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Twenty-Three Things This Korean-Adoptee Thought About as a Child Print
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
Another adoptive parent alerted me to this blog entry, originally published at Heart, Mind and Seoul. Paula, a Korean adoptee and adoptive mother, granted us permission to reprint the article. Many thanks for this honest, insightful reflection.

Twenty-Three Things This Korean-Adoptee Thought About as a Child
  1. That many times I was embarrassed and ashamed of my birth culture because it was so profoundly different than that of my family and my friends. That too often it served as an easy and irresistible source of teasing and fodder for others - strangers and classmates alike.

  2. That despite my parent's unconditional love for me, I couldn't help but feel that I was the last option for them to finally have children.

  3. That phrases like "Thank God we can always adopt" or "Well, at least there's a world of unwanted children we can adopt from since we can't have kids of our own" only fed into my belief that adoption truly is, for virtually all couples, the very last resort by which to create a family.

  4. That as a young girl, the thing I was most grateful for was not having a sister who was my parent's biological daughter. That even the mere thought of being compared or having to share my parents with a sister who was their "real" daughter was too much for me to bear. Being the oldest and the only girl was my way of telling myself that I was special, even when I didn't always believe it.

  5. That instead of always hearing, "You're so lucky to be adopted", that it would have been nice to just once hear "It must be hard sometimes to be adopted."

  6. That the insatiable need for me to be perfect was a way to make me feel more valuable, and therefore less likely to be abandoned once again.

  7. That the insatiable need for me to control every facet of my environment was a way to feel safe and secure during a time when I felt that I was disposable.

  8. That my mind understood why my Korean mother had to give me up, but that my heart didn't.

  9. That the message "She loved you so much that she gave you up for a better life" meant that it was sometimes scary to be loved so intensely by my adoptive parents.

  10. That deep down, I wondered if I could ever be good enough. After all, I was left and given away as a baby; why would anyone leave their baby unless that baby was bad and unwanted?

  11. That I dreamed of going back to Korea just to be able to fit in amongst my peers. That I would have given anything to just once be the girl who was thought of as being popular, pretty and "normal", instead of the one whose sole appearance brought forth so many unwanted questions and assumptions.

  12. That often I thought of ways I could make myself look more white, just so I wouldn't feel like such a monster.

  13. That I wondered what it would have been like to be the girl someone fought fiercely over, instead of feeling like the child my Korean parents didn't want and the daughter that my adoptive parents had to settle for.

  14. That I felt so incredibly guilty anytime I felt anything sad or bad about my adoption. That it was much better to hold everything in than to hurt my parents who I know loved and adored me more than life itself.

  15. That I became very adept at spinning my own adoption story, for the sake of my own survival.

  16. That it was impossible to be angry or hateful towards my Korean parents for leaving me, and yet impossible to forgive myself for being left.

  17. That I got to a point where my mind truly believed everything I was saying about not feeling any effects or fallout from being adopted, even if my heart and body felt markedly different.

  18. That one's body will not lie, no matter how much you ask it to keep on pretending.

  19. That my tantrums, outbursts and fits of rage were my way of trying to say, "I'm hurting so badly inside and more than anything, I am afraid that you will leave me."

  20. That love, no matter how deep nor abundant, can ever erase the past.

  21. That in spite of everything, I knew I would come out on the other side.

  22. That I have loved, and been loved and that one day I would feel that I was actually deserving and worthy of that emotion.

  23. That what others saw in myself would one day be evident to me as well. And hopefully one day, with God's grace, I would truly learn to love and forgive myself.

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I Didn’t Recognize My Child’s Attachment Problems Print
Saturday, 10 January 2009
Someone asked me how a child who seems attached as a very young child could then grow into attachment problems. Our youngest daughter, now 9, was adopted from China at 23 months. She definitely had some adjusting to do; she was older and truly put into some temporary shock over the trauma of adoption out of her less-than-desirable world in China to her incredibly different life with us. Still, after about 4-5 months she seemed to be doing well. She appeared relatively happy, came to me readily, and went to sleep fine in the room with her older sister (also from China and then 5 years old.) My younger daughter looked very attached to me. She came only to me when afraid or hurt. She acted pretty much as a toddler should act.

She had a cleft lip/palate. Her lip was repaired in China, but she's had eight subsequent surgeries since arriving home. Four months after coming home her palate was repaired. That helped us bond further as I never left her side.

Eventually we put her in preschool; we were encouraged to do preschool for her speech needs. Looking back and knowing what I know now, I shouldn't have done that. What's done is done. The first preschool required me to remain with her…which was good. We put her into a second year of preschool at a Montessori which was the best type of school for her, although I didn't realize it at the time. She wasn't expected to toe a rigid line in regards to schedule and she mainly chose her own "lessons" at the various learning centers each day. She first went twice a week, then three times the next year. She did kindergarten at Montessori and then I brought her home to homeschool along with her sister. At six years of age, during kindergarten, she began becoming more defiant and started not falling asleep well.

At ages 7-8 she really couldn't go to sleep until she had literally thrashed about in the bed, chattering about everything, nonsense or whatever. We had to give her her own room because she didn't allow her older sister to go to sleep. It usually took her two full hours of thrashing about and talking until she fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. It didn't matter if I slept with her or not.

By age 7 1/2 her behavior was really going downhill. She argued and cried and got violent in her anger. She wanted to kick and bite and scream. Things were bad. I didn't know what to do with her. She started having tantrums/rages over the slightest things. I was really frightened for her. No usual parenting techniques worked. We had raised three bio children successfully and had also adopted an eight-year-old daughter twenty years ago from the state foster care system. We had terrible times with her requiring respite care so I could survive. (We had no one able to advise us and there were so few resources available back then). I was so scared that this youngest daughter was becoming just like that first daughter.

Thankfully, another homeschool mother told me about neuro reorganization work at the same time someone else told me about the success she was having with attachment counseling. The attachment counseling was teaching that mother new skills and methods in dealing with the outrageous behaviors of her two Chinese daughters, also quite young. I looked up neuro, and then the counseling center therapists. We got started one year ago with both interventions. After over a year of despair, watching my daughter’s behavior go downhill, I was going to do anything that could help. We are doing both those interventions with good results.

Our younger daughter grew up into her anxieties and it manifested in her behaviors she simply had no control over. Her trauma of abandonment, terrible orphanage experience, and the shock of adoption all caught up with her. Looking back I can see what I missed with her:

1. She didn't want me out of her sight. She would beg me to stay with her at preschool, even in kindergarten.

2. She couldn't fall sleep. After a long time of excusing the behavior—figuring that it was her own individual body clock showing--I admitted to a niggling fear that something was wrong.

3. She started to bug, annoy, provoke her older sister to tears. I can see now it was beyond the normal sibling stuff. But I excused it then.

4. She would become very agitated and wound up when out in public or when I left her at home. Instead of becoming more and more able to be out in crowds or different places other than home, she grew up into more and more inability to handle those things.

5. She started to want to kick, hit, scratch, bite. She hadn't done that as a toddler, at all.

After starting therapy with attachment and neuro, I felt a huge weight lifted off of me. My instincts had been right, after all! Those behaviors weren't normal. They merely showed that she was not able to handle her anxieties and that she was "anxiously attached to me,” not normally attached.

As we expected more maturity with her chronological age and put her into places or situations where a child her age with a normal, healthy past and development would be able to handle it, our daughter’s behaviors progressively showed her lack of normal development. And, she has regressed more since therapies started. I now give her a bedtime bottle while rocking her and telling her a story. She stays with me (!) 95% of the time. I never put her away from me…for example, no time outs away from me. I try hard every day not to raise my voice with her or take a scolding tone. All those things are threats to her that she cannot tolerate. I feed her sometimes. She loves all the baby things I do with her. I bathe her after she has played with all her bath toys, like a toddler would play with. No joke. But she is healing, however slowly. But surely. I hope that this helps to explain the question of a child deteriorating with growth sometimes.

Since starting neuro work with our younger daughter, we started our older daughter as well. Both are in attachment therapy. All of a sudden the things pointed out to me about my older daughter made sense. For example, her desire to control everything and everyone. She's obedient and compliant, but she wants to do everything her way (!) and has since she was able to express herself. She was never cuddly or openly affectionate, and lacked eye contact when in close quarters. The atopic dermatitis she was seriously plagued with all her life was also a sign of a compromised neuro system. After a year with therapy, she's COMPLETELY free of that dermatitis. No more lotions, ointments, prescription meds. She is less controlling, more able to express herself emotionally. She's showing more spontaneous affection, although I doubt she'll ever be the cuddly type, which is fine. Looking back, I can see signs with her I didn't realize were actually symptoms of attachment disorder. Best wishes to all.

–Linda (a. 8 mo, 23mo, OR)

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DVD Review: Neurodevelopment Through Movements Print
Thursday, 13 November 2008
…a program of “Sequential Movements Activating the Brain Pathways for Learning and Attention Span” by Suzanne Day

Suzanne Day, a Canadian Neuropsychologist, has produced a DVD demonstrating sequencial movements designed to activate “brain pathways for learning and attention span.” Day’s program, “Neurodevelopment Through Movements,” based on the work of Dr. Temple Fay, neurologist, comes from the idea that neuroplasticity allows people to improve brain function, even wiring areas that may have problems due to interruptions in development…which can be caused by any number of things, including deficits or stressors in the early environment. In her DVD she describes the role of each part of the brain and explains how issues in various areas may relate to certain behaviors. She goes on to outline how normal development happens and suggests intervention that can help children who’ve undergone neurodevelopmental interruption. Day presents a step-by-step program designed for children to do at home each day in an effort to improve neurological function, giving the brain a “second chance” from the brain stem to the cortex. A child (adopted from China, incidentally) demonstrates all the moves on the video. Following this 6-minute demonstration of the entire program, Day explains in detail how to do each movement. A fellow adoptive parent tells me that the program takes about 17 minutes a day with her son.

The program shares some similarity with Move to Learn (Barbara Pheloung, Australia) and portions look very familiar to anyone who has done a neurodevelopmental reorganization program with groups like NNTC or Active Healing. But it is unique. One thing that sets it apart is Day’s use of poetry/verse with the program. On the DVD she uses Bible verses to determine a pacing for each movement, but she states that any poetry could be used.

Several parents attest to how the program has helped their children. In the “bonus features,” I found it particularly impressive to listen to the testimony from one family who did the program with their daughter, adopted from China. Families report wonderful progress. Day documents improvement with several clients on the DVD, sharing both brain wave and standardized testing results.

If the cost of hiring a neurodevelopmentalist (who would prescribe an individual program) is prohibitive, Day’s program is an alternative way to approach neuro reorganization. Suzanne is also in the process of recording the French version. The DVD is available through Day’s website. On the website you’ll also find a plethora of helpful—and free—articles.
Book Review: Mother Warriors Print
Sunday, 12 October 2008
I just finished Jenny McCarthy's book, Mother Warriors. In the book she describes several parent's journeys to get help for their children with autism. Time and again, she and the other parents in the book, are told by professionals that things like dietary changes are worthless, even "dangerous." They are told that autism is a permanent condition and that alternative therapies are a waste of time.

McCarthy goes on to describe how these parents ignored the professionals and did everything they could to heal their children. McCarthy writes,
"A Mother Warrior Is...

A mother who hears there is no hope for her child and, instead of retreating and mourning, breaks down walls, weaves her way through obstacles, follows her intuition even when people tell her she is crazy. She is a mother who believes in hope. A mother who believes in miracles and is able to carry on with strength and determination, even when her partner doubts her and offers no support. A mother who never gives up when she keeps hitting dead ends. These are the women who will continue to open the door so future generations of kids don't have to suffer. These are the mothers with hearts of gold and shields made of the strongest armor.

I know in my heart that someday this era will be marked as an era when a group of parents fought the giants to help save their babies and future generations. Margaret Mead, the late great sociologist, once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
I haven't been closely involved with the autism movement, but I know many, many mother warriors through the adoption community; mothers who are working to heal their children from debilitating attachment/trauma/development issues that are so often inherent with adoption.

I encourage you to read this book and look around you...chances are you are also surrounded by warrior parents...who each and every day are fighting for the physical and/or emotional health and well being of their children. If you know one...or two, or ten, or hundreds, ...take a moment to tell them just how wonderful you think they are!

YOU ARE WONDERFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This book reminds me so much of the journey that we've been on.... My son's conditions have never been physically life-threatening, but they did consume almost every moment of every day for several years. We, too, were told that this was not curable, that we were wasting our money. I'm here to say that the professionals were wrong.

Carry on, parent warriors everywhere!!!!
Adoption Book for Kids to Make (includes God references) Print
Tuesday, 05 August 2008
Some siblings in the A4everFamily have been hard at work. We'd like to post the following information with the hopes that other families can benefit from this information.

Here's a message from the kids...

Our brother’s early life was a lot more stressful than ours was. He didn’t get to stay with his birthmom or even in the country of his birth. At times, our brother’s story seemed overwhelming and, well, sorta sad. Our nana wanted to help him see his early life in a new light. She helped him to write a book called The Special Thing About the Baby’s Journey. Through it, our brother is able to see how God’s hand was with him on the journey to our family. The book has movable parts and is interactive, so our brother really enjoys reading it with us. He also illustrated each page and is proud of the hard work he did.

Our brother finds comfort in this story. We’ve written a guide to help you write a similar interactive book with your child. The 17 page ebook provides step-by-step instructions. Patterns and photo examples are included.

This is not a lifebook, nor is it a scrapbook. It is not meant to disregard the difficulties that your child may have suffered, but neither is it designed to address those hardships. (We suggest consulting an adoption specialist if you need assistance in this area.) Rather it is a storybook that helps your child to see his or her infancy in a different light…one in which God’s hand was continually at work.

Before starting this book, our nana told our brother about her infancy. (A home birth with a doctor and typical entry into a biological family.) After our brother heard both stories, he told our nana, “Your story is boring compared to mine!” That was a big change from the grief that he’d recently experienced in processing his story. We hope that your child can also benefit from seeing God’s hand at work in his or her early life.

Go to www.handshelpinghearts.com to get your ebook.
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