Seventeen years ago we were pregnant with our first child as Jeremy and I walked into a stuffy church classroom to attend our first of many childbirth classes with several other couples. We enjoyed the company of the other attendees as we sat through the viewing of posters explaining where your stomach actually goes when your uterus also grows (hello, heartburn), but there would be one couple we’d stay connected to for life. Enter Vince and Shannon Guerra. We were friendly in class but didn’t yet hang out or anything outside of class. Several months later, unbeknownst to us, we gave birth to our firstborn sons just hours apart in hospitals across town on a brisk November day.
We reconnected when our babies were over half a year old at a childbirth class reunion, and since then we’ve walked through the welcoming of several more children by birth, the arrival of children through adoption, and then one more each by birth. We were living parallel lives side-by-side, walking and praying each other through. They are good people, those Guerras. And I count Shannon as one of my absolute dearest in all the world. Here’s a picture of us together right before we moved.
Shannon is not only a dear friend, she is also a gifted writer and thinker. She devours classic books like a civilized person while I prefer my classics to be in board book or movie form. She’s brilliant and passionate and is also a staunch supporter of seeing her kids thrive. Especially the ones from hard places. You see, we both parent children from hard places, so we get each other in a really special way. Shannon has created a beautiful resource for parents, friends, family, and fellow community members of these kiddos who struggle with attachment to their new families as a result of the trauma from their earlier years. Upside Down: Understanding and Supporting Attachment in Adoptive Families is a resource we all need. Most of us have interaction with adoptive and foster families who need our help. Shannon helps us learn how to do just that.
So today, help us welcome Shannon Guerra to The Masterpiece Mom and make sure to read all the way down to the end to enter the giveaway!
A child is screaming in my front yard, temper tantrum in full display. And I think, This is why we need to move. This is why we need more acreage. This is why we can’t have a homeowner’s association…or neighborhood meetings. Or neighbors.
But honestly, our neighbors are great. Which is a good thing because a few of our kids have special needs that go beyond temper tantrums, and sometimes their behavior is loud, disruptive, and eyebrow-raising, for sure.
I don’t just mean the frustrations that all parents deal with. I mean, refusing to eat meals, sabotaging holidays, and secondary trauma that affects everyone in the family.
Adoptive and foster moms, are you with me?
Yes. Thank you. I see those eyebrows.
Two of our kiddos were adopted almost five years ago. And it was hard – not just because their behaviors were so difficult, but also because (beyond a handful of friends who stood by us in the mayhem) we needed support from our community that didn’t transpire for quite a while.
We expected support because we had friends, family, doctors, and a church that vocally supported adoption – but that only gets you so far, if anywhere. We needed more than an occasional thumbs-up and pat on the back.
We needed boots on the ground, dinners at the ready, and backup available for parents and siblings. We needed a team who understood what was happening behind closed doors.
We needed people to understand that our lives turned upside down and our home was falling apart. We needed them to not contribute to the problem by being affectionate and friendly with our adopted children, who misinterpreted those interactions and violently regressed every time they occurred.
We needed people to understand how to support families working through attachment issues so they could intentionally be part of the solution, instead of unintentionally being part of the problem.
I started writing shockingly transparent blog posts about what we were dealing with. I wrote about what was happening at home, what was happening at the doctor’s office, and what was happening in my heart as a mama. I wrote about how we needed our loved ones to support us – how to step in, where to step back, and what we needed more than anything else.
And then people started writing back to me.
Every day I got emails, Facebook messages, and comments from adoptive families who thought they were alone and crazy. For years, they had felt misunderstood and judged. Some of them had left church. Some had been left by their spouse. Some had to cut ties with relationships that were toxic to their family.
These families are in our neighborhoods and churches, on the front lines of the mission to reduce the orphan crisis. They need their communities to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Without that support, they live in isolation.
The overwhelming theme from the people who wrote to me was, “This is what I’ve wanted to tell people for so long. I wish everyone who knows our family could read this.”
We turned those posts into a little book called Upside Down: Understanding and Supporting Attachment in Adoptive Families. It is a fast, relatable – dare I say, funny? – read that is perfect for extended family members and community members who need to know as soon as possible (like yesterday) how to help adoptive and foster families. Churches are also starting to use Upside Down as a training manual so ministers and childcare workers can care for families without unintentionally causing harm.
We can intentionally be part of the solution. Upside Down is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and WestBow Press. In less than a hundred pages it provides tools, information, and insight that transforms an outsider’s assumptions into an insider’s powerful perspective.
We want adoptive and foster families to progress steadily toward healing and wholeness. They should be able to go about their days without the constant fear of well-meaning interactions that send their child (and family) spiraling for days or weeks afterward. They should feel free to go to church, medical appointments, and neighborhood meetings with as little screaming afterward as possible – even if they (gasp!) have a homeowner’s association.
Would you like to win a copy of Upside Down for yourself or someone you know?
Leave us a comment and you’ll be entered into a drawing held Thursday, 5/25, at 12PM EST. Get yourself entered to win!
** CONGRATULATIONS to Sunny!! You’ve won a copy of Upside Down. Check your inbox, you have an email waiting! Thanks to all who entered!**