My introduction to trauma came when I, as a single college student, attended an adoption conference. Though completely single and still studying journalism, I was already passionate about adoption and foster care.
I signed up for a pre-conference session touted as “can’t miss opportunity” to hear a woman named Karyn Purvis speak. I walked into the room and glanced around to notice an adoptive mom blogger I’d followed for several years talking to a missionary adoptive mom blogger I’d followed even longer. I took a seat alone by the front.
What Dr. Purvis shared that day shifted my thoughts and broadened my understanding of trauma. Any child who is placed in foster care or adopted has experienced loss and trauma. Any child who has experienced several other risk factors has experienced further trauma. One of those factors just being a stressful pregnancy for his or her birth mom.
I despised science throughout school, but I was struck by the knowledge that children born to women who had high stress levels also had high stress levels already at birth.
These factors aren’t an “only-if-adopted, then,” type thing. They touch all people. They touch my friends and the biological children of my friends, and I realized they touched me, too.
Since that time, I’ve learned more about the risk factors for trauma. They’ve been extremely useful for me as I consider my own sons, the children of people I know, and adults with whom I have relationships. I realized I have one of the risk factors — a postnatal risk associated with early hospitalization — as I had a kidney infection and was hospitalized as an infant.
These risk factors allow us to better understand our children. Yes, your child has experienced trauma even if he or she was born healthy and adopted at birth. But remember, these risk factors are not a checklist or a scoring rubric. They should instead stir up compassion and understanding within us.