Trauma and adoption

I think, in looking back at my life, that I’ve re-enacted the trauma of being left my natural mother over and over and over.

Whatever her intentions, which I do trust were good, knowing her today, she was a scared teenager who “agreed” that adoption was the only option. I was born and I have no idea what happened the first three days of my life before the agency handed me over to my adoptive parents.

I do know that I have always feared being left. My adoptive parents, having been told that adoption was over when they signed the papers, saw my terror at being left with baby sitters as typical childhood clinging. The serious issues I had going to kindergarten were chalked up to fear of missing out at home (because I did love kindergarten) instead of fear that no one would come to get me when school was over. These perfectly understandable fear for a child who has been abandoned once were instead made into a family joke.

I’m pretty sure these lead to the other major family joke about my personality — the one where I was “too” independent for my own good. Where I refused to need anyone for anything. Hmmm. Those can’t be related, can they?

I used every friendship that fell apart to confirm that people couldn’t be trusted not to leave. I made friends, but kept most of them at arms’ length. I left significant others before they could leave me.  I built my own island. And I have been very lonely for much of my life because of it.

Unearthing this primal fear of being left seems to be related to Nancy Verrier’s primal wound. I know it is there now, and that’s helped me deal with the truly negative effects that my “protective” actions have had on my life. I’m starting to understand that defense mechanisms, when overactive, are not really working FOR me any more.

That doesn’t control the triggers or the responses to them. But it does help me not lash out at people because they have unwittingly triggered my fear of abandonment.

I think that we likely can’t prevent the trauma that comes with the separation necessary for adoption to happen. I think that encouraging women considering relinquishment to hold and care for their newborns is a good idea. I think that acknowledging the loss inherent in adoption, that teaching adoptive parents that this exists, may help adopted children cope with this before patterns become etched in their forming brains.

I think openly acknowledging the loss in adoption will necessarily change the institution, and that is good. If it makes you uncomfortable, good. It makes the lives of adoptees immeasurably harder, so it should not be ignored.


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