In the evening on Friday May 20th, 31:20 will host our first official adoption support group. By far, this is not our first support group gathering….every time we get together... at the park for summer book club, at an event or even for our monthly planning meeting we inevitably end up chatting about our kiddos, adopted or biological. We have been supporting one another for years! The women of 31:20 are so blessed to have each other to lean on. We know one another’s families, we pray for each other and we live in community. However, we know there are many adoptive families who are struggling without a network of support. We want to create a time and some space for those adoptive moms and dads to get encouragement and find connection.
If you are new to the world of adoption, you might wonder why we would need a support group? Years ago, I thought the same thing. I was in the midst of filling out paperwork and waiting to bring home our first adopted child. I couldn’t understand why anyone would need a support group once they brought their child home. Afterall, wouldn’t my new son assimilate after a few months and we could continue on with life as we knew it?
I did not understand that every child that is placed for adoption has experienced some sort of loss or trauma. Even a newborn experiences loss. For 40 weeks they have been in the most intimate relationship with their birth mom. “Throughout pregnancy, a baby experiences and is shaped by what happens to its mother. At eight weeks in utero, the baby moves in response to touch, sound, and light. After 28 weeks, she can hear. By the third trimester, he responds to sound and rhythm. The strongest prenatal communication between baby and mother is hormonal. A mother’s stress causes her baby to react. Research shows the baby may even play a major role in controlling the beginning of labor. Hormones from the baby may stimulate the uterus to contract. In the first few minutes after birth, a newborn can recognize its mother’s voice, resonate to her heartbeat and find food.” (pactadopt.org)
So in the best adoption scenario where the birth mom has cared for herself and her unborn child, when that newborn is removed from his mom he will experience loss. That is the very best possible situation. However, nearly all of our adopted kids have stories that are far from that best case scenario. Add in substance abuse, extreme stress or even physical abuse during pregnancy and this unborn child will come into the world with a brain that has been altered by chemicals and/or stress hormones. Then imagine a child who had these traumatic in utero experiences, add in a difficult birth, separation from birth mom and malnutrition. Place them in an orphanage where they receive attention approximately 1 hour or less a day instead of the almost constant attention a newborn needs. They cry and no one responds, they are fed and held by caregivers who are distracted and disconnected. Or leave them with a drug-addicted or mentally ill mom and the outcome for that child becomes more and more bleak. This baby’s brain has developed in a completely different way than a baby with a nurturing mother. It takes years, and sometimes even a lifetime to reverse this kind of mental, physical and psychological damage.
I am embarrassed that I ever believed my son would come home and fit right in without any issues. His brain did not have the chance to develop the same way my biological kids’ brains did.
Here is where the support piece comes in. I don’t have one friend who has an adopted child that has come to them from that best case scenario. All our precious children have stories varying from painfully sad to completely horrific. So as we bring them into our homes, invariably we encounter difficulties. Some difficulties are almost comical and others are so heartbreaking or overwhelming that we simply don’t feel like we can share them with anyone who has not walked down a similar road.
Starting in May, we at 31:20, want to create a monthly gathering for those moms and dads with adopted children. We want to be able to pray for each other and laugh with each other. And above all, listen to one anothers’ stories, be able to look each other in the eye and say, “you are not alone”.
For more information, email Alicia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To Sign-up, visit: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/30e0944a5aa2faa8-mayadoption