It’s not just adoptive parents…

That deal with RAD or attachment issues.  And I’m not talking about “bad” parents here.  I’m writing this for my friend, who has for 19 years had to deal with judgement and criticism and downright denial that her kid could have attachment issues because he was “bio”.  She feels personally attacked when on the boards adoptive parents bad-mouth bio parents for creating the issues they are dealing with in their adoptive children.  So I am writing this for her, putting it out there, to clearly say what I hope everyone knows…. it’s not just an adoptive issue.

Attachment issues stem from trauma, and trauma can happen in the womb.  That means it can happen before that tiny little baby comes screaming into the world and is placed into the loving arms of the adoptive parents.  That’s also denied a lot of the time.  It doesn’t matter what caused the trauma, and frankly, knowing the exact trauma doesn’t help – it’s the mixture of hormones and whatever else the body releases while the baby is in utero.  The trauma doesn’t have to be “bad parenting” – it can be the stress of the pregnancy itself, the death of a loved on, a car accident.  Sometimes as adoptive parents we make assumptions because we’ve seen some really bad parenting and what it does to our kids – but it’s not always that way.

Attachment issues can be caused as soon as the baby is born – trauma can happen to the mother, and the baby is then affected, like medical issues, death of a loved one, even death of the mother, a vehicular accident – or medical issues in the baby.  Premature babies, babies born with their insides on their outside, babies with heart issues, babies who need surgery after surgery and must be delicately handled, spending months – even years – in ICU, barely being touched because they can’t be, they can’t be held, they can’t be comforted by their loving parents, and the touch they know is pain.  Such is the case of my friend.

And sometimes – it seems the brain is just miswired.  They don’t know enough about the brain to identify where attachment takes places or to know if that tiny spot is damaged.  Again, it doesn’t have to be any fault of the parents.

The more commonly known attachment issues happen later, through neglect, abuse, changes of primary caregiver, etc.  Those are the ones that we commonly complain about as adoptive parents.  The preventable ones, the ones where we know the history, usually from the scars on their body or their records through foster care.  Or even the ones we see right in front of us, as we watch the bio parents destroy the spirits of our child again and again, while we have to pick up the pieces.  THOSE are the ones we are complaining about.  Not the good parents.  Not you, dear friend, whose child had 32 surgeries his first year of life and endured more pain in that first year than 10 people do in an entire lifetime.  I’m sorry you were judged back then by people who didn’t know better.  I’m sorry you feel judged now.  I don’t mean you when I complain about who hurt my children and how angry it makes me.  I hope all adoptive/foster parents are smart enough to know that it’s not every bio parent, it’s not every parent who gives up a child for adoption, there’s not always a person at fault – sometimes, it just is because of the circumstances.

The picture attached to this post is my eldest son.  This is the first time I met him.  He was born at 24 weeks.  Yes, 24 weeks.  He spent the first 3 months of his life – the time he was supposed to be in the womb – in the NICU.  He was touched only to have his diaper changed and his position adjusted.  The nurses told us, he will have RAD.  But he can’t be disturbed more than that, he’s medically fragile.  This picture was the day I met him – he was six weeks old.  First touch.  Not only did he endure the medical traumas, the separation from human touch those 3 months, he endured a lot of trauma in the womb, before we came into his life.  He is one of the lucky ones, because he is attached to us.  But it is not because we did something “right” and others did something “wrong”.  We don’t know why after all he went through he was able to attach normally, and be an empathetic, caring child.  We’ll probably never know.  What we do know – is we are lucky as hell, happy as hell that it is so, and it has basically nothing to do with anything that WE did once we got him home at 3 months old (basically after his due date).  It just is what it is.

Hang in there.


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