Some of my earliest childhood memories are feelings and smells. I can’t describe them with words, but I remember the feelings attached to those memories. If I smell black currant anywhere, my mind immediately shifts to my childhood and the abundant black currant bushes in my native country. I imagine a particular time of picking these berries, every single time. The smell of baby powder reminds me of my first days of motherhood and learning to care for my oldest daughter (who is now heading off to college). I don’t have a particular memory about that, just the feeling of becoming a mother. I suppose we all have those memories that we don’t always have words for, but we can feel so deeply.
Adoption professionals have written many articles about traumatic experiences in children that can’t be always verbalized. The memories I described were all tied to ordinary life memories, but many children go through challenging circumstances and memories are attached to them just the same. Some memories are recalled, other memories their brain and body remembers. For us, the recalled memories seem to be the ones we can process together, the body remembered memories are trickier.
With Eve, we have an added layer of complexity; she is non-verbal. How does one unravel the preverbal trauma of a non-verbal child? Out of all my children, she has probably experienced the most trauma and continues to do so with her medical challenges. I shared just a tiny bit regarding a recent hospital stay and what we found helpful with Eve. Time together has not erased the trauma, but it has allowed me to know Eve’s cues better. I can advocate for her better when she seems to go to place of avoidance and fear. Time has helped to identify triggers and know how to guide Eve through unpleasant experiences. With her medical condition we can’t avoid them, but we can help her through them.
Preverbal trauma doesn’t have an expiration date. It doesn’t go away just because a child is older or because a child was adopted as an infant. As a parent, I can’t even pretend to be an expert on my children’s trauma and feelings. I am merely present in the moment, I reach out for the right resources and I advocate as needed.
Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!
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