From the category archives:

by Jay Bancroft

Blunders

by jaybancroft on May 18, 2009

leahscaredstatues41Recently our daughter commented on how she couldn’t look at a particular photo of herself as a toddler because it brought back feelings of terror. Wendy and I were stunned to hear this. Even though we have learned much in the last few years helping Leah to work through her personal traumas as an adoptee, this one hit us by surprise.

The photo came about when we were living in Singapore. I loved to explore the city with Leah in a carrier backpack or with her toddling along beside me. On one such trip, we came upon a sculpture of fanciful figures in front of the National Museum that I found enchanting. I placed her on a ledge in front of the figures and backed off for about the millionth photo. Then I scooped her up and off we went, with me totally unaware of what just went down. Now when Leah sees that picture she remembers terror, and interprets it as feeling she was going to be left behind. The scene must have been confusing and, as I said, terrifying…a strange location, a scary sculpture that she didn’t understand, and Leah somehow not figuring out what I was doing.

Leah had two separations by the time she was four months old and we came along: from her birthmom at two months when the decision to put her up for adoption was taken, and then from relations of the birthmom who agreed to take care of Leah until an adoptive family (us) could be found. I don’t know how inevitable this is, but we’ve come to believe these traumas left a profound imprint somewhere deep in our baby. She had no words to express it, but the fear was real, visceral. Follow this with an episode like the picture-taking, and who knows what else, and the imprints just get deeper. Then, to our undying regret, when Leah was about 14 months old we arranged for our close friend Kathy, who adored Leah, to take care of her while we took a week’s travel break in Thailand. For our baby, it was happening again. She got extremely sick and clung to Kathy for the whole time. When we made an arranged call (no cell phones then), Kathy debated with herself whether or not to tell us, and just when she was about to, we lost the connection and were left assuming all was well.

What does one make of this? Why is it we miss these things? Some words I read recently by Canadian author Anne Michaels in The Winter Vault about all children hit me as ringing true:  “We do not like to think about children’s fears…We push them aside to concentrate on their innocence.”  I can so easily see myself in that statement and wonder how much I have covered up over the years. Then Michaels says this: “But children are close to grief, they are closer to grief than we are…In every child’s fear is always the fear of the worst thing, the loss of the person they love most.”

I talked with Leah about this realization recently and we chatted about how this issue of ‘abandonment’ affects her still. She mentioned she was going to reflect on it in her next post.

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I don’t believe in fate

by jaybancroft on March 21, 2009

I don’t believe in fate, not really, but in some sense I began to think how much our baby was meant to be our baby. After a short period of time, you begin to imagine your baby couldn’t be any other baby, she is too perfect, too much a part of you like an arm, a leg, an extra heart. Our friends in Singapore, where we lived at the time we adopted Leah, used to enjoy laughing at me, I so much loved having this baby and (apparently) conveying that I must have thought it was actually me who brought her to term.
Our other child (now adult) is Wendy’s son from a previous marriage, so I never had any birth children and hence no thoughts of whether or not I could equally love and parent a child who was not my own. If anything, having my step son from the age of seven gave me confidence to do so and eager to start from baby on up. At four months, Leah was it for me.

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Hello and Welcome

March 20, 2009

Leah was adopted from the Philippines 23 years ago. It’s been 23 years of love and joy matched by anger, depression and fear. This is her story, but it’s her parents’ story too. It’s also her brother’s story and his family’s story–because adoption affects everyone.

Read the full article →