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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Trauma Within Adoption

"I don’t know why people think that trauma just disappears after adoption occurs, or that adoptive families no longer need support. There is no doubt that adoption is beautiful, but we must remember that it also comes with so much brokenness.

I know because I’m living & breathing this everyday. As an adoptive mom, I can guarantee you that when the judge signs those papers, it may calm the chaos of the long & stressful adoption process; but it won’t calm the chaos inside of them that trauma brings.

Our adopted children have undoubtedly experienced trauma—yes, even ones separated from their parents at birth. We know that trauma physically rewires our children’s brains causing attachment, anger & behavioral disruptions far beyond what society considers ‘normal’ for most kids.

This cannot & will not be healed overnight.

After adoption, it’s still hard for our families to find babysitters who can manage our kiddos, friends that will tolerate our children’s high needs, teachers that are trauma informed or even health care professionals that fully grasp the effects of trauma.

Every day we are investing in the restoration of our children. It’s absolutely worth it, but it’s also hard & exhausting. Our children need gentle understanding just like they did before adoption took place; & adoptive families still need support so we can continue to do the hard work that healing brains & bodies effected by trauma entails."

It is widely accepted that older children who come through the foster care system or who are adopted at an older age have experienced trauma. However, research strongly suggests that a baby is able to recognize her mother’s voice. Within a few days of birth she begins to recognize familiar faces, voices and smells and is drawn to them. She is able to discriminate her mother’s voice from those of other voices. If you are a parent with biological children, think back on the time when your baby sought your presence, sought your face and smile, and was comforted solely by you. How could we not assume that an adopted baby recognizes the loss and separation from her birth mother, despite her inability to narrate it? I believe that she does recognize such loss – she knows abandonment, sadness, and hurt. Though healing can and does occur, she carries that loss with her the rest of her life. As adoptive parents, this fact is paramount to grasp so that we can help our children who have been adopted from birth heal and validate their feelings of grief when they express them. 

What can we do to help the infant grieve? Be consistent. When the infant is unable to calm (researchers call this self-regulation), the caregiver uses herself to help the infant calm (through soothing touch, holding, soft words, swaying)—we call this co-regulation, and it’s an important part of early relationship-building. The infant who is distressed and protests the loss of his/her caregiver, may be irritable/hard to console, may cry more (while some babies may be more quiet or “shut down”), may appear to be searching for someone, may be less responsive/have a “flatter” expression, may seem anxious, and/or may be less hungry/experience temporary weight loss. With time and consistency, an infant will learn that his/her new caregiver will meet his/her needs, love, nurture, and keep him/her safe. But this process takes time. The infant needs repeated experiences of a caregiver responding in a timely way to his/her cues, providing consistent comfort and nurture in order to trust that this person truly will never abandon him/her and that this relationship will be a “safe home base” for soothing, care, and loving interactions. Over time, these repeated interactions become the basis for a new secure attachment.

This is why it is so important for new adoptive parents to meet the needs of the infant, instead of other family members or friends over the course of the first few weeks. The infant needs to know who the primary caregiver is and make a secure attachment to them through their needs being met. Beyond this, we need to be mindful of this deep loss that our child experienced as they grow. You may notice that your child who was adopted from birth has a tougher time with transitions or needs constant reminders that you will be coming back after dropping them off to school, for example. Although this is normal for most children in the beginning of school, you may notice that your child who was adopted needs these reminders long after many children have overcome this insecurity. However, if we are mindful of the way their life started - with deep loss - then we can be more understanding as to why they may be reacting to a separation more often then their peers. Although this can be overwhelming, we must cling to the hope that our children have a God-given ability to triumph over their trauma and we must stay consistent, validate their feelings of grief, apologize when we mess up, and reach out to a trauma-informed therapist when needed. 

Resources:
Image from @flowering.families
https://www.facebook.com/RealLifeFosterMom/
https://adoption.com/how-infants-grieve-a-guide-for-new-adoptive-parents
https://beyondtwoworlds.com/2018/08/05/adoption-and-preverbal-trauma/

Friday, May 15, 2020

Lydia Joy

Steven and Sarah started their journey with me in the beginning of November. They were eager to start growing their family through adoption. I witnessed them put their "yes" on the table dozens of times that were returned with doors closed. They remained steadfast and continued to trust God's plan for their family despite the many times they were disappointed.

As a consultant, part of my job is to research agencies. We were in the very beginning stages of researching an agency that I thought would be a great fit for them. They signed on with the agency in February and were matched in March! Sarah has gorgeous red hair and after speaking with the expectant mother she told them that was one of the reasons why she chose them. You really just never know what an expectant parent will connect with!

The next month, Steven and Sarah spent their time building a crib, having a virtual baby shower (thanks to COVID), and building relationship with the expectant mother. On April 30th, they got the call that the baby was on the way! They packed up their items and headed to the hospital where they were given their own room as the expectant mother graciously requested. Later that night, I received one of the best text messages ever:
Lydia Joy was born without complications and met the parents that her brave birth mother chose for her an hour after she was born. I love the expressions on Steven and Sarah's faces - pure joy!

Now that Steven and Sarah are back home with a daughter in their arms, they wanted to share some encouragement for other hopeful adoptive families:

God is so good.  Throughout our adoption journey, we have seen God moving in every detail.  From our very first conversation with a former CAC family to the day we took our sweet Lydia home, we knew that God was in control.  He has taught us so much about the importance of patience and trusting in His plan.  Even though adoption can appear to be a large financial hurdle, God blew us away with his provision and the support system He put around us.  One of the biggest supporters and blessings was Meg.  The Lord led us to her as our consultant.  She was very helpful and on top of things the entire time.  We felt that she knew us and cared for us throughout the whole process.  God used Meg to lead us directly to Lydia and we are forever grateful for her.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Corban Christopher

Kristin and Brandon reached out to me last November as they were researching all the options of adoption. They have four beautiful children, but something in Kristin felt like their family wasn't quite complete. After lots of emails exchanged and a few chats over the phone, they decided to move forward with Christian Adoption Consultants.

From the start, I could tell that Kristin and Brandon were diving in with their hearts wide open. They put their "yes" out their several times that led to many "not yet's". Instead of becoming consumed with disappointment, Kristin and Brandon held strong to their faith. They trusted His timing for their family and continued to put their "yes" out there.

Then just 4 months after signing on with CAC, Kristin sent me an email titled "Matched!" and my heart leaped for joy! They were matched with a brave expectant mother and father who were weeks away from the birth of their baby boy. Due to COVID, Brandon and Kristin were prepared that they wouldn't be able to be at the hospital when the baby was born. They took this news with such grace and decided to stay in a rental until they were told to come to the hospital.

However, they never made it to the hospital. They were told soon after the baby was born that the expectant mother and father chose to parent. Brandon and Kristin headed back home heartbroken, but still clung to God's sovereignty.

Two days later the agency called Kristin to let her know that the couple decided to move forward with the adoption plan and wanted them to parent their son. Without hesitation, Brandon and Kristin were back on the road! The next day, they met their son - sweet Corban Christopher. They were also able to meet Corban's birth family and spent over five hours with them. Corban's birth father even had a dad-to-dad conversation with Brandon about his dreams for Corban and how he desires for Corban to know him as he grows. It was an incredibly special time for both of the families to bond together through their shared love for Corban.

Kristin stated that as she looks back through this adoption process they have seen how God takes their fears and turns them into triumph. God has done more than they could have ever imagined through this journey and they feel honored to have seen His beauty unfold!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Unknown Birth Father


The unknown birth father - he's all too common. Honestly, when we first adopted I didn't see any issue with it. I was ignorant of the deep seated need that is in each of us to know who we are and who we came from. Many of us are aware of the importance of the birth mother and the undeniable bond a baby makes to their mother in the womb. But a part of the genetic make up of each of us is our father.

It's not uncommon for a child to begin asking questions about their birth father, assuming the adoptive parents have been communicating openly about adoption.

Where is my birth dad? 
What's his name?
Do I look like him?
Can I meet him?
Why not?

When the birth father is unknown and the child (rightfully so) doesn't accept the "we don't know" answer, there are quite a few avenues you can use to get answers. The sooner you can start finding answers for your child, the better.

Ask more questions.
Once a relationship is well established with the birth mother, it's wise to start asking questions about the birth father in a respectful way. An adoptive parent can approach her by explaining that they are trying to find answers for the child and any information she can give would be helpful. Allow her to share what she knows - First name? Address? Ethnicity? If she is reserved in sharing details, respect that. She may open up more later, but the important thing is just to open the communication regarding the birth father.

DNA test any potentials.
If she does name a potential birth father and has his contact information then it's important to DNA test him. We've had great experiences with TestMeDNA. They allow for the cheek swab kits to be sent to two different addresses and once they are sent back in, the results come through email quickly.

Hire a private detective.
If you are unable to get a name, but have his last known location then you can hire a private detective. Google is your friend here! Search "private detective near me" and it will list out those near you. However, if the last known location of the birth father is not near you then the search would be "private detective in {city, state}". Many of the detectives will have reviews and will offer a free estimate for how much it will cost for what you need.

Submit DNA.
Honestly, I think submitting DNA for any adopted child is wise. As far as the birth father goes, this is also another avenue that an adoptive parent can use to get answers. For instance, if the birth mother is hesitant with details or if you do not have an established relationship with her then this is a great way to still find out information. There are many options like 23andMe, LivingDNA, and AncestryDNA. The test is a simple cheek swab that will allow them to discover so many details about the child. Each site has it's own database of others who have submitted their DNA so there can be matches with relatives. If there isn't a match with a birth father right away, it's okay because there may be a match years down the road.

The important part about taking the steps to find an unknown birth father is that he plays a vital role in who your child is. Do what you can as soon as you can for the sake of your child, so that they don't have to do all this searching when they are an adult.


+ If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at meg@christianadoptionconsultant.com. +

Monday, March 9, 2020

Empowering Books for Little Girls

When our daughter was born, I began looking for books with a female at the center since all of ours were about cars, trucks, and balls. I had one rule: No Princesses! Here are my top 4 empowering books for little girls:

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton

This book highlights 13 women who changed the world. I honestly have learned a lot myself from reading this to Elodie! 


Tough Chicks by Cece Meng

This book is about three chicks who are rough and tumble. The other animals on the farm continue to tell Mother Hen to make her chicks be quiet and to stop playing in the mud. However, Mother Hen empowers her chicks to be themselves which ends up saving the farm. 


The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires


This fun book follows a little girl's journey of building her own invention alongside her cute pup. It doesn't work out at first, but she continues to fiddle, hammer, and persist. Her completed invention turns out to be functional for both her and the pup. 


Be Brave Little One by Marianne Richmond


This book spells out all the different ways a kid can be brave. Sometimes, brave means saying "hello" to a new friend or to mess up before you retry. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Summer Themes

Last year we had the best summer and I attribute a lot of it from having weekly themes. I'm not a scheduled mama, so this is created with a lot of wriggle room and low commitment. For example, each week there is a theme that includes a book, show, snack, and activity but the day that those actually happen is based upon how that week flows. 

Another tip for making this successful is to start planning early! I've already started mapping out our summer this year because then there is plenty of time to search out ideas and plan for classes through local park districts/day camps. 

To get your creative juices flowing, here is what we did last summer: 



Friday, January 17, 2020

Tips for an Open Adoption


Rose and Jacob became a CAC family right around Thanksgiving last year. However, this isn't their first time pursuing adoption. Their son, Tommy, joined their family through adoption back in 2017. If you’d like to learn more about their first adoption journey, you can visit the Our Adoption Story section of her blog. As their consultant, I quickly learned that they not only had a heart for open adoption but were actively in an open adoption relationship with Tommy's birth family. I think it's important for hopeful adoptive parents to hear different experiences other adoptive parents have with open adoption, which is why I asked Rose to write a guest blog. Here's their experience:

For the first year, we saw members of Tommy’s birth family at least once a month. For a number of reasons, we had all of these visits at our house. This is not the norm for open adoption, and again, is not something you should do unless you’re 100% comfortable with it. I’m very grateful that they were willing to travel to see us so often when Tommy was really little. Having visits in our home allowed us to plan them around Tommy’s schedule and made it so much easier for feedings, changing diapers, and naps.

Since then, we’ve continued to have visits every one to two months. We’ve been able to go to a couple of birth family member’s homes and started having more visits elsewhere, too. As Tommy gets older, it’s easier to meet at a park or restaurant. As he continues to get involved in more activities, I know that future visits will revolve around events like baseball games and piano recitals as well. We also make it a point to get together around Christmas, and Tommy’s birth family was able to attend Tommy’s first and second birthday parties at our house.

I’m sure that it sounds cheesy and even unreal but having an open relationship with Tommy’s birth family is like having a second family. Tommy is so fortunate to have more extended family who love him and want to spend time with and celebrate his milestones. His birth family have been some of the most thoughtful people in my life these last couple of years, going out of their way to send texts, pictures, cards, and gifts, even to me and my husband. I’ve spent as much time as, if not more time with, a lot of Tommy’s birth relatives as I have with my own family.

With that being said, adoption is still complicated and comes with layers that don’t exist with biological children. We’re also still very early in our experience with open adoption. We have always talked with Tommy about adoption. Especially given the fact that he sees his birth family so often, I truly believe that he already knows he’s adopted. But he isn’t old enough yet to start talking about or asking questions about adoption.

We’re doing our best to lay a solid groundwork and cultivate a relationship in which he can come to us to talk about adoption. Inevitably, there will still be hurdles along the way. But I couldn’t be more grateful that this is our adoption story and that it includes such a high level of openness. We are so thankful for Tommy’s birth family and their love and support. 
Always be yourself. A birth family doesn’t choose an adoptive family because they think they’re perfect. There’s no need to clean your house from top to bottom or obsess over your outfit choices every time you get together with birth family. Don’t feel like you can only show “perfect” moments in updates as well. People love to see blurry cell phone shots and candid video of those little moments.

Honor your commitments. When you say you’re going to send monthly updates on a certain day of the month, stick to the schedule. When you schedule Skype calls or in-person visits, follow through with the plans. It’s completely understandable to re-schedule or cancel once in a while. But don’t make it a regular habit.

Be respectful of their emotions. It blows my mind that people ask me all the time if it’s hard for me seeing Tommy spend time with his birth family. It will always be so many times harder for them than it is for me. Birth families may not always feel up for calling or visiting or even reading updates. That’s totally fine. Give them the space they need. It’s also important to remember that some of your happiest days, such as Christmas and your child’s birthday, may be some of their toughest days.

Be respectful of each other’s privacy. Establish expectations for sharing photos, videos, and other content about one another, particularly on social media. This respect goes both ways. I don’t share names and photos of Tommy’s birth family publicly. I also expect them to share photos of Tommy publicly with care.

Remember the birth family on birthdays, holidays, and other major occasions. Taking the time to send a text or email or put a card or small gift in the mail goes a long way toward showing birth family you’re thinking about them.

Establish and maintain a strong adoptive family community for support. The majority of my family and friends don’t understand what it’s like to have an open adoption. At all. Having a close group of adoptive mamas I can talk to about all things adoption has been priceless.


Further reading on open adoption from Rose's blog: