Love…Does it Make the World Go Round?

Love doesn’t make the  world go round; love is  what makes the  ride worthwhile   Franklin Jones

Today I am sharing a lengthy story. I hope you will take time to read it. I have two children with attachment issues. Over the next few months, I will be addressing some of the issues that children with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and their families deal with.

Some believe that love overcomes everything. I truly wish it did. What I do know is that love is essential and needs to be sought. However, with the knowledge that love alone cannot help children with RAD, more knowledge needs to be shared with the world about the needs and care that an infant needs and the life long issues that lack of appropriate care creates.

I hope you enjoy today’s story!

My Battle with Attachment After Adoption

Over the years, I’ve written many articles about adoption. Those articles have often taken a passionate stance for the orphan, especially those whom experts dub the “functional orphan,” ones who may technically have a parent somewhere but remain unparented and empty. My passion is  twofold. The first is practical, in that if we as pro-lifers are successful, we will be left with 3500 orphans a day. I’m not okay with that.

But my second reason is personal, a story I only shared publicly for the first time on Orphan Sunday, and which I share here now because I am learning my story is less uncommon than I thought, despite my unique circumstances. I’m learning that as a group of pro-lifers, unless we are prepared to deal with the reality of the problems that may come our way, we will have little reason to argue against abortion, for we must be willing to nurture and love, at personal sacrifice, what we claim should not die.

My story begins in a manger in Bethlehem, but that’s where most of the similarity with a more famous Bethlehem manger birth ends. I was an orphan, abandoned on the city streets. There I was found and taken to the Holy Family Hospital, which calls itself The Crèche, another word for manger.  When I would speak publicly about my story, saying I was born in a manger in Bethlehem was a captivating opening line– a lighthearted quip, masking the darkness on the other side of that adoption, my dark secret.

It’s that side people today need to understand, both to reduce the fear of adopting “unknown” kids as well as to empower them to deal with it and eschew the internet horror stories, which are often written by people who overgeneralize.

My mom died with the secret of how she acquired me, the lies on my adoption papers, and her real reasons for taking me.  I was likely a child to an unwed Palestinian woman. I was found in the West Bank/Gaza Strip, the wrong side of the tracks from birth. I don’t know if I was left literally on the street or left on the doorstep of the hospital/orphanage like a cheesy orphan movie, but Fr. Emil, the head of the court that facilitated my adoption simply said in 2011, “you were collected from the street.”

My adoption papers, which call me “Catherine,” say, “The name and whereabouts of Catherine’s father are completely unknown.” I didn’t believe that for a long time. In 2011 the court officials, the Latin Patriarchate in Jordan, told me they likely lied to push the adoption through. At 6 months old my adoption was complete and I went home with her, in Jerusalem.

And never, ever in my life, not one day, did I feel loved.

If you have children, you know what happens with newborns. They cry: they get fed; they get held. You stare in each other’s eyes and fall in love. Parents bond. Children attach. The first few months of  babies lives with their parents are probably some of the most precious. That bonding/attachment happens at the deepest level then.

The first 6 months of my life my mom apparently came to visit me, but not enough to establish a primary connection. Whether or not the frequency of her visits was her fault or not is irrelevant; the only question was, to whom did I attach? I wasn’t abused that I know of. I have no information on my in-utero development. Science tells us that matters. Palestinian culture tells us a woman pregnant out of wedlock may be killed to avenge family honor. All I know is I never attached to a primary caregiver, and it made life difficult.

Usually the stories are about crack addicts and promiscuity. Kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) who never get a family, never get to attach in the right ways, seeking all the wrong ways, doomed to destruction. Your local prison population houses many poorly attached folks. Few adults really live well enough to analyze it, to overcome it. Some of us make it, but the ache lingers, indescribable.

My life was a tale of trying to fill a hole. I grew up wild and free, did anything I wanted to, dropped out of almost every year of school and conned my way into the next year (except 7th grade where they had truant officers). I shoplifted from Sears at 14, got arrested, thrown in juvenile hall because no one could come get me from the police station, started smoking then—a habit which continued to over a decade until I had a vision of Jesus and never smoked again.

In between were a couple homeless shelters and drug overdoses, not because I wanted to die, but I wanted to live and didn’t know how. I was kicked out of my conservative church at 13 for being too wild, and took a proficiency test at 15 to get done with high school so I would stop getting beat up by bullies. In college at 15, I dabbled in everything that looked interesting. It’s how I lived all of my life. I floated until something looked good, then honed in like a hunter finding her prey. I’d take anything that would satisfy for a season, whether school or work or friends or food. But if that something looked like a mom, then my life was reordered because maybe she would love me, want me, emotionally adopt me. Maybe then, the torment would end. Maybe then I would be safe.

I’m not unlike many adopted late or to families who didn’t know how to love them. Most of us never had words for it; no one would talk about it. When I was growing up, people said adoption screws you up. Lots of adoptees I knew were a mess in all the ways we describe someone as messy, from anger to rebellion to drug abuse to promiscuity.

I grew up with the idea that adoption was bad. At 15, I was against adoption. I just knew a bunch a screwed up kids. We were adopted; we were a mess. Therefore, adoption was bad. As a syllogism it failed. In my broken mind, it was the only answer I had. My own adoption had cost me a family, something from which I never recovered. I wanted to, but my brain and my heart could never connect. Attachment, the joy of the parent-child relationship, seemed my curse. The truth is, adoption is good, adopting kids with attachment issues is really good, but it must be informed and deliberate because adoptive parents need to address the holes. The prognosis is good when it’s addressed, even in older adoptees.

When you aren’t attached to anyone you never feel safe. I could handle not having a family like all the kids I knew, but I couldn’t handle the hole that seemed to be hollowed out inside me. It’s the worst kind of orphan mentality because it feels floundering, detached from everything, a state of living so vulnerably that the only survival mode is to erect permanent walls because anything that flies by might hit you. Might kill you.

And ironically, while I couldn’t attach, detaching was easy. I could make anything disappear if it was out of sight.  With attachment disorders the actual part of the brain affected is the orbital prefrontal cortex That is the part that regulates images. Faces. There is a phrase I use a lot: Faces and voices. Without consistent faces and voices, it was easy to make things go away. Unfortunately, that also meant I could never internalize the good. Later I met people who loved me, who expressed it, but unless they were reminding me often, it faded. Every time I saw them again, I needed them to speak first, needed to be sure they had not changed their mind. Internalization was my greatest desire and more elusive than a unicorn.

Nothing I could ever explain helped anyone to understand. I am highly educated; I spent years writing and speaking publicly, but I couldn’t explain what it felt like to be in a prison of RAD. I got a lot of canned answers the few times I did tell. “You need to attach to Jesus,” some said, conveniently ignoring the part of the Bible where God says it’s not good for man to be alone—before there was any record of sin. So the religious comments didn’t work. “You need to make a decision to act in spite of your feelings” said the amateur psychologists. They didn’t understand it was beyond feelings. It was more like cancer, destroying cells that give life; it was like telling me to out-will cancer.

Theoretically, a child at 6 months could pretty easily attach to a single caregiver once adopted. Why that didn’t happen is not clear, but my mom wasn’t affectionate or loving, not ever; she simply didn’t know how to be, and we had no resources. I have no memories of her looking me in the eyes with love, of embracing me, of tenderness. So the only conclusion I can offer as grown-up-Susan is that I went from multiple caregivers in the orphanage setting, who probably were very good to me, helping my mind stabilize to some degree as an infant, to one caregiver who didn’t give care. This happens often with foster children who arrive to homes this way.

At first when I learned more about attachment and even had a professional confirm it, I told others thinking that this would help them understand. What ensued was one of two things. I’m still not sure which was worse. Either people got scared and suddenly pulled away and/or passed me along—or they tried to deliver me from some demonic power. And because I wanted to be wanted, I didn’t chase the former—and I always gave into the latter. A friend once likened me to an abused wife, who kept going back for more out of a desperate need to be loved. He was probably accurate in his assessment, and my intelligence told me to stop. But my heart I was captive to a curse. I knew nothing else.

This is the (preventable) story of so many orphans, unidentified, labeled as difficult, and research tells us, often mistaken for having ADHD. It’s the story of the somewhat trendy phase of adoption that glamorizes the sweet baby, but forgets the older child. And it’s probably the story of many of the 100,000 plus kids in foster care today who need to be adopted. It’s a hard story. We like simple answers. Pithy tweets make us feel profound. But the fact is that there isn’t an easy answer for these kids, whether they are victims in the womb, or they are traumatized by life after that, from badly screened adoptions, bumping from foster home to foster home, or simply from those who don’t understand.

If being pro-life is being pro-child, then we have to recognize that in a fractured society where thousands exist as at least functional orphans that many will have issues with attachment and their lives matter. Some will have problems with it, and some, like me, will have RAD and believe they are not worth fighting for. For multitudes of kids, they are aware they are not the first choice, not the one people want because maybe they have a notation of “Reactive Attachment Disorder” in their files. Or perhaps worse, there is no notion since it often goes undiagnosed, and then stunned parents feel trapped, or worse yet, send a child back. None of this furthers the reality of being pro-life. We must walk out of fear and into the hearts of these children.

I don’t know what it feels like to be connected in a familial way, though I have some dear friends. It’s an odd, unanchored feeling, but beyond that it is a feeling, a mission, if you will, that I must help fight for others who can be rescued as children. If we are pro-life, we must stop passing around children, stop rejecting the ones with problems too difficult for us, stop valuing our lives over theirs and jump in with our eyes wide open. Thousands of kids need us–they need to attach to us so they can see the value of their lives, and, in turn, see the value of life so one day we will have an answer to the classic pro-choice question:

Story shared from the following website :https://www.liveaction.org/news/my-battle-with-attachment-after-adoption/

No widget added yet.

Your Endless Hours are Making a Difference!

Now that I can no longer claim to be a young mother (let’s just say that my daughters are young mothers) I like to think that I have gained some amazingly wonderful insights into the whole business of birth and motherhood!

If you have read my book, A Glimpse of Heaven, you know that I have four children that have given birth to and 2 children that my husband and I adopted from Russia.

I was determined as a young mother to stay home with my children. I was a pretty typical run-of-the-mill LDS mother who exercised lots of creativity in figuring out how I could maximize time with my children, maximize our income, minimize our expenditures, and minimize my time away from the home!

I believed President Benson’s admonition to stay at home with my children rather than pursue a career. And….there was that something inside my heart that couldn’t bear the thought missing out on all of my children’s ‘firsts” in exchange for a career. However, I can’t honestly say that I understood…really understood what my sacrifices for my children were about or what they were accomplishing.

Fast forward to our adoption…then fast forward 5 years after our adoption was finalized and VOILA….I understood. I understood in ways that I could have never understood before.

It was about five years after we adopted our children from Russia that I learned about an emotional condition called Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). I had personally been dealing with two cases of RAD for 5 years but I had not understood what it was that I was dealing with or its causes.

You see…my two Russian children were removed from their birth parents for neglect and abandonment. As a result of not receiving the care, nurturing, and love they needed as infants and young children their emotional well being was greatly impaired.

What I learned is that when a child does not receive the care, nurturing and love that they need – the appropriate development does not occur. Reasoning ability is delayed or not developed, the conscience is impaired, desire to engage in loving relationships is dismally weak and desire to engage in strange, controlling behaviors is frustratingly strong. For example, my son once deliberately failed an honors class not because he wasn’t capable but because he wanted to show the teacher who was really in control.

In the normal development of a child, the first five years is very important but the time between the ages of 6 months to 18 months is especially critical. It is during those months that a child learns to trust. That’s why we often see babies become so attached to their mother’s during that time of their life.

As a child learns to move and become more independent, they need to learn that we are there for them. They have a dirty diaper and they fight us when we want to change them yet our changing their diaper communicates our love for them and that we are going to take care of them. They try to climb something dangerous and we don’t let them and they learn that we are going to keep them safe. They try to hit us and we teach them hitting is wrong and they may cry unhappy tears but they know that we are providing boundaries that they know will help them be secure.

During those formative months and years that we carry our children within, give birth to them, and then raise them are soooo precious. It is through our presence and our care (physical, emotional and spiritual) that we are able to teach them that they are loved, that there is a safe place for them in this world, and enable them to develop in the very ways that Heavenly Father designed for them to develop. So the next time your baby cries as you leave for date night or your energetic children are exhausting you – smile! Something wonderful is happening! Know that your endless hours and daily care are making a magnificent difference!

No widget added yet.

The Truth About Adoption

Happily Ever After…it has a nice ring to it but it’s not about reality.  Yet, happily ever after is what many adoptive families envision of their futures once they bring their child or children home. The adoptive families I am talking about here are not the domestic adoptive families who are bringing home newborns (though I’m sure they want happily ever after too!). I am talking about the families who through domestic or foreign adoption seek out and bring into their loving homes those children who, in their brief lifetimes, have experienced rejection, abandonment, abuse and/or loss. The children I speak of are often at least the age of 2 when they are adopted. My own children were 4 and 9 when we brought them home.

If anyone wants to adopt with the idea of being celebrated as a hero or being nominated for sainthood – I strongly recommend they immediately go to the nearest pet shelter and adopt a dog or cat and abandon the idea of adopting a child altogether. A dog will think you are the best thing to happen since the invention of steak. A cat may think you are nice to snuggle with but I can almost guarantee that it will be a different story with a child.

I think in this instance, it may be wise to fess up to the fact that there has been a time in my own life when blissful delirium prevailed in regards to adoption rather than sober understanding. I was the epitome of the new expectant mother who had not yet been tempered by labor pains, sleepless nights and messy diapers.

If you have read my book, you know that my husband and I adopted two children from Russia as a result of my being commanded by God. As the mother of 4 healthy and active biological children I may be a somewhat atypical adoptive mom in that had I not experienced “divine intervention” I am almost certain that I would never have pursued adoption. However, once my orders from God were in place, I became just like the giddy effervescent new can’t-wait-to-be-a-mom mom.

My (then uneducated) rational told me that any orphaned child that came from a disadvantaged background where poverty, neglect, abandonment and abuse were once experienced would welcome the opportunity to seek refuge in a loving safe home.  I looked forward to welcoming my new children into our home and providing them with an environment they could thrive in. Given their experiences, I honestly believed that my adoptive children would be able to appreciate the blessings of a loving family in a country of great opportunity in a way that my biological children would be incapable of.

Fast forward through 6 1/2 years of searching for my children, the adoption paperwork, the trip to Russia, our return home and our first year of playing charades with our children (charades is necessary when you speak different languages) and then you get to the reality. Though our adopted children gasped as they got their first glimpse of a Walmart store, their enthusiasm for embracing their new family was less gratifying. They resented parental direction, seemed unable to grasp moral lessons, and essentially seemed to care for little else than the food they ate and being warm. Over time, we came to understand that their deliberate attempts to keep their new family at a distance stemmed from the emotional disorder called Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). The reality is that most of the adopted children who come from eastern European countries (including Russia) and Haiti have RAD. (I am not familiar with the RAD statistics for other countries) Children with RAD are resentful of parents (mothers in particular) and feel they are fully capable of self-parenting. They commonly lie, steal, manipulate, triangulate, make false allegations and warmly embrace self-defeating behaviors in order to feel that at all times and in all situations they are in control.

The abnormal behaviors associated with RAD generally result when infants and toddlers are not given the care and protection they need during those first critical months of life when children generally first learn to trust and to attach to their caregivers (usually moms). As a result, brain development is impaired and they learn to primarily use a fight or flight response to everything they deal with in life. As healthy parents, we care that they learn to love and trust and develop. As children with RAD, they care that they survive, that no one can hurt them again, and that no one has power over them. Conscience has little to no effect on these children and so the lengths that they are willing to go to in order to keep their hearts isolated and protected are truly heart breaking. They will deliberately try to prove that they are unlovable and unstoppable.

When I first learned about RAD, I was so sure that my love and the love of my family could help my adopted children overcome any and all of their problems. However, I truly should have known better. In my book, A Glimpse of Heaven, I refer to my experience of being taken back to heaven and seeing the preparations being made to prepare each of us for life on earth. During that experience, I witnessed that some of God’s spirit children rejected Him. I can tell you that there is not a more loving being than our Heavenly Father and there is not a more loving atmosphere than heaven and yet love did not overcome God’s rejection there and it is not enough to cure children of RAD here. Children with RAD have to want to overcome their emotional issues. Then and only then can love be a powerful tool to help them.

I felt that I needed to write about the truth of adoption because of several conversations that I have had with family and others who have adopted children with RAD. The overwhelming consensus from those conversations is that adoption is good and necessary and yet too many individuals are stepping into the experience with their eyes closed tight and equipped with little to no real life understanding of what they are accepting to be a part of.

I happen to live within a about a mile of two other families besides my own who have adopted children with RAD (All of us ignorant of RAD at the time we adopted and the ramifications of what that meant). In each family, biological children were also a part of the family.

Not coincidentally, each family has:

•    Experienced significant behavioral problems with their adopted children
•    Gone to great lengths to help their adopted children (counseling, etc).
•    Have had their adopted children make false allegations.
•    Experienced rejection and have been ostracized by extended family and friends who have believed the false allegations made by adopted children.
•    Been accused by friends and family of being abusive, mean and inept parents.
•    Been victims of theft, lies, and triangulation
•    Been victims of heartbreak as they have experienced the rejection and abuse from the very children they have loved and have endeavored to help.

In one of those families, 8 adoptive children were welcomed into their home. In the other family, 4 children were welcomed into their home. In each of those cases, a significant financial burden was incurred. I personally know no one who would take on that kind of financial and parenting burden (even under the best of circumstances) for any other reason than a generous loving heart and a desire to help a child. Yet, too many too often have been willing to condemn them and judge them.

In hindsight, each of our families wish that we would have known and understood the significant emotional issues that our adopted children came equipped with. I, for one, would have still adopted my children but my handling of them in those crucial first years would have been dramatically different. I cannot know if the outcomes would have been different but I certainly feel that I would have been more prepared.

After all that my family and I have been through as a result of our adoption, I am still a believer in adoption and I believe that all children deserve a loving, safe home. I know that the reality is that too many children know hunger, cold, abandonment, abuse and an environment too void of nurturing. However, I also know that those who bring those children into their homes who have started life in less than stellar circumstances need to do so with an understanding of the skills they will need and task they are undertaking. And…they need to know that while love will be critical and essential…it will not be enough to remove the barricades from the hearts of their children.

Parenting of any child is a demanding and difficult endeavor. Under the best of circumstances, parenting is not and never has been for the faint of heart. However, as a parent of 4 biological children and 2 adopted children, I can verify that although the love and concern for each child will be the same and each child comes with their own unique challenges no matter how they become part of a family – the courage and mettle required to parent a child with RAD requires the best heart and soul a person can offer.

No widget added yet.