Thursday, February 12, 2009

when love isn't enough

A while ago D happened to mention to a neighbor that we were in the process of adopting a child. The neighbor disclosed the fact that his parents have a child through international adoption. D alluded to some of the challenges of adoption and transracial parenting thinking our neighbor might be able to relate. However our neighbor responded with the classic “oh, just love ‘em and everything will be alright.” In my eyes this is the Sunday School answer to adoption related issues. D left that conversation slightly concerned for the adopted child in their family.

In general, society paints a rosy picture of adoption. The loss and abandonment felt by adoptees is rarely acknowledged. Instead adoptee’s are told that they are “so lucky” to have been adopted into such a great family. And everything might actually look rosy from the outside, kids will adjust and learn appropriate behaviour and as humans we’re pretty good at repressing feelings, but I believe that every child who was adopted experiences profound loss.

I have yet to read Nancy Verrier’s book, The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child. I’m not quite ready. I definitely understand the premise of the primal wound as I have read some articles on the concept. And I feel fortunate to have come across this truth prior to adopting a child so that I am able to better understand straight from the beginning what an impact the separation of infant and mother can have on a child…even a newborn baby. An understanding of the primal wound in our future child will allow me to empathize with their experience and feelings from day one. The feelings of loss, abandonment, and trauma of separation that even an infant experiences. All the love and care in the world isn’t enough to erase this wound. It must be acknowledged and each child must be allowed the freedom to feel and express these emotions and feelings.

I read a really good article from the Quantum Parenting site about the primal wound (there are some other great articles on this site). It is an important concept for anyone remotely connected to adoption to understand. And someday soon I’ll actually read the book.

What is the Primal Wound? Understanding the Trauma of Infant-Maternal Separation

Throughout the generations of routine obstetrical, hospital, and adoption practice in this county, the assumption has always been, “Why would the separation from its mother affect a newborn baby?” But with the advent in the last twenty years of pre- and perinatal research, we now have astounding findings about what a fetus experiences in the womb, what a strong connection it has with the mother long before birth, and how intelligent, aware and remembering a newborn is. Many researchers now feel the more appropriate question to be, “Why wouldn’t the separation from the mother to whom he/she was connected for nine months affect an infant?”

“Many doctors and psychologists now understand that bonding doesn’t begin at birth, but is a continuum of physiological, psychological, and spiritual events which begin in utero and continue throughout the postnatal bonding period. When this natural evolution is interrupted by a postnatal separation from the biological mother, the resultant experience of abandonment and loss is indelibly imprinted upon the unconscious minds of these children, causing that which I call the primal wound.” So writes Nancy Verrier in her book, The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child (1993). Continue reading…


Mei-Ling said...

"An understanding of the primal wound in our future child will allow me to empathize with their experience and feelings from day one."

If you end up stumbling across the "right" pro-adoption blogs, you will find quite a few people dismiss Nancy's theory and say they don't feel loss and will insist they don't feel pain.

As one adoptee said, "I do not feel I lost my mother; that woman was merely a person who gave birth to me and I appreciate that. My mother figure is the one who parented me, and this adoptive family is my true family, because they are the ones who raised me and spend all those times with me. If my birthmother feels a loss because she couldn't raise me, that is her loss. Not mine."

Obviously I don't fully believe in that statement - who can be separated from their mothers and NOT feel any aftereffects whatsoever, even if only subconsciously?

But no - love is not enough. Love from my adoptive family was "enough." Love from the result of me having been adopted was nowhere NEAR enough. Even though my life has been fairly good so far, when I look in the mirror and when I see my Mama & Baba's faces, I am the reminder of a tragedy and of a side in adoption often untold.

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Guera! said...

When my aunt adopted her daughter from another country we were quick to make sure she grew up hearing how lucky we all were that we all adopted each other. It would burn me up to hear someone make an unsolicited, rude comment about how the adopted child "better appreciate what her mother did for her". We have never discussed it as a one time event that my aunt performed...the act of adoption. We have always approached it as a group effort with the adopted child having an equal part. Even though technically that was not the case. Now at age 14 on the rare occassion she refers to her adoption she is able to acknowledge that we are all the lucky ones and nobody is any luckier than the other. It's been a delight to witness and be a part of it.