One of the things which is difficult to come to terms with as an adoptive mum is the fact that I wasn’t always there to protect my daughter. We met her when she was nine months old. She was in foster care until then from the day she left hospital so it would easy to think that she won’t have suffered any significant trauma in her birth family.
From what we know about birth mother, she didn’t drink or take drugs during pregnancy. There has been no evidence of this from little miss in terms of her development and behaviour. However, she didn’t go to the doctors as soon as she found out she was pregnant. That wasn’t done until she was over 30 weeks.
I have no doubt that this was done for no other reason than to be able to enjoy the pregnancy for as long as possible without the intrusion of professionals and assessments. Her motivation was a selfish one perhaps. I don’t think it was done with the intention of potentially harming her unborn child though.
However, I’m starting to think that harm was done to our daughter during those months. I feel very helpless and sad about that.
I wouldn’t have thought there was an issue if we hadn’t heard from a psychiatrist during our preparation course. One of the issues that was covered was the impact domestic violence can have on an unborn child. I think the physical risks to an unborn child whose mother is hit during pregnancy is pretty obvious. Naively, that is the only type of impact I thought domestic violence would have on an unborn child.
However, the psychiatrist told us about a study which had been carried out to try and find out whether an unborn child is affected by shouting and arguing. Basically a number of pregnant women were asked to play the EastEnders theme tune loudly a lot during their pregnancy. The EastEnders tune was used because it has such a distinctive beat. The same theme was played to the babies after they were born and their reaction to it lead to the conclusion that unborn babies can hear loud noises such as shouting and arguing.
The resultant increase in mother’s stress levels can also have a detrimental effect on the unborn child throughout their lives. There is a whole host of research on this point but basically a stressed and anxious pregnancy can lead to mental health issues for the child.
Little miss has recently started to get very upset at any type of loud noise and specifically raised voices. This can be a raised voice for any reason so if we are getting loud because we’re excited about something, that has the same impact as a raised angry voice.
My initial reaction to it was that it is just a phase. But then the demon thought, “is it because she’s adopted,” started to creep in. I’ve written before about my fears about this with terrible two tantrums.
As a first time parent it can be so difficult to work out what is normal and what isn’t. I do try and go with normal as so far, that has proved to be the case. However, this type of behaviour isn’t something anyone else I know has come across with their kids.
Domestic violence is something that is in birth family’s history and it could be the cause of her behaviour now. However, if we hadn’t heard from the psychiatrist about it, I wouldn’t be thinking anything of it now. I’m glad that we did learn about it because it’s alerted me to the fact that it could be more than just a phase.
At the moment I don’t think we need to seek any assistance with it. I certainly don’t want to make it into something that it isn’t. Hopefully, whatever the cause, it will pass naturally. We’re trying to be as reassuring as possible with lots of cuddles and talking about what is causing the noise.
Whatever the cause is, it has really brought home to me again the fact that I haven’t been there for the whole of our daughter’s life. No-one was there to protect her from whatever it was that went on between her parents. It is completely irrational of me to feel guilty that I wasn’t there to protect her. It doesn’t stop me feeling that way though.
As an adoptive mum, I have to accept that things have happened to my daughter before we met her and it is for us to help her get through the effects of that. We’ll probably never know what is causing her distress at loud noises. In a few months hopefully I’ll look back and think I was making a mountain out of a mole hill.