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The Chaos Reigns
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that our lives belong to each other." - Mother Teresa

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Layers of the Onion- Part 2 {Trauma}

Let's start with what I call The Cry.

When we first brought home Jude, his cry was very intense. He cried with his whole body. It was loud. He would shake. But, it still evoked compassion. I always felt so bad for him, and I could just feel how intense his sadness was when he cried.

Gia's cry was different... way different.  Loud was an understatement. Every time she cried I was baffled she hadn't done severe damage to her lungs. It was a cry I did not even know was even possible for a young child to make. And, this is coming from someone who had 4 very colicky bio babies. My babies were screamers (think 6-8 hours of persistent screaming at night lasting for months at a time.)  So, I am coming into this adoption with what I thought was a strong resume in tolerating screaming. I was wrong.

Turns out, I did not have any experience with this type of screaming.

Her cry was a terror shriek. Think your worst horror movie. I had a hard time (and still do) being in the same room with her when she shrieks. It makes my heart race.
Call 911 reactions...right?..
There must be something horrifying happening here... right?
... or nothing at all.
When she would wake up, I would rush to her room thinking maybe she got her head stuck between the rails and her head fell off .....or fell out of the crib and broke her skull. No nothing... Just Gia waking up from her nap and acting as if someone was torturing her to death.

This, my friend, is a sign of trauma.
What trauma?
Well, the only trauma we know for sure about is the one of Gia and Jude losing their birth parents, spending time in an orphanage, and then the sudden shock of transitioning to our family. The rest is a vast mystery.

The not knowing is the hardest part to deal with.

 All we can do is identify the symptoms of trauma...

Here are some signs I have learned about...

Hyperalert  Gia is crazy hyper alert. Always. She resist sleep. Resist sitting still. Resists everything. Her basic reactions to things are still sometimes very bizarre to me.
Moves from hyper-arousal to panic recoil.  The smallest thing causes this child to panic. Eyes darting in many directions as if someone was coming after her.
Night Terrors Every night we had night terrors the 1st 5 months after we brought her home. She still randomly wakes up at night streaking.
She cries with rageful terror. She goes from 0-10 when upset. See paragraph above.

We are still working through it...trying to uncover all the pieces of the puzzle for her. Her cry is getting much better and a little less intense. She no longer rages when you wipe her nose or gently redirect she did constantly when we first brought her home. But, with anything to do with sleep or if something really upsets her, back to terror shrieking she goes. There is clearly some serious trauma around sleep, which I will talk through more in my next post.

Jude's trauma has not been as intense as Gia's. His has been mostly around control of food and liquids. When we first brought him home, he became rageful whenever food came into his sight. He still has what we have labeled his "dehydration tantrums." He is now very capable verbally telling us he needs water, but he goes into this unexpected screaming panic. He cries so uncontrollably which what seems to be for no reason. The first few times he did this, we would spend hours trying to figure out the root cause to comfort him. We would finally give him a glass a water, and he would immediately stop. Now we know as soon as Jude has a tantrum we always first try to give him water because he goes into this panic mode and can no longer verbalize that this is what he needs.

So, how do we help Jude heal from "food and liquid" trauma?  Well, the most likely root cause is from not having enough food and drink in the orphanage. So, we just always have it available and avoid all power struggles with food. The hope is with time, he will relax and know it is always available for him, and he will slowly heal.

So, how does Gia heal from her past trauma? Well, what I have learned is that relationship based trauma (like being abandoned) is only healed through a relationship. So, little Gia needs to attach to us, and we are tasked with helping her heal. Texas Christian University has a trauma and research center, and I have been watching their videos repeatedly...trying to relearn how I parent and correct her. I have had to undergo a big transformation and change. We are seeing slow and steady progress. But, occasionally, she regresses. I have actually seen a significant positive impact on the whole family using this method known as TBRI.

We pray that love and time will heal.

Next post {Sleep..or lack there of}