Friendship and Understanding Post Adoption
When you are a parent to a child with attachment issues or a child that has come through adoption you find that normal friendships and relationships become more complicated, that you almost shut off a part of your life for fear of being misunderstood. I do not talk about adoption or attachment issues with my non-adoption friends unless specifically asked, they just don’t understand that parenting an adopted child or a child with attachment disorder is different. There seems to be this belief that children are resilient, their past is made sort of irrelevant, ‘oh well kids adjust, they’re with you now and you’re a great mum’. So it doesn’t matter what traumas they experienced in the eyes of my friends anything that happens henceforth is down to you.
I never dare utter the word trauma to a non-adoptive friend. Moving to a new family was not traumatic it was ‘a difficult time for them’. That’s as far as I can take it with a non-adoptive friends. I have used the word traumatic before and been given The Look. They may as well have scoffed ‘traumatic? don’t be so dramatic’. Friends view adoption as a rosy, glowing moment not unlike the time they held their newborn baby for the first time. ‘How did you feel the first time she called you mummy?’ I am asked repeatedly. I never know how to answer because it wasn’t an easy moment. The children (that can talk) are ‘trained’ to call you mummy, it doesn’t come from an emotional place or a place of love it’s just they have no other name for you. I can’t tell that to my friends because it’s a bit of a conversation stopper, it’s a bit too downbeat when they are expecting the answer ‘oh it was such a special moment’. There are special moments but the first time I was called mummy was not one of them, my daughter was far too tense and distraught for there to be any pleasure in the moment.
Friends don’t seem to realise that there is more to adoption than the actual event of adoption, the process we go through or the first time we are called mummy.
I have a friend that takes a great interest in my life and well, come to think of it, everybody else’s life too. She is vivacious and bubbly and wants to know everything about everybody and she remembers the important stuff. She remembers if your child has been to the doctors and always asks how you got on, you know just the little things that make you feel that somebody else is thinking of you.
This friend has asked a lot of questions about adoption and the kids and about all the different aspects and emotions that come with it but when it comes to me telling her about the difficulties that can arise or a bad day or Girl’s latest tantrum and more importantly why we have these problems I am met with the blanket phrase’ well you know…all kids do that’. An uncomfortable silence follows and I can’t even try to explain that they are reacting in the present to their past because in friend’s eyes the past is ancient history whereas actually the trauma Girl experienced in her past formed who she is today, the quirky but troubled Girl that I love with all my heart.
To invalidate her past is to invalidate my Girl and I myself also feel invalidated and I know it’s not intentional but it’s one less person I can talk to openly, another person I have to close off to because just in that blanket statement I have been labelled a neurotic mother and it leaves me questioning myself and our life and now more than ever I need friends who don’t sweep our issues under the carpet.
So I have read a lot of books, attended some training, I know what my girl has been through, I know the daily struggle my girl has with herself and I know I am vindicated in worrying about my Girl. Luckily, I have an army of friends in the adoption circle who know exactly how I feel, how lonely it can sometimes feel because talking to non-adopters can be really tough when they can’t empathise with your life. Our life isn’t talking about C-sections or breast feeding, it’s about contact, about privacy and security and placing authorities. Talking about the issues you go through on a daily basis is not a conversation stopper.
4 Responses to Friendship and Understanding Post Adoption
SW Social Woker
PASW Post Adoption Social Worker
SALT Speech & Language Therapy
CP Community Paediatrician