What ATN Means to Me
December 2, 2014
by: Jane Samuel
One night in 2007 I slipped away leaving my youngest daughter – who was well into one of her daily tantrums – in the hands of my husband. Beyond despair I climbed the stairs to my bathroom on the third floor of our house where I hoped I couldn’t hear her screams for her birth mother or her requests for us to kill her, and where my other daughters couldn’t hear me sob at the feet of parental defeat. I stood in the shower, letting the warm water poor over me, tilted my head against the wall and wept. I felt so alone. I felt like such a failure. I couldn’t understand how to help this child put aside her grief for her former family – a family she had not seen since she was three weeks old – and embrace our family’s love. I felt spent. I didn’t know what we were doing wrong. I hadn’t been prepared for how a child abandoned at birth, and raised in abject poverty and neglect, could be so altered at such a young age, as to leave me, a seasoned parent of two other daughters confused and overwhelmed. I didn’t think I had the energy anymore to try to figure her out: her repeated night wakings, her sensory seeking, her love of dangerous things, her inability to just be, to sit still, to listen. I needed help but I didn’t know where to turn. So I just cried, and turned it over to God, asking him to send me peace.
Peace did come that night in a feeling of relaxation and a temporary cessation of my tears, and a renewed commitment to our daughter, but also later in the form of families like ours who stood in the gap with us and let us cry on their shoulders and ask a million questions and rant and rave and then gave us opportunities to “pay it forward”, sharing what they had taught us and helping other families like ours know they were “not alone”. These families, many of whom we met through the Attachment Trauma Network, had been or still were right where we were, raising a child with trauma. A child who had carried their bodily memories, their early-life trauma, into their new lives with families who loved them, but whom they struggled to love back.
Over the next seven years, since finding help with ATN, our daughter let down her wall, crawled into my lap – literally and figuratively – and has come to call us her beloved family. Through online support conversations with ATN parents, reading a myriad of resources suggested by ATN, and attending conferences with ATN we have learned how best to parent this child and how best to care for ourselves along the way. We have also learned how to share our child’s special needs with her teachers and sports instructors so as to nurture her feelings of safety and security, while also setting the tone for who is in charge – the adult – and who doesn’t need to be in charge – the child. We have, above all, learned that we are not alone.
And so we give back this Giving Tuesday to ATN, so that they can continue to help other families like ours with support, educational opportunities and advocacy. If you were alone, and then someone reached out and gave you a hand would you not then do the same to another along the same journey? Won’t you reach out with your donation and help us show another family they are not alone.
The Samuel Family