We first met our daughter when she was 3 months old – a tiny, bald, screaming-at-the-top-of-her-lungs little baby. She was scared, she didn’t recognize the voices she was hearing or the new smells of someone else’s home, or this other Momma’s arms she was in. As excited as we were to meet her, to get to cuddle and dress her, the day we met our daughter was essentially the worst day of her life. Because no matter how unhealthy, unsafe or unreliable her home life was, when she was brought to our home and to our arms she was ripped away from her very first primary attachment in her “first Mom.”
The loss of her primary attachment figure is a wound, the abuse and neglect she experienced in her first three months is a wound, and the secondary trauma she experienced in utero is a wound. As parents, we want so badly to protect our children from deep hurts and wounds, but we could not protect our daughter from these wounds. Trauma, especially early trauma, literally rewires the brain so that the flight, fight or freeze response that many of us feel when we are in danger becomes a baseline for our kids. *(Check out this article for a great basic understanding of trauma’s effect on the brain http://soundmedicine.org/post/childhood-trauma-leads-brains-wired-fear)
The truth is our daughter was hurt by a relationship, and her healing will come through a relationship. We have read books, taken classes, and attended therapies with our daughter to gain the tools needed to be that healing place for her. It is a privilege to be her healing place, and sometimes it’s a terrifying responsibility. With my biological kids, I have a strong Momma’s intuition, I feel mostly confident in our parenting of them. However, with our daughter I question everything, fearing that what I do or don’t do might “mess her up” more.
It is also exhausting to attempt to make our every interaction with our girl be a healing one. We have had to learn to parent her much differently than our biological children. We must parent from her need not our expectation. And we must constantly remind ourselves that our beautiful, precious daughter exists under all those survival strategies we so often see.
It is lonely being a Trauma Momma, so few people understand what your child is going through, and what your family is going through as you help this child heal. Friends don’t ask what it’s really like because they don’t know how to ask or what to ask, so they just avoid it all together. As a Trauma Momma, I have to pick and choose what I can do away from the family because too many caregivers and too many changes triggers that fear response in our daughter.
Being a Trauma Momma is exhausting. I haven’t slept through the night in years! It is hard to take a break (for the reasons mentioned above) and it is emotionally wearing beyond anything I’ve ever done. This is my daughter, she is broken – I didn’t break her, but I am picking up the pieces and trying to show grace to those who did contribute to her brokenness.
All I want is for my sweet girl to be a typical, joyful, whole child. Sometimes I get to see glimpses of this. I get to watch her playing at the park interacting with a friend she just made, I get to snuggle with her while watching a movie without her pulling away, sometimes she repeats my mantra for her – that I love her and will keep her safe, and I see that she is getting it. Sometimes I see this whole child, and this is what I must choose to focus on. It is so easy to get lost in the struggle, lost in the exhaustion and the loneliness that those things become all we see. But there is hope, there is healing, and bit by bit we will get there, and we will be the place where healing happened for our beloved daughter!