Exactly one year ago today, we were packing for the trip to Texas to adopt Hope. It is difficult to believe a year can go by so quickly, yet be so long. There are things I wished I had known in the beginning: how quickly Hope would potty train, how hard it was going to be on GB, how bright Hope was, and how all her problems came back to RAD. I wish I had known how the last adoptive parents’ guilt was going to flavor my life all year. How little the school district was going to listen and how much they had to learn for themselves. Just how tired I was going to be.
There are things I should have consciously remembered, but didn’t; How good Radlets are at triangulating and how much energy it takes to be at least one step ahead. How their radar finds the moment you are least prepared to deal with, so when they start Radishing, it gets maximum effect. How hard it is to keep yourself focused on the hurt child, when all you really want to do is make them go away.
None of this was on my mind that day. I was excited and scared and had a knot in my stomach. An old Irish saying was “God watches over fools and drunks”. I am not a drunk, so that leaves me a fool.
Nature vs Nurture has been a debate in child development for decades. When I started my adoption journey, I believed nurture conquers all. I was wrong. Among the factors it doesn’t conquer is prenatal alcohol exposure, mental illness that is present in both biological parents, genetic disorders, and congenital diseases.
When you chose to conceive a child, you have some control over these factors. You can chose not to drink. You probably know if you or the child’s other parent battles a mental illness. Some genetic disorders can be tested for, some are spontaneous mutations. Congenital diseases don’t give you a lot of ways to prevent them, but you do what you can do, like taking vitamin C to help prevent spina bifida.
When you adopt an infant, all you can do is ask questions. If the birth mother doesn’t want you to know there isn’t much you can do. The rate of mental illnesses in children adopted at infancy is significantly higher than for biological children. The speculation is that people who chose adoption for their newborn are more likely to live with a mental illness and self medicate with alcohol and other drugs. Researchers are trying to isolate various factors, but given the nature of adoption historically it is proving difficult. I know that GB’s birthmother still denies using alcohol during the pregnancy, even with scores of people who say they saw her and GB’s facial features. She denies she is mentally ill even though she is receiving SSI for being Bipolar.
When you adopt an older child, you get to throw in PTSD and attachment issues, and if you hit the jackpot, even RAD.
Although I am a firm proponent of scientific, evidence based interventions, I also believe each child, no matter how they enter your family, is a gift from God and we are expected to help them fulfill the purpose God has for them. Contradictory? Yes, but still what I believe.