Bringing home a foster or adopted child at birth, doesn't remove the trauma factor.
I've had many conversations with moms who brought their foster/adopted child into the home as infants. They are facing very similar situations as I am with my son, who was five when he came home.
I recently had a chat with one of those moms. Here's some wisdom from her:
"Age doesn't matter. When we got her, she was full on RAD (reactive attachment disorder). No idea how to be held. No idea how to be cradled and given a bottle. She'd get stiff as a board. She slept about 5 hours in a 24 hour period. She screamed bloody murder if my husband wore a hat. She went into major flight/panic mode if someone tried to talk to her when we were out-screaming, climbing, clawing her way out of the basket to get away from them, panic attack at the end of every meal, she would come home from visits, panicked, exhausted, and sick. It was awful. I, too, thought that if you get them young enough they won't have any problems and love is all they need. Nope. Biggest misconception about adoption. I was shocked and had to get schooled!"
Too often, we assume that if a child is struggling, it must be something wrong with the parenting technique. But even with all the perfect mom efforts, a child's ability to adjust was formed in the brain, while in the womb. If a mom consumed drugs or alcohol, or even endured high stress that resulted in a child swimming in cortisol, the child's brain function has been affected. An adopted child has also been affected by being separated from the sounds of the biological parent that were heard, while in the womb. The sudden changes often result in a feeling of loss, or separation anxiety.
"She didn't talk until she was three. So those first few years of being home she was small and nonverbal. I think if she'd been older when she came home that we would've had the same anger, rage, and mouthiness (that I face in my situation). Since she wasn't capable of those things, we got the nonstop screaming when she was awake and panic."
I prefer the TBRI (Trust-Based Relational Invervention) methods to encourage healing and bonding with my son, and this mom favors it as well. With the help of TBRI techniques, and a loving family, a child's ability to adjust to the world around them can improve dramatically. This adopted daughter is now seven years old, and her story is unfolding beautifully.
"Something that has really helped her is pretending. It took a long time for her to learn how to do that but it's something she loves now. Dolls, Little People, Lego figures, action figures, whatever. She gets them all out and she makes up their world and totally lives in it for a while. It's complete fantasy but I think it's calming to her because it's safe and she's in control. She talks nonstop when she plays like that. Every figure has a life, roll, and personality. Trauma kids have to be taught how to pretend. They may be really good at lying (self preservation) but have no idea how to pretend (be vulnerable). When you play with him, try being absolutely fantastical sometimes. Even if it seems immature or beneath him."
Whether a child is brought home from birth, or years later; domestic adoption, or international; all children are seeking love and safety.
I'm not against doctors and medicines, and I agree that route may be necessary at times. However, I believe that the best way for our children to heal from trauma, is for us to understand them. Understand the "why?" behind the behavior. And I believe that better understanding, and erasing misconceptions, will allow all of us to love forward in the process of healing.
This mom is one of the many that inspire me daily. Without a circle of moms who are on a similar journey, I wouldn't be able to keep my head up most days. We aren't meant to do life alone. I'm grateful for those who continue to share their stories with me, and I hope this one reaches whoever needs it.