Today, after one stick and lots of needle adjusting, a sweat and tear soaked 4 year old and her mama stepped out of the lab room and into a silent waiting room with no less than 6 adults who looked upon a sweet and hurting 4 year old with sadness in their eyes.
I felt the need to explain to the receptionist… “I’m sorry. There is just so much medical trauma from China.”
There wasn’t a soul in the building who hadn’t heard her sobbing.
Not one person who didn’t hear her begging me to take her home.
What they didn’t see was her eyes clenched tight and her tears soaking both of us.
They didn’t see the look in her eyes when we sat down. The eyes I saw in China. The eyes I see at every medical appointment.
What they didn’t see is me trying to bring her back to me while the tears rolled down my cheeks. Whispering, “please look at mommy. I am right here. You are so so brave.”
This isn’t just a dramatic or scared baby.
This is trauma.
This is trauma so deep that she can’t look at me.
That she in those moments becomes a shell of the baby we have fought so hard for over the last 28 months.
We prepare her. We have talks with her. We tell her how brave she is. We do the only thing we know to do before an appointment. I can even manage to get her to put on a brave face for a picture to show daddy how brave she is.
But, as I pull into the parking lot, she becomes silent. And quietly asks me to please take her home.
And if I could, I would take her home immediately.
But, Maleigh has a life threatening condition. It’s genetic and it’s rare. She does not, nor will she every produce cortisol. Something we need to live.
Maleigh’s life is dependent on 2 different steroids. It is a delicate balance of enough steroids to keep her alive and healthy but not so much that it stunts her growth. Maleigh requires quarterly labwork with a specialist appointment and will for the rest of her life.
This quarterly labwork began in China. And that’s where the trauma began. I’ll never know what happened during those blood draws…just the stories I have heard. I don’t need to know what happened. I can see it in her eyes. I can feel it when she is trembling.
It is so so so easy for anyone to believe that she was “adopted young enough” that she won’t remember. And, as an adoptive mom, I know you mean well when you say it. All adoptive parents know that. But, it is not that simple. Not even close. Trauma begins at birth for these children. The moment they are no longer with their birth mom, the trauma has begun to change the brain.
In fact, if her story was different, and her mother died at birth….not only would you think her trauma is warranted but you would grieve for her loss. But, because she lost her mom to adoption, people don’t grieve for her loss but instead tell her how “lucky” she is, diminishing the trauma she and other adoptees have endured 😦
For many adoptive children, speaking for the majority in orphanages, the trauma continues well beyond birth. Babies left to cry in their cribs for hours, babies not getting the interaction and human touch that they need. Medical procedures without a loving parent to help them recover. Labwork without having someone whispering in their ears that they’re ok, that they’re loved.
I actually got myself off track here…but I just needed to get this all into words because, so many times we are told that she will “grow out of it.” but she won’t. If only it were that simple. She may one day face labwork with little or no fear at all. But, it will not come from something simple like “growing out of it.”
It will come from work for her. Working through trauma isn’t just a switch we can flip.
Remember this when you see children from hard places struggling ❤
Remember this when you try to provide support to a mama of a baby that brings down the house with their screaming and freaking out.
We are all fighting a battle that can’t always be seen ❤