Connie Going: Hi, my name is Connie Going, and I am so excited to have you here at Adoption Focus. Adoption Focus is a blog talk radio show sponsored by Adoption Associates. Adoption Associates is a nonprofit adoption agency whose mission is to promote domestic and international adoption, support birth mothers and adoptive families along the way. They are located in Michigan in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills, and Saginaw. Established in 1990, they have created well over 5,000 adoptive placements. That is so exciting.
Today, we have the honor and the privilege of talking to Anna Walton, and she’s a psychotherapist. In her practice, Wise Counseling, she has offered to be here and share with us. We’re going to talk a little bit about grief in adoption. She has a wealth of experience and knowledge, and we are just so thrilled to have you hear. Anna, are you on the line?
Anna Walton: I am.
Connie Going: Yay. I will share with everyone, we had an attempt earlier in this year and some connectivity problems because she was up in the woods of northern Michigan.
Anna Walton: I was.
Connie Going: I know that’s beautiful. And for those of you who listen to the show regularly, or those who don’t, you know that I’m in south Florida. So we’re worlds away, but we come together to talk about adoption, talk about the issues in adoption, and things that we are just passionate about. So, Anna, tell us a little bit about your practice and what in adoption just really is something that you love to focus on?
Anna Walton: Okay. I have a group practice in the southern end of Lansing, Michigan. We make up quite a diverse group of practitioners, all of which specialize in trauma focused treatment. A passion that I certainly have, and some of the workers that I have here as well, is foster care, adoption, and working with every facet that’s involved in that process. So, we work with adoptees, we work with adoption parents that are struggling with their adopted children. We also work with moms pre-placement and developing their adoption plan, as well as post care. We just are available to help them through that process. I have not worked with Adoption Associates to be able to provide those services.
On a personal note, I grew up in a foster adoptive home, and my parents adopted. I have also fostered and adopted children myself, so I have some personal experience as well in this field. So, that’s really where we come from, and I just wanted to be able to share today some of the needs in regards to the birth mom. I think that’s really a topic that doesn’t have as much attention as it probably should. The social stigmas in regards to the birth mom, the lack of research and care that’s available, the resources that are lacking. Then the birth moms themselves, just the fact that they are such an amazing, amazing, courageous group of women that really should be honored and supported. We need to be more aware of their needs, and be more in tune to what they are doing, and the fact that they’re going to be living with this the rest of their lives as well, so-
Connie Going: Anna-
Anna Walton: Basically, that’s what I’d like to talk about.
Connie Going: Well, you are our expert in many, many, many ways. Why do you think … When you look at the history of domestic adoption, and you … and adoption as a whole, there is a stigma that I know we both talked about being very passionate about changing about birth mothers, about the secrecy, about the … how society perceives them. When you truly embrace adoption, you know that the core of all adoptions are the birth parents and just the selflessness that they exhibit. Tell us a little bit about how that’s comet through your years of practice and where we’re at right now.
Anna Walton: Well, we have made some progress, but we certainly have a very, very, very long way to go. There still is today a very strong social stigma against birth moms, and just the overall perception that those who decide to choose adoption as a birth plan, that there must be factors that are relevant to their decision making process that are negative. Unfortunately, that’s not the truth. That’s not the truth at all. And so, we have a long way to go in bringing awareness that this is definitely a gift giving decision. However, it does have some pretty severe consequences to the birth moms. It’s overlooked. Even the birth moms themselves are often very unaware of what those consequences potentially could be for them.
So we just have to have that conversation and continue to offer them that support, and understanding that we can’t put a birth mom in a box and say well, it must be that they’re unfit, or that they’re not stable, or they don’t have parenting skills, or that they’re a drug addict, or … We have all these different ideas of what might have led to this situation. The truth is that the majority of the birth moms I’ve had the honor of working with, that isn’t the case at all. A lot of these women are professional women. Some of them are married and have families. So there’s all different circumstances. There’s all different reasons as to why they make this choice. Sometimes those reasons are extremely positive, loving, spiritual reasons.
Connie Going: I agree.
Anna Walton: So we need to honor that and know that even when the circumstances are extremely positive for the birth mom, and they are very much being selfless, and believe themselves to be giving an amazing gift to another family, and even when the adoption is very open, and there’s a new relationship that’s established with the adoptive family, and the birth mom has the opportunity to still somehow be in that child’s life in some way, there’s still a loss. There is still a loss, and there is still going to be points in that birth mother’s life where they deal with that loss. So, that’s really … I guess as a mental health practitioner, I want to be able to bring light to that, that this birth mom, it’s not a one time giving. It’s not a one time loss. It’s a forever gift. It’s a forever loss. They will forever question that decision and wonder if … Did I make the best choice for my child? And so-
Connie Going: And, Anna, I think coming into it as an adoptive parent is coming into it, to truly understand the loss that a birth mother experiences throughout her lifetime, and to really encourage that openness, if that is what both parties want, and how healthy that can be for the child.
Anna Walton: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes, it very much can be. There are certain … of course, certain situations where the birth mom may not want to have an open adoption, or may feel that, that may be too painful, or maybe they have an idea that they will be able to better grieve or move forward if they don’t have that connection. But most of the time, you will find that if you follow them long enough, that eventually they will have a different experience. At some point, they may feel that maybe that wasn’t necessarily the truth.
During the time of doing the placement, that’s how … maybe how they felt, or the support you were receiving at that time, maybe that’s what they were hearing, and so they just went along with it. Or maybe it really met their needs at that moment. But the reality is, at some point there’s going to be that desire for connection because it’s just wired in us biologically and spiritually. So, absolutely open adoption is extremely valuable and important to the birth mom, and to the child as well, and that attachment is … We could get into attachment theory itself, but it’s so, so important that-
Connie Going: So, that connection, Anna, that connection that, that adoptive family can understand, and understand the why’s and not be afraid. Because in reality, in my 30 years experience, I had never, in working from a time period before we really did open adoptions, I’ve never had a birth parent, in my experience, come and try to take a child after they were adopted, try to come in and run away with a child. I think that when you do an adoption plan the right way, which I believe in Adoption Associates, that they really work with that birth mother to make sure this is her decision and her plan, that those instances are so incredibly rare.
But it’s just always this fear when you work with adoptive families that they have. I don’t know if in your experience you’ve had a different … But that’s what I’ve seen as a whole, is that even for birth parents who go through a removal situation in the child welfare system, there is a lot of unresolved issues. It’s definitely not nearly as healthy as domestic adoption as far as how the children come. But, again, if you can give everyone the pieces, and you can work that out, it’s healthier for everybody.
Anna Walton: Absolutely. Yeah. We don’t want birth moms going through this process without having those conversations, or feeling coerced into doing something that they’re not fully and completely committed to. So, it is extremely important that the agency takes that responsibility very seriously, that we do have a very open and honest conversation about the process, that we validate all of those concerns and fears, that they’re very normal fears even though we don’t … you’re right. We don’t see a lot of that happening, and it’s extremely rare for a birth mom to do something like that. That would be … I’ve never seen it. I don’t know of any actual stories of that happening. However, I do validate that as a true fear. Even as a foster adoptive mom myself, I remember having that fear, even though there was nothing to validate it.
Connie Going: Exactly.
Anna Walton: It’s just … It’s a normal part of that process. And there’s other fears. There’s other concerns, that your child isn’t ever going to really attach to you or love you as much as they will always love their birth parent, or that at some point, your adopted child is going to want to seek out the birth mom and abandon you as their parent. There’s all of those fears. Even in an open adoption case, you may find that during the … I have had this particular experience quite often, where you have an open adoption plan throughout the pregnancy. The birth mom and the adoptive parents are … They’ll form a really amazing bond and a relationship, and even through delivery, and all the way up until it’s time to sign off on rights and finalize the adoption, and even after that.
Those first few months are so crucial. Where everything seems to be very, very, very positive and open, and everybody’s connected, and it’s the best case scenario. I have seen where that’s the case, and then all of a sudden, out of the blue, birth mom will come in to a session and say, “I don’t know what’s really happened, but something shifted where now I kind of feel like adoptive mom or adoptive dad doesn’t really want me around,” or, “They really are uncomfortable around me,” or, “They’re treating me differently than they did before.” A lot of times, again, that is a birth mom … Their worst fears are starting to surface, the things that they didn’t really talk about before and deal with appropriately are starting to surface, and it’s skewing the perception of the relationship.
And it may not be that they’re really being treated differently. And it may not be that the adoptive family really doesn’t want them around. It’s their fear is overcoming their perception of reality, and vice versa. The adoptive family may not really have a clear idea of the roles and how they’re supposed to incorporate birth mom, and they have a fear that maybe they are not going to hold up to birth mom’s expectations or standards, or they’re going to fail birth mom in some way because they do recognize birth mom as a very valuable part of this relationship, and that they did give an amazing gift, and that they are a very intricate part of this, and they value that. And so they’re concerned that, “Well, what if my parenting, or whatever I’m doing with this beautiful child, that somehow birth mom’s going to think I’m not owning up to my end of the bargain?”
Connie Going: I see that, mm-hmm (affirmative).
Anna Walton: There can be all of that going on. Yeah.
Connie Going: I see that.
Anna Walton: All that could be going on [crosstalk] again, more need for conversation, more need for counseling, more need for open communication, and always keeping a focus of we need to remember that it’s what’s in the best needs of this child.
Connie Going: Absolutely.
Anna Walton: What’s going to make … Yeah. So, keeping that focus in mind, and recognizing we have feelings, we’re human. We’re going to feel things. We just need to talk through it and work through it, and continually try to improve those relationships.
Connie Going: I so agree with that. I feel like adoptive parents, their fear of not being the parent that is deserving of this child deep down inside, and when that child … You have the baby phase, and there’s the little infant phase. A lot of families who’ve had infertility, they fantasize about what that’s going to be like. There’s loss for them, too, in adoption because nobody, as a parent in any form, knows how hard it’s going to be until they’re actually doing it.
Anna Walton: Hardest job on earth, right?
Connie Going: Yes, absolutely. And you can imagine it. But we have these fantasies, and when those fantasies aren’t exactly like we’ve imagined them, then we feel like we’re failing. So, it’s even doubly harder on an adoptive family in any realm because failure … You have this honor of raising someone else’s biological child, and to fail is not an option. But to reach out could mean you’re a failure, too, in their minds. So, to open, I love what you said about openness in those conversations and making those real, because we have to keep talking.
Even for those who reach out to birth parents, there may be a time for maybe a closed adoption, or adoption that came through a dependency system where you don’t have contact, but your child is of an age to where the world of Facebook opens up, and they seek out, and you’ve got to step in as a parent and make the best decision to where you have to talk about those things. You can’t deny them. And remember that you are the parent, and you are raising that child with all the love you’ve always wanted to have a child, all the love you want to share, and trying to be that best parent ever. But nobody’s perfect.
Anna Walton: Absolutely. The reality is that there is going to be trauma. There’s going to be trauma. I think, again, like you said, not being in this fantasy bubble. We have to recognize that it is traumatic for the birth mom. It is traumatic for the adoptive child. It’s traumatic for the adoptive parents. There is trauma. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to have a beautiful family experience, and it doesn’t mean that the child and the family can’t work through that trauma. But to pretend like it’s not going to happen, like I’m just going to love them, and everything’s going to be perfect, and this child’s … Because they’re never neglected, they’re never abused, they’ve never experienced any hardship, they’re not going to have any trauma behaviors. That is going to set yourself up for some really, really, really hard reality checks because the truth is that there’s trauma, and that can happen in the womb. Those feelings of trauma-
Connie Going: I think people don’t realize that. I think that people do not talk about that enough. They do not realize that. Working in both spectrums, I will guide families in different directions, and they’ll … I have parents that come and they are ready to adopt older children, and we talk about that. Then I have families that clearly need to do a domestic adoption. We talk about what that’s going to be like, and I think that simplicity of all I need to do is love that child, but recognizing that trauma, and they key is trauma, and loss, and attachment happens in all spectrums of the adoption.
Anna Walton: Right.
Connie Going: To the child. So, it doesn’t matter how you’re adopting-
Anna Walton: And recognizing-
Connie Going: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Anna Walton: Yeah, well recognizing, too … Well, a big piece that has really helped me as a professional with trauma is understanding that trauma can be genetically passed on as well, and understanding it’s in our DNA. It’s not just experiential. It’s not just what you’ve experienced. It’s literally in our DNA, and it unfolds in our genograms. And so, that mother may have had a really traumatic childhood, or maybe some traumas through even their young adulthood. Then all of that is wound in her system. And so, she then has a pregnancy, and some stress around that pregnancy in making these decisions, and all the normal fears that come with that. The baby can be bathed in cortisol. And so, even though healthy … She’s eating right, she’s getting great care, she’s got great support, there’s still the potential of that trauma to be passed on into that child’s DNA.
Again, that baby can be very healthy. The baby can overcome that trauma. It requires an extremely loving, safe environment with parents that are trauma informed, that are willing to do the trauma work, and then we can have a very positive outcome. Just knowing and educating yourself on what trauma behaviors look like, and what to do with those. One of the big things is that … Every trauma expert that I have studied under, and there’s been … there’s lots of them … And we’re really expanding in the trauma psycho education today, and what we’re learning with brain imaging and all this. This is just a fascinating time to be living in.
Connie Going: I know. I so agree.
Anna Walton: Especially for us neuroscience geeks, right? We’re learning so much about trauma and how it’s impacting brain development, and how it’s impacting child development. We now know that trauma can … it really comes out around age … Usually around age two is a time that we see quite a bit of manifestation in children. The trauma starts to unfold because that’s an age where children are learning language, and they’re starting to … there’s different developmental milestones that are happening, and so those genotypes are starting to unravel. Then we have another burst of it in adolescence. So, a lot of adoptive parents … And I was guilty of this myself. You get a child and you have many years of amazing behaviors. Child is seemingly very healthy, attached, and bonded, doesn’t present with any issues.
And then bam, they hit 15 and their head spins off. Right? And you go, “What happened?” Why all of a sudden is this child acting this way? Well, it’s because it was stored there all along, and now it’s unraveling, and we need to deal with it. And it’s not all hope is lost, it’s okay, I’m informed, I was prepared, I knew this was coming, and I have the tools that I need to be able to hep this child and continue to foster healthy development, and we’re going to work through this trauma, and I’m going to be understanding, and compassionate, and loving, and I’m going to keep this child safe. And I’m going to give them their story. I’m not going to hide their story. I’m going to give them their story so that they know the truth of the love that’s in this household, and the fact that they do have life, and purpose, and identity. That’s really where I come from as a practitioner when I work with families in this situation, is do not be afraid to talk about these things.
Tell the story. Do it in a developmentally appropriate way. You’ve got to know where your child is and what they can understand. And be sensitive to that. But you also need to be open and honest with them, and make sure that you’re constantly validating their feelings and what’s coming up for them. I think it’s the same with the birth mom. Same thing. Follow them through. Follow them through the life span. Because we have new research showing that birth moms can choose birth plans, do amazingly well for decades, and then they hit their elderly stages, when they hit that new psychosocial development, and all of a sudden boom, all that guilt, and shame, and what if, and fears, and whatever can surface. So again, that trauma had been stored there all along, and now it’s coming to the surface and it’s needing to be dealt with. So just understanding that this is a … It’s a big deal, and we’ve got to be willing to talk about it and address it in a loving way.
Connie Going: I think that’s the key, is to help people understand. That’s why I love the ability to be able to talk to you on this show, because people will listen live, but then we’ll also have … It’ll be on the website, and people will be able to pull it up and listen again in the archived version, because I don’t think … I think we’re on the tip of the iceberg. When we talk about trauma, when we talk about it having a genetic connection, I always think the … Even if it’s the hardest thing you do as an adoptive parent, the healthiest thing I can do is embrace my children’s birth parents in no matter what realm you’re in, because it reflects upon them how I love their birth parents.
Anna Walton: Absolutely. It’s part of who they are. It’s part of their identity.
Connie Going: You can’t deny it.
Anna Walton: If you make them out to be a villain and hate them, then you’re going to hate me, and there’s something wrong with me. Right?
Connie Going: And I always have people who … Absolutely. I always have people say, “Well, how do I …,” especially if there’s been a very traumatic birth mother or birth parent involved, whether it’s domestic or child welfare, and they say, “How do I tell them that their mom had this issue?” Obviously you can’t erase the facts of who they are, and what-
Anna Walton: Right.
Connie Going: Just because mom had this issue doesn’t mean they … But by not talking about it, when they hit puberty, and they’re looking in that mirror, and they’re separating from you, and they’re trying to find who they are, much healthier to walk up to that child and say, “You know, you have eyes. You have these beautiful blue eyes that are so much like your birth mom’s.” And to have had that time to be able to say that and make a healthy image, and help them develop that because there are so many questions. It’s the what ifs that haunt us.
Anna Walton: That’s right.
Connie Going: It’s like the little monsters that hide in the closet, and they pop out. Did they love me? Why did they give me away? Which we know is not how it necessarily happened. And using the right terminology from the time they are little. A lot of times … I don’t know if in practice you get this, but we get a lot of families, even on dependency, where kids were adopted a little bit older in the toddler stage, and they say, “We haven’t told them they’re adopted.” And I kind of have to say to them in the support group, I’m like, “But you’re white and she’s black. Why haven’t you told her she was adopted? I don’t understand.” To make that adoption work. I almost feel like with every adoptive family we should give them a gift basket that has these books, depending on the age of the child they talk with, so when the time comes right … They’re great books. I’ll put a plug in for Tapestry adoption books. You can pull up Amazon and put it in. But look at those books that talk about where you … It’s not too early to start.
Anna Walton: No.
Connie Going: To have those conversations.
Anna Walton: Especially if you frame it very positively with your truth. The truth is, as an adoptive parent, this was a gift to you. This was a miracle. This was an answer that you needed. This was not … You know what I mean?
Connie Going: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Anna Walton: So you can frame it in such a way to your child that this is … This is an amazing thing. The more that you frame it in that positive framework, your child is going to believe that. Children are very, very, very malleable. That’s our job as parents is we’re training them up. They’re very like little sponges, and they’re going to just believe, with this childlike faith, whatever they hear from you. If you frame it when they’re little as being a fantastic story of love, and grace, and … You’re just a little miracle to us, and we’re just so excited, and your birth mom did such an amazing thing, and you frame it right, that child is going to believe that to their core.
Connie Going: Yeah.
Anna Walton: But if you don’t address it, then you’re right, when they hit a certain age and they discover it some way, they’re going to automatically assume that it must have been so awful that we couldn’t talk about it. It must have been an awful story. And no matter how much you try at that point to make it out to be well, no, it was a gift, and … They’re not going to believe you because you didn’t take the time to establish that foundation. So, very, very, very important to do that, to give a child their story. We do it with our own birth children. We tell them their story from the time they’re born. We tell them how much … We tell them about their birth story. We do. If you think about it-
Connie Going: Oh, yeah.
Anna Walton: Most families, they tell their children about their story.
Connie Going: I always have these panic calls, especially for children that are adopted at birth or very, very young, and they go, “Okay, she’s going into first grade now. We think it’s time.” Or kindergarten, and we have to do a family tree. Or someone will be pregnant and she’s asking questions what it was like in my tummy. And I’m like, just start talking. You’re not going to mess this up if you’re honest. You know how to talk to your child. Just talk from your heart and they’re going to feel that. But they have this huge fear they’re not going to do it right. That’s why being a component and an advocate for open adoption, if that’s something that the birth parent is in the direction they’re going, because it is so healthy.
Anna Walton: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Connie Going: People will say … Let’s talk a little bit about this. People will say as they’re heading into it, and birth mothers coming into it, they think that well, won’t they be confused? Won’t they be confused when I have to introduce or explain to her friends that she has this person and this person in her life? How do you work with that as a therapist? How do you educate them about that?
Anna Walton: I guess I would need more information in the situation. But really, one of the big things is … Having been a foster mom myself, and having had children, that’s been a real situation of adopting children out of foster care, where they still have connections. Because I adopted teens out of foster care, which I think-
Connie Going: Me too, yes.
Anna Walton: [crosstalk] right?
Connie Going: Yes.
Anna Walton: At that point, they very much know their entire birth family. If you live in a small town, the whole community knows, the school knows. You have a name change, everybody knows. And so, it’s … Yeah. I’ve had kids where they absolutely did not want their friends to know that they were in foster care, or that they were adopted. They were scared to death that they would be treated differently at school, that their friends would ask questions about their birth family, that there would be that kind of confusion. So yeah, we have to have those conversations on how to address those issues.
I think one of the things with the families and with the parents, I’ll say, “Look, I don’t know about you, but I’ve had lots of mamas in my lifetime.” I remember attaching to women in my lifetime where I would call them mom for no reason. You go through those teenage years where you start to call your best friend’s mom “Mom”. You may have teachers that pour into you. You might have a spiritual mom at church. You get married and you have a mother-in-law. You’re going to have different mothers throughout your lifetime. That’s just part of being a collective community.
But you will always know who your primary caregivers are, and that doesn’t have anything to do with genetics. It doesn’t have anything to do with who did labor and delivery. It has to do with who was there rocking you to sleep when you were sick. Who was there taking you back and forth to doctors appointments, and making sure that you got your homework done, and doing all those things that a parent does? That’s who your child is going to know who their primary caregiver … And sometimes that’s an adoptive mom, sometimes it’s a foster mom, sometimes it’s a grandparent, sometimes it’s-
Connie Going: Yeah.
Anna Walton: Different people take different roles in their lives. So I often will just encourage families to say look, your child knows who their primary caregiver is. They know who their real mom and dad are. That doesn’t mean that they can’t also have a loving relationship with the person that chose life for them, and loved them so much, recognized that their life mattered, and wanted them to have everything that the child could have and does have. Recognizing that, and having that conversation, and saying … Sometimes birth children do end up at some point having a very unique relationship with their birth mothers or birth fathers, and are able to manage that quite well. It doesn’t take away from the love that they have with their current parents. I have to say that. I get married, I have a mother-in-law, they become a mom to me. That doesn’t mean I lose my mom. It’s an addition.
Connie Going: I try to tell my boys this. You can’t have enough love. I’m a-
Anna Walton: You can’t.
Connie Going: I think that it takes a lot of people to raise children. I love having their connections, whether it was their mentor, or it was … Somebody that steps up and says, “I’m willing to be there for your family, I’m willing to be there for your children.” We just keep extending our family. I think adoption on every realm is like that. I love to see adoptive families connect to each other. I love to see them share those relationships, to share [crosstalk]
Anna Walton: Absolutely. Support.
Connie Going: Because you can become very isolated as an adoptive family. I love to see birth moms and birth parents come together in support because they’re experiences … You think you’re the only one going through this, and when you open up and you meet another person, and literally … I think in the world of adoption, I could walk into the post office and say the word adoption, and six people would have a connector to it. We just don’t talk about it all the time. When you find those common-
Anna Walton: Right.
Connie Going: You find those common bonds and those connectors, and you really become healthier in doing that. But the more love, the better. I am honored to be my children’s mom. They call me a lot of different things. I get called … But they are … I am [crosstalk]
Anna Walton: Well, any mom knows that experience. Right?
Connie Going: Absolutely.
Anna Walton: We’ve been called all kinds of things.
Connie Going: Absolutely. The thing is, is that I know I’m their mom. I’m raising them. I’m taking a responsibility for them, and I’m loving them. But their birth mom … And one of their birth mothers is now deceased, and he didn’t even get to know her. It’s so sad because he never got to know the love that she truly did … So, our journey is finding out and letting him know how much he was loved.
Anna Walton: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely. You know, I think it’s really interesting, too, that a lo of this is American culture. We look at other cultures, if you really expand your eyes, you look over, like in Africa, and different cultures, man, it’s so community based that these kids will be walking down the street and they’ll just walk into a house and start sitting down at the table, and eating, and they’ll just address those people as mom and dad. And it’s like, wait a minute, well who’s their parents? And if you go and you ask that question in that community, or that tribe, or culture, they’ll say anyone that’s in the community is mom and dad. A whole different perception. Whole different perception.
So, again, thinking about our culture and how in this particular culture, we have become so isolated and individualized. We don’t have that collectivism approach to our family dynamics, and unfortunately, we suffer for it. When there’s tragedies, and traumas, and needs, we suffer for it. There’s strength in community, and so I often will work with adoptive parents on that and reminding them that look, you do need to connect. You do need to build a community. You need support. Your children need support. You need to recognize that it does take a village, because parenting is the hardest job on earth, and you’re going to need a break. You’re going to need respite. You’re going to need advice. You’re going to need help. And that’s okay. That’s okay. That’s the beauty of relationships. You’re right. You can never have enough love.
Connie Going: That is so true. And you know, as a birth mom, I hope if you’re listening to this and someone’s … brings you to it later, that you hear that these are options for you, and to be able to embrace the fact that it doesn’t have to be the way that it might have been perceived for you as what adoption. Although there is loss and grief … I mean, we would be crazy to ignore that at any stage of the process, with support and connections, you can come through this and change your life in different ways that you never thought possible.
Anna Walton: Absolutely.
Connie Going: As we pull this all together … because it’s been a great conversation, Anna. I knew it would be. What do you want to leave as your statement on loss and grief for birth parents and adoptive families, too?
Anna Walton: I’m sorry. I’m not sure I understood your question?
Connie Going: Okay. How would you like to, as we’re heading … we’re pulling this all together and wrapping it up, what is the message you’d like to put out there for birth mothers to wrap this up, and adoptive families, also?
Anna Walton: Well, first I would say congratulations, and I celebrate with you, and I celebrate you. Because I think that’s not said enough, because this is definitely … Whether you’re the birth mom, or the adoptive mom, or the adoptee, your story is amazing, and your story is beautiful, and it’s a testimony, and it needs to be celebrated. So that’s one thing that I think we need to do in the grief and loss process, is to remember to celebrate the truths that have led us to where we are and who we are.
I would also say do not fall into isolation, as we’ve been talking about community. Seek support. Get connected. Find counseling. Find support groups. There’s lots of resources available on the internet now, blogs. Whatever it takes to be able to connect to others that can understand where you’re at, that can minister to you where you’re at, and continue to support and guide you through that grief and loss is so important. It’s really, really hard to heal from loss alone. And so, I would definitely encourage whatever … wherever you’re at in the process, to continually seek that support and those resources, and to educate, and to be aware, and to learn.
Definitely on that trauma piece, too. I always want to get that plug in. Make sure you understand trauma. Make sure you understand trauma because unfortunately, today, trauma behaviors are getting a lot of ugly labels they shouldn’t be getting. And we’re prescribing meds like crazy for trauma, and we’re mislabeling, and misdiagnosing, and we’re not really meeting the needs of people that … where it just needs to be addressed completely differently. So, being aware of that, and I speak that to adoptive parents, I speak that to the birth moms, and to the children as well. If you’re struggling, if you’re going through something, or you have different emotions, depression, anxiety, all of a sudden learning is an issue, whatever it is, it might be the trauma, and that’s what you need to deal with. And make sure that you do that trauma assessment piece and work through that, through your own healing and growth process.
Connie Going: Absolutely. THRIVE Counseling, with capital T-H-R-I-V-E.
Anna Walton: Correct.
Connie Going: You have a Facebook page. And where are you located, and what is your phone number if somebody wanted to find you? [crosstalk]
Anna Walton: We are located at 4221 South Martin Luther King in Lansing, Michigan. My number is 517-898-4303.
Connie Going: I would hope that anyone that is need of services and can reach out and open that door … I think that it’s challenging in the world to find adoption competent practitioners. We are becoming more competent across the United States. I always know that when I talk to a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, and they’re talking about trauma informed care, and then they’re talking about attachment adoption, they usually have more background. But really, Anna, I cannot stress enough, is an expert in this field and has a passion for it. I would just encourage families to, if you’re in that area and you’re in need of services, to reach out for her and her practice because I think that’s just an amazing resource. So, Anna, I want to thank you so much for being here and sharing with us.
Anna Walton: Well, thank you for having me. I’m excited!
Anna Walton: I’m excited to bring awareness, and I’m excited to bring awareness and to shed light, and to be able to bring people just one step closer to their journey to thrive, and to know that they deserve to be celebrated. We need to work on this as a community, as a greater community. We need to continue to work on this. So the work you’re doing, and the work Adoption Associates is doing is so, so imperative. I’m very grateful that you’re doing this, and thank you for having me.
Connie Going: Well, thank you. And to all of our listeners, stay tuned every Friday at 11:00 as we move forward. If you ever want to send us a message, you can go to the AAI website, and it’s www.AdoptionAssociates.net, or 1-800-677-2367. Tell us your thoughts. Reach out to us on our Facebook page. We just look forward to talking to you, and everyone have a great Friday. Thanks again, Anna.
Anna Walton: You’re welcome. Thank you.
Connie Going: Uh-huh (affirmative). Bye bye.
Anna Walton: Bye.