Saturday, September 28, 2013

What Happened This Week: A Community Responds To News of "Baby Veronica"

The following is basically a reformulation of things I shared on facebook during the past week.

(c) 123RF Stock Photos
The best phrase I can think of to describe what I observed in the adoptee and first parent community as the news broke of Veronica's transfer is "mass reactivated trauma." The cumulative effect as the news spread through social media Monday night was stunning. It was as though people throughout the adoption community were falling to their knees wailing. Or as Claudia Corrigan D'Arcy wrote of the "collective consciousness of sadness," quoting Star Wars: “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”

There is a reason why so many adoptees and first parents reacted with strong emotion to the Veronica news. And it wasn't in our heads. It was in our bodies. We were experiencing our own old separation trauma reactivated by current events.

The following quote, though not specifically about the Veronica situation or even adoption separation, aptly captures what I saw happening to myself and others.
Then our baby Sara died at birth. The trauma of losing Sara with no warning brought me to my knees ... and changed my life forever. During the past decade, I thought I'd taken care of recovering from this loss with therapy and support groups and my work. But when the TWA jet blew up in the sky in July 1996 and people died in a shocking tragedy, I was retraumatized. I couldn't stop watching the news, craving more gory details than necessary and unable to concentrate on much else. I realized it was my old trauma activated by something beyond my control "out there." -- Dee Paddock
Meanwhile, as some of us reeled in shock, others were celebrating and saying things like "We won!" It wasn't long before some began to attack those of us who were expressing grief and shock. We were called "loons" and "nuts" and told to seek therapy. We heard the usual dismissals of adoptee pain ("Not all adoptees feel that way," etc., etc.) and were accused of projecting our own issues onto Veronica, who, we were informed, was perfectly happy to be back with Matt and Melanie Capobianco. 

It is true that I cannot know for certain how Veronica will process her separation from her biological father. I do know, however, that a smiling exterior is not necessarily an indication that all is well:
Dr. Bruce Perry is a researcher at Baylor College of Medicine who is studying the impact childhood trauma has on the emotional, behavioral, cognitive, social and physical functioning of children. He has studied child survivors of the Waco disaster and has found that traumatized children can be sitting calmly in a group, talking about something benign like the weather, yet still be in a hyper-aroused physiological state. Although they appear outwardly calm, their resting heart rate may be as high as 140 - 160 beats per minute. They may experience the rush of adrenaline and a hyper-vigilant, heart-racing, breath-racing reaction of "fight, flight, freeze" in response to non-threatening situations at almost any time. -- Dee Paddock
If you look through my childhood albums you will find plenty of smiling photographs. I appeared happy, and, in truth, I was so, much of the time. But does that mean that I was entirely okay or that the separation from my original family didn't affect me? No. I also experienced night terrors and other symptoms of trauma that would play out in various ways through out my childhood and into my adult years.

This week I have been reliving my own separation all over again. I've been caught up in the reactive experience entirely, to the point of having difficulty concentrating on anything else. I found that I needed to give voice to what was happening--to myself and to others--and I did so by way of the poem I posted at Lost Daughters.

But now that I've said what I needed to say, I'm shifting to self-care. After I publish this post, I'm planning to step away from the Internet for a while this weekend. I'm going to take my dog for a long walk, focus on my daughter's upcoming birthday, and do some traumatic-energy-releasing exercises (a la Peter Levine's Somatic Experiencing). 

I send out love to all who have been experiencing big emotions this week. May we all find some measure of relief and inner peace. 


  1. I backed off from the Internet soon after the news came out. I wrote a horrible blog post (didn't post it) and wrote another much milder one. You want to burn down the world when things like this happen, and the events with this story this summer and now with Veronica being taken have been too much and threaten to drag me back to that horrible place I was not too long ago. I cannot go back.
    I am sorry for adoptees and first parents who are experiencing a whole different level of pain. I cannot imagine.

  2. I hope you are able to enjoy your weekend! I also tried to take a break, succeeded most of the day but here I am before bed...

    I would love to learn more about Peter Levine's somatic experiencing. Amazon lists many books, which would you advise to be the first one to be read?

  3. Adoptive mom here who screamed at the universe when the verdict came out. Wanted to shake the judge. Wanted to go to those parents door and ask them what the @)## they are thinking. I still cannot wrap my head around it. It is so far beyond wrong. It is wrong.

  4. Thank you for this post. I don't think I can explain my reaction, and it's probably not exactly the same as yours, but reading your post helped me to understand a little bit.

    I wish that those who cheered so enthusiastically for adoption were as enthusiastic about adoptee rights and respect for adoptees.

  5. No cheering over here. When the verdict first came out, I thought the court probably did the best job they could with the information at hand. But, it doesn't make it right. There were so many things wrong with the case from the beginning that there would never be an outcome that was good for either side. Full disclosure, we had a disrupted placement 3 days after we brought a baby home this summer. That's my trauma coming up when I read news about this case. I feel for the adoptive parents, because that's what I am, and now I've been through the worst. However, I can't say that I agree with their actions. An adoption has to be child-centric. Always. In this case, it wasn't.

  6. Thank you for your voice. This is not for the best interest of the child when they speak of winning anything, or when your voices are silenced. This is a civil rights war and they have forgotten history. The silver lining is that we can learn and appreciate history, and we can be thankful for the love and support of those strong enough to stand now. Take a moment for yourself. We will be here.

  7. Thank you for this. You say it so well. My heart, stomach, head, everything, ache for Veronica...yes, it physically reactivates our trauma. No one else gets that. I had to back off the articles and such, too, as I was having such a visceral reaction that it was physically affecting me as near panic, and I knew I needed to take care of myself better. I don't know if it's helped...I still think about it and want to be sick. Even more hurtful is that NO ONE outside the adoption community seems to get it - at all. Anything that I posted to FB got NO comments or words of understanding from any of my friends or family. I think that makes us all feel like they really don't understand, or don't care, or think we should "get over it." Invalidation. Love to all adoptees and birth parents - may God Bless us all and let's all take care of ourselves. <3

  8. "Even more hurtful is that NO ONE outside the adoption community seems to get it - at all."
    Yes, that. As Deanna Shrodes pointed out on her blog recently, the average person tends to identify with the adoptive parents in this scenario. This is one of those times when it certainly feels like adoptees are standing on the edge of a cliff shouting into the wind. But at least we have each other for company. And I do know that some people are hearing us, even if it doesn't seem that way.


  9. Thanks to everyone for your kind and thoughtful comments on this post.

  10. I'm having a hard time figuring out which book to recommend first (My favorite is probably the chronic pain one, but don't know if that's the best one to start with.) You might want to start here for general information:

  11. Walking the Tiger is perhaps the best overview.

  12. In many ways, this entire case activated us to the fairy dust of the adoption propaganda. Once the dust settled, this child was still taken.