I am forever impressed by the miracle of life and the way humans are hardwired for survival. I heard the other day from a trauma expert, Janina Fisher, Ph.D., the notion that people who have PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) might rightfully be proud for it. At that point my ears tuned in sharply. She went on to say those early humans with PTSD were the ones that lived to procreate and carry their genetic material forward. Hmmm, never thought about it that way before, but I get it. Those with hardwired survival brain structures were on high alert and therefore ever prepared for the inevitable attack of lions and tigers and prehistoric creatures, per se.
Babies Can Have PTSD at Birth
When a baby has spent 9 months in utero with bio-mommy and lands in the loving arms of adoptive mommy at birth, some babies will develop PTSD right then and there. Well, what is the trauma? Where is the stress?
In utero the baby knows the mother’s voice, smell, heart rhythms, feelings, living environment, and even food preferences. These things can be disturbing or soothing to the baby, specifically the baby’s brain, before the baby is fully formed. Even if the bio-mother’s condition is stressful, the baby knows this mother as his or her life-force.
During the trauma that we call giving birth, the baby goes through all that pushing, screaming, stress, intensity, and shock of entering the bright lights of this strange new world and immediately cries out in distress for that familiar voice, smell, heart rhythm. In adoption, the new mother shows up excited, wanting, anxious to be the one to soothe, bond, love, and console the tiny bundle into quiescence and a new home.
Inside the Adopted Baby’s Brain
Here is what is going on inside the limbic brain of the newborn? The limbic part feels but has no words. If the feelings where given words they might sound like this:
What! Who are you? Don’t touch me. Where is my life-force? Where is the one I know? Where did all I know go? I am afraid? I am going to die? I am afraid? I am going to die? I am afraid? I am alone? I am going to be eaten? I am dead already. I don’t want this. I don’t want you. I don’t know you. I don’t know my name. I don’t know. I am scared. I am going to die. I have been left. Abandoned. Given up to danger. Lost from my source. Forgotten. Not wanted. Not loved. Not worthy of keeping. Left alone. I better fight. I must resist the dangerous enemy holding me. It’s big. I’m not. It scares me. It’s loud. I’m cold. It feeds me. I’m hungry. It feeds me. I’m scared. It feeds me. I resist food. It still feeds me. I feel sick. I’m tired of fighting. I give in. I give up. If you eat me, I don’t care. Nothing matters. I don’t matter. It doesn’t matter. I will become part of the bed, the walls, the ceiling. I will eat, but I will not need. I will take care of myself. I will survive it. I must survive you. I won’t need anything, ever. Survive. Survive. Survive.
Some babies come to accept the food, the comfort, the tending. They grow to feel safe and accept that they are being chosen to live, to thrive, to be loved.
Some stretch that birth paragraph of frightening experience over several days, weeks, months, and, for some babies, out into latency, adolescence, and adulthood.
Why do some adjust and other’s don’t? Research lands that at the feet of birth order, genetics, parent attachment styles, temperament, situational circumstances, IQ, EQ, epi-genetics.
Who cares? Some just don’t adjust or come to terms with their life’s circumstances. Some get stuck in survival brain. Their bodies get bigger, but their brains are stuck on that early implicit experience of being lost, left and given to strangers. That means they have behavior you do not understand. They have emotions that seem ridiculous and exaggerated.
Attachment breach PTSD explains it. And, if you are living with it, now you know what is going on with your child who has had all the benefits of a perfect life and hasn’t a clue how to take advantage of it, be grateful for it, or simply succeed in it–not one freaking clue.
Get Your Family Qualified Help
In case you think I am making this up, check out all the prenatal/postnatal research on the matter. It exists. It’s a thing. This thing may be your experience with your child. Once you know, there is hope. There is hope. Get help to understand what might be going on inside the body, mind, heart of your adopted child.
YOU ARE INVITED. Open and Free to the Public:
Strengthening Attachment with Hurt & Traumatized Children. Click here for more information.
Presented by Ce Eshelman, LMFT of “The Attach Place,” Sacramento, CA.
Saturday, April 22, 2017 – 10:00 am to 1:00 & 1 to 4:00 pm
TRAINING LOCATION: Woodland Community College – Building 100 – Room 101
Join our monthly Adoptive/Foster Parent Support Group on May 10th, 2017! Open to all parents/caregivers at no cost. Support group is every 2nd Wednesday of every month from 6pm to 8pm at 3336 Bradshaw Road, Ste 175, Sacramento, CA 95827. Free child care provided.