Adoption Trauma…is it a Thing?

If you follow any part of the adoption triad organizations on social media there has been a lot of discussion regarding adoption trauma. Whatever your stance is on the issue, I can tell you first hand, that regardless of when a child is adopted, there is some trauma that occurred. There have been studies that have been shown even while in utero, “the human fetus is capable of auditory processing and in fact, is capable of processing rejection in utero.” 1 Once those babies are born and are removed from their biological mother, that newborn is unable to process the loss of their biological mother. There are other studies which state that our response to trauma is coded into our cells, that even as young children and even adults, our response to certain triggers is involuntary, we react by instinct. Sometimes we, as adoptees are unable to explain our behavior, if we recognize it at all. How can we recognize something that we aren’t even aware of? There are also studies that show that when a newborn or infant monkey was cared for in consistent and inconsistent intervals which concluded that those monkeys which were cared for inconsistently showed a higher rate of insecurity, lower social standing, anxiety and depression among other things. This study also mentioned that these monkeys who received inconsistent care were unaware and their reactions and stress were stored within their lympathic system, that with each situation of rejection or abandonment, it would bring the person back to the initial trauma and our body would begin to react on instinct, as it did during that first initial trauma. For us, that pain is real, each rejection we faced throughout our lives felt as if we were re-living that first instance of trauma over and over again.

The first time that I came across this information was 3-4 years ago. I was working through an abandonment workbook. The concept it was explaining was that in our limbic system we store our first emotional memories which is the foundation of how we eventually react to certain stimuli. The workbook continued to state that when we would experience rejection or abandonment or loss, our emotional response would revert back to the our “first” instance of that same emotion and we would emotionally respond based on our limbic system. We have already been “pre-wired” in the way that we respond. That we involuntary emotionally feel the way we did that first initial loss. Isn’t that amazing? This theory means that each instance of loss, we emotionally go back to that first instance and emotionally “relive” those emotions over and over.

This blew my mind. I couldn’t believe first, that our body was that incredible that we have the capability to store those type of memories, as I reflected back through the workbook it made a lot more sense as I look at instances of loss in my life. That being said, I believe adoption trauma is real, I believe that no matter the age or situation of the child, it is still “traumatic” to separate  them from a biological caregiver. Does this change my opinion on adoption? No, and even though I am an advocate for family preservation, I am aware that everything may not be so cut and dry, that there is some gray area.

I know that there are those that disagree with me, that believe family preservation is the only way, but I disagree, I don’t believe everything is black and white, there is some gray and this is one of those things that I believe there are some situations which adoption may be the best course of action.

 

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