About Cheerio

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In general I am a cheery and energetic person. But I am enshrouded in a cloak of iron. That cloak is the weight of greiving my son, whom I've lost to adoption.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cheerio gets help ?

August 2009 If you’ve read the prior post, then I think you’ll easily understand why several people suggested that I “talk to someone” – meaning counseling. I’ve tried counseling before, and didn’t really benefit in the times I tried. Here is an abbreviated history on ‘ Cheerio gets help.’ ( TRIED to keep it brief, really I did!!!) Before I do that timeline, please remember that I’ve said countless times that I was in denial, and I mean complete denial for several years after losing my son to adoption. So complete was the denial that I never referred to him as “my son.” I felt like I was not ‘allowed’ to. After all, I was not the one parenting him, I was not he one tucking him in bed at night, I was not the one taking care of him when he was sick. You know, it’s all those things people say about why the aparents are the “REAL” parents. Yup, those are the things I believed. Part of the denial was that I believed he was ‘their’ son. Was that because I did not want him or not love him? No, that was not it at all! Him being ‘their’ son meant he could not be my son also. In adoption there is a great divide. There is a definite “us vs them” mentality. This great divide is also what is generally accepted and promoted by society. People forget (I forgot) that children are not possessions. Relationships are not inanimate objects. “Mom” is just a title, just a label for description, just as “Aunt” or “Cousin” is. People don’t freak out that a child would have more than one Aunt, or more than one Cousin. Yet in regards to adoption, there is a skewed thought, that a child can have only one Mother. This thought is not generated from love, but possessiveness and fear. There is much that could be said on that subject, but that would be going a completely direction from where we’re headed. My point in bringing this out was that SINCE I did not acknowledge him as my son, I did not recognize the adoption as a loss. At least not right away. It was not until the aparents stopped sending pictures that I was not able to keep a lid on all the feelings that kept surfacing. I literally felt like I was going to go crazy sometimes, and I finally decided to get help. At this point in my journey I was still very pro-adoption. And even though the aparents closed the door, I was still supporting the adoption agency, Bethany Christian Services. (what I know now, I do not view their ethics or practices as ‘Christian’, so I drop that from their name, leaving Bethany Services. I found that I could use just their initials, and from here on out refer to them as BS…a reference they rightly deserve.) #1 – I desperately needed help. I met with the BirthParentCounselor and the Branch Director admitting I needed help dealing. Whatever the aparents were going through was not really my concern at that time; I just needed help for me. That meeting is a movie burned into my memory. I recall sitting there with the director across from me. He was oh, so sincere and seemed caring. But his response was that he didn’t know how he could help. I asked if they had a list of counselors/psychologists/therapists that they could refer someone for me to see (and pay for it myself.) The answer was no, they didn’t know of any counselors they could refer me to. Recognizing my NEED for some kind of help, I threw out the question “Well, can you at least give me the title of a book, so I could at least try to help myself?” The director again slowly shakes his head from side to side and he says, “Gee, I can’t think of any.” That was very painful and depressed me even further. That meant there was no help, and I would have to live with this turmoil forever? #2 – My second attempt at counseling involved help from my pastor. There was a time when BS wanted to host a service at our church. The ONE person in our church that knew about my adoption experience made me tell my pastor about BS and about my adoption. He recognized right away that, yes, I NEEDED help. He vowed to help me find a Christian Counselor who had experience with adoption related issues. My pastor was frustrated when he came back to me empty-handed. He even went to the “crisis pregnancy center” that our church supported and asked if they could refer any counselors. That in itself is a great question, after all, this center promotes adoption – so they should in some way be able to provide someone with post-adoption help. But they could not. #3 – While my pastor was searching, I was also searching on the internet. I found a ‘counselor’ that was about an hour away. The first time I saw her, she gave me some little workbook pamphlet. That first visit, she was very very surprised by the responses I got from BS. She said she was ‘concerned’ because she referred many people to them on a very regular basis. (Hindsight recognizes now that her business is based on promoting adoption.) Visit#2 – she was a no show. Nice a two plus hour drive round trip – for nothing. Visit #3. I don’t know why I remember this, but one of the questions in the pamphlet she gave me asked the question, “What have you learned from your experience?” And my answer was “To trust NO ONE.” But that visit got under my skin for a different reason. She asked how many other children I had. Which of course, I did not have other children. Then she asked why I didn’t have other children? I gave her all the reasons of why I ‘thought’ I didn’t have other children. I was not yet out of denial enough to realize the real reasons. Her eyes lit up, and she says very emphatically to me, “There’s your problem. Don’t you see it?” And she proceeded to tell me that “MY PROBLEM” was that I did not have other children, and this made the aparents afraid that I never accepted my adoption and moved on. This is evident by not having other children. They were withdrawing from me because I haven’t moved on yet. At that point in my journey, I didn’t even realize the “move on” part, because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. I thought moving on was ‘normal’ part of the process & I that was why I was so frustrated by and didn’t understand all these feelings and pain that was constantly surfacing. But that was not the red flag to me. The red flag that infuriated me was her transferring the responsibility of the aparents onto me. If the AParents were withdrawing because they were afraid, that was not “My Problem.” It was “their problem,” and they had no right to punish me for their problem. It was Their Responsibility to deal with their own issues. So, as you probably imagined already, when I left her office that day riled up – I never returned. I later had another confrontation with the BS Director. He mentioned this counselor and I could tell by what he was saying is what I had told her. So this counselor also broke confidence and talked to the Director about me. Now, I understand that if someone shows signs of harming themselves or others, that confidence can/should be broken. But if it is a very real threat, you would go to authorities. Lovely, huh? #4 – Instead of a three hour tour, it was a three hour drive to and from the office of the next counselor I tried. It was very difficult driving over an hour crying all the way, crying an hour in her office, and crying all the way home and the rest of the night. She was a nice lady, but I didn’t know that what I needed was a counselor who had experience with Adoption Loss issues. I stopped going, because we never talked about the adoption. We talked about my family, about my husband, about my missing nephews, etc. But we didn’t deal with what I wanted most to deal with and it didn’t make sense to keep giving her money so we could talk about what SHE wanted to talk about. #5 – Last year, 2008, I finally got up the nerve to call the EAP (Employee Assistance Program) to try counseling again. This time I was aware that I needed to find a counselor that was experienced in adoption issues. It was mentally and emotionally draining. It was daunting to sit there with a list of ‘approved counselors’ and then pick up the phone to call and ask questions. I was not just questions about scheduling, but each time someone answered my call, I was opening the door in my heart where the adoption was ‘hidden’, and I had to look at it. I had to talk about it to a non-interested stranger. It was very difficult to do this, not just once, but repeatedly. It took me several days to finally make enough phone calls that I found a counselor who said she was “qualified.” Our first Session I found out that her “qualification” relied on her having a sister who adopted two children. I don’t remember much else about the session. I wasn’t convinced she’d be much help. She talked about getting on with my life. How adoption is a good thing, not bad. Before our second Session had even ended, I mentally checked out. I was tense and all my body language clearly indicated that I had closed. What did it? It was her complete lack of understanding of an adopted person’s struggles – from the adoptee’s point of view. Her adopted niece and nephew were both “well adjusted” and “happy adoptees.” She went on to say that the niece decided to search for her original family, but the nephew doesn’t need to. And she believed that façade, that mask, that “grateful mentality” that was projected onto those kids. The thing that caused me to close down was not her talk of her adopted family; but rather her comments about my son, whom she does not know. You see, the reason I went for counseling was that I was considering the possibility of having another child. This was a stormy sea I was trying to navigate. I was trying to undo the brainwashing of who I really am versus who I though I was – based off of the adoption. I shut down when she said to me, “He will never consider you his mother. You will always just be a stranger to him. He will never consider any of your other children as his brother or his sister. They are your children, but he will never consider them his family.” And that did it. I decided this lady smokes the adoption mushrooms, and I mentally pitied the other clients she tried to help with their adoption issues. She was no help. She would only muddy the waters more and make things worse. #6 – And so, August 2009 – here I am pregnant (not unplanned), and very distraught and struggling with all the emotions, fears, and feelings from 16 years ago, in addition to the new influx of pregnancy hormones. There was no denying that I should seek counseling to help me deal with the issues from 16 years ago, so that I won’t be a complete basket case when my next baby is born. And so I call the EAP and get another fresh list of counselors. I broke the list into sections and determined to call 10-15 counselors each day. This time, the question I asked was if the counselor was qualified to deal with the grief of losing a child to adoption? I talked to some receptionists who had to ask the counselor and get back to me, and some places I left a voice mail message. There were two counselors who returned my call. One said she has not worked with anyone who lost a child to adoption, and did not feel that she would be qualified to help. The other counselor who called me back surprised me. It surprised me that she called back herself, kind of late in the evening (and pathetically enough I was still at work), instead of having her receptionist do it. But what really surprised me is that she TALKED with me! – for 10 minutes or more??!!??. She said she felt like she could help me deal with the adoption trauma. She described that she has worked with numerous women who have lost a child to death. She suggested that I probably needed to work through some grief as well. When I hung up the phone with her, I sat in my chair and just stared at the phone. She recognized I was hurting. Unlike everyone else who associates adoption with celebration, it sounded as though she saw the adoption as a tragedy instead. I was encouraged that maybe she really could help. In my first session with her she thinks that what I need to deal with more than the grief is the trauma. Then she goes on to talk about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “PTSD” . . . “PTSD” ? ? ? “PTSD” . . . “PTSD” ! ! ! “PTSD” rolls around in my head like 16 lb cannon balls. I’ve heard so many references to original moms being diagnosed with PTSD from the adoption. I just can’t believe that maybe that is what the ‘real’ problem is with me too? 16 years of walking around with this “thing” affecting every aspect of my life, and it’s gone totally “un-noticed”? After talking with her, I did additional investigating on the internet and questions on forums, etc. And it all makes total sense to me know. Her simplified description of PTSD is that the body gets ‘stuck’ at the place where the past trauma occurred. Whenever triggers or other things that happen in the future that bring back reminders of the trauma, the body, by reflex, reacts in the same way as if the trauma were happening now, in the present. I think this explains all the descriptions in my prior post … when I saw an infant or an infant of a picture, my body immediately responded with the tense muscles, the increased heart rate, the change in breathing. That description was not at all limited to my OB visit. It was the reality of what happened every time I saw an infant. It would happen anytime I would walk by infant clothes at a store. It would happen whenever I would hear someone talk about pregnancy. So, here I am at counselor #6, over the past 4 years (2005 – 2009). For the first time, I am hopeful, that maybe she can “get my body to recognize the trauma as an event from the past” so that I do not continue experiencing the same physical reactions whenever there is a trigger. I know it won’t take the pain away. I know it will not undo the past decisions. My hope right now is to just do what I can to be emotionally healthy, for the sake of this new little Flower Bud. If I can be healthy for her/him, then when I reunite with my son, hopefully I will be healthy enough and strong enough to be there for him too. I don’t want him to feel like he is alone as he navigates the deep dark waters of the chilling Adoption Ocean.
Cheerio and Counseling


  1. Hi Cheerio,

    I gave up on counsellors. I went to a couple and taught them more about adoption as they knew nothing. I do not think adoption trauma is recognised or considered important and therefore not taught in course dealing with counselling etc.

    You could probably teach more to any counsellor you come across than anything they could do for you. I get my help from mothers like yourself and those I meet online. Its difficult not having our grief recognised as real. But I KNOW it is real, I am the one suffering from it and so I don't give a fig what anyone tells me anymore. I don't buy the crap about everyone having individual "truths" either. The truth is that adoption causes damage... FULLSTOP. This truth doesn't change from one person to the next. It is either denied or accepted. Counsellors are great for waffling on about truths and stuff. Only you know what is real as you are the one going through it!

    I think the best people who can help us are people who, although don't know much about adoption trauma, accept it is out there but knows how to deal with trauma surrounding loss and grief. It isn't the same and it doesn't help as much as someone who really knows what they are talking about could help but it is better than nothing I guess.

    Anyway, sending hugs and lotsa love

    Myst xxx

  2. It's sad that psychologists are not trainied in adoption issues. The profession is only now beginning to realize there might be some trauma associated with the rosy world of adoption.
    I have also given up hope of finding competent counseling. My last therapist said he had seen some continuing ed courses on the subject but hadn't considered taking any since there seemed to be no need.


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  4. I am very curious about the person who selected "disagree"...

    This post is a summary of my counseling experiences. What about my experiences do you disagree with?

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  6. Well, here I am, reading the things that we don't quite vocalize quite as well to each other face 2 face.
    Your pain-my pain-the pain for ourselves, and the pain for each other.
    I feel frustration, because I see your pain, but am unable to fix it!

    Over the years, you've suggested that I get counseling for myself.
    Pssstttt! I'll tell you a little secret.
    I have.
    Oh, I didn't sift through the yellow pages, making phone calls in search of a 'qualified counselor'
    I have my doubts that they exist.
    (we both know how mistrusting I can be)

    Instead, over the years, the times I REALLY needed to talk, I called THE HOTLINE.

    Of course, the first thing I've always told my 'confidant' was that I'm NOT suicidal. If there was someone on another line, who was in an immediate situation, please take care of them.
    Then? I'd pour my heart out! My anger, fear, frustration, pain.
    I don't think I'll ever come across a 'qualified counselor' as honest as some of the volunteers I've talked with on the phone.

    Why do I say that?
    I guess because instead of 'stringing me along' through years of 'sessions' these confidants were not afraid to tell me that they honestly didn't know much about my situation.
    They weren't full of ideas, suggestions, or advice. They didn't 'know how I felt'
    BUT, they were really good at...

    So usually I got to talk whatever it was that I needed to say, and I didn't even have to face them for my next 'session.' Once I finished my 'rant', I thanked them for their time, and hung up the phone. That was it.

    Their goal was simple. To keep me conversing and to listen long enough to ensure that I would make it through one more day.

    So, to the people who took the time from their own personal lives to listen, yet didn't make a dime off of my pain,

    I have to agree with Myst...

    (((You could probably teach more to any counsellor you come across than anything they could do for you. I get my help from mothers like yourself and those I meet online.)))

    To me, a qualified counselor isn't necessarily someone who went to school, studied books, and wrote a few term papers, to earn a certificate for their wall...

    Qualified = people like you, Cheerio.

    Good luck with #6!
    and please remember...

    I know I'm really good at saying the wrong thing, but I guess I can't possibly go wrong with:
    I Love you always,
    Big Little Sis