One of the things which is difficult to come to terms with as an adoptive mum is that I wasn’t always there to protect my daughter.
We met her when she was nine months old. She was in foster care from the day she left hospital until she came home to us so it would easy to think she won’t have suffered any significant trauma. I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions about adopting a young baby. And something there’s not a great amount of information about.
From what we know about birth mother, she didn’t drink or take drugs during pregnancy. There’s been no evidence of this from little miss in terms of her development and behaviour. However, she didn’t go to the doctors as soon as she found out she was pregnant. In fact, she didn’t go until she was over 30 weeks.
I think this was done so she could enjoy the pregnancy for as long as possible without the intrusion of professionals and assessments. Her motivation was a selfish one perhaps. But I don’t think it was done with the intention of harming her unborn child.
That doesn’t mean trauma wasn’t experienced by our daughter.
One of the speakers on our preparation course was a psychiatrist. Amongst other things, she talked to us about the impact domestic abuse can have on an unborn child. I think the physical risks to an unborn child whose mother is hit during pregnancy is pretty obvious. Naively, that’s the only type of impact I thought domestic abuse would have on an unborn child.
However, the psychiatrist told us about a study which had been carried out to try and find out whether an unborn child is affected by shouting and arguing. Basically a number of pregnant women were asked to play the EastEnders theme tune loudly a lot during their pregnancy. The tune was used because it has such a distinctive beat. The same tune was played to the babies after they were born. Their reaction to it lead to the conclusion that babies can hear loud noises such as shouting and arguing in utero.
The resultant increase in mother’s stress levels can also have a detrimental effect on the unborn child throughout their lives. There’s a lot of research on this point but basically there can be a connection between a stressed and anxious pregnancy and mental health issues for a child.
If you want to find out a bit more about this and you’re an Adoption UK member, they’ve got an informative webinar about how trauma can be caused during pregnancy.
Little miss has recently started to get very upset at any type of loud noise and specifically raised voices. This can be a raised voice for any reason. So if we’re getting loud because we’re excited about something, that has the same impact as a raised angry voice.
My initial reaction to it was that it is just a phase. But then the over thinker in me wondered, “is it because she’s adopted?”. Is it because of trauma she experienced before she was born?
As a first time parent it can be so difficult to work out what is normal and what isn’t. I do try and go with normal. So far, that has proved to be the case. However, this feels different.
Domestic abuse is something that is in birth family’s history and it could be the cause of her behaviour now. However, if we hadn’t heard from the psychiatrist about it, I wouldn’t be thinking anything of it now. I’m glad that we did learn about it because it’s alerted me to the fact that it could be more than just a phase.
At the moment I don’t think we need to seek any assistance with it. I certainly don’t want to make it into something that it isn’t. Hopefully, whatever the cause, it will pass naturally. We’re trying to be as reassuring as possible with lots of cuddles and talking about what’s causing the noise and how it makes her feel.
Whatever the cause, it’s really brought home to me the fact that I haven’t been there for the whole of our daughter’s life. No-one was there to protect her from whatever it was that went on between her parents. It’s completely irrational of me to feel guilty that I wasn’t there to protect her because I could never have been there. It doesn’t stop me feeling that way though.
As an adoptive mum, I have to accept that things have happened to my daughter before we met her. And it is for us to help her get through the effects of that.
We’ll probably never know what’s causing her distress at loud noises. So we have to find a way to help her through it and manage how it makes her feel.
First published 21st September 2017