpetuating them.

Pregnancy and childbirth weren’t really issues for me. My biggest issue is just feeling completely clueless and like I’m doing everything wrong. I was raised by my adoptive dad from age 8 onward, and don’t really remember much from being younger, so I feel like I have no experiences good or bad to reference. Like the concept of a mother is totally foreign to me, so I’m flying blind and making it up as I go.

What helped me the first time around was preparing to be surprised. Knowing that this baby, although my flesh and blood, would be their own little person. Their own soul. I was there to love and nurture whoever they were. And I really was continuously surprised, usually in a pleasant way. I never went for schedules and “Child must be doing X by a certain age” BS. Instead my kids developed as naturally as possible. All of this was in defiance of my “normal” adopted upbringing. What was crazy was that my eldest looked nothing like me or my husband. Thank God I had already reunited with my birth mom, so I could show people that’s who my daughter looked like, because otherwise it would have been hard to explain.

I had bad Postpartum anxiety. To be fair my Mother in law did NOT help. I was afraid someone would steal my babies and I wouldn’t get them back. She would literally snatch them and walk away so we ended up having a long break from her and eventually things worked out once she calmed down enough to understand me and that my husband wasn’t going to side with her. But with all my babies I couldn’t be away from them. I had hard time taking showers and no one could hold them expect for my husband if I didn’t have eyes on them. If I had them with me, I was fine. It was bad with #1, better with #2, #3 was a whole other mine field because that one was a girl. I kept fearing I’d wake up and want to walk away. My husband was a major support. Only my 5th wasn’t as bad, but my husband had paternity leave and was home with me the first 4 weeks. I know it wasn’t rational. But I’d have panic attacks that they were gone. I do not have an anxiety or panic disorder. I’m usually extremely even keel. It caught me majorly off guard. Parenting wasn’t and isn’t an issue though. Gentle and communitive parenting came very naturally to me.

I had good support and my first pregnancy was wanted and planned. I do know that once my baby was born, I saw my biological mom and adoptive mother through a different lens. I did start feeling really sad about my adoption for the first time. I started think how I didn’t bond with my adoptive mother until I was after a year old. How that is not normal. I made me feel a new kind of pain. Sometimes this sounds silly but I feel like I love my kids more than non-adoptees because of my experience. I felt like I didn’t really understand my biological mother at all, even though she was very young mother. I started to excuse her uncomfortable behavior because I don’t feel like anyone is ok after something so traumatic. I didn’t feel resentful, just sadness. Pain. Loss. I don’t understand how some people don’t want their babies but it’s not always for me to understand that either. When she says “I love you” it makes me uncomfortable because I feel like “how?”. Lots of feelings.

Clueless

“Hey guys.I’m a single woman who’s plan was to start applying to adopt/foster in my state. Sad story was that my social worker said that I wasn’t allowed to receive any government help like 0. I have to have a job which that’s mandatory at least with this agency. And I’m not complaining about having a job either or I’m still planing on working at some point the thing that caught me off guard was her response to government aid must be 0. Yes all the way from food stamps to government funded apartments that’s a huge No, causing disqualification to apply. I spoke with my therapist and since I have bipolar 1 she told me that it would be best to postpone the plan of adoption/foster care all together for now, my therapist even said that she does not want me to feel sad if at the end foster/adoption care is not an option for me even if I truly wanted to make a difference, since the agency is strict on keeping government out of the picture.
Any thoughts?
Advice?
Does this sound fair or unfair ?”

It’s hard to know where to start . . .

Not surprisingly, came this satirical response –

Um. Totally unfair. You should totally be jobless and on government assistance because you’ll get PLENTY of money to live on saving these kids from their parents on government assistance. If you take like 8 kids at a time you’ll make serious bank, and BONUS if you take some older kids with the younger kids you never have to do anything because the older kids can do all the cooking and cleaning and diaper changes! Yay! Also, f**k this bitch.

More to the point, came this one –

Someone sounds like they need to get their own life in order before, erm, “helping” (themselves to someone else’s children)…

And even more to the point –

Yes, it is very reasonable. FYI, they may also want to talk about your being bipolar, review your meds and/or want to talk to your therapist or get a statement from them that they recommended you would do well with foster care. Here’s the thing: all of the kids in foster care are going through big time trauma. They need someone who is financially and emotionally stable to help them through it.

In a lot of cases, poverty and mental illness have a lot to do with why the kids came into care. It’s kinda hypocritical to take them out of that just to place them right back into it. For example, the case plan might say that the parents have to get a job to get the kids back. So in the meantime, they stay with you, but you don’t have a job?

It’s great that you want to help, but what do you mean by foster/adopt? If you’re getting into foster care to adopt, just don’t, you won’t have the right mindset and it will not be good for you or the kids. What do you mean by your agency keeping government out of the picture? Foster Care =government, so I’m not really understanding that.

And finally –

She should talk to all these birth families who lose their biological children for bipolar disorder and because they were seeking mental health help and were in poverty or disabled. This post makes me angry because it seems so out of touch with reality.

Foster kids are not a prop or little adventure to embark on. You can’t just (or SHOULDN’T just) be a foster parent because you randomly decide you “love kids” and “it’s your calling.”

You can’t just decide you’re gonna be a foster parent when nothing in your life is in order to do so.

Mental health, unemployment, needing to rely on the system….. these are some of the causes for kids to be removed from their biological parents.  Our society would be better off extending the services and finances to the natural families so that they can keep their own children.

Trauma and Stress

The possibility of trauma passing down through generations as genetic mutations affecting health had reason to re-enter my awareness last night.

My mom was an adoptee.  I know for a fact she suffered because of it.  She told me so.  She died believing she had been stolen.  While her made-up story based upon other stories that were sadly all too real under the reign of the notorious Georgia Tann were not entirely accurate, I do believe deep in her soul “stolen” was not that far off.  She died believing it and now that I have her adoption file from the state of Tennessee, I know that her mother never intended to give her up and was trapped into an impossible situation.

She had left my mom at an orphanage in Memphis (Porter-Leath) for temporary care.  That was a decision point from which there was no return of the mother-child bonding for my mom and her mother.  My grandmother was allowed to see my mom one final time before she was ripped away and placed with strangers.  I have those black and white photos now.  The happiness upon seeing her mother again is evident in my mom’s body language.

The adoption file tells me she screamed all the way from Memphis to Nogales Arizona as my adoptive grandmother carried her home.  No wonder my mom felt stolen.  When they reached Arizona, she was drugged to calm her down.  Eventually, with no other choice, she adapted to her circumstances and coped.

Yet, the health impacts left her a medical basket case all her life and I believe her stress at conceiving me as an unwed high school student impacted my health.  And it may go on down the line to my daughter and granddaughter.  Medical science is discovering through research some truth to these theories on my part but they have a lot of work to do yet.

It does appear that genetics loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger.  Some people are born with genetic vulnerabilities and circumstances can then cause those vulnerabilities to manifest as disease.  This is true for every adoptee, regardless of what the manifestations are or how minimally impacted that adoptee may appear.