I Was Thinking...
Over twelve years ago my husband and I felt called to add to our family through adoption. With hope in our heart, we jumped through all of the hoops it takes to be an adoptive parent, always confident this was the path we were meant to follow. After working through a lot of road blocks in their region, the tragic events of 9/11 and leaving our three little boys at home, we flew to Russia twice to bring our girls home. We adopted three beautiful little girls (biological sisters) who had lived through a lot of trauma and then ended up in a very poor orphanage.
Basically the story is the same as so many others…our girls are all on the RAD spectrum and each of them have their battles with other diagnoses as well. For our oldest daughter, who came home at six years old, the struggle is most difficult. She suffers with RAD, FASD, and Sensory Processing Issues, just to name a few. It is her attachment issues that are most damaging to relationships all around her. Our two younger daughters are flourishing in their closest relationships, with only small blips now-a-days. They have been able to allow themselves a second Mom - a one and only. It has been a long, bumpy journey for all of them (us). We were advised to disrupt on our oldest daughter many times through the last eleven years, but we are very clear that our hope for her is her best chance at healing.
The abandonment our daughters suffered when they lost their mom is an injury they will carry with them forever; it is at their core. She was their hope for survival. As their mom, they relied on her to build and maintain their safety net by consistently, lovingly responding and creating a safe environment in which they could have internalized the beliefs that they were worthy of love, capable of positively impacting the world and that they had the potential to accomplish anything. Sadly, their birth mom could not do that for them and the safety net that had begun to be tied in utero was eventually lost. The loss of their net is directly responsible for creating the deficits, shame and inability to trust that they still battle today. It is not to blame that I share this part of the story; it is actually shared to help others realize what it means to be an adoptive parent—we must create a safety net for our children. That net is their hope!
As we have spent the last twelve plus years building a safety net for each one of our girls, it has become glaringly clear that while they were scared to death to trust these nets, over time the nets have allowed them to breathe more deeply, peel off some of those survival layers and even begin to realize they are worthy of our love and so much more. I have to be honest and say that it wasn’t easy and sometimes we lost our way. They spent so much of the time fighting to maintain their survival techniques. Shame and the feelings of unworthiness really sabotaged most positive experiences and our quest to balance the emotional needs of all of our children created much anxiety. We were definitely alone in our struggle. Our family and friends outside of our situation did not see our day-to-day challenges nor could they understand the absolute pain we were in much of the time. Professionals, in general, had no idea what it was like to live with a RAD kid, much less how to live with a RAD kid and help them heal.
It was about two years into our adoption that I decided I would not let any other family go through this journey alone. I was equipped more than many to “handle” this situation and it was taking every ounce of me to keep our journey headed in a positive direction. I began leading support groups, educating myself and connecting with as many adoptive parents as possible. Through the years I have walked alongside many families, sharing my time, my experience, my love and my hope. It became very clear to me that there is a kind of “formula” for creating the perfect environment for attachment to blossom, a safety net that really works. I knew in order to help more families it was important I write it down so they could begin to intentionally work towards healing--Adoptive Parent Intentional Parent: A Formula for Building and Maintaining Your Child’s Safety Net was born. It is crucial that we intentionally build a net for our adopted kids by first getting our own stuff out of the way, then educating ourselves, using tools and techniques that really work for our situation, surrounding ourselves with support and NEVER, NEVER giving up the HOPE that our child can heal.
Hope is not lost or found; hope is a choice. Making the choice to hope is brave, life-giving and takes inner strength, fortitude, faith, practice, journaling, exercise, support, understanding, truth, etc… My hope is that my book will be used as a resource to help guide parents to be more intentional about the way they parent and that it gives them tools to use in everyday moments, which will ultimately create room for life to be more…hope-filled.
Today, it is easy to see that our younger girls find it easier to feel safe, happy and hopeful. Our oldest daughter still struggles with feelings of inadequacy, self doubt, and the physiological deficits created from living in a traumatic environment. On her own she struggles to have hope for the future she dreams of. Sometimes she “borrows” my hope. Many times she totally relies on my hope and when she thinks I don’t have hope for her, it shows in her everyday relationships, choices, and love towards herself. I honestly believe our HOPE for our adopted children, the hope manifested in the net we build and maintain for however long it takes, the never-giving up-no-matter-what HOPE, is our children’s best chance at healing.
Whatever you do don’t give up—there is hope! You are your child’s best HOPE to heal.