Not My Adoption Trauma: Thoughts From a Not-So-Traumatized Adoptee

Do I believe many adoptees have experienced trauma at some point? Yes. Do I believe in adoption trauma? Unequivocally, no.

Ashley Foster October 11, 2017
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I read an article a couple of years ago that really made my blood boil. It was about adoption trauma. I’m so tired of all the victimization. The article explained that the trauma is embedded in the DNA of infants before the adoption even takes place. Do I believe many adoptees have experienced trauma at some point? Yes. Do I believe in adoption trauma? Unequivocally, no.

The article discusses how much stress birth mothers must be under and how traumatic it must be for the infant to be given to a stranger. Let’s take a minute to define what we’re talking about when we use the word “trauma.” What is physical trauma? Physical trauma is defined by a serious injury to the body. I am not a doctor, but I’m sure an elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, and increased cortisol levels don’t amount to a serious injury. What is psychological trauma? It is defined as damage to the mind that occurs as a result of a seriously distressing event. In order for a mind to be damaged, it would have to start off sound. There is no way to know when the mind of a baby is even whole enough to damage. Infants don’t even see steadily and in color until they are about five months old.

When I found out I was pregnant with my second child, my husband and I were struggling financially. We were both working all the time and juggling the responsibilities of our other son. We had a lot going on that we had to handle, and to say that I was stressed would be an understatement. I had all-day “morning sickness” starting at 12 weeks gestation. I lost more weight than I gained. It was so bad that I had to excuse myself from customers at work to go to the bathroom to get sick.

Being that physically ill for that long took a huge toll on my body. That sickness lasted the duration of the pregnancy. The doctor tried several different medications to stop it so I might gain weight. I had different allergic reactions to each, the last of which landed me in the emergency room with anaphylaxis.

About two months before my due date, I began having extremely high blood pressure, which I ended up having to take medication for. By the above theory my child should have certainly been affected by all the physical ailments and stress, right? No. I had the most well-mannered baby I had ever seen. He was calm, happy, and slept like a champ.

The theory of DNA trauma coincided with an article about Holocaust survivors passing trauma to their children via their DNA. Just this year that article was debunked. The experts point out the flaws with the original reports such as its small study population, the tiny number of genes evaluated, and the lack of consideration for social factors. The Center for Epigenomics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine called it the “over-interpreted epigenetics study of the week.”

I’m sure there have probably been cases of adoption where babies have been ripped from the arms of their screaming mothers. I know there are older adoptees that lived through traumatic experiences before being adopted. I get it, I do.

I’m not trying to invalidate or minimize the pasts of adoptees or birth mothers, but it’s time to stop projecting the experiences of the few on the many. There are multitudes of adoptees that have not experienced trauma.

Trauma may be a part of your story, but it is not part of mine. My birth mother probably experienced an extraordinary amount of stress, but she was clear and firm on her decision. I was not snatched away and left with strangers. I was gently laid in ready, loving arms. I was not robbed of my life, but given it. I was given this life, the one I am living and the one that has made me who I am today. My life did not begin with trauma, it began with love.

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Ashley Foster

Ashley Foster is a freelance writer. She is a wife and mother of two currently residing in Florida. She loves taking trips to the beach with her husband and sons. As an infant, she was placed with a couple in a closed adoption. Ashley was raised with two sisters who were also adopted. In 2016, she was reunited with her biological family. She advocates for adoptees' rights and DNA testing for those who are searching for family. Above all, she is thankful that she was given life. You can read her blog at http://ashleysfoster.blogspot.com/.


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