The Primal Wound
Even before I was immersed in the stories and research about adoption, I intuitively knew that my children understood exactly when their birth mothers disappeared from their lives. Since I don’t have the details of how that happened, I don’t know exactly how and when their mothers left…I just always knew that their disappearance had registered in my children’s hearts. I also knew this would have a profound impact on them, and that I would have many issues to deal with.
As I have become more and more “expert” on all things related to adoption, I have found many compelling books. I recently read The Primal Wound, by Nancy Verrier, who is a psychologist and an adoptive mother. She begins by educating us about all babies and their awareness of everything, both pre-and post-birth. She first introduces us to Dr. Chamberlain. In his book, Babies Remember Birth, Dr. Chamberlain tells us,
“Babies know more than they’re supposed to know. Minutes after birth, a baby can pick out his mother’s face — which he has never seen — from a gallery of photos. The newly discovered truth is that new born babies have all of their senses and make use of them, just as the rest of us do. Their cries of pain are authentic. Babies are not unfeeling; it is we who have been unfeeling.”
Babies who have lost their mothers to a death have been studied. Many researchers are now hypothesizing that babies who were relinquished go through similar experiences. To a baby, a relinquishment is the same abandonment as death. Nancy goes on to say,
“In my opinion, the comparison to relinquishment is valid because for the child abandonment is a kind of death — not only of the mother, but a part of the self — that core being, or essence of oneself, which makes one feel whole. In acknowledging this loss and its impact on all involved in the adoption, there is no way one can get around it. The pain — the pain of separation and loss for both the child and the birth mother, and the pain of not understanding or being able to make up for that pain and loss on the part of the adoptive parents.”
All three of my children arrived when they were five months old. I know that Jaik spent most of this time with his foster mother while Brandon was in an incubator for some time and then went to stay with his foster mother. Stacee, who is from Dagu, somehow made her way to Seoul, and also had a foster mother. I knew that I had missed the most important moment of my children’s lives, but there was little I could do about it.
Even adoptive parents who are in the delivery room, still cannot replace the loss of the child’s birth mother. It is one of the most profound concepts of adoption that adoptive parents need to understand. The effects of their child’s loss will show up in many ways, and many times. It is good to realize and understand that right from the beginning, this is an unalterable fact, and an issue for all adoptive parents and the adoptees themselves.
Nancy Verrier was interviewed recently by Marcy Axness at mothering.com and they discussed a variety of interesting topics, including the tenacity with which adopted children hang on to their first mothers. Take a moment to join in their conversation.
I also came across this wonderful video about a newborn and his mother, and was struck by how eloquently, it shows that early bonding and love. Please enjoy this short video, it describes an adopted child’s loss much better than any words can tell.