don’t tell me babies don’t feel trauma
We had a good time at M’s bio family’s party, celebrating her cousin’s 9th birthday. There were about 40 people there, no lie, about 21 kids! Everything went smoothly and we met M’s oldest sister who is 12 (and not that interested in her 4th baby sibling at the moment) and M’s great-grandpa and godfather! She had fun and sister #3, A, who I picked up and took home, had fun.
When we got home, came inside, M had a big meltdown. That doesn’t sound abnormal for a tired toddler but trust me, it’s different when rather than just whining and fake crying, she sobs like her heart is breaking. She also screamed, “no! go away” at me if I tried to touch her but cried even harder if I didn’t try to hold her. Yes, she was tired, but it was very evident to me, as her mom who knows every nuance of her every cry, that she was feeling something very deeply. This happened after we saw her bio family for the first time last year, too.
I think it’s very understandable. Yeah, she was 5 weeks old when she was taken from her family, but she’s not a grown up who has pretty much forgotten her early babyhood. At the age of two, something traumatic like that is really not that long ago in her short life. It’s been proven in studies that children up to the age of six can recall details in their babyhoods nearly as vividly as adults can recall events that happened in the last 6 years. It’s only in late childhood that our brain essentially “dumps” these early memories, with very rare exceptions.
So although she doesn’t yet have words to create a “story” out of, the memories and feelings of abandonment and trauma are less than two years old, still very fresh. That she knows, really knows, her bio family is very obvious to me. She doesn’t know how to explain the complex and heartbreaking emotions she has when she visits her first family, but it does come out in a very noticeable way.
So, I sat next to her and told her over and over, “Mama loves you, and Mama Cindy loves you. Aunt K loves you, and so and so, and so and so, and so and so loves you” basically all the people she knows, both adopted and friends and bio. And she calmed down. And I tell her that we’re going to visit them a lot and she’s going to see them soon, and she starts to feel a little better. Then I ask if she wants to watch Nemo, and have milk, and finally she stops crying and gives me an enthusiastic, “ok!”. Then she wants me to hold her.
So we work through it and I’m glad we’re doing it now, instead of 20 buried years later in a therapists’ chair!