13 Years In Seems As Good A Time As Any To Look At Trauma, Right?

13

Today my daughter turned 13.

I’ve been struggling in the past week and a half leading up to this day. When she left after a visit last week, I felt depleted, empty, and overwhelmingly anxious. I did finally schedule a therapy appointment for this coming Friday, but not before suffering through a nearly all day panic attack.

The flashbacks are the worst during this time frame. I’ll just be sitting or standing or walking, watching TV or working or cooking, and suddenly I’m in a hospital room. Or I’m driving away from New Jersey. Or I’m in the clinic office. Or I’m alone, on Level III bed rest, in my basement apartment. Or I’m in the ambulance. I can hear the words that others say, what the doctors are saying over my head as I fight for my life yet again. I can feel the cold, damp air. I can smell the antiseptic smells of the hospital.

I have a strong, photographic memory about most things. I can remember what I wore on the first day of school every year of my life. But this is a very different experience. When I want to recall something in my past, I willingly go there and rifle through memories and pick out the one I’m looking for at the time. When it comes to the flashbacks, they come uninvited, unprompted. They take my breath away, quite literally. They’ve actually gotten stronger over the past few years.

A friend of mine used the word trauma to describe what I experience, and I immediately shut down.

I recognize there’s a lot of trauma in adoption, especially for adoptees. So why did I balk?

I have the best case scenario. I have a positive, on-going relationship with my daughter. I’m great friends with my daughter’s mom. We have nearly-monthly visits, save for occasional misses due to life. My sons not only know their sister but they love her. I am surrounded by loving, compassionate friends who show up at my house when I need them, who check on me, who want to be present with me in the good times and the bad.

I’m a mental health advocate. I have helped mothers who suffer from postpartum mood and anxiety disorders understand that PTSD is a real, treatable illness. I assure them that PTSD isn’t just reserved for our Veterans, that their trauma is real.

But me?

I chose this, right? That’s what some of my haters and trolls have reminded me of over the years. I chose this. I could have parented. I could have done a million things differently. Right?

Yes, I could have.

But I’m working really hard on understanding that I did the best I could at the time with the information and resources available to me at that time. I swear I’m working on believing it, internalizing it. It’s really, really hard.

Today, a beloved woman I am so lucky to know and call a friend shared this as part of her 24 days of poetry.

Forgive yourself.
For something you’ve been carrying around.
Say it out loud
into the air.

I laughed out loud when I read it. Today, of all days. My daughter’s 13th birthday on the 13th of December; her golden birthday. I’d love to forgive myself. People keep telling me to forgive myself, asking me to forgive myself, pushing me to forgive myself.

I just don’t even know how. It’s been my goal in therapy for years. I’m maybe like two steps closer to figuring it out, but barely. I don’t know what forgiving myself looks like, let alone how to get there.

Maybe that’s because there’s more trauma involved than I think. I don’t know yet.

But I do know this: 13 years ago I gave birth to my daughter. I loved her from the very moment I knew she existed and I have spent every moment since loving her all the more. If I had to relive all of this—every single moment of sadness and depression and anxiety and fear and loneliness and emptiness—I would. Would I change things, if I could? Yes. But if I had to relive it all just to have what I have with her now, I’d do it. I would do anything to have my daughter in my life. And I have.

I’m the mother of a teenager. I’m figuring it out as I go, the same as we all do. I am lucky to have her, and I hope she feels lucky to have me.

13

 

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From Interesting to Inspiring: This Is OUR Adoption Story

Interesting to Inspiring

And on the last day of November—National Adoption Month—I decided to write about adoption.

It’s not that I haven’t written about it this month. I’ve put pen to paper a number of times to journal experiences and feelings surrounding adoption and our family unit. But I come here and the words disappear. In fact, I wrote a bunch of words after that previous sentence…

…and I deleted them. Let’s start again.

I’ve allowed others who aren’t participants in our adoption story to dictate how I share my experiences, feelings, fears, joys, and all the in between about adoption. I’ve censored, deleted, and otherwise silenced myself. Some people didn’t want to hear about grief and loss or anything hard. Others didn’t want us to share joys.

Truthful sharing is not the enemy of adoption.

Silence is.

I’ve had to live our adoption in a much more public way this year. I’ve told our story more times with my mouth, as opposed to just writing it, more times this year than I have in all the previous years. I’ve stood in front of a room. I’ve stood on a stage—twice—and told my story. Our story. The story that started and continues and changes us regularly. The story we didn’t know would be like this, would affect people—like our children not yet born or considered—in so many ways, both wonderful and awful.

As all of our children continue to grow, I’ve also learned what parts of the story are mine to tell and which parts belong to others. That’s part of the silence on the topic here, on the blog, as of late. But not all of it.

It comes from comments like one my daughter’s mom received lately when she told another woman she is in business with her daughter’s birth mom (being me).

“That’s interesting.”
“Isn’t it great?”
“I would never do that. My kids are adopted, too, but they’ll never know their birth mothers. I mean, they’re Asian anyway.”

First: It is great. We’re kind of awesome. And it is interesting. We’re unique. We’ve always been unique in this sphere.

Second: Okay, lady. That’s fine. Your story doesn’t have to be our story. But there’s no need to be rude, no need to write off, no need to basically tell us that we’re doing it wrong.

Third: I’m totally over comments like this. Which is why I’m writing this on the last day of National Adoption Month. So here it goes.

Our adoption story is our own.

It doesn’t have to look like yours. Yours doesn’t have to look like ours. We don’t have to be unkind to each other on the in between.

I’m over deleting words in my own space. I’m over not sharing because those in certain camps won’t like it or me or might even launch a campaign of hate against me. I’m over caring whether we make you feel uncomfortable, because I’m not here for your comfort. I’m here to raise children who make this world a better place. If you want to feel comfortable, if you don’t want to think about the reforms that adoption desperately needs, if you don’t want to think about race and adoption, if you don’t want to think about mental health and the way it affects adoption, if you don’t want to think about more than shiny Gotcha Day photos, I’m not here for you.

I can’t control strangers on the Internet. Or ones I meet when I share our story in public. I can control my space, my reaction, who I let in my life, in my childrens’ lives.

I say all this in-your-face, I don’t have to take your crap soliloquy to end with this story.

After my daughter’s mom and I stood on a stage earlier this month and shared our story, no less than a dozen people came up to us throughout the day and used the same statement: “Your story is so inspiring.”

We didn’t choose this path and create this family unit to be inspiring. We don’t wake up in the morning and think, “How can I inspire others today?” Mostly because we’re tired in the morning. We just live our lives. Out loud nowadays, together more than we ever have been, and let me tell you, it feels good.

It feels right.

There’s a lot of hard stuff going on behind the scenes that outsiders to our story don’t need to know. But the work we’re doing together as a family unit feels right. Focusing on our issues instead of what others think about our issues feels right. And if that ends up inspiring others, we’ll take it. And if it ends up offending others, well, there’s the door. I’m not concerned. Because we also don’t wake up and think, “How can I offend others today?”

If we’ve inspired you to think differently about adoption in some way, great. If we haven’t, that’s okay. We’re still gonna do our thing.

And I’m finally gonna write it.

Interesting to Inspiring