Eighteen years ago, when I went to my first adoption seminar, so many things came to mind: meeting my child for the first time, holding him or her in my arms, providing a safe home, giving all the love I had to heal any wounds the child might have.
What I never considered was how the adoption of a traumatized child would affect me.
When I took the hand of my little 3-year-old Abel for the first time, unknowingly I started us both on a path where we would have to confront the abuse we had each suffered. Abel went through things that no child—no human being—should ever have to bear. But then, to a lesser degree, so had I.
Helping Abel to battle his demons, finding him the therapy that was so necessary, forced me to confront my own suppressed memories of abuse.
It has been a difficult path. We have been through violence, police interventions, hospitalizations, and suicide attempts, but I am so happy to report we have come through to the other side.
Neither one of us has the life we might have chosen, but I can so truthfully say we have a life with love. Abel and I, and Abel’s adoptive brother Jacob, have built a family. What could be better than that?
Any story of child abuse is a deeply personal one, but I felt that it was important to share this story with other parents to help with one of the hardest parts of raising a traumatized child: feeling alone.
There are more of us out there than anyone would suspect. Very often a traumatized child grows up with the desire to help a similar child. And when the child’s rage and hurt begins to come out, it can trigger your own.
I believe that knowing someone else is feeling what you are feeling may be enough to help you through when it might otherwise seem impossible. When you’re in the trenches, when you’re down on the floor, trying to restrain a child you love with all your heart who is spitting in your face, clawing at your hands, trying to rip your hair out, it’s good to know someone else has been there and survived.
So often I told my therapist, “If I only knew how it will turn out. If I knew Abel would make it, I could stand this so much better.”
I’m lucky. I know now that he made it. He still has so much work ahead, and always will, but he loves me, he loves his brother, he has friends and a future. This is a wonderful thing to know.
I want other parents to know that it can happen. Keep fighting the good fight. Don’t beat yourself up for your failures. You are “good enough” to see this through.
Written By: Carloyn Na