I want her to have a visceral understanding that she has life really good, and millions of people in the rest of the world have much tougher lives than she has. I want her to realize that this is due simply to the fact that she happened to be born in a part of the world where opportunity is plentiful. And therefore, I want her to find a way to use her own, unique gifts, whatever she discovers them to be, to help create opportunity for others. Because gifts are nothing if they’re not given away.
All you need to be happy is within you. Many people seek happiness in food, drugs, alcohol, shopping, partying, sex … because they’re seeking external happiness. They don’t realize the tools for happiness aren’t outside them. They’re right inside you: mindfulness, gratitude, compassion, thoughtfulness, the ability to create and do something meaningful, even in a small way.
I wish this part of motherhood was more openly talked about. You hear about the sleepless nights, and wanting to pull your hair out, and the extra laundry, the weird issues you have with your new body….you hear about alll of that….that’s the easy part, but no one really talks to you about the inner struggle that has nothing to do with your new baby, but with your new role, and more importantly, how you’re reacting to it.
Ian then says quietly…he sees us with a little girl. I am surprised at this revelation. This is the first time he’s admitted he has visualized someone too. I then loosen up and tell the worker about the girl I see, the girl I dream about. The worker smiles and makes a note of it, and I peek to see if she’s checked a box that says “crazy.” We are worried we won’t be matched with the available waiting children, and we say again and again, we are open to any sex, any age, any ethnicity. We mean it. We want to be parents. We want to scream: we know there is a child out there that we could be good parents to. Just match us, dammit.
One study showed infants who experienced persistent crying episodes were 10 times more likely to have ADHD as a child, along with poor school performance and antisocial behavior. The researchers concluded these findings may be due to the lack of responsive attitude of the parents toward their babies. Dr. Bruce Perry’s research at Baylor University may explain this finding. He found when chronic stress over-stimulates an infant’s brain stem (the part of the brain that controls adrenaline release), and the portions of the brain that thrive on physical and emotional input are neglected (such as when a baby is repeatedly left to cry alone), the child will grow up with an over-active adrenaline system. Such a child will display increased aggression, impulsivity, and violence later in life because the brainstem floods the body with adrenaline and other stress hormones at inappropriate and frequent times. (6)
For adoptive parents, structural openness may be out of our control. Our children may come to our families via closed adoption because the birth family members cannot be found, such as in many international adoptions. Or our children’s family of origins may not be safe for them, as in some foster-to-adopt situations. But communicative openness is always in our control. No matter how much or how little information we have, we can create openness in our attitudes towards our children’s stories.