Almost Broken

When early trauma leaves a mark on children, and helping them find their strength.

Jessica Good August 10, 2014
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My Mary has a sad, sad story. Even more so than any other stories brought to our family through this tumultuous journey of foster care and adoption, I feel is not my story to tell.

It’s a story that I don’t know how to ever tell her.

I simply cannot fathom.

Mary is sweet. She gives long kisses and copies her big sister’s every move & sings strange little songs of beeps and raspy whispers.

Mary is strikingly beautiful. She is a mass of soft dark hair. She is a skinny-legged babe full of fire and sass and has a a hopelessly ticklish little neck and a smile that commands company.

Sometimes Mary cries and cries and cannot be consoled. Sometimes she is scared of people she has known her whole life. I have wondered if the sadness and the fear is woven into the her fibers and if it will always be there, tangled in the background, waiting for an opportunity to remind her of its presence, if somehow some part of her unconscious mind remembers what I wasn’t there to protect her from.

I wonder if she somehow feels, for instance, why her occupational and physical therapists in her early months attributed the painful tension in her tiny body to stress; why, at four pounds and four-days-old, she came to us with stress that ran so deep it hindered her physical movement. It left a mark.

What else left a mark in those long first days? Do those marks eventually leave, or do they linger? Do they fade if not spoken of, or does silence give them weight? Is the goal here happiness–to move past it, forget it, not be scared of it or hurt by it or feel that sadness–or is it more to be content despite it, to honor the scared feelings when they happen, to bear the sad feelings with grace?

Her little body moves freely now. I can see her getting stronger, succumbing to fearfulness less, experiencing joy more, little by little. But I don’t think it will ever not be a part of her. Her story will always be her story. She will learn more of it as years go by and as she is able to understand. I feel that my role is not to pretend it didn’t happen or tell her it doesn’t matter, but to help her use it to make something beautiful.

The children almost broken by the world become the adults most likely to change it.” -Frank Warren

I immediately thought of her when I read this. Mary was saved, and she is special. She is not broken, and she will do great things, or she will do ordinary things with great power.

Whichever, it will matter in a cosmic way.

Her mere presence on this earth, her love of bananas and her dislike of shoes, is truly miraculous. Being humbled by my children is a part of parenting that I wasn’t expecting, but watching them grow and thrive despite their tough beginnings is beautifully overwhelming. That I am allowed witness and to be the steward of this little miracle, to help her find meaning in a past she cannot change, is a blessing and a responsibility unlike any other I have experienced.

What miracles have you met in your family journey? Have you also been humbled the strength in your children?

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Jessica Good

Jess is married to a man also named Jess, which usually makes for some hilarity when reserving a table or signing up for cable. Together they have adopted four gorgeous children through foster care and are learning to let go of perfect and embrace the chaos. You can read more about their journey through infertility, foster care, and adoption on her blog.


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