' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Does surrender (for the birth/first mother) and adoption (for the child) lead to PTSD?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Does surrender (for the birth/first mother) and adoption (for the child) lead to PTSD?

One adoptee Facebook friend, Robert Wilson Harrington McCullough, wrote a note a couple of weeks ago that I want to share with readers all--natural moms, nurturing moms (to use his phraseology), and adoptees because he discusses the brain wiring that makes some of us so sensitive to all matters adoption.

For instance, the other day, my neighbor and friend, Yvonne, whom I've written about before, and who has never heard of an adoption that wasn't peachy-keen and the adoptee just happy as a pig in a sty to be raised in a family not their own and original, told me that she heard that another neighbor, a young man whom we both like tremendously, and the girl friend who moved in with him a couple of months ago are now looking into adoption. I say young, because I'm in my sixties; he's probably either late thirties, most likely forties, and the age of his girl friend is probably the same. In other words, they are  like a lot of young people today...waiting and waiting and waiting to settle down with a partner until the time when conception comes easy is long over. I suppose we do have The Pill thank for this...the 50th anniversary of The Pill, incidently was...Mother's Day.* But I digress.

Their answer to the age old dilemma of fecundity decreasing with the onset of the forties and perhaps, peri-menopause? Adoption. If Sandra Bullock, Angelina, Madonna, Meg Ryan, Sharon Stone, Katherine Heigl, Michelle Pheiffer, Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, Hugh Jackman, Senator (TX, R) Kay Bailey Hutchinson,** and the lady down the block all have adopted children, why can't we?

Yvonne then held up two fingers entwined, opened her eyes widely, and nodded her head in approval and hope. Not exactly the f!@#ing reaction I was having. I said a few things nearly incoherent words about stealing babies in China and India to feed the market here, that adoption screws up people way more than she's ever acknowledged, that why didn't they support the poor woman who couldn't keep her child, and that she had no idea what she was talking about before I left. Grrr...that was part of my buildup to Mother's Day.*

You wonder why this birth/first/natural mother went into a funk in the middle of the week? That did not help. I am not really sure what I am going to do about our "friendship." Our lives have been somewhat entwined for several years, and Yvonne is 80 and needs some assistance from a neighbor; there is much else about her that is worthy. She has called me "her youngest sister." It was only about a year ago I realized how truly far apart we are about the realities of adoption, and how much that would lead to such a split in our relationship. I asked her to read my memoir, Birthmark, and she did, Birthmarkand she was moved, she said...but that did not change her thinking. One of her oldest friends is an adoptive grandmother to a child or two from Siberia, and that woman's husband has called me: our greatest nightmare. Cool. They are my greatest nightmare.

Now I am not sure I even want to be around Yvonne. I spoke to my old-pal-in-arms Florence Fisher yesterday, and her advice is to simply stay away. I know that for the immediate future, I sure as hell need to do that. She may be one of those toxic people in my life that therapists talk about today.  But it's not going to be easy, she lives too close; we've been too close. She's like family, only she's not. Family.

But my reaction to Yvonne, while I do not think it was an over-reaction, led me back to the essay that Wilson Harrington McCullough wrote. We have written about the after effects of surrendering a child to adoption before: Does giving up a child for adoption make you sick? I maintain the effects of the trauma of relinquishing a child are real and lasting and can not help but be detrimental to one's health. A primal wound, in other words. And I doubt many women can somehow bury thoughts of the baby who is lost once they sign the surrender papers and move on without examining what has happened to them, and the child.There must be a group of them, and many of them are the women who reject a reunion with their surrendered "birth" children.

Anyway, all  of this is by way of a buildup to Robert Wilson Harrington McCullough's piece, which I found enlightening. Some of you on Facebook may have read it already, but I wanted to share it here:
An article in this month's Scientific American triggered some musings in my cabeza. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=faulty-circuits The premise is that neuroscience is now using imaging to map what actually occurs in the brain in realtime for patients suffering depression, OCD, ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health disorders.

The human brain is a complex mechanism which is constantly evolving, building new pathways along prewired inherited structures. I was particularly interested in their findings on PTSD, because many of the effects common to adoptees are similar to PTSD.

The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted ChildI believe Nancy Verrier's assesment of the Primal Wound as a trauma is essentially correct. The separation of an infant from the only environment he has known since quickening in his mother's womb has deep emotional effects at the beginning of life. Surrender of a child is likewise a trauma; though relinquishment usually occurs at a later age than adoption, a huge loss like this is no less a severe interruption of a person's personality than "battle fatigue".

What the article pointed out was that the brain has normal processes (called extinction) to gradually diminish the effects of trauma which under normal circumstances make the memory recede in significance. In PTSD, however, the person becomes stuck in a loop which bypasses the parts of the brain which normally reduce the pain; in fact, the brain rewires itself to the point where slight triggers can cause anxiety and stress equal or even more crippling than the original trauma.

The implications are that there are ways to rewire the pathways and learned responses to overcome this, by therapy and targeted medications. I agree with this; the way to overcome irrational fear is to expose oneself to the causes of fear in a controlled, nonthreatening environment, and gradually reinforce new responses instead of falling back into the old pattern of trigger/response.

While I was pondering that, I heard a segment on NPR dealing with foster children who age out of the system at 18. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125729965

What struck me from this was the similarity to adoptee experiences; the feeling of not fitting in, of high rates of involvement with criminal justice system, of becoming single parents at an early age, and of abandonment issues. The defining factor between success and failure seemed to often depend upon the parenting they received; most of them say had it not been for a good home placement, they would have had real problems like many of their peers.

This led me to recall an Ira Glass segment on This American Life I heard several years ago: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/360/Switched-At-Birth

It is about two girls in Wisconsin who were accidentally switched at birth, and the struggles they had fitting into their families; it's hard to grow up the only extrovert in an introverted family, and vice versa! This story pointed out that it is not adoption per se which causes the feelings of incomplete identity, but the transferrence from one's genetic family to a nonrelated family.

Mulling over all these topics led to this thought; Normal personal and social development involves building the mental pathways, control mechanisms and coping strategies necessary to become a functional, happy member of society. This development, training and education normally begins within a family setting. Much of this occurs through observing and interacting with family members - People who are genetically similar! It is no secret that physical traits (hair color, stature, features) are shared in families; I can attest in my own biological children and family that intellectual and emotional traits also run in families.

My insight is this; most people develop coping mechanisms to compensate for neurologically based behaviors whether they be good or bad. They pass physical traits as well as behaviors along to their children, through both nature and nurture. For example, a biochemical tendency toward depression because of an imbalance in serotonin reuptake, or to ADHD because of similar imbalances, can be inherited - but successful strategies the parent learned to compensate can also be taught, and indeed are observed from infancy by the child. That is the normal course of human development over most of our history. However, it works best when parents and children share DNA. (Of course, unsuccessful behavior can also be taught - not every family is functional. Some families keep the "fun" in "dysfunctional" from generation to generation!)

When a child is transferred to a different biological family, the strategies may be inappropriate. Indeed, they may even aggravate the problem, by using the wrong methods, or disciplining incorrectly. For example, a non-musical family cannot understand why their non-biological child is always whistling or singing or beating time with their hands; not understanding it themselves, they decide the child is inattentive or preoccupied so they may even punish them for behavior which would be encouraged and developed in the correct biological family! It's like trying to read a Russian novel without a Russian/English dictionary. My point is that half the resources available to the biological child are missing in nongenetic families.

I believe this is at the heart of why so many adopted children, foster children and even children of divorce sometimes have social adjustment problems; they lack the appropriate compensating mechanisms which children raised in their biological families gain by proximity to those who share their emotional and intellectual hardwiring!
Certainly there were behaviors of my daughter that she was "corrected" for. In some ways she did fit into her new family of genetic strangers; in so many other ways, she did not, and the more I learned about them, the more difficult it became for me to accept what her being adopted meant to her sad life.
*For those who follow astrology even a bit, this year Mother's Day came during Mercury in retrograde when all kinds of communication and travel gets screwed up: Ergo the Greenland volcano erupting and disrupting traffic, the Times Square would-be bomber, the eruptions of anger that various comments have unleashed in the blogosphere, dishes sent from Michigan that were largely broken because the UPS guy did not mark them "Fragile"[a personal reference], flowers not delivered [ditto], flashes of anger when I spoke to my husband, and there's more. The good news is that Mercury goes out of retrograde on Tuesday (tomorrow), though it will take a while--a couple of weeks--for everything and everyone to calm down.

** If you know any more celebrity adoptions, please add them in comments. Thanks.  


  1. About the neighbour, I had a strong difference of opinion with a not close friend about adoption, she listened to my story, showed love and empathy and didn't change her views on adoption. I just don't discuss it with her, we have become better friends. If you like the neighbour and she has good qualities and you would miss her? Then you know what to do. If you feel she is toxic for you then you know what to do.

    Thanks for the info about the mercury in the whatsitcalled planet area - totally had that on Mother's Day it was really melt down for me.

    About the post traumatic stress thingy - yes and yes again. Had it, yes I got sick, yes I got most distressed, yes I still have recurring nightmares and yes I have developed very powerful tools to cope with them and stay focused on being happy. BUT - I have to work on it, and work on it I do because I want to be happy.

    About the Birthmother day - I don't care, do what you want. Ignore it, acknowledge it, as long as it is done in a way that is loving towards mothers of loss. It was intended to pay tribute and show respect and acknowledgement and that's how I read that it came about.

    You use the word birthmother all the time, that offends and upsets other mothers of loss.

    Let's just live and let live.

    Let's also not have separate camps, we all know that losing a child to adoption is painful no matter which way you do it or have it done to you.

    I am tired and have run out of fury, I just want to send out love to ALL the mothers who have pined for their children. They all, we all need love and empathy.

    I would also throw away a Mother's Day card that was specifically for "birthmothers" yes I would and I never received one from my daughter and hopefully never will.

    Glad the day is over, I missed my mother yesterday. I felt sad that I hadn't kept my daughter yesterday. Today I am doing good.

    Glad you had a good day Lorraine.

    Sending out love to ALL the mothers who read it. All mothers means just that.

  2. Woah! Your friend and the individuals you both were referring to (especially the ones who called you their "nightmare") need to step back, record the statements coming out of their own mouths, and then replay and relisten to themselves until they get a clue.

    I am so tired of people defending adoption or becoming offended at Family Preservation because of "all the couples out there who want children." That's precisely the problem. Is adoption about THEM? Or is it about the CHILDREN? Wanting what's best for kids means that a lot of times, an adoption shouldn't take place. That's something society needs to come to accept. So long as we sit and pout about all the "meanies" that advocate against traumatic seperations between mothers and children, we verbally agree that adoption should continue to be a service to fulfill parenting desires--and NOT what it should be: a rare humanitarian act to provide a truly needy child with a home when Family Preservation is absolutley impossible.

    When we defend adoption based on the parents who "need kids" we turn adoptees into commodities. I am sick of being seen as a commodity. I am a human being, not a "gift." Being a parent means wanting what's best for kids at all times--not just after the decree of adoption has been issued.

  3. Thanks Kim Kim...yes, we will probably find a way to still be friends...though her alienation from so much that my time is taken up with will always be a thing that keeps us apart since I won't share any of it with her.

    And thanks for your words. As I have said again and again, many bloggers use birth mother or birthmother because those are the words that people new to thinking about this and looking for information use. Like it or not, birth mother is part of our language now. I confess, since it's the "proper" word, I find that when someone slips and just says "biological" and doesn't really mean anything offensive, I like it. The feeling is less, er, schooled in PC.

    I too am tired tonight...but feeling better, as I said.

  4. Lorraine, would you please send me the link for this? This is something that I important to me. I was a foster child, a child of clinically depressed and bipolar parents and I have been looking for information like this forever!

    Information - the greater emancipator

    Thank you!

  5. I'm reading, exhausted from a long day, but wanted to respond in agreement with so much of what you've written.

    You're a better person than me Lorraine, as far as your neighbor - I find myself avoiding the naysayers and those who glorify adoption. I just cannot deal with them anymore.

    And PTSD?? Yes, most definitely and without a doubt! I too have developed coping tools, but I'm well aware that I am emotionally crippled as a result of the loss of my child. I wish more of the mental health community understood the impact of that loss on mothers.

    I've been a follower of Mercury Retrograde for years and this one was a doozey - my car had an expensive mechanical problem on Friday and I was also in a funk all weekend. Of course it affects anything to do with travel and communication, so it made sense. Interesting that the stock market chaos happened during it, as well! I'm so glad it's just about over because I always find it a challenging time. It comes 3 or 4 times a year - depending on the year...So we're safe now for a few months..

    Very enjoyable and enlightening blog tonight. Thanks Lorraine!

  6. Thanks Lorraine, reading Amanda's comment makes me think maybe I am too pliable these days. I never say that adoption is ok, but i don't have the energy to force people to see differently if they won't. People can really resist in the area of adoption, they want to hold on to their beliefs. I find it too painful to explain so just leave it because forcing the issue doesn't work with me. But I totally admire people who can do that and am grateful for them.

    About the birthmother comment I made, I meant that no matter what we say somebody will be offended. I don't give that word power anymore, so if someone says birthmother I like pfft whatever....you know. Same with biological, first, natural, there are other names I don't know? Oh yes I've been called a genetic mother...ha ha genetic that one is pretty funny.

    We're just mothers, sometimes you need a prefix to be clear I guess. And I don't feel at all offended by you writing birthmother just wanted to say that.

    My energy is in healing and maintaining equilibrium. I find being a mother who lost her child to adoption is a bit like surfing a wave. I have my tricks to stay on the board and keep surfing. Some days are better than others.

    I'm glad you were able to share your feelings here Lorraine, thank you for trusting us with your heart.

  7. Lori, we are not sure what link you want. The links are on the post...that we have.

  8. I do not believe in astrology, the Primal Wound, (which is as scientific as astrology:-)and do not have PTSD. My health is as good or better than other women my age who have not given up a child, and a bit better than either my mother or grandmother at the same age. Which is not to say I do not have some health problems, but they are the ones that run in my family and appeared at about the same age they happened to my parents.

    As my sons get older they have developed some similar problems as with blood pressure, but all of them deal with it by exercising seriously. That includes my surrendered son and we share health info back and forth all the time.

    I think that giving up a child can be a negative stress that can aggravate existing health problems, but at our age who had not had some stress or heartbreak in their lives? I have gotten to be good friends with the ladies in my water exercise class who range in age from 40s to 90s, and I do not see a big difference in their health and the health of myself and my birthmother friends in that age range.

    Some mothers, especially those who were very young and traumatized at being sent away, treated cruelly, thrown right back into school as if nothing happened, may indeed suffer from PTSD, but that is a very specific diagnoses and I do not think applies to all or most surrendering mothers.

    I am grateful for my relative good health at this point, and am trying to take steps to keep it that way. I have suffered from low grade depression on and off, but that was present in high school long before I surrendered. I do not think surrendering a child helped the depression, but it did not have a terribly detrimental effect on my overall health compared with others in my family and age group either.

  9. I know my comments are usually long, but this time to your question Lorraine, I say just a simple yes. I think having a child forced away from you and being told one is not allowed to know their parents names growing up causes PTSD. I also agree with Florence Fisher. You should stay away from Yvonne because I think she causes it too....:)

  10. I did want to say to that Scott Bakula and Ted Danson are Adoptive Parents and Mr. Danson is Adopted. Bea Arthur was also an Adoptive Mother snd her Adopted sons are Hollywood Producers.

  11. Lori, the article is in the April 2010 Scientific American - many libraries keep back issues. Only a summary is available online, unless you are a subscriber.

    Or I can send you scans of the article.

  12. Let me see. a) Because someone does not have what obviously appears to be impaired health due to the trauma of giving up a child [the writer clearly thinks about this even in her life because she is commenting here], some years later, that means that there is no lasting effect on anyone's health due to giving up a child--oh, it might aggravate an "existing condition." I guess the lady is made of iron.

    At the same time, other traumas such as divorce/death/etc are clearly shown to have an effect on your health, but giving up a baby is by and large given a pass? What planet is she from?

    b) Call it what you like, being given up by someone, no matter the reason, changes the emotional makeup of the person who is given up. They have to get over the feeling of abandonment that's deep in their hearts,and I think this is pretty well documented. Don't call it Primal Wound if you don't want to, but it's only common sense to accept that something happens to adoptees that is different from the rest of the population, ie, the non-adopted.

    c)I don't think Lorraine was asking you to believe in astrology, she was just explaining what she thinks is going on for those of us who have a mild interest. And the need for the cute putdown was?

  13. I did not say that surrendering a child did not have an effect on any surrendering mother's health. I'm sure it does for some people. Just saying that I do not think it has for me. It is just one of many life stresses that can have an effect, not the only or defining one, and how individuals react to stress varies greatly.

    I believe that the problems of feeling abandoned which many adoptees have begin when they are old enough to understand what being given up for adoption means,from about age 4 to 7, not at birth with some primal trauma unless there is also severe neglect as in an orphanage or bad foster or adoptive home. In normal circumstance, a child place soon after birth with loving adoptive parents, I think that any trauma from not being with the birthmother is temporary and the child adjusts.

    That the trauma of abandonment comes with realizing one has been abandoned does not mean that the sense of abandonment is not painful and real for the adoptee. It is just not a primal wound and it does not affect all adopted persons.

    If belief in Primal Wound theory works and explains your life to you and helps you cope, that is fine, Use it and take comfort in it. But realize it is belief, not scientific fact, and it does not work for everyone.

  14. PTSD is real and is valid whether medical professionals and academics acknowledge it or not. The point is to educate them that it does exist. WE KNOW it does. Towards that effort I wrote the following (shortcute is here:)
    http://tinyurl.com/ptsd-mothers It know it is long and I apologize for that BUT we have to educate these people and need to provide the references in order to do so. I think it is about 13 pages long. Let us know what you think. I'm thinking Lorraine would like to know, too. If the link doesn't work, Google "Adoption Induced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Mothers of the Baby Scoop Era."

  15. Well that is Maryanne's experience so that is her truth as she experiences and lives it. If I may speak for Maryanne.

    I really don't think I know any mothers who haven't experiences PTSD otherwise known to me as that post traumatic stress thingy.

    I know I have it/had it/have it and I deal with it and stay sane. I don't need to defend it or deny it or debate it too much.

    I have other blessing to contend with too and I don't need to debate those either.

    I just need to experience my life and my truth and adjust accordingly in the way that maintains sanity and well being to the best of my ability. I suspect Maryanne is doing the same thing. If saying she doesn't have it works for her then ok.

    I am not saying I agree with her nor am I saying I disagree.

    I think we need to know that we all look into this with our own eyes but we all have experienced the same heartbreak haven't we? Let's stand together on that can we not?

    So to answer the question, I think the lady is from planet survival?

    Yeah I totally agree with Janet but want to also say it's ok to be saying what Maryanne says.

    Getting way too pliable in my old age....

  16. Thanks for your generosity, KimKim. It was kind of you to defend my right to say how I feel.
    I do not have the symptoms of PTSD, which I have never said was not a real thing. It has been well documented in combat veterans, rape and natural disaster survivors, and survivors of traumatic accidents among others. I do not doubt that some women who surrendered may also have it, but I know many who do not, also some who do.

    We must know different people, but then there are an awful lot of mothers who surrendered a child. I do not think one has to have PTSD to have suffered because of surrendering, and I think some mothers imagine they have it after reading about others who do.

    Once again, it is about being able to discuss these things without having to make them universal or some kind of badge of being a "real" mother.

    No, I do not imagine I do not have PTSD, I am not rationalizing, I do not have the symptoms others have described, and neither do some other mothers I know. I have my own heartbreak and regret over giving up my son, but it is not a syndrome but normal regret and sadness for what might have been.

    I am not telling you or any other mother how you feel, or saying that you do not have any syndrome that you feel you have. I am not you, you are not me. Can't we all speak for how we really feel without relying on syndromes and labels that are supposed to fit all?

  17. Maryanne, you always imply no matter what you say that you are the sane one and the mothers who are bothered longterm by losing a child to adoption are the unhealthy ones, and tsk tsk to them. It's in your tone. Sorry, but it is. You don't seem able to live and let live. And you always have to have the last word. Check earlier posts if you doubt that.

  18. Wow, so dismissive and defensive. I for one always enjoy Maryanne's different voice. What she says speaks to my experience and perception as an adopted person. I have never suffered PTSD symptoms as I understand them either, nor does my bio/first/birth/natural/yourpref mother.

    If a person dares to suggest they are not suffering from anything clinical such as PTSD or experiencing intense feelings of loss, rejection or abandonment as I understand are described in books such as Primal Wound etc. than the person is accused of having a "tone" or are delusional and in some kind of denial.

    Heaven forbid anyone dismiss the pain and or damage in adoption but it's all well and good to take offense to and patronize those who've experienced something quite different.

    Live and let live my ass.

  19. Do non-drinkers go to AA meetings and say, "hey, me and my friends don't have alcohol problems, besides, I don't believe alcoholism actually exists. But if you want to tell yourself it does because it makes you feel better, that's okay."

    Sorry if that's a bad analogy, but that's the tone of some of these comments.

    There was a discussion of privilege on another blog re: adoptees who had a good adoption experience and if that good experience gives them a certain amount of privilege in the adoption arena. I think this line of thought about privilege could be extended to mothers who had a "good" adoption experience (or who at least don't feel they had a traumatic response); they, too, could be seen as having a privileged view based on their experience (which more closely fits in with the mainstream view of adopton as a win for all; talking about adoption-induced trauma is outside the mainstream, hence the discomfort of really talking about it without the usual gloss-over).

    See the following blog and long line of comments if you're interested in where the disucussion about privilege originated:

  20. "Does surrender (for the birth/first mother) and adoption (for the child) lead to PTSD?"

    is the topic of this blog post.

    If this is yet another place where those of us who are privileged are unwelcome to comment that should be clearly stated as Harriet has done on the blog that's been linked to.

    The analogy used is bad for the simple fact that none of the comments here indicate "alcoholism" doesn't exist.

  21. Hey maybe, that was a bracing good read. Thanks for the link.

    I try to keep this open to all voices--adoptees, birth/whatever parents, adoptive parents but when we go off on a back and forth, saying, well, my experience isn't like that, I am a birth/first etc. healthy person--and therefore I am going to keep reminding everyone that not all women go cuckoo after they give up their child, I do not understand the reason to keep posting here to diminish and denigrate those who feel otherwise. Which by implication such comments do.

    It does seem that if one's experience with adoption matters was such a positive experience, one would not bother reading adoption/birthmother blogs.

    Readers come here because in general, their experience about adoption sucks. Adoption starts with a catastrophe. Why did I get so excited and upset because a "friend" is hoping that the late thirty/fortysomething couple who live between us finds a child to adopt? Because, quite plainly, the adoption in my own life fucked me up quite a bit. And all matters of adoption-related conversations hit that trigger. Yes, I use salty language in my real life; always have and I've been too careful about not using it here.

    for the link that maybe suggested:

  22. PTSD is not a universal response to any trauma.

    About 60% of men and 50% of women experience at least one trauma in their lives. BUT the general lifetime prevalence of PTSD in the American population is 7.8%. Women are twice as likely (10.4%) as men (5%) to experience PTSD at some point in their life.

    Example: According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 1/3 of all rape victims experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Note: this means that 2/3 do not.

    Factors that affect whether or not trauma will result in PTSD are: the victim's immediate emotional response to the trauma, coping style, genetics, pre-existing conditions, substance abuse, previous emotional/physical/sexual abuse, trauma severity, lack of social support after the trauma, and additional life stress after the trauma.

    And of course, if a mother willingly surrendered her child -- if indeed the child was unwanted and she did not want to keep it -- she is not going to experience PTSD as it was not done against her will. It would not be a traumatic event for her.

  23. I would like to invite all to view "The Universality of Grief Experienced by Mothers who have lost children to adoption" at http://tinyurl.com/universal-grief

    It includes anecdotal reports as well as several research studies and pages of references on this subject.

    Because there are people who live to 100 or past smoking and drinking, does not mean it's good for anyone, and statistics prove that in fact they are unhealthy practices that take years off our lives, despite exceptions to the rule.

    Pointing to the exceptions is not conducive to the overall health of the masses. It is far wiser to accept the harm caused by such behaviors and to work to eliminate practices that unnecessarily create reported health problems. I cannot even fathom the purpose of arguing otherwise.

    I had a great uncle who was allegedly run over by a truck when he was 90+. Story goes that he got up and chased the truck. I sure wouldn't recommend it to anyone however!

    PS love your comment rules. May have "borrow" it!

  24. The analogy was "Primal Wound" and PTSD to "alcoholism". And a particular commenter has clearly stated she does not believe in PW. As for PTSD she thinks some mothers "imagine" they have it after they hear about it from others - I guess we've all just been talked into adoption-induced trauma. Now if only I could be talked out of it.

    Is all trauma the same? Is trauma felt by mothers the same as PTSD felt as war vets? Who knows, but either way, it still sucks.

    RE: Harriet only banned those who want to use their privilege to continue along the dominant discourse about adoption; those who can examine their own privilege and use it to look beyond the mainstream adoption rhetoric are welcome according to her post.

  25. Cedar wrote;"And of course, if a mother willingly surrendered her child -- if indeed the child was unwanted and she did not want to keep it -- she is not going to experience PTSD as it was not done against her will. It would not be a traumatic event for her"

    Just to clarify, the above statement does not apply to me or my experience. My child was very much wanted. Still is. He is the son of a man I loved deeply and hoped to marry. The circumstances that led up to me surrendering him after a year in foster care were very traumatic. At the time I was emotionally non-functional and passively suicidal, did not care if I lived or died. Surrendering my son severely messed up my life. It was not what I wanted, but what I felt I had to do at the point I truly "gave up" and surrendered.

    But I do not have PTSD although of course it exists and some of you have it. Does that mean you loved or wanted your child more than me? No, it just means we reacted differently to stress and trauma.

  26. "I think some mothers imagine they have it after reading about others who do."

    Maryanne, would you state the same about victims of rape, assault, robbery, or other violent crimes? Would you tell this to a war vet, fire fighter, police officer, or an emergency worker?

    If not, then why do you discredit and dismiss the possible experiences of natural mothers? Especially as PTSD symptoms can be directly measured as far as frequency and intensity?

  27. My point in writing the note was to share information about research into possible new targeted treatments for PTSD, ADHD, OCD, and other behaviors which are common among the adoption community and seem to have a basis in both heredity and trauma or experience. I think that's what attracted Lorraine's interest.

    Of course every person is unique, as are their experiences and how they have coped. To a child with a hammer, everything looks like a nail - that doesn't mean everything IS a nail!

    My intention was to offer some hope to those who feel trapped and wish to escape the loop they are stuck in.

    I do disagree (politely) with Maryanne about the existence of a Primal Wound. My perspective is not a mother's but an adoptee's, and I find it a hypothesis which explains more than any other I have seen.

    I was skeptical of PW at first as well - I don't remember my birth, so how could being relinquished possibly affect me? Then I spoke with my sister-in-law, who sat each of her children down on their third birthday and found they could describe in detail the surroundings of their birth - her premature daughter recalled the incubator, even the "man reciting numbers" that Mendy finally realized was the attendant calling out fetal oxygen levels. Another child recalled the living room in detail, as well as the midwife who attended her own home birth.

    We may forget where we filed those earliest memories, but that does not mean they are not part of who we are in infancy. Since infants experience things primarily through emotions rather than intellect, I don't dismiss Primal Wound as unreasonable.

  28. wow. I would totally go cuckoo if I gave away my baby. I think it is kind of a 'sane' response really.

    I think it would be sociopathic to be all, 'whatevs'

    Losing my mother was and continues to be the trauma of my life. I know some people tell me it isn't, and that I am making it up.

    I find that cuckoo.

  29. I remember when I waded in here several years ago not knowing if you would accept a comment from an adoptive mom. Over time, I have witnessed many people suffering. All I can say is . . . PTSD is no gold standard of suffering. People who lose spouses of many years or even raised children suffer trauma and deep grief but even that does not fall under the definition of PTSD, which usually rests on the perceived threat of overwhelming danger to self or others.

    The other thing the puzzles me is that PTSD is diagnosable and treatable, yet no one seems to talk about that. However, self-diagnosing is definitely not recommended. Can someone share their diagnosis and treatment and how it helped them? I would like to hear that. Because PTSD is not something you want to walk around with. Also, you want to make sure you don't have Acute Stress Disorder, which is not curable, but which is treatable.

    If you are convinced that relinquishing or being adopted causes PTSD, then maybe it would be a good idea to contact the PTSD organizations, join their lists, explain how adoption trauma may be relevant to an understanding of PTSD and find out who is treating this in your area. Otherwise, adoption is not going to count in the PTSD picture.

    I wish you all well.

  30. Well we don't need to debate it or defend it or prove it to anyone who doesn't feel that they have it.

    Oslo's comment is sort of ok but what she might not realize is that many of us suffered abuse at the hands of medical/health workers. We are hardly going to go back to people who broke our trust and ask them to officially give us the go ahead to say whether or not we feel a certain way....

    I know what I experienced and I know what I have done towards healing and feeling better. I know what I need to continue to do.

    One of the most healing things for me is do is to not let someone else tell me how I should or shouldn't feel about this trauma.

    Losing a child to adoption is traumatic, I really don't need to glamourize it or debate it or defend it. It just is.

    Other people have other traumas, if they were to tell me how they felt I don't think I'd ask them to go get an official diagnosis nor would I wish to make comments to deny them their truth.

    In the same way that I don't want to diminish or deny Maryanne her truth.

    Really so much bickering going on here.

    If you really want to find out if it's traumatic the only way you can do that is to let yourself be separated from your child and maybe if you are lucky be allowed to see them again 20 years later. Then if you are lucky you might even be allowed to email with them and vist every few years...You will have to let someone else be known as their mother and realize that your grandchildren will not necessarily recognize you as their grandmother.

    You can also have the fun experience of having people tell you what a great thing it was that you did, letting other people have your chid. They will congratulate you for doing the right thing, not burdening your child with you but stepping your scummy self to the side to let the better people do the parenting.

    Now why would something like that be traumatic??????

  31. Cedar wrote:
    Maryanne, would you state the same about victims of rape, assault, robbery, or other violent crimes? Would you tell this to a war vet, fire fighter, police officer, or an emergency worker?

    No, I would not, nor would I dismiss the words of any mother diagnosed and under treatment, or seeking treatment for PTSD, nor any mother not diagnosed but exhibiting all the symptoms. I would urge all to seek treatment for treatable emotional illnesses. I sought treatment for chronic depression and anti-depressants helped. Sometimes we all need some professional help.

  32. Osolomama, you have raised so many issues I don't know where to begin.

    -- Yes, only a psychiatrist or a registered psychologist can make an official diagnosis of PTSD. However, anyone can take a screening test for it, which gives you an indicates of whether or not you should seek a diagnosis. One of these is the
    PTSD Checklist (PCL-S). 17 questions, each scored from 1 to 5. Add them up (score out of 80). 50 is the "clinical cut-off."

    - The loss of a child to adoption is not listed in the DSM-IV-TR has a "gateway event" that can trigger PTSD. This is because it was never looked at by the working group who created the diagnosis. This means it can't yet be ruled out. Many clinicians take the advice on page xxxii of the DSM, which talks about clinical judgement and not using the DSM in a "cookbook fashion."

    - The DSM-V working group is looking at including the possibility of PTSD in a child as a result of separation from the parents. IMHO we should write and ask that PTSD in a parent in response to separation from a child also be considered. See link for drafts and how to submit comments to them.

    - PTSD is diagnosable and treatable, but there is a failure rate for treatment. Alleviation or cure of symptoms is not guaranteed. CBT has the highest proven success rate for treatment options.

    - A PTSD diagnosis can impact on whether or not one can access treatment (Freedy et al, 1004).

    - Acute Stress Disorder is a response to trauma that appears within 1 month after trauma and lasts at least 2 days. If it continues past 1 month, then by definition it is not ASD. Just as PTSD can only be diagnosed if the symptoms last more than 1 month post-trauma. ASD becomes PTSD if the criteria for PTSD are met.

    Yes, I agree with you, Osolomama, that natural mothers MUST join PTSD-related organizations (such as ISTSS, ESTSS, etc.) to state their case. Only then will researchers look at this issue and begin to do the necessary studies. We need to get our voices heard.

    (Source: M.A. in Counselling Psychology, member of ISTSS, diagnosis of PTSD from a registered psychologist (now in remission), author of a 10-session CBT treatment plan for PTSD, plus this is my training)

  33. Kim Kim,

    Nobody including me denied it was traumatic to give up a child. But all trauma does not lead to PTSD. People deal with and are affected by trauma in different ways, which does not mean the event itself was not traumatic. What seems to be mistaken by some here is equating lack of PTSD in some surrendering mothers with lack of trauma in surrender.

  34. Thanks, Anon, for the PTSD checklist!
    I took the test and my number was 28, way below 50 that would indicate PTSD. An important point to note is that they are asking about the past month, not have you EVER felt this way. I'd guess many of us did shortly after surrender, or for some, shortly after reunion.

    Is PTSD due to surrender treatable or curable? Can it dissipate on its own with time for some? I don't know which is why I am asking.

    Anyone else take the test?

    Also agreeing the surrendering mother with PTSD should make this known to PTSD researchers and therapists.



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