Friday, June 30, 2017

Dear Sugar: On Multiracial Motherhood, From Diedre Anthony's Point of View

Dear Sugar:

Today I'm introducing you to one of my newest favorite people, Diedre Anthony.  Diedre is the author of a fabulous up-and-coming blog called Are Those Your Kids?  And if you follow me on Facebook, Diedre and I have made multiple appearances together on Facebook Live, talking about hair, nosy strangers, school, and much more.  

What I love about Diedre (pronounced Day-dra) is her authenticity.  What you see-hear-read is what you get.  She's also incredibly supportive of fellow multiracial families, running a Facebook group just for moms like me (and you?).   

Rachel:  Tell me about yourself. 

Diedre:  I've been a school counselor for 10 years...a middle school one for 6 of those years. I guess you can say that has prepared me to deal with drama :) 

I live in Statesboro, Georgia, a small town 45 minutes from Savannah, Georgia. Thanks to the college, it has brought diversity to our town. I met my husband here while in graduate school. He was born and raised here. We have been married for 7 years and dated for 3 years prior to getting married. We met while folding shirts in the men's department at JCPenney. 

I'm an "Air Force brat" but I grew up on the same base for the majority of my life. Looking at my group of friends was like looking at the United Nations. The base brought a variety of cultures and races together. Diversity was our way of life. 

I have 2 daughters ages 3 and 5 going on ages 16 and 21. They both have very different textures of hair. Trying to figure out what worked best in their hair is what prompted me to start my blog, Are Those Your Kids. I couldn't find many resources for biracial kids, so I decided to be that resource for others. 

In my free time I love to write, shop for makeup and hair products (I'm a self proclaimed product junkie) and read.

Rachel:  What is the mission of your blog, Are Those Your Kids

Diedre:  To empower multiracial families with resources and help them navigate the journey of raising biracial children. Having a multiracial family poses some unique challenges that monoracial families never have to consider. All sorts of questions arise and parents are looking for some guidance to answer them. Questions like, what if my child is the only minority in their class? Or what if someone asks what my child is? Or what if a kid makes fun of my child's lunch because it's culturally different? 

Rachel:  You and I have discussed this top at length on Facebook Live, because our followers LOVE talking about this topic.   But I'll ask again:  how do you react when someone makes an inappropriate remark or asks an absurd question about your multiracial family? 

Diedre:  I usually respond with some level of sarcasm if I feel like they are being intrusive or mean spirited. If they are asking questions, I usually follow up with a question like, what do you mean? Or why do you say that? Sometimes that stops the conversation from going to uncomfortable places.

Rachel:   Let's talk about hair!  Give me your single best hair tip and your top three favorite products right now. 

Diedre:  Wow, just 1? That's tough! I guess my best tip would be to do the majority of curly hair styling while the hair is soaking wet or damp. This makes detangling and styling so much easier. My top 3 favorite products are the Mane Choice Shampoo/conditioner, Mielle Organics Babassu Oil and Mint Deep Conditioner and; Shea Moisture Curl Gel Souffle. 

Rachel:  What's your favorite quote, verse, book, song, tv show, or movie about race? 

Diedre:  I would have to say either India Arie's "I Am Not My Hair" or Michael Jackson "Black or White."

Find Diedre on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

-This post contains Amazon affiliate links.    

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Dear Sugar: Three Offensive Things White People Do to Black Kids That Needs to Stop

Dear Sugar, 

Today's post really isn't for you.  It's for those around you (maybe even your nearest-and-dearest, your child's white teacher or coach, etc.) who might be doing some things that really aren't cool.   So, here goes, an authentic, upfront, firm "no no" list for those around you who may be screwing up when it comes to interacting with your kids.  So share it, send it, print it (and hand it over).  Whatever you need to do.   

1:  Touch their hair.
Our children are not pets. They are people.  Their hair is part of their body and shouldn't be touched without consent (and wouldn't it be weird to ask to touch a child's hair anyway)?   A white person touching a Black child's hair is a microaggression. microaggression is:"a subtle but offensive comment or action at a minority or other nondominant 
group that is often unintentional or 
unconsciously reinforces a stereotype."  

Yes, I understand that patting a child on the head or touching hair is meant to be endearing (and you'll argue, I do the same to a child of ANY color), but when it's a white adult (or person) touching a Black child, a line is crossed.   Plus your dirty hands in my child's cornrows (braids that took me two hours or more to do) is disrespectful of my child's body and of the time and energy we put in to doing her hair.   

Hair is a really big deal in the Black community and has much significance in Black culture.  You may not fully (or even partially) understand this.   You don't need to really "get it."  You just need to respect my child enough not to pet her.  

I get that you might be really curious about Black hair, but the way to gain answers to your questions isn't to pluck up a beaded braid, which is attached to my child's head, and fondle.  That's just weird. So stop.

2:  Gush over the child's appearance.  

I know, you are trying to compliment.  But when a white person reduces a child to his or her appearance by gushing over skin tone and hair, it's called festishizing (and it's disturbing and creepy). The "compliment" is usually over-the-top: the compliment repeated multiple times to where it gets really, really uncomfortable.  It's often done to bi-racial kids, kids who were adopted transracially, and children who have intricate hairstyles.  

In my experience, it's done more often to girls than boys; girls already are overly complimented on their appearance, but with girls of color, it's done even more.  

Our children aren't objects to be admired and reduced, especially not by a white person.  And frankly, all the attention makes many kids really uncomfortable. 

I wrote an article last year about the one thing you should say to a family like mine (a family built by adoption) that is perfectly fine and appreciated.  Notice that I do not invite you to pet my child or do anything listed in point #3.   Just keep it simple (and preferably not creepy).  

3: Interrogate.  

One of the questions that most bothers my children is when white people, usually women, first try to touch their hair and then follow that up with, "HOW LONG DID THAT TAKE?" and "HOW CAN YOU SIT THAT LONG?"  (Or, "Oh, I get it, girlfriend! I have curly hair myself."  No.  Just no.)  

Usually my girls just give weirdo-stranger a look (of both annoyance and bewilderment).  Like, I don't even know you, you get in my personal space and touch part of my body without permission, and then proceed to ask me questions.  You peppering my children with your white person questions and curious touches goes against everything that every parent teaches their child: stranger awareness and stranger danger.  As an adult, you should know better!   My children's Blackness and your whiteness (and my whiteness too) isn't an invitation to begin your round of questioning (and touching).  

Other questions might be about their adoption stories, their parents' race(s) ("Oh, so is your dad Black?"), their racial makeup ("So are you mixed?"). Additionally, questions or comments embedded in stereotypes aren't appreciated.  Like, "I bet you love basketball" or "Do you like rap music?" My kids don't exist to be your Black Google.  

Listen, I know you are going to tell me you are just trying to be friendly.  You are a nice person.  You love children.   Great!  I like people who are nice to my kids!  But as a white person, please recognize that there are some rules that apply to an interaction between a white adult and a Black child. You may not like the rules (ahem, white fragility) and have a hard time grasping them.  

But guess what?  It's not all about you.   

Love, Rachel

Monday, June 26, 2017

Dear Sugar: The 5 Best Black-Female Owned Small Businesses You Need to Know About

Dear Sugar:

I'm so excited to bring you today's post.   Because these are some fierce Black female owned businesses that sell products we love!   Plus, I'm a big believer in supporting small businesses, especially when they work so hard to bring us quality products that are great for our family.      

Gabby Bows

Gabby and her mom make an incredible team, bringing us the "double face snap barrette."  If you follow on me on Insta, you know we're completely head-over-heels for the hair accessory.  I love these for a few reasons.  

1:  They do not fall out and stay in all different hair textures.  My kids all have different hair textures and lengths.   They even stay in my oldest daughter's (current) style which is cornrows with weave.  
2:  Because of this, you don't spend dollar after dollar buying hair accessories.  Just purchase some packs of Gabby Bows and that's it! They save you money over the long-haul.  

3:  They're colorful.  My daughters have different color preferences. My oldest likes purple, while my second daughter, who is athletic and active, prefers the teal.  My personal favorite are the clear-glitter barrettes because they match everything and add a little bit of sparkle to dressier outfits (for church, for a wedding, etc.).      

4:  The double-face means that the barrettes look cute no matter how they fall.   

Get 20% off your purchase with coupon code ROCK20.

My Chocolate Curls

Once we tried the My Chocolate Curls Birthday Cake products, we've stopped looking for anything new.  We adore the products because...

1:  They're healthy.   They only use natural and/or organic ingredients and are free of parabens/sulfates/mineral oil/harmful dyes and chemicals.

2:  So.  Many.  Options.    Lip butter, whipped soap, shea butter body cream, shampoo, conditioner, and more.   She even has a MOCHA whipped soap:  and all the moms say YAS!!!!  

3:  They smell incredible.  We are scent-picky, because we have many allergies/sensitivities.   My absolute favorite product right now for my girls (and my son and I use it sometimes too!) is the Birthday Cake line.   Sweet without being overpowering.  Check out the My Chocolate Curls scent menu here to explore your options.  

4:  Minis and gift sets.   Want to try a sample size?  Grab a mini! Want to send the perfect birthday, graduation, etc. gift to someone you love?  Buy a gift set.    

Get 20% off your purchase with coupon code SAVE20


A few months ago, a friend (and fellow mama-by-transracial-adoption) sent me a link to a gorgeous, bold skirt for girls.   I couldn't believe how vibrant and stylish the skirt was!   Being a mom to a girl who loves skirts and dresses, I knew we HAD to have one for her!  Here's what I love about the company and products:

1:  Color.
Pastels and dull shades don't look good on my kids.  Brighter is better!   There are so many colorful clothing options to choose from, whether you're parenting a child or a teen.  

2:  Accessories.
Sometimes you just want to add a pop of color to an outfit, and D'iyanu offers great options: headbands, scarfs, choker necklaces, bow ties, and more!  Accessories galore!  

3: Unique and memorable.
Trust me:  when your daughter rocks her new skirt or headband (or whatever other fabulousness you purchase), she will be wearing something that makes a statement.   And think how gorgeous the pieces are for photos!     

4:  Long-term wear.
Pair the skirt with a simple sleeveless top or statement tee in summer or throw a jean jacket on with the skirt in cooler months. The quality fabric lasts for season after season. And if you're like me, I have three daughters:  so three girls will wear the skirt! 

D'iyanu is offering you 10% off your purchase with the coupon code:    SUGARSUMMER17

Sometimes a mama just needs a break!  Coming up with ways to keep your child occupied can be exhausting.  That's why I love this box subscription service:  takes the work out of my hands.  Boxes are designed for children ages 8-12.   

1:  Variety.   Every box comes with 1-2 books focused on Black leaders, bonus toy(s), activities, and activity supplies.   Voila!  Each box focuses on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) activities and education.     

2:  It comes to your door.
Nothing is worse for me than carting my four kids to a store on a sweltering summer day, where there is guaranteed to be complaining, hunger, arguments, and frustration.  I love that the variety of activities comes in one box, delivered right to my front door. 

3:  Perfect for THAT kind of day.
You know what I'm talking about, right?  Kids are bored. Maybe it's pouring rain or record-breaking hot out.  I keep my DreamKeepers Box somewhere in hiding until one of those days arrive, and then I pull it out and let the kids have fun! It's like Christmas, but not in December.  

4:  All the box's contents focus on empowering and educating children about Black history, accomplishment, and future.  
I love that my children receive a box that is specifically ALL about their people, their history, and their future.  There is nothing like seeing the smile on my children's faces when they explore materials that tell them THEY matter, that THEY are beautiful and smart, and that THEY are awesome.  

Use code SUGAR20 for 20% off your first month's subscription.

ABC Me Flashcards

A few years ago, when this product was released, I was beyond excited.  There's nothing else like it on the market! My children love pulling out the small stamped drawstring bag and quizzing each other on Black history.  
1:  Colorful. 
I loathe anything marketed to children that is aesthetically boring.  These cards are colorful, bold, and detailed, offering visual appeal to children.  

2:  Two-sided.
The cards offer an illustration and featured letter on one side, details about the illustration on the other.  This means the cards are great for kids of a variety of ages.  TEACH the babies!  They are never too young to learn their history.  

3:  Occupy!  
Sometimes you need your kids to just go do something besides argue with each other or claim they are "bored." Have these cards on hand for the next time the kids grow restless.  Perfect for a rainy day!

4:  On-the-go learning.  
These cards teach children wherever they are!  Since they come in a fabulous stamped drawstring pouch, take the cards on an airplane ride or long car trip.  Stuck in a doctor's office waiting room?  Pull out the cards!  

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Dear Sugar: On Summer and Keeping Our Kids Occupied With Diverse, Cooperative Activities

Dear Sugar,

We live just outside St. Louis.  The first few weeks of summer break are tolerable, some days even mild.  But soon, it heats up (to up to 115 heat index), and the kids (and me) grow really restless, irritated, and HOT.   You can only swim so many times.  So what is stay-at-home/work-at-home mom to do?  How do I keep the kids happily occupied when the days are long?   

One of our favorite companies is Peaceable Kingdom.  First, because they create diversity-friendly products for kids.  This is very important to my family: that the things we purchase for our children reflect faces that look like theirs.   

We also love the quality of the products.  With four kids, I refuse to purchase throw-away, junky items (which is a waste of money and not environmentally friendly).  Every product we own from Peaceable Kingdom is sturdy and of incredible quality.  We have friends over multiple times a week, so not only do my children use the products, but so do their friends:  and they hold up really well!

The variety is fantastic!  I love that they have so many products to choose from! Games, activity packs, cards, stationary, art supplies, puzzles, journals, even valentines.  And some of the items:  scratch and sniff, which if you have a sensory seeking child like I do, scratch and sniff is EVERYTHING.   Peaceable Kingdom realizes that kids' interests are diverse, so their products should reflect that!  They offer everything from space, to dinosaurs, to math, to art, to engineering, to princesses, to desserts, and much more!  They even offer "games to go":  yes, items that are made to travel!  

Finally, I love inclusion!  Many of the products fall under the"cooperative play" category, meaning we can use them as a family. Just like most people, my kids hate feeling left out, and cooperative play games include every family member.   Some of the games and puzzles have held the attention of my four-year-old, my six-year-old, and my eight-year-old; it doesn't get better than that!   Cooperative play games promote connection, cooperation, and empathy.  YAY!  

Here are our favorite Peaceable Kingdom products:

1:  Friends and Neighbors:  a cooperative game that teaches children about empathy and problem solving.   Notice the diverse cast of characters?  

2:  Scratch and Sniff Stickers:  We enjoyed the whipped cream-scented multiracial fairy stickers and the cherry scented firefighter and firetruck stickers.  

3:  Lock and key diaries:  My oldest LOVES writing (like her mama!), especially when she can "lock up" her words (and hide them from her little sister, who is quite a good reader!).  

Do you own any Peaceable Kingdom products?  Which are you favorites?  

This post is sponsored by our friends at Peaceable Kingdom, one of my favorite companies!  

Friday, June 23, 2017

Dear Sugar: PTSD and Adoption, Round #3

Dear Sugar,

I'm wrapping up a three-part series on PTSD in parents-by-adoption after an adoption experience. Today, I'm sharing T's story.   T is a 35-year-old mom of two boys, both adopted domestically, transracially, and as infants.   T has been married for fourteen years, and she and her husband have a history of infertility.  

Rachel:  What’s your definition of Adoption PTSD? 

T:  Adoption PTSD wasn’t something I ever considered (or even knew was a real thing) until last year when I found myself standing at an infant clothing rack in a store feeling paralyzed by indecision about whether or not I should buy clothes for a child I might not be allowed to keep…even though our adoption had been finalized for about four months by then.  The fear of loss and the belief that we were still living out an uncertain adoption plan had been an ingrained part of my thought process for about seven months, so those guttural feelings of fear and helplessness overrode my logical thinking about reality for a minute. My gut reaction was a defense mechanism that didn’t need to function anymore, but it took a while for my brain to catch up with reality. 

Rachel:  What was your adoption experience like?

T:  Our situation was quite unique, even within the realm of our agency’s and attorney’s experiences. We wrestled with the ethics of choosing to work for our son’s permanency in our home, which was (and continued to be) the original adoption plan for most of the biological family involved. However, in a turn of events that landed us in court several times, we had to parent a child who had been entrusted to us by one party and was being wrenched away by another. It’s too multifaceted to explain simply, but suffice it to say that we were fighting with and for the rights of the parent who wanted what was best for the child. As a result, we waffled in adoption limbo for months and months while loving and bonding with a baby we may not have been able to keep. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done--to love freely without expectation, to bear the brunt of loss in order to do the right thing. Our long story resolved in the best way possible, but it was not without brokenness and loss. That’s adoption in general, but it was certainly magnified in our situation. This was never a fostering situation, but it did play out like that. We are  now a family forever, but I still struggle with undoing some of the coping mechanisms that I unknowingly developed.  

Rachel:  What makes you think you had/have adoption-related PTSD?

T:  For me it wasn’t anything dramatic. It mostly affected the  way I was thinking about things long term. My son was nearly a year old (and we were 4 months post-finalization) when I found myself unable to decide if I should buy a bigger pair of pajamas for later in the year because he might not be with us at that point. I had to mentally shake myself, had to tell myself out loud that I wasn’t thinking straight. We’d legally been a family for four months, but I couldn’t undo my self-preserving, hedge-my-bets processing. I felt unable to plan for the future for a long time because I’d not been allowed to for quite a while.  I repeatedly had to stop the train of thought that began with, “If we get to keep him…”  I had zero experience in foster care (and no training to that end), so when this adoption plan panned out similarly, I wasn’t prepared to process it. It was only ever supposed to be an adoption plan. I didn’t even decorate a nursery until my son about ten months old. Living in limbo made me afraid to do anything that seemed permanent. I didn’t want to have to unmake all my permanent decisions if we couldn’t keep our son. 

Rachel:  How did you heal?  

T:  I wrote and prayed a lot. I am a Christian, so spending every morning reading the Psalms was the balm my heart desperately needed. I felt shaky, but I knew the Lord was with me and that was the strength I needed to press through my fear. I rocked “my” son every night before putting him in his crib, and I prayed over him while we swayed in the rocking chair together in the dark. When you adopt, your kids are entrusted to you by birth parents. I felt that I was entrusting my son to the Lord every morning and evening. I vowed to love him as long as I was allowed to. He would not experience any more loss while I loved him if I could help it. Nurturing him in uncertainty was difficult mentally,  but it was physically soothing and gave me purpose. I could give him what he needed while he was in my care. It felt like a sacred process--loving without strings. I wrote in my journal most mornings, and putting my emotions into words helped me to move past fear so I could mother my children and be present for them. 

Rachel:  How has Adoption PTSD changed you?  Do you feel your traumatic experience did any “permanent damage”? 

T:   I wouldn’t say I have “permanent damage,” although I am quite leery of the adoption process these days. I would never tell someone not to pursue it because of our situation, but I do give more caution than I used to when someone tells me they’re considering adoption. I encourage them to dig deep into the possibility of risk and loss and to understand that as the hopeful adoptive parents, they do not have any rights until all is said and done. I think people minimize that truth in process because the excitement over growing one’s family overshadows the possibility of loss. It’s understandable--I get it because I’ve been there. But I wish I had been more prepared for the emotional risk. I encourage families to ask a LOT of questions of the professionals in the field and to make sure they do their work thoroughly before becoming engaged in a tricky situation. You may still choose to engage (and I definitely would have engaged in our situation if I could do it again with all the information up front), but it’s helpful to know what you’re getting into if possible.

That said, I am not sure I have the mental fortitude to pursue adoption again at this juncture. It was tough to recover from emotionally, financially, and mentally. Perhaps that says more about any “permanent damage” than anything else I could say.


***My disclaimer:  I'm not a mental health professional.  I'm using my platform to amplify the voices of women who believe that their adoption experiences have resulted in mental health issues.  

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dear Sugar: PTSD in Adoption, Round #2

Dear Sugar,

This week, we're journeying through PTSD, in relation to adoption, as a parent-by-adoption.  Today, I'd like you to meet B.  

B is in her mid-thirties and is parenting multiple children, all adopted.  She's married and is a SAHM.   

Rachel:  What is your adoption of Adoption PTSD?

B:  Adoption PTSD is when a single or series of traumatic events during an adoption process creates crippling issues such as depression and anxiety.

Rachel:  What was your adoption experience?  

B:  We adopted all of our children, but one of our adoptions was particularly difficult.   It was a really long match, and we were already parenting.  Because of this, not only were we experiencing tremendous stress, but so were our children.  As much as we tried to shield them from the ups and downs, they were always around when we were making phone calls, having pop-up conversations, and cautiously-optimistically preparing for a possible placement.   The stress of trying to control what our kids saw and heard added to the overall stress of the adoption. 

We had an overwhelming and increasing amount of communication with the expectant parents (prior to placement).  They were demanding, made off-the-charts requests of us, and I’m positive that one of them was/is bi-polar.  It was a roller coaster from the day we were matched until months after the placement.   There were a handful of times I was very tempted to walk away.  

I ended up going on anxiety medication because of the daily panic attacks I was having.   The situation was so unpredictable and upsetting.  

I know you're probably thinking, why didn't we just abandon the match?  More than one person advised us to walk away, even one of our adoption professionals, because he felt bad for us and in his experience, he knew this probably wouldn't result in a placement.  

We didn’t hold on out of desperation for a baby (we already have children and were OK with the outcome of any match), but because we felt that God told us to “hang on” and “wait and see.”  It was only by our faith that we stayed. 

Rachel:  What makes you think you experienced Adoption PTSD?  What were your symptoms? 

B:  After the placement happened, I assumed my anxiety would vanish.  It didn’t.   The communication with the birth parents continued to be incredibly difficult for many months after placement.  Bio dad wanted one thing, while bio mom wanted another.  We felt like we (and our child) were in a game of tug-of-war.   I continued to experience breathlessness, fatigue, fear, confusion, anger, and moments of wanting to just give up.  I felt like I was being pecked at ALL THE TIME.  That's the best way to describe it.  Like a chicken was just using its beak to peck, peck, peck, peck, on my soul.  Constantly.  

The worst part?  I wasn’t free to be my baby’s mother.  Instead, I was caught between a “rock and a hard place”:  wanting to enjoy my new baby while trying to appease those who couldn’t be appeased.  

Rachel:  How did you heal/get treated?  What helped you? 

B:  Anti anxiety-medications helped.  But what was most difficult and most necessary, putting up very firm boundaries with the birth parents, was what helped the most.  The truth was, I was being too permissive.   Unfortunately, it was harming myself and my family.  I couldn’t take away all the stress of the situation, but I could prevent SOME of it.   I only wish I would have been firmer earlier on.    

Rachel:  How has Adoption PTSD changed you?  Do you feel your traumatic experience did any “permanent damage”? 

B:  I have more empathy than ever for those who have experienced trauma.  I know that trauma comes in different forms.  Something that’s traumatic for one person may not look traumatic to another.  But there is power in naming your problem.   That’s half the battle.  The second half is treatment. 
Rachel:  Did the experience do “permanent damage”?  

B:  I don’t know.  We’re only a year out from the placement.  I finally feel like myself again.  But the thing with trauma (just like grief) is that it comes back.  It’s a cycle.   We just learn tools to deal with it.

Rachel:  What advice do you have for someone who thinks they’re experiencing Adoption PTSD?   

B:  Get help  See a therapist.   Join an adoption support group.   Openly speak of your struggles, because there’s nothing to be ashamed of.   Keep doing the things you love to do, things that bring you peace and joy.   And even though you don’t think it’s possible in the moment, Adoption PTSD is a teacher.   Because of your experience, you will be stronger and be able to help others.  

Also, it's OK to admit you are having a hard time.  Just because I was chosen to parent my child, just because I am very thankful to be a mom, just because I'm strong, it doesn't mean my PTSD isn't real.  It doesn't mean the gratefulness of being chosen can magically trump PTSD.   They can exist, the PTSD and the joy, simultaneously.   

***My disclaimer:  I'm not a mental health professional.  I'm using my platform to amplify the voices of women who believe that their adoption experiences have resulted in mental health issues.  

Monday, June 19, 2017

Dear Sugar: On PTSD and Adoption (When You're the Parent)

Dear Sugar:

This is a three-part post in which I'm sharing three (adoptive) mom's stories regarding adoption and mental health. It's not something readily recognized or often discussed, but it happens. And we need to talk about it.  

My hope is that their insights and experiences shed light on this subject, encourage you, and educate you.   

My disclaimer:  I'm not a mental health professional.  I'm using my platform to amplify the voices of women who believe that their adoption experiences have resulted in mental health issues.  

Let's get started:  meet T.   She's a 39-year-old mother, married, with a four-year-old daughter, adopted at birth.   Both T and her husband are educators.  

Rachel:  How do you define Adoption PTSD?  

T:  I would define Adoption PTSD as a condition that occurs after a traumatic experience has occurred during the course of an adoption. This could be the result of a failed adoption, a contested adoption, or any other disturbing events that occur before, during, or after the finalization of an adoption.

Rachel:  Tell me about your adoption experience.   

T:  My husband and I waited three years until we were matched with the birth mother. During our wait, we experienced five failed adoptions. After our fifth failed adoption, we were already weary when the birth mother said that she had chosen us. As we were matched, she gave us the name of a man she thought might be the birth father. He was contacted by our attorney, but he never responded to the request for a paternity test. When our daughter was born, the doctor handed her to me, and I shared a room with her in the hospital the entire time. We went through the legally required six month waiting period before the finalization with no concerns regarding her finalization. One month before finalization, we were required to go to the courthouse to complete some legal requirements. At this time, the stated birth father showed up and contested the adoption. The judge gave him three months to legally contest the adoption and produce the evidence needed to prove that he was the biological father. We were to return to court after three months and the judge would review the evidence.

After the three months, we returned to court with the full expectation to finalize the adoption; we were well past the legally required six month wait period. We sat in the courtroom next to the stated birth father. He had not brought forth any evidence that he was the biological father. We truly believed that because he could not prove that he was the biological father, the judge would finalize the adoption. Instead the judge gave him one more month to procure the evidence. We were in complete shock. All I could do was cry. At this time, I honestly believed that the judge was going to grant custody to the stated birth father. We were to return in one month and the judge would make his decision.

After one month, we returned to court, but the stated birth father did not. He did not produce any evidence to prove that he was the biological father. We were finally granted custody of our daughter. However, the experience with the stated birth father and the state of unknowing has left a permanent psychological mark.

Rachel:  What makes you think you experienced Adoption PTSD?  What were your symptoms? 

T:  The best way that I can explain my adoption PTSD is a constant state of anxiety and fear. This constant anxiety and fear is connected to occasional panic attacks that can be triggered by something as simple as hearing a song. When a panic attack associated with the PTSD occurs, it is as if a movie of our traumatic event is replaying itself in my head. I am at that time and place, and I have the very real belief that my daughter is going to be taken from my husband and me. I create scenarios in my head imagining my world without her. It is incredibly terrifying and very real. Along with the psychological response, there is also the physical response of tears and nausea.

Rachel:  How did you heal/get treated?  What helped you? 

T:  Unfortunately, I have not yet healed nor did I seek treatment. The only thing that does help me is talking about it with my friends and family. My husband has been very supportive, and constantly reassures me that our daughter is safe. I have also found it beneficial to talk with people that have a shared experience. I just need to constantly remind myself that the fear is in my head and not real.

Rachel:  How has Adoption PTSD changed you?  Do you feel your traumatic experience did any “permanent damage”? 

T:  I feel that my adoption PTSD is now just a part of me. I do feel that there is some permanence to it. Because we have an open adoption, I jump when I get a text from the birth mother. Is she still in contact with him? Does he know where we live or what our daughter looks like? There are certain places that I cannot go anymore, because that triggers a response. There are certain things from that time that I cannot experience anymore (e.g., a song that I listened to during that time, the outfit I wore to court) because that will trigger a response. Even responding to these questions has triggered an emotional response. 

Although I believe that my adoption PTSD is permanent, I also believe that it will get easier. Even now, the attacks come less often. The memories are no longer at the forefront of my mind. On the other hand, I believe that there will always be triggers.

Rachel:  What advice do you have for someone who thinks they’re experiencing Adoption PTSD?   

T:  I would suggest that they talk about it. I feel that there are many people in the adoption community that have experienced or are experiencing adoption PTSD. The more that we openly talk about it, the more support networks will can develop. I honestly believe that talking with someone that has had a shared experience has been the most beneficial to me.