Not Enough Baby

Posted by admin on March 01, 2013

 “She was just a baby she should be…fine/happy/caught up/unaffected/past that/fill in the blank”. We hear this all the time regarding what people expect Boohoo should be doing/feeling/behaving. It’s true that she was technically a baby. She came home with us two days before her second birthday. Twenty-four months old.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m around a child younger than any of mine I feel that warm rush of mama-memories washing me back to those days. But when I see a newly minted two year old little girl…I get sad, then I get angry, then I get sorry, then I get protective.

When people say, “she was just a baby” I know they are thinking of their baby who was still a baby, still soft-eyed, fat-cheeked, and malleable the week of their second birthday. They are not thinking about my daughter who needed the fight of warrior before she finished teething. Some of her strength is genetic. I sat beside her mother and even in that short time they gave off the same aura. It was almost tangible: strength, loss, steadfastness. They were the same. The woman and her child, our child, share not just looks, but depth of soul.

My daughter was fierce before her second birthday. Boohoo didn’t get to be a baby. Her babyhood was punctured by loss again and again and again and again. Unchecked poverty, and a year in two orphanages are the death knell to a proper babyhood. I see these precious little girls who have had love poured into them ceaselessly for two years and by twenty-four months old they are bubbling with an overflow of happiness.

My daughter didn’t bubble. She erupted with the determination and demonstrated ability to rule the roost of an orphanage. She had the strength of a grown woman who knew what she needed to survive and went out and got it. She was not one of the little quiet ones withering away, at least not outwardly. It was amazing. It met her needs, but everyone deserves that unadulterated adoration of babyhood. 

It makes me want to fight the world to get back my daughter’s chance to be that baby, to know so much love instead of so much loss, to feel that security instead of the suspense of wondering whose face will be there in the morning, to just be a baby. She never had enough time to be a baby and I cannot change that for her. She never got time enough to be a baby, but I know everyday we see the results of her mother’s soul, her own strength, and the love we can give her now and I know she has the ability to overcome and she is going to be one hell of a woman.


- Jamey (who blogs at Zehlahlum Family)

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Loving Fiercely

Posted by admin on February 28, 2013

The other day I was at lunch with a dear friend, that recently moved back into town and has been out of state for 5 years.

NOTE: I rarely see anyone in real life, because well my kids hold me hostage, my life is busy an about intense healing .
all.of.the.time.
 
An hour into "catching up"... after she shared her trip to Disney World with her 3 kids,she asked ; "How are things with your big, beautiful family?"
I had decided to be honest....
I was trying to explain “things”...and she bluntly asked, (not being rude),

“So do you love your easy kids more?”

My answer;
“My “easy kids” (and what kid is 'really' easy) don't hurt me, like my kids from hard places do, but no, I don't love them less, I don't do less for them, in fact I probably do more, but my easy kids honestly are easier to love. My hard kids have taught me to love fiercely, without expecting reciprocation...and THAT has taught me so VERY much, even when I HATE it.”
I most definitively HAVE to love them differently.

“BUT they are SOOOOO cute, I would bring one home if I could, I don't understand how they could be so angry and violent”

(don't hate her she just doesn't know, she really is very sweet)

“Have you ever looked at how sweet and darling a baby gorilla is? Adorable right? Want to take one home?...truth is they 'can' be loving and oh so cuddly...truth is there is a primal part of them that may or may not rip your arms off of your body and beat you with them, truth is they could be easily frightened and throw their feces at you to keep you away if they get frightened, you just never know....”

she knodded.

“My kids come from survival, they can switch to that primal brain and have no say in how to regulate or really know how to stop their behavior... the throwing shit has happened...but look both arms still attached, for now.”

I grinned big at my brilliant analogy and humor...until I saw her face.
Shock.

Forehead slap, I have gotten WAY too used to speaking frankly.

“What I mean is this, they are capable of things,things that no parent is prepared for because of things that were broken inside of them when they were very small, so they try to control what they can...like my mom, never being ever to go to bed with a single thing out of place, even if she is on her death bed?...it's like that with everything..and that can be HARD.”

She responded, “I am sooo like that, a little OCD, I have to have things in place before I can sit down or go to bed.”

“ Exactly, now times that by one million.
When Dude was a baby, he refused to drink, anything, for no reason.would.not.drink. He was 20 months old and going dehydrated, whatever I tried, he would spit it out..we had to hydrate him with enema's. Can you imagine, he is here in AMERICA for craps sake,and he is dying of dehydration, because he WILL not DRINK...and imagine being me, a Mother who has already had a son die because of dehydration...the look of HATE in his eyes saying, I will not let you save me, help me, love me,
....if he could have ripped my arms off and beat me with them he would have...it sucked....so it is like that, not always as extreme, but you know, like that...”

So I love his fierce little spirit the only way he will let me sometimes. With a whole lot of consistence, a whole lot of love, and not letting his rejection work, by trying with everything in my being to not reject him....love is that for us.
Love is giving him everything no one else did, a bed, food, safe environment..and sometimes that is all he can take from me, even then sometimes THAT is too much...so he emotionally does whatever he can to make me want to push him away.
IT.IS.THE. HARDEST.THING.I.HAVE.EVER.DONE.

I am not a robot, sometimes the kid succeeds, I am after all human and totally blow it.”

She just sat there.
“We live in separate worlds, don't we?”

“yes.”

we ate in silence for a while.

“I want to tell you about how cute Miley's birthday party was and how we decorated it,and the food I made, because you used to do the same kind of things, would that hurt your feelings?”

“NO, I would love to hear about it, it won't make me sad, a little nostalgic, but not sad.”

so she shared, and I lived in that world for a while...

When we left the restaurant she hugged me tight, and said, “I couldn't do it, and I am not being complimentary, I wouldn’t be that strong, or want to be, but I am grateful for you, and love you, I want you to know that.”

Walking to my car and watching her drive away, I knew that hug was a goodbye, forever.
She doesn’t want any part of my reality..and that hurt for three good long seconds, as I am sure she mourned what our relationship and how our lives complimented one another years ago...and I and she let it go.

Reflecting after she drove away and I sat in quietness, waiting for my cell to start lighting up with texts of
“when are you coming home?”
“So-and-so just broke/destroyed/peed ....”
“Help meeee....”

I thought about where, and who I was 5 years ago...who I was, what used to get under my skin, what things I took for granted...
Yes, my heart breaks daily, yes, I am stretched and yanked and pulled on, and almost ripped to shreds...by my kids inability to love, my heart and body are covered in emotional scars, loss and losing, sacrificing and letting go are daily events,”moving on” is a mantra tattooed on the inside of my brain...

as is the simple words 'Thank you”

and I like that.

I don't always like my life.
I don't always love my children the way most people love theirs... I simply can't.
But, If I am remembering, I AM loving them more and better than anyone else EVER has, that, right there is MORE than enough. I can feel good about that.

Today I am loving the fierce strength, confidence in who I am , who may family is, and NOT needing to apologize for those things.

Loving my children has taught me so very many things...things I may have never wanted to know about the extent of damage and pain, torture, neglect and abuse one little soul can take and their hearts continue to beat...

Loving my children has taught me fierceness in love, support, in caring, loving, recognizing what is and what isn't important, what relationships, words and work I want to put into things, and what is simply fluff.

I live in a no fluff zone.
I am good with that.

I recognize the losses, I do...but I also choose to see what I have been given ten fold in those losses, and some of the time (not ALL of the time) what I have gained, been given, the insights and friends I have now far surpass who and what I had and was before...and that feels right, not easy, never ever easy...but so right for me.

….and I also so still think baby gorillas are adorable....just sayn'.

 

- Lindsay Mama to Nine (who blogs at Home: a soft place to fall)

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Fresh Start

Posted by admin on February 27, 2013

IMG_1281.JPG
(my) Tattoo by Zeke Edwards @ New Republic Tattoo Fort Wayne, IN



I have read numerous blogs lately about starting your kid's day fresh each day.  One was a question asked on Smiles and Trials, and four others were mommas opining that giving kids a fresh slate daily was a difficult task.  A couple were even questioning whether it was possible or a good thing.  

This is something that I wholeheartedly believe in for a number of reasons.  The most pressing reason is that I am selfish!  I want that clean slate for myself as well!  I make mistakes.  I get frustrated with myself.  I am the first one that needs to forgive myself.  If I allow my self a clean slate to start each day, then why can't I give it to my children?  Of course we need to start fresh. There is no need to revisit and stress over past decisions.  Wishing that we could change the previous days events is not getting me anywhere.  I need to move forward and make new and better decisions that allow me to move forward instead of looking back.

Forgiveness is freeing. There is something about a good night's sleep that allows me to wake up renewed and see things in a different perspective.  It allows me to distance myself from the trauma and look at it with new eyes.  It is liberating to take that eraser and wipe clean the cobwebs and the stress from the day before and look at things with a new and bright hope.  It allows me to drop the chains that bound me to the "crap" of the day before and embrace day of new possibilities.  I can better process what happened the day before it I allow myself some distance from it and look at it in an unemotional state.  For me it is not enough to JUST forgive, I must also let  go of the pain, frustration and/or drama it cost me in order to fully embrace the future.

I believe it is what God does for me.  I believe that the blood of Jesus wipes away my sins.  I believe that if I am freely given that grace then it is my responsibility to grant it to others. My children make their own decisions just as I do.  Their sins are no greater than mine.  We should be willing to grant that grace.  It serves no purpose to hold on to the crap from the day before and allow it take up space in your heart.  Allowing this just gives anger and resentment a place to grow.

In the case of my son, he is "broken".  The early trauma he experienced was life changing.  Even if he did not have prenatal brain damage due to alcohol consumption while pregnant, the trauma he experienced is enough to rock anyone's world.  Yes he makes his own decisions.  Yes, sometimes they are deliberate.  Yes, sometimes they are made to hurt others.  Is he capable of not making those choices? Maybe.  But each day should be a chance to prove it is possible to make better choices.  If I don't believe he is capable of that, how is he supposed to believe he is capable of that!

I have been on a journey recently and have taken classes in Reiki.  I just finished my second  certification and will be continuing my education and receiving a Master Reiki Certification.  The Reiki principles have resonated deeply within me and I have embraced them wholly.   They are :

reikiprinciples.jpg

If you would like to know more about Reiki and energy work, you can visit Reiki.org  or Reiki for Chistians.
For me, Reiki is about pulling strength from God and allowing him to work through me for the greatest good.  It is not about me, it is about being in tune with that energy and allowing God to use me as he wishes.  It has given me a peace and a sense of oneness with God and myself.  It has definitely made me look at each moment in the here and now and not to focus on past anger and worry.  I have to remind myself daily that worry has no place in my present.  Giving that  clean slate helps dismiss all that previous garbage and ocus on the present.  

-Sheri (who blogs at  Ain't That Sherific)

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It Gets Worse Before it Gets Better

Posted by admin on February 26, 2013

If I could go back in time, there are so many things I wish I could tell myself. There have been so many lessons I have learned the hard way. I am often angry at how hard this journey has been-- but the one thing that makes me the angriest is that no one warned me that it will get worse before it gets better.

I was not a new mom when I adopted my son. I had fostered several very difficult children, children whose behaviors and diagnoses made my son sound like a cakewalk when I read his file. I had been through multiple trainings for foster and adoptive parents. I thought I was prepared. I knew it would be hard.

But in truth-- it wasn’t.

For us, the first year was easy. It was disturbingly easy. I had a 10 year old boy who did everything he was ever asked, never argued, never talked back… he rarely showed any emotion at all, but he was certainly never “difficult.”

We went to therapy to work on “grief” and “loss” -- even though he claimed he had neither, he was fine.

When the bottom dropped out-- it dropped hard.

I had heard of the term, “honeymoon” -- the concept that children will act fine for a while and then show their “true colors.” So, I figured, the honeymoon is over. Okay, I can deal with this.

Only it got worse.

And worse.

We went from defiance, to yelling, to destruction, to violence. At each step I thought, “Ok, I can do this, and then it will get better.”

It never did.

It got worse. As it got worse I saw moments of truth-- moments where he talked about the abuse, the pain, the abandonment he had felt. Moments where I realized this child had survived more than I would ever truly know or understand.

Throughout all of this-- the “professionals” --the adoption caseworker, the therapist, the psychiatrist, the school counselor, the adoption lawyer, the skill builder, and the crisis worker-- Yes, we had them all, and I went to all of them for help-- ALL of them told me, “It will get better when you finalize the adoption.”

See, he was still technically a foster child. He still had his biological family’s last name. We were still waiting on paperwork and technicalities for our day in court, the day we would stand up in front of the judge and become legally a family.

Every one of our “professionals” sold me the “Happily ever after” line. And because they all agreed, and I was desperate, I believed them. I fell for it, and I thought that day in court would somehow cement in my child’s brain the fact that I loved him, that I was committed, and that I would never leave.

We had that day in court 2 years after he came to me when he was 12 years old. And then what I thought was the bottom fell out, and we fell into a pit so deep I could not even imagine a way out. I found myself dreading the school bus every day-- because inevitably the child that came off of it was angry, violent, and uncontrollable. I stayed up late every night because I knew every morning would find the same child. He literally woke up angry every day-- his eyes opened and he started yelling, stomping, and destroying things. Nothing I had ever tried worked, and those “professionals” had suddenly all vanished, choosing to believe that we were living their “happily ever after.”

I grasped at straws. I read every book in the library, I googled “adoption” and read everything I could find. I was blessed to find blogs of mothers who had children with similar issues. I reached out, and began to understand something that none of the professionals had told me-- this was ALL related to trauma and attachment, and I was not the only mom dealing with these issues. And then one day, I found this article.

https://www.nacac.org/adoptalk/inducement.html

And there it is-- everything I had experienced. The pain, the frustration, the anger, the craziness I felt on a daily basis-- there it was, explained in one little article. And you know what that article said?

It will get worse before it gets better.

I was, and still am, angry that no one ever told me that. It got worse. Every time I thought it couldn’t possibly get worse, it did. And at every step along the way I learned something new about the journey my son had been through. Every time I thought, “I can’t possibly do this any more,” and then did-- he got stronger.

Until one day I looked up and realized it had been a week since he had been violent.

And a long while later I realized it had been a month since he had broken something.

And in between that, when I least expected it, he was telling me things. Stories about his past. He began trusting me to carry part of the hurt he had carried his whole life. And each time he shared something-- things got worse. Old behaviors came back. Things got broken. And each time, we got through it, we moved on, and we got stronger.

It has been four years now, and we still have horrible days. But our good days now are good beyond anything I could have imagined on our worst days, and the worst day we have had this year is nothing compared to the worst day we had three years ago.

I reread that article regularly. It was published five years before I met my son.

Which means six years after it was published-- I was still being told by every professional in my county that things would magically get better when the adoption was finalized.

It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now. Things will get worse before they get better. The only hope any of us have is to weather the storm, seek professionals who understand, supportive friends, and hold on to the progress that we do see.


- Sarah M. (you can find her here, and here)

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Unhealthy / Broken Attachment

Posted by admin on February 26, 2013

Unhealthy / Broken Attachment

 

I talked about what healthy attachment looks like in my previous post.  If you haven’t already done so, go back and read that one first.  Having a basic understanding of what attachment is supposed to look like and how it's supposed to happen is key to understanding why broken and/or unhealthy early attachments are such a big deal and why they need devoted attention in order to heal.

 
Today, we’re going to talk about what happens when attachment doesn’t happen as it’s supposed to and/or there are breaks in it.  For way too many of our kids, the first year attachment cycle wasn't a healthy one as previous discussed. It was more like this one. 
unhealthy_1.jpg

 
Rather than having their needs consistently met, they were left alone, ignored, neglected, or worse, hurt because they were trying to let the big people know they needed something.  As a result, fear and apathy, followed by a sense of anxiety and stress develops. Rather than learning the world is a safe place and their parents will take care of them, they learn that the world is a scary place and adults can't be trusted to meet their needs. They learn, not just at a self-esteem level, but at a deeply ingrained core belief level that they have no value. Sadly, when attachment is lacking or is traumatically broken (such as through adoption or death of their first parents…both of which are processed the same by the child), many babies will just shut down.  They stop crying. They’ve already learned that they don’t matter and the only person they can count on to meet their needs is them.  As soon as they are big enough to take charge of doing it, that very act of insuring their own survival using any means necessary defines everything they think, say, and do.
 
Indeed, their brains become hardwired to operate from this place of survival. In normal development situations, the amygdala (the primal “flight, fight, or freeze” command center of the brain) normally works like a light switch.  When danger or threat is sensed, it activates the body’s natural startle response.  The frontal lobe (the part that normally governs logic and reasoning) then quickly takes over, assesses the real threat level and either shuts the amygdala off and all the body systems calm or logic and reasoning take over and appropriate action is taken to mitigate the threat.  When there’s no reprieve from threat and needs are inconsistently met, they amygdala becomes hard wired as the primary command center of the brain and EVERYTHING that comes in is processed through the lens of “is this safe and will it meet my needs.”  At the same time, the hippocampus (the memory and learning center) starts to lose mass and the front lobe fails to develop properly. 
 
Another thing that happens when attachment is broken or missing is that the child fails to learn any sense of order and predictability.  That is one of the reasons that many kids who had a rough early start end up struggling in school.  They missed those needed foundational elements that help them organize, group, and connect information in meaningful ways. 
 
Guess what else?  The second year attachment cycle - the time in which children learn to accept parental authority and boundaries - can't be started until the first one is complete.  No matter how old they are, until that child goes back and experiences the repeated repetitions of that that first year cycle in a healthy way, the second year cycle of learning to understand and respect boundaries set by adults can't happen - or at least not fully and completely.  This is why consequences don’t work. This is why sticker charts and removing privileges doesn’t work.  In their quest for survival, the kids will buck them and continue upping the ante just to prove that the adults really aren’t in charge and “won’t” or “can’t” or aren’t strong enough to take care of them. 
 
 
Not all attachment challenged kids outwardly express their stuff…at least not in a way that most people realize, though.  Some will appear to cooperate with most everything (especially when directives don’t come from their parents), but they will still exhibit significant passive aggressive behavior.  It's not accidental.  It's a quiet expression of an internal storm.  It's more about manipulation and survival in a world they believe is out to get them than it is about genuine connections and a desire to please their parents.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking.  “But wait!! I adopted my child birth.  Or, better yet, my kid is biological and I gave birth to him. I’ve given them everything in both those first and second year cycles. My kid still hates me and has rejected me at every turn. The kid has been screaming since the minute they were placed in my arms. What’s up with that???”

Attachment is a two way street. It is dependent on the parent’s ability to consistently and reliably meet the physical and emotional needs of the child with love AND it is dependent on the child’s ability to receive those offerings from the parent. If you’ve done everything right (well, ok…most things…no one does EVERYTHING right), the first thing to do is make sure there isn’t a physiological barrier such as autism or a sensory processing disorder getting in the way and preventing your child from being able to receive all that good stuff you’re pouring in.  Or, perhaps there’s been some medical trauma or some other circumstance that has caused a prolonged physical or emotional separation.

The second thing to realize is that babies can be born traumatized. If the birth mother was living in a highly stressful or abusive environment such as a bad relationship, on the streets, or prison, the baby’s developing body and brain were constantly flooded with cortisol.  This has a profoundly negative impact on the child’s development in utero.  Being bathed in stress hormones in the womb results in lagging neuro development and babies being born stressed out and already wired with precious little capacity to tolerate more stress.  If there was substance exposure on top of that (nicotine, alcohol, drugs, etc) there may be some neuro-physical damage on top of that. What and how much damage there really is may take years to manifest itself and may not be fully realized until that child is in school.
 
It is also quite well documented that attachment starts before birth. Even unborn babies know whether or not they are wanted by their birth mothers. There are also several studies out there that indicate that even such factors as whether or not the birth mother considered abortion or not can profoundly affect a child’s ability to attach to anyone.
Finally, and probably most significant if you are not your child’s first parent, is the HUGE amount of abandonment and loss of intimate connection to their first mother.  This loss happens in ALL adoptions and out of home placements (such as long term respite or foster care.) It doesn’t matter how old the child was at placement.  No matter how perfect the situation might have been, no matter how carefully planned the adoption was, no matter what the circumstances were, attachment was still severed.  My awesomely amazing friend Lindsay wrote about this topic in detail the other day.  I couldn't say it better and have nothing to add to it.  She absolutely nailed it…because she’s living it.  Go read her post if you haven’t already done so.   
 
Please don’t fall into the trap of thinking your child doesn’t or can’t possibly have attachment problems just because they were adopted at birth and you’ve been a great mom to them.  Or worse, don’t assume they were “too young to remember” or “too young to be impacted by trauma.”  Neither are true.  If your child had a history without you, be it prior to birth, a few weeks after birth, or even a couple of years in another environment, the experiences they had during that time, most of which you likely don’t know the full details of, are still part of their story and forever will be how their story begins.
 
“It is an ultimate irony that at the time when a human is most vulnerable to the effects of trauma – during infancy and childhood [and especially during the first year of life] – adults generaly presume the most resilience.”
                                                                                      --Bruce Perry, M.D, PhD.
 

The earlier the damage happens, the more devastating it is likely to be to the child, the more difficult it can be to heal, and the more chance it has to have long term effects.  Once the attachment is broken, it’s broken and the impact it has on the child is huge.  No matter how little a child is the subconscious still records everything that happens and their perceptions of it in perfect detail.  Some kids will be able to bridge the gap and attach to their new caregivers and families.  Some will struggle.  Others will never recover.
 
 

…and we’ll save the discussion of how and why that happens for another post. 

 

- Diana ( who blogs at From Survival to Serenity)

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Supporting One Another

Posted by admin on February 22, 2013

I have been blogging since May 2004, that was a really long time ago, really long. I lived in a different place, I was single, I was teaching, I was travelling, it was a different world. When I started my blog it was to keep in touch with my family while I lived over seas and as my world has evolved so has my blog. I moved here to Stellar Parenting when I felt as though I needed some anonymity in order to respect my kids privacy. It was a necessary move and not one I regret at all although my first blog still exists and I have not blogged there in years.

I was looking for something in the archives here earlier today and I was amazed at all these years of my life, all this joy, excitement, devastation, learning, changing and growing stored in on place. There are so many memories here, so many things that I might want to forget because they were awful but that I learned a lot from and are really worth remembering. While I looked though the archives I was struck by something, there is a lot of love on these pages. Love from people who I love, from people I have never met and from people who have over the years become some of my dearest friends.

P and I were talking about this very thing last night about how some of the best supports that I have on this parenting journey are from women who I have met here on my blog and in Orlando, (many of those people over lap but not all Orlando Mamas are bloggers). They are women who watch my kids when I need a break, they call me multiple times a day when they know my cheese is sliding off my cracker ( a polite way of saying going insane), they mail me surprises, they love my kids and they have become my family. I am not kidding when I  say that without some of these women I would not be here today. I would not be the parent that I am, I would not be helping my kids heal, I would not be coping, I know in my heart of hearts that if these women were not a part of my life things would look very different and not in a good way.

It’s one of those things, these women, the ones who hold me up, they make me a better Mama and a better person

It’s not just about being a Mama though, right now my world revolves around my kids but once they are no longer in my house every day I will still be me. The woman who started on this parenting journey 5 years ago is not the same woman who is typing this today. These women, these Mamas who parent kids just like mine have taught me that I matter, that I am worth it and that I deserve to be loved just as much as any other person. I have always struggled with my self-esteem, with why anyone would want to be my friend, what I had to offer others and have really just felt like I was taking up space in the world. .  These women, who would move heaven and earth to help a friend in need,  have taught me that I am worth it.

I matter.

I am lovable.

I am ENOUGH.

I would be lost if it were not for these women and I am eternally grateful that I have them in my life.

Thank you to each and every one of you, you make getting through a challenging day so much easier.

 

- J (From Stellar Parenting 101)

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What is Healthy Attachment

Posted by admin on February 21, 2013

What Is Healthy Attachment?

 

Today we’re going to talk about attachment…and we’re going to talk about healthy attachment.  It really does boggle my mind that this subject that is so important to every human being on this planet is talked about so infrequently.  Therapists are not taught about it. Most doctors don’t know much about it. The schools for sure have no clue about it.  Yet it has such a huge impact on every single person who walks this planet, it’s the root of so many social and emotional and behavior problems,  and yet so little is understood in any communities about it.

Attachment is defined as an enduring and endearing emotional bond that develops between an infant and their primary caregiver (usually their mother.)  It is characterized by the child’s tendency to seek out and maintain a closeness to that caregiver, particulary during stressful situations. 
The attachment relationship is the first relationship a child experiences.  It begins to form while the child is still in the womb and continues to strengthen over the next two years in particular.  A healthy attachment relationship provides both physical protection and a psychological sense of security and safety for the child.  It is where the child learns they are valued and important and develop a healthy self-esteem.  Healthy attachment also lays the foundation for being able to form healthy relationships with others in all aspects of life.
 
But that’s not all. Attachment also has cognitive and physiological impacts as well. Secure attachment also provides the core building blocks for language development, logic and reasoning skills, academic performance, information organization, nervous system structure, sensory processing, development of conscience, emotional regulation, and a sense of personal identity.
 
That’s a lot of stuff riding on one relationship!  But what is it, really, and how does it develop?  John Bowlby, a psychoanalyst of the 1950’s, is recognized as the first to have studied attachment and its impact. Though most of the world still doesn’t know much about or think much about attachment, some of the earliest experiments involving wire monkeys based on his work are pretty well known. 
 
But how does that knowledge translate to humans?  Admittedly, if we had good childhoods ourselves, attachment isn’t given much thought and is frequently taken for granted.  Contrary to common belief, though, it is NOT an inborn instinct.  It is a learned relationship of trust that is built little by little over time. It develops as a result of numerous completions of the attachment cycle – the repeated soothing and comforting and meeting a child’s needs.
 
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The attachment cycle is a two year process. The first year cycle begins when the infant has an unmet need (hungry, wet, tired, scared, sad, lonely, etc). The infant communicates this need to his caregiver, usually through crying. The caregiver then takes action to meet the needs of the child. Once the child’s needs have been met, they feel a sense of satisfaction and contentment followed by relaxation, which also lowers their cortisol levels. In the process of having their needs consistently met by their primary caregiver, a relationship of trust develops. They develop confidence in their ability to communicate their needs and they learn that those needs will be met in a timely and appropriate way.

It is also through this first year of the attachment cycle that they learn the world is a safe, orderly, and predictable place. This is also the foundation of being able to understand and process logic. When attachment develops in a normal, healthy way, the child experiences pleasure by interacting with other people. The more secure that attachment is, the more important it will be for that child to please their parents rather than a stranger.
 
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As the child becomes more mobile and verbal during their second year, they begin to experience boundaries. If these boundaries are enforced in a way that fosters both emotional and physical safety, the relationship between that child and their caregiver becomes even stronger and more important. This is where they learn to trust that adults can and do keep them safe. They also learn to trust those boundaries. They may not like them and they may protest a bit when they hit those boundaries, but generally speaking, they have a desire to please their parents. By the time they reach that second year, they’ve figured out that mom and dad really do know what they’re doing and and they are learning that those boundaries set by Mom and Dad are there to help keep them safe.
 
And there you have the Reader's Digest condensed version of the very basics of it.
 
- Diana (who blogs at From Survival to Serenity)
 

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Beyond

Posted by admin on February 19, 2013

When I first became involved in this "movement" many of us referred to ourselves as Trauma Mommas.  That moniker has become a point of contention to others.  Those who opposed it were seeing us as complaining about the children in our care and they thought we were saying that we were suffering trauma due to raising these kids.  For me, and I dare to say most others, that was not my intention.  I apologize profusely to those who were offended by that name.  We were simply referring to the trauma that our kiddos deal with on a daily basis.  That trauma that pervades their very being.  The enormous, ugly and horrific trauma that they suffered due to a multitude of different reasons.  Our children have experienced trauma before coming to our home.  In the case of my child, we are talking about neglect, physical abuse and multiple caregiver changes within his first few years of life. We were the 10th home that he had been in during his short 2 years of involvement in Foster Care. He is no stranger to trauma. 

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) affects children when there are breaks in the primary caregiver or have experienced abuse and neglect. Children struggle with RAD when their needs haven't been met and it impares their ability to form healthy emotional attachments.

Our job as mommas to these children is HARD, but we realize it is nothing compared to living the life that they live.  I, for one, can't even begin to fathom what it is like living in my child's skin.  My job is to attempt to help him to overcome and learn to trust again.  I am here to help him heal the broken places and teach him that there are those who are worthy of his trust and his love. 

The feeling of loneliness and despair in parenting these types of kids is all consuming.  You ache for your child.  You wish you could make things different for them.  You want to take the pain and the anguish away.  You want to fix it and make it all better.  All the while, you don't know how to explain to others all that your child and your family is going through.  It is not something that you throw out at work during your lunch hour to your co-workers.  You become isolated.  Your family doesn't do as much outside of your small world because sights, sounds and even places can be trauma triggers for your children.  You are tired of being stared at for your child acting out in public.  You want to protect your child from prying eyes of others.  You continue to surround yourselves with one another and barricade yourselves into your own world.  It is a lonely place to be.  There are even times when extended family don't really understand and offer criticism that further isolates you.

One day, one glorious day, you find other moms who are living a life very similar to your own.  You find out that even though you felt very alone, there are other  families who are experiencing the same thing.  You find moms who are tryng everything within their power to help their child heal.  You find there are some successes.  You learn from moms who have found coping mechanisms for themselves and their kids.  You share strengths and failures.  You get renewed in your desire to fight this battle for your children.  You find HOPE.  You find ENCOURAGEMENT. You find LOVE.  You find a SISTERHOOD. 

This can do nothing but help your child.  If you are renewed in your ability to help fight this fight, your child benefits.  You find new ways to help them cope as well.  You learn techniques like Reiki and EFT (tapping) to help them heal their inner struggles.  You show them that there are other kids who feel the same way they do.  You help them fill their toolboxes with tools to get through their big feelings.  You show them that you are in this TOGETHER.  Instead of being isolated and worn out, you all become recharged and fully loaded to work through this together. 

That is what this group of moms has done for me.  They have allowed me to LOVE my kid through the hard parts.  They have allowed me to LOVE myself.  We can share our frustrations, our successes or failures.  We can network and find resources.  We can simply give one another that knowing glance.  We can love through a common bond.  A group can accomplish far more than one lonely individual.  

We are not trauma mommas, we are mommas who have found a lifeline.  We are mommas who love deeply. We are mommas who have found that there is a life BEYOND trauma and attachment.  We have found that we can get to the other side with one another.

 

- Sheri

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