We’re honored to share the story of Nathan*, as written by his adoptive mother. To raise a child with reactive attachment disorder is lonely and extremely overwhelming. Most of the world doesn’t understand it. The more stories we share as a community who does “get it”, the more we educate the greater community. Thank you for your courage, dear mama. Your story will help advocate for children from trauma and their families worldwide.
*Both the mother and child’s identities have been protected.
There were signs. Whether they were not seen or just not understood makes no difference. Yet, the signs, to those knowledgeable, were screaming reactive attachment disorder. However, no one in control heard or reacted to them.
This is the story of Nathan.
When a small boy, not much bigger than the teddy bear he held, Nathan was transported to a place he did not recognize. His travel companions were two rather large women he did not know. Casual observers might have thought this was the beginning of the story but they would be wrong. The beginning was over.
By the time he was just 29 months old, enough events full of abuse, neglect, and abandonment had taken place that his story was already written. He was no stranger to child protective services (CPS). Once, CPS stepped in after the police found Nathan alone in a motel room with a naked, mentally disabled man. On another occasion, he was taken to CPS after his mother had sold him to a couple, in Houston traffic, for drug money.
As Nathan sat in the back of that unfamiliar pickup with the two unfamiliar women, going to an unfamiliar place, he had no emotions. His face was a mask. Blank. Some might have thought that his lack of expression, or lack of visible signs of sadness, were just because he needed to adjust to the great idea of going to a “better place”. Some might have thought he was thinking about how lucky he was. After all, the house in this new place was beautiful and big. There were trees in the front yard. Maybe it was just his way of being in awe. Yet, those who might have thought that would be wrong. If life were a movie, the music indicating trepidation and tragedy would’ve played in the background. To those who were aware, this blank expression would be as obvious as a sign on a mountain road that said Rock Slide Ahead.
However, these signs were ignored.
So when Nathan was adopted some months later at 3-years-old, his closet and toy chest were filled with hopes, dreams, and love. It never occurred to casual observers or his parents that the mask on his face was like armor keeping all these positive things out. Pushing people away. He and his parents were on a journey, but they were not going to the same place. The parents were focused on this cute little boy. The little boy wasn’t focused on them. He was focused on survival.
Read Nathan’s Story part II here.