I have always been open about my adoption, as has my mom. Though perhaps I have been more so. However, I never explored my feelings about it or the psychology of an adoptee because it has been drilled into me, as it has for other adoptees and the rest of society, that it doesn’t matter that I was adopted. My parents loved me just as much as they’d love a biological child, right? So if anyone ever asked, I always said I found it cool, it was an interesting bit of information about me, and that I never felt negatively toward my biological parents.
I searched for many years for Cindy, as that was the only name from my biological family that I knew. I didn’t ask my parents for help in finding her because I was too afraid of hurting them, even though it is my right as an adoptee to know where I came from. However, that is a very new concept for me. That I have the right to know my roots. All my life, I’ve been told by my parents (mainly my dad; my mom was never one to make sure I knew how lucky I was) and their well-intentioned friends (who knew NOTHING about adoption or cared about my feelings on the matter) that I should be grateful for what I have, how I grew up, and the opportunities I was given. And I am. But telling that to a child who just wants to know where they came from is damaging.
I never explored how I felt when my biological family came into my life or about them becoming part of my family because happiness and excitement overrode anything else. I didn’t question it. They welcomed me and my mom with open arms, and I welcomed them as family as if we were never parted. I have never called Cindy or Rick “Mom” or “Dad”, but they are family hands down. I never thought about how my behavioral issues as a child, that I butted heads with my mom so much, or that I get along better initially with men than with women had anything to do with my adoption. My thoughts never went any deeper than below the surface. I never felt abandoned by my bio parents, I was raised in a loving home. I was fine!
Apparently not completely. I joined an adoptee only group and an adoptee book club recently, within the last couple of months. Reading other adoptee’s stories, their thoughts, their feelings, their experiences, and the first book the club read together made me really delve into the psychology of adoption. The more I read, the more my mind opened and the more I could “see”. The more I realized.
Adoptees are taught that they are no different than biological children. But we *are* different. We have different roots. We have different stories. We have different traumas. We grow up not looking like our families and wondering what our biological families look like. We grow up wondering, and we can’t help it. Even adoptees such as myself, who grow up loved and nurtured, want information, want to find their biological families. Of course there are the rare adoptees who don’t want that, who don’t care. But I can’t speak for them. Everyone is different.
Most of the stories in my groups are pretty negative, or at least have negative sub parts. They are heavy with rejection by bio parents or siblings, abusive parents, substance abuse, foster horrors, etc. I felt out of place at first. I still do, a little, because my story is so rare. I had a psychologically abusive dad, sure, but I have not been rejected by anyone in my biological family. There are also adoptees in the group who cling to feelings of abandonment by their biological parents, even if they have good relationships with them. There are a few good stories of course and I always knew that mine was rare, but I did not know how rare until joining these groups.
I could not understand why most adoptees felt the way they did if they grew up in loving homes. There is a recurring concept in the main group that I didn’t agree with at first. One I kept rolling around in my head. One I spoke to Cindy, Amanda (sister), and my therapist about. It’s that every adoptee goes through trauma when they are taken away from the person they spent 9 months inside of. That babies bond with their mothers before being born and that the trauma of separation stays with adoptees for their entire lives, even though they don’t remember it.
I thought a lot about it and read more and more stories and posts of other people talking about it, but I didn’t understand. Until I finally bought the book that everyone was saying all adoptees and everyone involved with adoption should read – The Primal Wound. It explains exactly what I could not grasp. I didn’t even get to the first official chapter before putting the book down in shock. It took a day or two for me to pick it back up and continue reading. The first chapter had the same effect.
Babies are sentient beings. They do not start out at birth as bits of flesh and bone with no memories. Birth itself is a traumatic event, the first one we all experience. Growing in the womb bonds us to our mothers/first mothers; bonding does not begin at birth. Babies recognize their mother’s voice, scent, and energy even as newborns. NICU babies are known to have separation issues even though they return to their mothers’ arms. Why wouldn’t adoptees have the same issues/feelings?
“If babies remember birth, then they also remember what happened right after birth, which is that their mother, the person to whom they were connected and whom they expected to welcome them into the world, was suddenly missing. How does this experience impact the emotions and senses of a newborn baby?” – The Primal Wound, chapter 1 page 5.
Babies have a need to be held, comforted, and loved. Even if they are immediately handed over to a couple who holds, comforts, and loves them, there is still a disconnect. These are strangers to that baby that eventually form a lasting bond but they are different from the first person that baby knew. When you are born and taken away from that person, a baby doesn’t know any better about what’s happening. All it knows is that suddenly, the person they bonded with is gone. This is why trust and abandonment issues form in many, if not all, adoptees, whether we are aware of it or not.
“The adoptee was there. The child actually experienced being left alone by the biological mother and being handed over to strangers. That he may have been only a few days old or a few minutes old makes no difference. He shared a 40-week experience with a person with whom he probably bonded in utero, a person to whom he is biologically, genetically, historically, and, perhaps even more importantly, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually connected, and some people would like him to believe that it is the *telling* of the experience of the severing of that bond which makes him feel so bad!” – The Primal Wound, chapter 1 page 10.
My mom and I had such an incredible bond that grew over time. I was a difficult child, I know that. I had behavioral issues and ADHD and I fought her tooth and nail on everything. I was told I was defensive, argumentative, cold, and harsh by her many times over the course of my life. I love her more than I can say but as I look back on my life, I can agree with her. She was right, and I realized that back when I was 23 but didn’t know why. She didn’t know why. I have always had a deep seated mistrust of women and never understood it, which is why I bond with men so easily. But I bonded with my mom and trusted her 100% so I don’t believe that was the case with her. I think my behavior toward her was what is called testing-out behavior. That I was testing her over and over relentlessly to see if she’d stay or leave. When we went to therapy together and then saw the movie BRAVE was when our relationship took a sharp turn for the better.
I told our therapist that there was always something there that blocked me from saying the words “I love you” to her and my dad. I thought it was because of growing up with a dad who taught me that emotions are weak (I know they aren’t), but now I believe my problems with saying those words stemmed from being separated from the first person I ever bonded with. It makes sense because I don’t have any problems with telling anyone else that I love them, but I couldn’t bring myself to say those words to my parents for the longest time. I started forcing myself to and eventually became comfortable with it. I did it for my mom. She didn’t deserve to be a victim of my issues. I only wish these realizations came along while she was still alive so we could talk about them together.
I have only read a few chapters and will write another post after reading more.