Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Primal Wound

I've posted before about pre-birth and birth memories and referenced such books as The Primal Connection and Babies Remember Birth. In The Primal Wound, these books are also referenced. I don't know why I haven't read this book until now, but it should be #1 on every adoptive parent's bookshelf and available for adopted children to read as soon as it is appropriate.

Yesterday, I attended a workshop at my agency called Identity and the Adoptive Family. I've attended one before, but felt the need to connect with others like myself and spare some time for this aspect of my life besides buying baby things.

One of the other single moms there nearly cried when she saw me. We started out together but she adopted her son from Guatemala and brought him home the day before adoptions were suspended. This woman felt so much for me because, here she was enjoying her son, and I was still waiting. It was heart warming to feel her care and concern.

My agency has a free lending library so I borrowed The Primal Wound and began reading it in my bathtub, but had to hop out and grab a pen and my journal because the language the author uses makes many things I've already learned plainly and painfully clear.

One of these things is that I can never replace my daughter's mother. Yes, she will love me and I will be here mom, but I can never fill that void in her soul reserved, and rightfully so, for her birthmother.

The author distinguishes between attachment and bonding, which I'm very glad to see. Attachment, she defines as, "...a kind of emotional dependence, which may seem crucial to their survival. Bonding, on the other hand, may not be so easily achieved. It implies a profound connection, which is experienced at all levels of human awareness."

On page 25 the author describes a conversation she had when her daughter, who was adopted, was 14. (girl to mom) "I understand that she had to give me up, Mom, but why doesn't that make me feel any better?" (mom replies) "It is the 14-year-old girl who understands the reasons for her relinquishment, but the feelings are those of a newborn baby who simply feels the loss of a mother who never came back."

I am finding this information supremely helpful on two fronts, one, for Apple's sake and, two, for my own personal reasons. My mother has had many husbands, 6 to be exact. Only one died, #5, the rest went away due to divorce, my mom initiating it. I have discovered in the last year something terrible that I greatly suspected but how have confirmation of. My mother deliberately did all she could to severe ties between me and my father and all paternal relatives. These people are good people, dairy farmers, perhaps less sophisticated than my maternal family would have liked, but the mistakes (mostly due to lack of sophistication) my paternal relatives made did not warrant the treatment they received and we all suffered, me the absolute most of all.

My first step-father I had from age 2-7 and to me, he was my dad. I don't have a picture of him; my mother destroyed them all. I am burning to know what he looked like because I cannot remember and it haunts me. In my life, one day he was simply gone and there wasn't a trace of him. I remember his parents, too, my grandparents for 5 years and they, too, were simply gone.

I'd often wondered why my paternal grandparents never came to visit me, why I always had to go to them (until age 6 when my mother was able to prevent visitation through coercement of me) and now I know, they were prevented from doing so by my mother.

I have experienced abandonment, many times. I am only now learning, through the information I have found around adoption, explanations for who I am, how I am, why I have feelings that I have. The conversation mentioned above between the mother and daughter put into words so clearly why, no matter what I did with any of my "dads," I couldn't fill the holes in my soul, and that no matter what I do now, I still cannot because the injury happened to a child and that child no longer exists but is a grown adult now.

It is precisely because of this that reunions between reliquished children and their birthparents don't heal the wound either. It's forever and we learn to put it into perspective and live with it, some better than others.


Karen said...

WONDERFUL and thought provoking post. Adoption really is a learn as you go type of parenting. It cuts to the bone when my daughter feels the pain of abandonment. Her eyes get a questioning look during these times. As a parent, I have no words to give her, really. But it's also important to realize that it does not define who she is.
She still has some primal wounds. We're currently going thru it. She has her first loose tooth, and cries when she just thinks of pulling it out. She protects her body fiercely. And she has to be in control of her situation. When I told her that she's in charge of when she pulls it out, I can just see her sense of empowerment, and all is well again.
The losses she endured with her birth mother, and then again with her A-yi were out of her control, and I think being in control of her self and environment are huge issues because of those two significant losses.

Eliza2006 said...

Which is precisely why Solomon's birth mother is coming to visit this week...I want them to have a relationship. I think it will make all of us more whole.

Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

The thing is, not everyone feels this way. I get frustrated when books tend to make blanket statements, that EVERY adoptee has this hole in their heart from being adopted.

I am an adoptee, and I did not. My adopted brother does not. My adopted best friend does not. Most adoptees I know don't.

I think sometimes as adoptive parents we can create the hole by being over diligent about making sure there isn't one. Kwim?

It is like when I child falls down and the mom freaks out, it makes the child freak out who otherwise would not have.

Some adoptees will have issues with it. Many, many, maybe most? will not.

K said...

I appreciate your comment, Missy, because I, too, agree that sometimes we can make a mountain our of a mole hill. However, with international adoption where children have been institutionalized, their needs usually not fully met, there is an almost certain chance that there will be some special issues.

Fortunately, I work with children and have experience with the normal quirks of children so I'll most likely recognize what is normal (and I realize it's a wide range) and what might be adoption-related and need special attention. I'm definitely not one to plant any ideas into a child's head of issues when there aren't any, thank heavens!

karen said...

Missy- I completely understand what you are saying. But in our experience, the "hole" is not from being adopted, our daughter is extremely happy and well adjusted, but the "hole" is from the loss prior to adoption. I also think that as one gets older, and further from the event, the wounds are less profound.
Also, I think it's a larger loss when the child goes thru the shock of (literal) abandonment, usually on the corner of a busy pavement as what usually takes place in China. Our daughter was left outside when she was only 4 days old. Perhaps for a four day old baby, loosing her birth parents only signifies some inconveniences, it might depend on how hungry she was at the time and how much stress she went thru when she was left there. But then, she was in an orphanage for 16 months, and became attached to her nanny, who was not there at night to comfort her....and then we took her from that. She is very well adjusted. She shows no negative signs from being adopted. However, I think she feels loss more profoundly than some other children might. Possibly more than children who were adopted at birth, and did not have the stresses that children simply should NOT have to endure at such a tender age.
International A-parents have an obligation to at least know that it can exist, and to be sensitive to loss if they notice that their child stresses over loss significantly. But yeah, sometimes it can go too far into the other direction too, and the a-parents can cause the losses to actually define the child...I think that is unhealthy.