How To Survive The First Few Years Of The Adoption Journey, by Mike Berry

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You got into this because you were passionate about loving children. But you soon found out, the journey is more difficult than you anticipated. How do you survive the first year or 2 of the adoption journey?

It’s the early hours of a Monday morning when I open my laptop to check email. The glowing light of my screen is the only light in my quiet house. The sun hasn’t even begun its ascent over the treeline in our backyard.

After a long weekend, and mostly ignoring email or social media for a few days, I’ve got tons of new mail. I give my inbox a quick scan, selecting a multitude of Spam messages to feed my hungry Trash folder. There at the bottom of New Messages I spot it. A personal email with a Subject that says it all- “I need help!”

Her storyline is one I’ve heard a million times over the past 15 years of personally traveling the adoption journey:

…We decided to adopt.
…And got really, really excited.
…Filled out all of the paperwork.
…Chose foster-to-adopt to save money.
…Jumped in with a full heart.
…Brought home a beautiful baby girl…a sibling group.
…Realized pretty quickly how hard this journey is.
…At the end of my rope. Questioning my choice. Need help!

I get it. I really do. We were just 2 years into our journey when everything started to fall apart on us. We were head over heels in love with our children, but there were many things we weren’t prepared for, didn’t know, or didn’t do when we first began. Our hearts were full, but we quickly became tired. We too needed help.

The journey can be long, uphill, and filled with ups and downs that feel like a punch in the gut. I would love to tell you that all you need to do is focus on loving your child and everything will work out. But, that’s just not reality…for the adoption journey….or the parenting journey in general. You will never be fully prepared, but there are some key steps we’ve learned to help make the first few years of the adoption journey less stressful and more meaningful…

  1. Seek Community. You and I were never meant to travel this road alone. The adoption journey is beautiful, amazing, and adventurous. But it can also become extremely difficult. Most of the world won’t understand the unique trials and tribulations we go through. We need others around us who understand, are in the same trench as us, will never judge us regardless of the situation, and help us grow. When everything falls apart, your child is out of control, or you’re dealing with a foster care system that yanks you around like a bullwhip, a strong support community can get you through it.
  2. Grow in your knowledge of trauma and attachment. Your child has come from trauma, even if they were adopted privately and their birth mother took care of herself. There’s still deep loss. The person who carried them in her womb for 9 months is now gone. But imagine how deeper this loss is when your child has come from the foster care system or an orphanage in another country. This trauma can play out in their behavior, poor choices, refusal to attach themselves to you in a healthy manner, or more. If we could go back, 15 years in the past, and learn one thing, it would be how to parent children from traumatic places. Trauma-informed care and knowledge of attachment issues can be a game-changer in relating to your child, and helping them form healthy bonds with your family.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://confessionsofanadoptiveparent.com/how-to-survive-the-first-few-years-of-the-adoption-journey/?mc_cid=6edbdcd537&mc_eid=169008643f

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How Being A Foster Parent Changed Me For The Better, by Mike Berry

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We’re often asked by folks who are considering foster care, “Is it worth it?” We always answer, “Yes!” But it’s not because the road of foster parenting rose to meet us. It’s been a journey. And the heartache has made us better human beings for it!

 

If you could go back in time and have a conversation with 11-year old me, at some point in the conversation baseball would have come up. Eleven year old me dreamed of being a major league baseball star. It wasn’t just a pipe dream like all kids had when they were that age. It was bigger.

I would have told you my full-fledged plan to work my way into the starting line-up of my high school team. I would explain how I was going to try out for the walk-on draft for the Cincinnati Reds the summer after my senior year. And then (hopefully) land a spot in the lower Single A or AA farm system. If that didn’t work, I’d surely have a scholarship to a top-notch division I school of my choice.

Not only could I articulate this at 11 years old…I had it written down. Sketched out in a notebook I kept, complete with stadium diagrams, imaginary starting line-ups, and statistics. Yep…big dream! What 11 year old kid goes to these lengths?

I wanted to be a legend on the diamond. I studied my hometown hero, Barry Larkin, and dreamed of one day starting for the Cincinnati Reds. I emulated Chris Sabo snagging sharp grounders down the third base line. I matched every move Eric Davis made as he stepped to the plate.

Ask me then and I would have told you….I want to be a star….I want to be rich….I want to be famous.

A Different Path.

That’s not the story my life would go on to tell. I ended up opting out of baseball by my senior year of high school. After 3 years of riding the bench, I looked to other things. After high school I went to a small Christian college on the westside of Cincinnati with barely a sports program. One year they decided to start up their baseball program and I tried out. But the flame had gone out. After a few practices, I hung up my glove and cleats for good.

Many would look at that and see the disappointment of dreams not coming true. After all, I had worked all those years to become the legend I had dreamed of becoming. But for what? On the outside it looked like nothing. But what I didn’t realize until years later was how perfect the story that was being told through my life really was.

And it had nothing to do with fortune, fame, or accolades.

In the spring of 2004, just 5 years after Kristin and I got married, she told me of a woman who was about to lose her two children to the foster care system. She suggested we get our license in order to care for them. I hesitated. At that point, we were the parents to 1 perfect baby through adoption, and all seemed fair in love and war. Plus, I had always heard horror stories about foster parenting. What I didn’t realize was this woman had actually personally asked Kristin to care for her children. So, in-spite of my hesitation I agreed and we fast-tracked through the licensing procedures. Sometimes you just have to step off the edge and ask questions later. We jumped.

Legends and Legacies.

Twelve years later….we’ve never looked back. As we stand on the other side of this massive season of our life, we both agree: we wouldn’t change a thing. We ended up fostering over 20 children, and 6 of them stayed with us forever. Foster parenting is one of the hardest things we’ve ever done. It’s nearly taken the life out of us. We’ve been to the darkest places of parenting, the darkest places of human thinking, and we have the scars on our hearts (and our arms) to prove it. We’ve lived through CPS investigations, defeating IEP meetings at our kid’s schools, and the overreaction of a case manager who was trying to make an example out of us.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://confessionsofanadoptiveparent.com/how-being-a-foster-parent-changed-me-for-the-better/?mc_cid=70bd6e938c&mc_eid=169008643f

10 Powerful Truths About Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) That Will Change Your Perspective, by Mike Berry

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For the majority of the world, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is misunderstood and often judged. But, there are powerful truths that can change your life when you understand, and embrace them.

Anger.

That’s the word that comes to mind when I think about FASD. Anger.

I’m angry that my child’s birth mother would make the selfish choice to drink during her pregnancy, angry that the claws of addiction dug deeper than the conviction of pre-natal care, angry at the numerous therapists, doctors, and authorities who’ve downplayed or disagreed with my child’s diagnosis over the years, angry at a world that judges before seeking the truth, and angry when I think about the missing pieces of my child’s life.

The child I chose with love.

Most of all, I’m angry that he will never have a normal childhood. A part of his brain is absent thanks to a stupid choice, a lack of self-control, and an unwillingness to guard his precious life before he took one peek at the world. I know this sounds harsh but this is the stuff I wrestle with often. Sometimes it eats at me, grinding away at my soul like a jackhammer grinding away at concrete. Other times, it’s sadness. A deep longing to go back in time, before his conception, and beg his birth mother to not make the choice she would eventually make.

Yes, we reel in pain over this disease. After all, that’s what it is. It’s brain damage, and the worst kind too, as far as we’re concerned. We live with the devastation of our child’s violent outbursts that have brought trauma on our family so deep that we’re not sure we’ll ever heal from it. We wrestle but, we’re hopeful. In the midst of our life, which often looks more like a pile of ashes than a life, we have a hope and a belief that our child, our son, will succeed. It began a while ago, when we embraced some powerful truths about FASD…

(To read more of this article, follow the link below…)

http://confessionsofanadoptiveparent.com/10-powerful-truths-about-fasd-that-will-change-your-life/?mc_cid=e4f566056a&mc_eid=169008643f

But I adopted my child at birth. What do you mean trauma? By Alex Stavros

Baby in tum

It is not uncommon for adoptive parents to come to us feeling out of options for their difficult child and overwhelmed about what could have created all of these DSM diagnoses and intense feelings and behaviors.  Especially if the child was adopted at or near birth.

“We adopted our son at birth. We brought him home from the hospital ourselves and have done nothing but love him.”

Does this sound too familiar? If so, then why are you now being told that all of that had something to do with the issues today?

First and foremost, it is important not to be too hard on ourselves or even our child’s birth parents. At this time, it is most important to find our child the help that they need. Understanding the diagnosis and its origins may help one decide on the most appropriate course of treatment.  Quality and traditional parenting techniques may no longer be a solution – our child’s condition will likely require trauma sensitive interventions to heal.

Fetal Trauma

First we need to understand there are many developmental milestones for your child that occur prior to birth.  Your child began feeling and learning in the womb. According to Samuel Lopez De Victoria, Ph.D., your baby learned to be comforted by the voice and heartbeat of his mother well before birth[1] – a voice that was not yours. In the case of adoption this connective disruption has an impact on the brain and body.

Paula Thomson writes for Birth Psychology, Early pre- and post-natal experiences, including early trauma, are encoded in the implicit memory of the fetus, located in the subcortical and deep limbic regions of the maturing brain. These memories will travel with us into our early days of infancy and beyond and more importantly, these early experiences set our ongoing physiological and psychological regulatory baselines.”[2]

Clearly, chaos outside of the womb, for example, may affect children in utero. This includes arguments, a chaotic home environment or an abusive spouse, and other rambunctious noise that may seem harmless to the fetus.  If the mother drinks or smokes, or is generally unhealthy, this also impacts in-utero development, including the sense of safety and self-worth for the child.  Critical brain development is also stunted.

Mothers that end up placing their child with adoptive parents are also likely to feel increased stress during their pregnancies.  Many are very young, have many other children or are emotionally or financially unable to support a child.  Each of these stressors could expose unborn babies to cortisol, making them also stressed.  The baby is then born anxious.

Surprisingly, babies are also able to sense a disconnection or lack of acceptance from their mother while in the womb – leading to attachment issues and developmental trauma down the road.

(To read more, follow the link below…)

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/i-adopted-my-child-birth-what-do-you-mean-trauma-alex-stavros

4 Responses To A Failed Adoption And How To Find Hope, by Mike Berry

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We were ecstatic when the call came in. The adoption agency we were working with had matched us with a birth mom and the outlook was very good. We were even invited to meet her, along with one of the agency’s social workers, at a local restaurant for lunch. We were nervous, but, we accepted.

In short, our time with her was beyond what we could have imagined or dreamed. We fell in love with her and she walked away from us feeling confident and ready to proceed. That was February. In early April, just a week before the baby was due, she changed her mind and disappeared, leaving us with nothing. If the plans we had made, and the dreams we were dreaming, were a building built with precision and ingenuity, we were watching it crumble floor by floor, right before our eyes, and we were devastated.

The adoption process brings with it the risk of failure. As much as I hate it, and wish I could make it not so, it’s the honest truth. Your birth mother may change her mind, even at the last second. The country you’re adopting from may close their gates and forbid adoptions at the drop of a hat. The child you’ve loved through trauma and pain, and planned to adopt once parental rights were terminated in foster care, may be swooped away and placed with an aunt in another state!

We’ve felt the crushing blow of this and we have many friends who have too. We’ve asked ourselves why? We’ve stood alone in anger and frustration, shaken our fists at the heavens and demanded an answer. We’ve sat with, and grieved with, families who have been rendered helpless by a birth mother’s change of heart, a judge’s ruling, or a country’s closure at the last second. Here’s what we’ve learned to do…

To Read More, follow the link below…

http://www.confessionsofaparent.com/4-responses-to-a-failed-adoption/

Children Who Experience Early Childhood Trauma Do Not Just ‘Get Over It’, by Jane Evans

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Humans are relatively adaptable beings which is why we are thriving and not dying out like other species. Horrendous disasters such as the Philippines typhoon, the Boxing Day Tsunami, the nuclear disaster in Japan, the major wars of our time, and horrific famines see great suffering, but these events also inspires survival through adaptation. It turns out we possess a strong survival mechanism in our brains directly linked to our bodies, fight, flight, freeze, flop and friend (fffff).

In fact, the survival part of our brain, which is primitive yet effective, is the first to develop in utero starting at around 7 weeks. It regulates our breathing, digestive system, heart rate and temperature, along with the ‘fffff’ system which operates to preserve our life.

If we have to dodge a falling object, jump out of the path of a speeding car, keep very still to avoid being seen, run for the hills from a predator, or get someone potentially threatening ‘onside’ we need this to happen fast. If a baby is scared, cold, hungry, lonely, or in any way overwhelmed this triggers their survival system and they cry to bring an adult to them to help them survive.

Read more by following the link below:

http://www.socialworkhelper.com/2014/10/08/children-experience-early-childhood-trauma-just-get/

Bonding With Your Adopted Child

Adoption CollageOriginally published in WTE (What to Expect), Pregnancy and Parenting Every Step of the Way.  Author’s name not present.

It’s perfectly normal for adoptive parents to look at their new child and wonder if he’ll ever fit into the family, if you’ll ever truly love him, and if he’ll ever return that love. Just remember that adoptive parents bond with their babies as successfully as biological families!

To make the journey go smoothly, here are some strategy suggestions for bonding with your adopted child.

Don’t rush it. If you adopted a baby, how quickly he adapts depends on how old he is. If he’s younger than six months, he may fuss more than usual, refuse to feed sometimes, and snooze for too many hours (or too few). These behaviors have nothing to do with your parenting skills, and they’ll most likely pass in a few weeks. In the meantime, cuddle your baby as often as you can, give him gentle rubdowns before bedtime, and wear him in a sling or front carrier instead of putting him in his stroller or bouncy seat. Music can be soothing, too — if you can, find lullabies in your child’s native language if you adopted internationally.

(To read more, follow the link below…)

http://www.whattoexpect.com/family/bonding-with-your-adopted-child.aspx

“If You Look for the Goodness in Your Children, Good Things Will Happen”, by Linda Petersen

After marrying young and giving birth to a son who was legally blind (and who went on to earn a PhD on full scholarship), Linda Petersen and her husband adopted four more special needs children and fostered many others. This book is the story of their journey.

Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane Blog

My dear friends and readers,

Please excuse this commercial interruption of your regular reading.

My book, with an actual cover and pages with WORDS on them in between, has just been published!!!


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The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane
Authored by Linda Petersen

(Review by Dawn Raffel from Readers Digest:)
Her story begins not with her children but with her own childhood spent traveling the country in the backseat of her parents’ car (her perpetually restless dad had post-traumatic stress disorder from WWII), often with very little money and few provisions. Where someone else might have seen deprivation and isolation, Petersen viewed her unusual childhood with a sense of wonder and gratitude. After marrying young and giving birth to a son who was legally blind (and who went on to earn a PhD on full scholarship), Petersen and her husband adopted four more special needs children…

View original post 232 more words

Parenting a Sexually Abused Child by Diane from the USA

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https://www.edcinstitute.org/we-are-survivors/parenting-a-sexually-abused-child.html

Children who have been sexually abused and placed in foster care or are adopted need rules to help provide structure, comfort and security. Experts in the field of adoption and child sexual abuse believe the guidelines listed below will help the child build trust with their new family.1

  • Privacy:  Everyone has a right to privacy. Children should be taught to knock when a door is closed and adults need to role model the same behavior.images (1)
  • Bedrooms and Bathrooms:  These two locations are often prime stimuli for children who have been sexually abused, since abuse commonly occurs in these rooms. By the time children enter the first grade, caution should be used about children of the opposite sex sharing bedrooms or bath times. It is not advisable to bring a child who has been sexually abused into your bed. Cuddling may be over-stimulating and misinterpreted. A safer place to cuddle may be on the living room couch.
  • Touching:  No one should touch another person without permission. A person’s private parts (the area covered by a bathing suit) should not be touched except during a medical examination or, in the case of young children, if they need help with bathing or toileting.
  • Clothing:  It is a good idea for family members to be conscious of what they wear outside the bedroom. Seeing others in their underclothes or pajamas may be over-stimulating to a child who has been sexually abused.
  • Saying “No”:  Children need to learn that it is their right to assertively say “no” when someone touches them in a way they do not like. Help them to practice this.
  • images (2)Sex Education:  All children, including the child who has been sexually abused, need basic information about how they develop sexually. They also will benefit from an atmosphere in which it is okay to talk about sex. Appropriate words for body parts, such as penis, vagina, breasts and buttocks, will give the child the words to describe what happened to him/her. Suggestive or obscene language is sometimes a trigger for old feelings for a child who was sexually abused, and should not be allowed.
  • No “Secrets”:  Make it clear that no secret games, particularly with adults, are allowed. Tell children if an adult suggests such a game, they should tell you immediately.
  • Being Alone With One Other Person:  If your child is behaving seductively, aggressively or in a sexually acting out manner, these are high-risk situations. During those times, it is advisable not to put yourself in the vulnerable position of being accused of abuse. It addition, other children may be in jeopardy of being abused. Therefore, whenever possible during these high-risk situations, try not to be alone with your child or allow him/her to be alone with only one other child.
  • Wrestling and Tickling:  As common and normal as these childhood behaviors are, they are often tinged with sexual overtones. They can put the weaker child in an overpowered and uncomfortable or humiliating position. Keep tickling and wrestling to a minimum.
  • Behaviors and Feelings:  Help children differentiate between feelings and behaviors. It is normal to have all kinds of feelings, including sexual feelings. However, everyone does not always act on all the feelings, including sexual feelings he/she has. Everyone has choices about which feelings he/she acts on, and everyone (except very young children ) must take responsibility for his/her own behavior.

1 National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, Washington, D.C.

Adoptive Breastfeeding: how is that possible?

color headshot Alyassa FYMeet Alyssa

Alyssa has been helping mothers and babies in St. Louis, Missouri, USA with breastfeeding for the past 12 years.  She has been accredited as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) since 2009 and works in private practice.  Her practice, Sweet Pea Breastfeeding Support, provides prenatal, pre-adoption/surrogacy, and postpartum lactation consultations, as well as breast pump sales and rentals.  Alyssa enjoys working with all mothers and babies, but she has an extra special place in her heart for helping mothers through adoption and surrogacy to breastfeed their babies.  She is the author of Breastfeeding Without Birthing:  A Breastfeeding Guide for Mothers Through Adoption, Surrogacy, and Other Special Circumstances.  Alyssa is the proud mother of three breastfed children, two by birth and one by adoption.

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By Alyssa Schnell, MS, IBCLC

Have you ever heard of an adoptive mother breastfeeding her baby? Most people (including health care professionals!) don’t even know that it is possible for a mother to breastfeed a baby she hasn’t given birth to. In fact, this type of breastfeeding has been done throughout history by adoptive mothers, wet nurses, and even grandmothers:

And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. (King James Bible, Ruth 4:16)

Before formula and bottles were available, it was a necessity for another mother to feed a baby when the biological mother was not available due to death, separation, or preference. Those of us in developed countries have largely forgotten this amazing power of a woman’s body to make milk for a baby we didn’t birth.

How it works

There are various approaches to inducing lactation, the term for bringing in milk, without pregnancy and birth. The basic essential piece in every approach is regular stimulation of the nipples and breasts. This usually happens by using a double electric breast pump and/or by baby breastfeeding with an at-breast supplementer. An at-breast supplementer is a bag or bottle that hangs around the adoptive mother’s neck and carries formula or human milk to the mother’s nipple via a tiny feeding tube.

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Photo used with permission by B. Robertson, IBCLC

Some adoptive mothers will also take medications or herbs to help them make more milk. While it isn’t common for an adoptive mother to make all the milk her baby needs, most adoptive mothers can meet a portion of their babies’ nutritional needs through breastfeeding.

Not all adoptive breastfeeding mothers make milk. Because the act of breastfeeding helps create a bond between mother and baby, it is not necessary to make milk in order for mother and baby to benefit from the breastfeeding. Some adoptive mothers will bottle-feed to provide nutrition for their baby and comfort nurse their babies. Others will feed at the breast using an at-breast supplementer.

With good information and support, each adoptive mother can create an adoptive breastfeeding plan that meets her individual needs and circumstances.

Sweet Pea Lotsa Babies

My Story

Adoptive breastfeeding is a personal and a professional story for me. Ten years ago, as my husband and I began our adoption plans, I couldn’t imagine parenting a baby without breastfeeding. Breastfeeding was how I fed, comforted, calmed, and healed my other babies. Breastfeeding was how I would do the same for my next baby, no matter what path she took to arrive in my arms. I began fervently researching information available on adoptive breastfeeding. My resources as a La Leche League Leader were especially helpful. By the time baby Rosa arrived, I had a relationship with a local lactation consultant, was pumping 15 ounces of milk each day, was taking various herbs and medications, had purchased several devices to help with breastfeeding, and had a freezer stocked with my own milk. Despite some additional obstacles, Rosa began feeding exclusively at my breast when she was 2 days old. And we continued that beautiful relationship for several years.

During that time, I began counseling other prospective adoptive and intended (through surrogacy) mothers, first as a La Leche League Leader and later as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). My research continued, as my experience working with mothers grew. My personal experience, the experiences of the mothers I worked with, and all the research I did eventually blossomed into a book: Breastfeeding Without Birthing: A Breastfeeding Guide for Mothers Through Adoption, Surrogacy and Other Special Circumstances (Praeclarus Press, 2013). I have been continuing to spread the word about adoptive breastfeeding ever since!

BookTo Learn More:

The book’s companion website www.BreastfeedingWithoutBirthing.com contains a ton of information including the basics of inducing lactation, how to find a qualified lactation consultant, relevant links, a blog, a bookstore, and more.

See Also:

www.sweetpeabreastfeeding.com