Maybe I needed this to happen. I think I needed a major back injury to put things into perspective. I am about 4 weeks post-op from spinal surgery. The more I move around, the more my back hurts. On the plus side, I can now walk and I can feel my right foot again. I was hoping that I would be magically cured by now and back to normal activity. I’m not. I’m still in pain but I am leaps and bounds from where I started.
This seems like the perfect analogy for my childrens’ trauma. Despite all of the hard work and therapy we put in, it is still there. Their trauma responses and attachment are leaps and bounds better from where they started. However, the fear they have is still there. It’s a long process and we are still working on it.
This summer Mary has reverted back a bit in terms of separation anxiety. Mary wants to be with me every second of every day. She hugs me until I cannot breathe. She watches me intently as I eat a sandwich or enjoy a cup of coffee. She proclaims “Oh, Mommy! You’re here!” at least 5 times per day. When I come out of the bathroom and open the door, she falls in because she has been pressed up against it on the other side. Mary cannot get enough of mommy-time. Each morning she exclaims, “I missed you all night! I’m so glad you’re here!”
She has been waking up in the night again. She is having some difficulty separating from us at bedtime. She says, “I just feel like I don’t get any time with you. I want a mommy and girl day where I can love you all day!”
All of her attention is very sweet. She really loves me. A lot. To the point of suffocation. Don’t get me wrong, I am truly grateful and happy to be loved by such an awesome little chicken. I really lucked out as a mom. It’s just that I’d like to be able to carry a conversation with someone else once and awhile. It would be nice to pee in private without someone listening intently on the other side of the door!
She mentioned in therapy last night that she is afraid I will die. (Did I mention that her therapist is back from maternity leave? She came back! Thank goodness!!) Mary has even thought about how I will die. She has imagined or dreamed that:
- One of her biological mother’s boyfriends will find us and beat me to death.
- I will be in a car accident.
- I will get shot.
- I will have a heart attack.
Mary told the therapist that she worried her biological parents would find us. She imagined them flying around in a plane and seeing us playing outside. She felt worried and anxious and afraid.
Mary has been working on the difference between thoughts, feelings, and actions. Her therapist helped her tease out the difference between her worries and real-life logic. This is so hard for children with significant trauma history. Mary has a world-view that moms leave or get taken away. Because she thinks I am a “good mom,” and an “appropriate mom,” she knows I won’t leave her. So now she worries that it will happen some other way.
Through all of the healing these kids have done, they still have the underlying fear that all of this could be taken from them. They fear that the trauma of their past may come and reclaim them. It’s getting better, but it’s a long process.
As I got down on the floor today to do my stretches and back exercises, Mary got right down with me. Like a mirror image, she copied me move for move. Together we stretched our back muscles and exercised our core. It’s a long process. The road to recovery isn’t easy but we are getting there. Together.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.
**If you’ve ever considered foster or adoptive care, I encourage you to get started on your own adventure.