You Just Want To Provide Love ?

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Short on time, so borrowing this from a thoughtful person in my all things adoption group.

Hopeful foster parents, hopeful adoptive parents, and even current foster parents and adoptive parents often say, they “just want to provide love for a child who needs it.”

Let’s talk about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maybe you’ve heard of it. When was the last time you gave it any thought?

Each level of the hierarchy builds on itself. This means that until a person has their most basic needs met, they can’t achieve the next level of actualization.

Look at the pyramid in my image. See where “Love/Belonging” is on that pyramid ? And consider that when you’re saying you “Just want to provide love for children in need,” what else is missing ? I would add that the word Love is ambiguous – I love steak – for example. “Love” really has no clean definition.

People FIRST need their physiological needs met. This means they need healthy food, clean water, and somewhere to dispose of their waste in a sanitary way. How often do the former foster care youth try to report that these physiological needs weren’t met by their foster caregivers ? More often than you might want to believe. I have even read about foster parents who keep their refrigerator door locked or even some who prevent the foster children in their homes from accessing hygiene products.

Love doesn’t matter if the physiological needs aren’t met.

“Safety” is next, before love. The traumatized brain has a difficult time processing safety because the traumatized brain enlarges the size of the amygdala, which processes stress and sends signals to the hypothalamus, which produces stress hormones, which then results in the shrinking of the hippocampus, which is where every human being processes happiness.

Until you can provide for the physiological needs of a child, and for their need for safety and security, LOVE isn’t even a factor.

So why don’t you focus more on what the child’s traumatized brain needs the most ? The security and safety of family ties — i.e. family preservation, whenever possible.

Provided the biological parents are capable of providing for the physiological needs of their child (or ask yourself: Could they provide for the physiological needs of their child WITH YOUR HELP?) and can they provide for the safety and security of their children, which means they are not physically abusive. Do they have stable housing (ask yourself also, can you help them find stable housing) ? Until these are provided for the child, your LOVE is meaningless.

Focus on providing for the basic physiological needs of the child, then on their safety, and that will lead you back to ensuring that their PARENTS have the tools they need to provide for their child, if at all possible. If they CANNOT, then YOU must provide for those needs before LOVE ever becomes a factor.

Stop talking about what you think is right, and learn what’s ACTUALLY needed, if you truly “care”.

Love isn’t enough. It’s the middle of this pyramid.

Many adoptees cannot reach the level of “esteem” because their trauma has not been addressed and even with therapy, will likely be with them, whether they are conscious of it or not, for their entire lifetime.

Heal Yourself First

Couples need to heal from their infertility and come to grips with not being able to conceive a child before inflicting themselves on a traumatized adoptee. Much of what you will read in today’s blog comes from an adoptee writing on this issue – The Importance of Fully Grieving Infertility. I have chosen what I share here selectively and have added my own thoughts as well. You can read the original blog at the link.

Receiving a diagnosis of infertility is a devastating loss. It’s natural to feel angry, sad, disappointed or a combination of a bunch of different feelings. You may want to start the process of becoming a parent through other means as soon as possible, in an effort to fill that aching, empty space in your heart.

Please don’t start the process of adopting a child until you have fully grieved your infertility, let go of your initial dream of having a biological child, and are truly ready to adopt.

Why? Because, when you pursue adoption, your infertility journey will affect more than just you.

Adoption is not a solution for infertility. Pretending it is — without doing the hard, personal work — will just set you and your future adopted child up for failure.

You’ve probably heard it time and time again from your infertility counselors and adoption professionals. But I think you should hear it from an adoptee — someone who will be forever changed if you are unable to move forward from your losses.

As an adoptee, I’ve watched infertility take its toll on my parents, friends and family members. Even just having seen the effects secondhand, it’s clear that this is often a diagnosis that causes lasting emotional and psychological damage.

About 1 in 8 couples will struggle with infertility. That’s a lot of people walking around with a lot of pain in their hearts.

This is a loss, and as such, you may experience the stages of grief. As hard as it is to believe, this is actually a good thing, because it means you are processing your loss and are on the road to the final stage: acceptance. And only once you feel acceptance should you start considering adoption.

If you don’t resolve your experience with infertility, it could cause serious mental, emotional and physical harm to yourself and to those around you. You may start to resent your partner, your emotions might develop into depression, you risk not feeling able to find happiness because of the lingering hopes and dreams of “maybe we’ll still get pregnant,” and all of that stress can take a toll on your physical health.

Unresolved issues can affect all of your relationships — the relationship with your partner, with yourself, with your friends (who all seem to easily have children) and eventually, upon your adopted child. Moving forward into adoption under these circumstances may feel like you are “settling” for your “second-choice” way to build your family, and that’s not fair to the child you may adopt.

I don’t write this blog to promote adoption (I think it is all around a harmful choice). So I can hope that adoption isn’t your own answer for building your family. I do know that you staying stuck in grief isn’t good for you or the ones you love either. You may ultimately decide to live child-free. What is important here is seeking a good quality of life by working through your feelings and letting the unproductive perspectives go. 

Adopting a child does not fix anything. There is no replacement for your original dream of conceiving and giving birth to a biological child. When you’re an adoptee, viewing the world’s preoccupation with having biological children is hard. It’s probably hard for couples who discover they are infertile. That is one of the reasons it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that you will never have a biological child. It is unfair and unrealistic to believe any infertile, potential adoptive set of parents will no longer experience grief over not having biological children after they adopt. One of the reasons I don’t believe adoptions are actually a good thing. Honestly (and adoption is ALL over my own birth family – both of my parents were adopted and each of my sisters gave up children to adoption – I wouldn’t exist but for my parents’ adoptions and even so . . . my perspective has changed over the last several years, obviously).

Fears Related To Reunions

It is understandable really. There is the gulf between you, the elapsed time living different lives and yet, you are unmistakably and without a doubt springing from the same DNA tree – and that matters. Yet, I see so often the fears. Stories today as examples which reflect typical experiences.

From a birth mother – I finally met my son! He contacted me on Mother’s Day and said he wanted to meet. He just turned 19. We met last Sunday and it went well. He said he wanted to plan another visit soon. I know after meeting it can be overwhelming for an adoptee. It has been very overwhelming for me. To be honest, I’m a mess. I can barely function. He is already pulling away, maybe, I think. He just kind of stopped replying to texts. He is bad at texting anyway – according to him. I am trying to give him space. But I have also heard adoptees say they don’t like feeling like they have to do all the work in the relationship. I did text him last but it was one that didn’t necessarily need a reply. Would sending a “thinking of you” text be too much, if you are overwhelmed? I don’t know if he is or not. I’m in the dark trying to navigate this.

From an adoptee – I’m 20 and JUST started texting my biological mom the day after Mother’s Day as well, I’m not ready to meet her and I’m not ready to text her all the time. Getting those thinking of you messages really are nice though because I get in my head and can’t text because it’s overwhelming. I also have a lot of fear that she is also pulling back – so knowing she is thinking would help. I encourage you to tell him exactly what you are thinking. We are adults now and I personally want her to speak to me as an adult and not as the child she lost!

From another adoptee – I would love for my birth mother to contact me more often. She never just contacts me. It’s always me emailing her, and she does reply to some of my emails. If I were in your shoes, I would send him another text message and perhaps mention that you don’t want to bother him with too many text messages, but you’ve just been so happy to have met him. Be ready to answer questions and even ask if he has any.

And yet another adoptee – My first mom knows I have issues with texting her back when I’m dealing with stress AT all. She texts me every once and a while and says she loves me or says she is thinking of me but never expects a response. Mother’s Day wasn’t that long ago, and it’s the first time y’all met? Give him some time to adjust. He’s probably processing it all – just like you are. I don’t think it would be invasive to send a text that shows you are thinking of him and he is in your heart and mind. I know that always makes me feel happy, even when I cannot reply.

This from an adoptee in reunion as an adult – At that age I would have just put up walls, and stayed quiet, if things started to feel overwhelming. I didn’t know why I felt how I did, most of the time. Every one is different though. If you haven’t already, consider reading The Body Keeps The Score. You have probably seen this book recommended before. It may be helpful in understanding your behavior/feelings/reactions and possibly his.

From experience – It took my mom and I years just be comfortable enough to have the conversation of – “I wish you’d call me more often.” I am sure he is hesitant because he does not want you to walk away again and he is likely dealing with guilt over loyalty to his adoptive parents – even if they are supportive. The guilt just comes with the fear of rejection that every adoptee lives with. Take it slow. If you don’t hear from him for awhile – it’s ok to text him. I would have loved for my mom to be more active in communicating. She said she didn’t feel she had the right and she didn’t want to scare me away.

And this is a good perspective as well –

Now you begin the slow process of fiquring it all out, what works for you together.. so you can definitely acknowledge what you want- “I’m so thrilled to be able to check in” and what you fear- “but I don’t want to overwhelm you or add any stress. I know this is really a lot to deal with.” And “If you want, you can totally tell me to just chill and I’ll totally understand! It’s totally normally to need a break.” It’s like building the framework of a space where you are able to accept the full range of his experiences, centered on his needs. It is important to make certain he knows that space is being held and that you are inviting him to help shape it.

Ultra-Independence as a Trauma Response

Each of my grandmother’s experienced childhood traumas and both were ultra-independent.  Independence is important but when it becomes a survival mechanism then it is a problem.  It can be detrimental when a person becomes so independent that they fail to ask for help when they really need it.

Ultra-Independence can stem from trauma growing up, possibly in a household where you had to take on a care giver role to your siblings (as my maternal grandmother did – she was 11 years old when her mom died, leaving her to care for 4 younger siblings, the youngest barely a toddler). Or a home where your parents were distant or abusive towards you (as my paternal grandmother experienced with a truly cruel step-mother and a father so grief-stricken by the death of his 3 year old daughter, run over by a car, and his wife a year later and 3 months after my grandmother was born).

There are many other causes – being bullied as a child, a failed love affair, an abusive or narcissistic lover and the death of a loved one are a few of these.

Ultra-Independent people tend to be the rulers of the family and household, they run the show, and take on all the responsibilities and decisions at home because they don’t trust others to make the correct decisions, this results in far too much responsibility on one person that can cause one to become overwhelmed and unable to cope with the pressure anymore.

They can become so used to doing everything for their self, making all the decisions, paying their own bills, fixing all the issues that arise – alone without anyone’s help – that asking for help becomes terrifying. Even admitting that they are not coping is something an Ultra-Independent person will never dream of admitting because that implies that they need others to assist them, which is out of the question.

Ultra-Independent people also tend to take on codependent relationships, as they feel their independence allows them to fix everything and therefore can fix others and it feels safer having someone need them, than a person who will try help them. A normal independent partner scares a Ultra Independent far more than having a codependent that allows them to keep their control.

To an extent Ultra-Independence becomes codependency on one’s self ………. and they will beat themselves up if they cannot fix a situation or do all the things they need done without assistance.  They can become very hard on their own self because they expect to be the super hero all the time. This can result in internal anger and disappointment.  The same kind of anger as they might feel in a co –dependent relationship. These emotions and demands put onto one’s self can eventually lead to stress and burnout.

Credit for much of the content in today’s blog comes from Ultra-Independence is a Trauma response.

 

 

Post Adoption Depression

Yes, it is a thing.  I believe it is partly caused by unrealistic expectations.  Fantasy and reality have collided.  The difference between those expectations and reality create a very real stress and may even lead to depression.

It is a crash in the “high” of adopting (basically the excitement is over), the dopamine is no longer being released.  The sad fact is that the adoptive parent finds they still have the same emptiness troubling them that drove them to adopt to begin with.

Life had been a flurry of emotions during the adoption journey: hope, relief, frustration, waiting, excitement, and not to mention adding another person to one’s family.  Not having the hormone fluctuations related to birth does not mean that the adoptive parent won’t have their own share of emotional fluctuation.

Of course, new parents of both genders have emotional reactions to 1) sleep deprivation 2) new roles and 3) reconfiguration of daily life, but having this is not the same as hormone induced postpartum depression that a delivering mother experiences.

So, with a newborn, sleep deprivation can certainly be a factor. If an older child was adopted, then the reality of a traumatized child may be very different than the idealistic vision hopeful adoptive parents  expected.

An adoptive parent may even grieve for the child who is now in their own home, who they may love desperately, only to find that child dreams of his original mother coming back to reclaim him.  An adoptive mother can never replace the original one.

So a couple does CHOOSE to adopt.  If those circumstances turn out to be hard to live, like any biological parent, they need to deal directly with it.  If it’s all NOT what the adoptive parents expected, they should seek help and learn to deal with the reality. That’s parenting and adoptive parents have signed up for it voluntarily.

Depression sucks regardless of what it’s caused by. Affected parents need to seek help, see a trauma informed therapist, seek out specific resources, get on anti depressants if necessary – but NEVER just throw away a child.

Love Is Staying Home

This blog is really NOT as frivolous as it may appear.  It really is a matter of life and death.  I will admit that this is easier for my family than it is for most people living in this modern world.  We live in rural isolation and have always worked from home and our children have been educated at home.  In this scary new reality we have been thrust into globally, I see the blessing of what has always been our reality.

True, there have been some changes for us too.  My yoga class has been cancelled indefinitely.  Some non-essential medical appointments must be cancelled as they come up and re-scheduled though those future dates may have to be yet again postponed and re-scheduled.  New rules at the grocery store that limit the number of customers allowed inside at any given time will make the weekly trip to replenish supplies take longer.  And of course, there is the mask, googles and gloves needed to protect not only me but the other people I will have some INDIRECT contact with who could become infected if I am asymptomatic.

There are families unlike my own that are not used to so much togetherness time.  This is a worry.  Stressed parents could become abusive towards their children or married couples separate because they discover they had less in common than they believed when they first married.  There are financial difficulties with the sudden cessation of business activities.  There is a need to prepare one’s meals at home and some people have lost that skill.

The common good.  It may be that this virus has come to unite us.  We had become so polarized and divided and terribly tribal.  Not that being threatened with death is going to change all of that quickly.  Even so, we will come to see that overcoming the current circumstances will require a new perspective going forward.  This won’t happen quickly but there are some of us who are beginning the process of holding a vision of a better and brighter tomorrow in our heart’s minds for a trajectory going forward to guide us all.

Somehow Adoption Continues

Catch me if you can.  Has the effort to adopt hit a pause button given the current circumstances ?  It seems it has not.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, our daily lives have all been affected in a way that none of us were anticipating just a few weeks ago. So you might think that now isn’t the ideal time to consider adoption.  The for profit adoption industry does not think so.

One adoption blog seems to be saying “now is actually a great time to begin or reinvigorate your adoption plans. Difficult times bring a greater need for adoptive parents.  Adoptions have increased in the past few weeks because women want more for their children and babies. They are turning to adoption during the coronavirus.”

Desperate times seem to increase desperation.  Somehow we lose the sense that this is all temporary.  The uncertainty causes us to question our ability to meet the challenge and survive.

This adoption agency wants to encourage more adoptions, even in the midst of this crisis, it appears that they have sensed this as a marketing opportunity.  They note – “with the world in turmoil and with financial situations uncertain, we find that more women are contacting us, looking for a stable, loving family to adopt their baby. They love their child enough to do what is best for them. They know they need a family stable enough to weather the storm. A family that will be able to protect and care for their child no matter the circumstances.”

Well fear does this to people but the decision to surrender your child is a permanent solution.  It actually reflects a lack of trust that the future will be better and that we will all get through this somehow.  It causes a young woman to doubt herself as capable.  This is a sad state of affairs.

It is true that people are generally stressed now.  That should not make it a good time to take advantage of a woman in a state of hyped up fear.  One expectant mother shared what she is going through right now –

“Some family friends of mine are giving their (unsolicited) opinion that I should seriously consider adoption since I am currently unemployed and it is not realistic for me to get a job amidst the virus, being pregnant and having had asthma as a kid. They seem to think I need to make the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ and give her ‘a good life’. If the only people who can give a child a good life are the few that can properly afford to adopt, then huge demographics of people are morally wrong for having children apparently. Including the people who said I should place her. I was so upset that I was crying yesterday, just for being told that.”

Let’s have more compassion people.

Attacked Once Again

This always feels personal to me because my sons have ALWAYS been educated at home.  Mostly we have tried to fly under the radar so that we can continue to do what we believe is best for our own family.  It came to pass that my daughter became frustrated with the school options for my granddaughter in Florida and chose to avail herself of their virtual school offer.  She has since acknowledged that she understands the appeal of control and flexibility that homeschooling offers.  I would be the first to acknowledge that it is not for everyone.  If the parents have to go to work outside their home (we have a home-based business), then it is going to be a real challenge to implement.

One of the more disturbing aspects of educating my children at home has been when a case of child abuse becomes linked to the fact that the parents hid behind homeschooling in order to hide their abuse.  This often brings calls from those who’s attachment is to public schooling for more oversight and regulation of those of us who have made a personal choice.  I am fortunate that the state of Missouri has good supports for homeschooling choice due to a large population of conservative Christians.  I am grateful to them though we are not homeschooling for the same reasons they do.

So today, I read yet again an allegation that everyone dislikes homeschooling because it is a front for abuse as the Coronavirus has forced schools to close and children to stay at home.

Can it really be true that abusers have to wait for an official sanction of homeschooling to cover their abuse of their children ? Or that many people homeschool simply so that they can abuse their children ?

More than once, I have encountered arguments for the advantages of school as required for the socialization of children.  It is not the blind leading the blind (children of a single age group influencing their peers to bad behavior) for my sons.  They have been socialized to the entire spectrum of humanity – from babies to the elderly.  We have often been complimented about how well behaved they are in places where some parents’ children are running around like wild heathens.

In this time of Coronavirus, maybe it isn’t so much about socializing as it is that parents are stressed from being home all day cooped up with their children.  We have always valued every single minute of time that we spend with our sons.

One could ask whether schools in the US just “holding cells” for the dependents of people who have to work or so that they can have their days off free to do as they please, until their children are released to come home from school ?

As long as society is so “intertwined” with our government that people become upset that those who chose to do so can school their own children or judge those that do as doing so to hide abuse or that well intentioned people must protect other people’s children from being schooled at home, nothing will ever change for the better in a society of free people.

Adding Insult To Injury

We are living through uncertain times.  Many people feel un-moored from their usual sources of confidence that all will be well.  Children who have been adopted or are in foster care find their worlds upended.  Lacking consistency, routine, and an overall feeling of stability and security as their personal worlds are being shaken up again by the Coronavirus and the efforts to contain the spread of that infection.

Schools have closed and public community events through which diverse people usually bond are cancelled.  Instead of joining together in common experience we are forced to isolate ourselves from one another.  At least we have modern technology to keep us connected while maintaining a safe distance from one another but life is not routine or what we would conventionally expect as we wake up each day.

For those parents who still have jobs to go to while their children are alone at home, the struggle can be significant.

One of the responsibilities that foster parents face is transporting the children in their home to visitations with their birth parents and biological family members. Often times, visitations take place at child welfare offices, while other times, visitations may occur at public places, such as parks, restaurants, churches, and other public venues. Visitations are important as they help to maintain the relationship between both child and adult. Along with this, many foster parents have very strong relationships with the birth parents and during visitations, trust is built and children can grow and develop in a healthy fashion, as a result.

Yet, those public spaces are now closed to most of us in most locations throughout the United States.  And coming out of the usual wintertime season of colds and flu can complicate things because many of us have all had one thing or another since Thanksgiving and our immunity is generally low.  Essential services such as therapy sessions, drug counseling, and even court appearances have also been affected by Covid 19.

All families face difficulty at this time in our collective history and families with the additional challenges of trauma and regulations face an additional burden on top of the difficulties they face every day.  All families are concerned, and confused, looking for answers and receiving little guidance.  There is no school, foster care related visits are being cancelled, church services are cancelled, and generally all children are now isolated from the friends they depend upon in their everyday lives.  The challenge in an era of social distancing is physical, and tangible, but can’t be solved by throwing dollars at it.

Stay safe, be well.  Come together – though at a distance.  Keep the efforts to slow the spread of this virus going until the assurance that it is once again safe to have greater contact with our fellow human beings becomes more certain.  Patience is necessary and flexibility too.