Friday, December 11, 2009

Book Tour: The Primal Wound

For many in the world of adoption, the book Primal Wound, by Nancy Newton Verrier is well known and a topic many have discussed and debated from all sides.

It’s not a book for the faint of heart, for the weak. It’s not a book to be read if you are unwilling to open up your mind to accept a different perspective than the “blank slate” theory that is so common in the world of adoption.

But it is a book you can learn from if you are open to the lessons taught. It’s a book that can bring understanding if you accept the challenge in seeing that the old beliefs that adoptees face no affects from adoption are mere myths in the real world and that there is grief in the separation of a child from their mother.

And so in my own opinion of the book and the challenges presented, I will do my best to answer the following questions as one who also had a lot to learn and accept in that moment when I opened to the first page and began to read something that went against everything I had been told and believed through many years of my journey through adoption . . .

***In the chapter "Reunions as a Means of Healing the Adoption Triad" Nancy Verrier states "Under no circumstances should a birthmother search if there is any possibility at all that she might abandon her child again!" Would this statement cause you to not search for your child, given that life often throws unexpected curves at you and you could not completely guarantee that you would NEVER abandon your child again? After all you don't know who your child has grown into - you could have completely opposing views on life, morals, ethics or other things that could cause you to not be able to maintain a relationship with him/her. How can birth mothers who search help to minimize this risk for the adoptee?***

Had I read this book, or even known it existed, before my first step into reunion, yes it would have stopped me from searching for my son until I knew I was better prepared for what was to come. And at a point, emotionally, to be there for him in the way he deserved and let him know, with everything I could, from the very first moment, that I was never going anywhere again.

To me, it would not have been being able to guarantee to him that I would never walk away because I had already known, on the minute I found him again, that there was nothing in this world that could ever take me away from him again. But that was based on my own emotions without having a clue how important it was to him to never go through another abandonment from me. I didn’t understand then just how very important it was for me to gain back his trust and to show him, in more than just words, but actions as well, that there was ABSOLUTELY nothing he could do or say that would make me walk away from him a second time.

And for mothers who are, or are planning to, search for the child they lost to adoption, my biggest suggestion would be to prepare themselves in every way they possible can so that they do cut down on the risks of hurting their son or daughter in such a way. To get the help and support they need beforehand from therapists and support groups, to enable them to realize that it is up to them to regain the trust from their children, and not the other way around.

They need to know that, in some ways, they will be meeting a stranger. Someone they might not understand on all levels or see eye to eye with. There might be areas they find where the viewpoints and opinions they have are vastly different from those their child has gained through his or her childhood and experiences.

But none of that should ever change the unconditional love and bond mothers have with their children. It’s okay not to agree with everything your son or daughter might believe but that does not make it okay to walk away from them because of their beliefs.

They need to know and fully understand, from the very start, how very important it is to never abandon your child again. To see it from their side and understand, no matter what our experiences in the past, what matters now is their future and how we will or will not affect it.

I believe we need so much more help for mothers facing the beginning stages of reunion so that they can be stronger and healthier for their children and be there for them in the way they need. More support and understanding needs to exist so that when the hard times come about, there is knowledge in how to journey our way through so that there is no longer a threat of our children being hurt again with the loss of their mothers a second time in their lives.

The natural process of life is for parents to be there for their children. And for mothers who are finding and reuniting with the children they lost to adoption, there is an importance for them to know that this doesn’t change or alter in any way because of what happened in the past. The same expectations are still there and should never be forgotten.

***I ask help from birthmothers such as myself who have spent most of their lives, remaking themselves since the adoption of their child. I find that my self confidence came slowly and with considerable study and determination to reactivate my earlier joyfulness, energy and that desire to make a difference in my life. I believe that I found and followed some very powerful dreams and that overall I have felt fulfilled in a way that was important even though the importance in my later life did not include other children of my own.

As I now am meeting my son after 42 years, I am finding that my self confidence frequently feels as though it is melting away or drifting out of reach, leaving me drained and a stranger to myself. I am very fearful, because the person my son is meeting is someone who no longer exists....yet is manifesting herself into the now me. I know very few birthmothers and I believe that dialogue in regard to self confidence is something essential.

This request for comment from birthmothers is actually based on Nancy's book completely. In Chapter 13, The Reunion Process, she outlines what she sees as Barriers to Positive Relationships. I have fear, I have guilt, I have shame, I have rage, I have anger and I work constantly on not letting them dominate me. I have made much progress with guilt and with shame. Anger I am trying to just accept. Bottom line, I want myself back. I want to take back my power so that future relationships not only with my birthson but with my husband will not be grounded in the sandy soil of self doubt.***

I can hear your struggle in this question and relate so well with it.

The emotions that come after reuniting with our children can be like an onslaught of emotionally charged darts that we are paralyzed from being able to duck out of their way. I know it’s a battle with everything you are feeling. A constant fight not to let the many different feelings you are going through become such a part of who and what you are that they become ALL that you are.

I’m not sure if it helps, but I’ve known many first moms, myself included, who have felt as if they were strangers to themselves after reuniting with their children. I think part of that is because, in some way, we spend so much of our energy trying to create a life after the loss of our children and then feel as if we are taken back to the women we were when we were pregnant and gave birth once we see our children again.

I believe you do have it right in finding support and some self confidence in talking to other first moms who understand what you are going through. Finding great support groups or just a group of others you can reach out to when you need to can go a long way in helping you through this time and reminding you that what you are feeling is normal and that so many of us have been there, are there, and know the kind of struggles you face.

There are so many of us out there who have an understanding of your experience. I hope you will reach out to those you come across during this part of your journey.

***IF an adoption HAD to happen for reasons beyond the scope of this question, and you could CHOOSE when and how that adoption occurred, please describe the adoption process that would do the following (in priority order): 1) support the child and 2) support the mother and 3) facilitate the best possible relationship between any involved adoptive/first parent(s) and child. Include in your answer details like the following: age at which adoption occurred, description of transition from mother/father to adoptive family, ongoing relationship between the families (if any) during the years when child is a minor, and relationship during the years when child is an adult.***

I have to start my answer to this question with two points before going on. First, for the most part, I’m going to answer this in the reference of domestic, versus international adoptions, though some of my answers will reach to all areas of adoption. And second, I will have absolutely NO mention of the practice of private adoptions and Domestic Infant Adoption as I firmly believe these practices should be illegal here in the states as they are in many other countries.

To me, IF an adoption HAD to occur, my vision of the kind of process I would like to see would be . . .

1) Support for the child . . . First and foremost, EVERYTHING should be done, every step taken, to keep the child with his or her mother or within his or her family. The ONLY reason I believe an adoption should occur outside of a child’s family is if there is a guaranteed threat or proof of abuse or harm to the child. If there is absolutely no way at all that a child can stay within the family in any way then, to me, supporting the child would include having an advocate for that child that is in no way associated with anyone who might profit or gain from adoption. One who is trained and very well educated in what is best for children, and only in what is best for THEM.

This advocate would be the voice they are not allowed to have. A person of trust who is commended and held in high esteem ONLY if they prove their every action is because of their belief it is in the best interest of the child. They don’t answer to state agencies who hope to reach adoption quotas or adoption agencies who want to make more money or adoptive parents wanting to adopt. They answer to the children only and have ONLY their interests to guide them. They would not be punished or rewarded for making certain choices within the realm of what others desire for their own gain. They would not be encouraged to push the process in one way or another. Their one and only purpose would be to represent the child who is unable, or not allowed, to speak for themselves.

2) Support for the mother . . . This one I struggle to answer because I believe if there is ANY way to support a mother than there is no need for an adoption to take place. Outside of true and serious threats of harm to a child, any support offered to a mother AFTER adoption would have more than likely helped more in the prevention of the adoption ever needing to occur in the first place.

So, I guess my answer to this would be, if a mother was failed prior to adoption and not given the support she and her child deserved, or even if a mother did threaten true and serious harm to her child, the support following an adoption should consist of, no matter what the case, allowing the mother to grieve and process the loss of her child, even if the adoption remains open.

She should be given the care and consideration to be able to react to her loss in the way she needs to instead of being expected to “act” in the way that others want her to. There should be a continued encouragement and support for her to overcome whatever obstacles she faces so that she can still be a positive presence in her child’s life. And she should never be expected or told that she can no longer be a mother or view her child as her own.

NEVER, not even in the worst of circumstances, should she be cut off from ALL contact with her child. Even when there is threat of harm to a child if there is physical meetings, pictures and updates on how her child is doing should be a must and should never be denied her.

3) Best possible relationships between first families and adoptive families . . . This should never be expected for anyone to accomplish without professional help in some way. To let two parties struggle their way through such unknown territory is wrong and prone for problems.

There should be programs provided for all sides and mediators involved to insure that when problems and questions arise there is help to work through them.

No two situations are the same so there can’t be a blanket answer for this because it’s part of human nature that some relationships just simply “click” better than others and some have outside forces and situations that call for a different approach.

But supporting the best possible relationship needs to be a priority that is not taken lightly, nor expected for any party to try and figure out on their own. We need more research and study put into finding the best way to handle these sort of relationships and true training of individuals who know and understand the complex situations that such relationships can and do bring up.

To allow one side or the other to simply throw in the towel and quit should never be allowed or accepted. Support should also include having other avenues when such feelings and frustrations arise, help and advice from outside sources who are responsible for guiding the way through such situations.

And in every step of this it should be stressed over and over again that the better the relationship between the two families, the better environment and security for the child caught in the middle. The best, and most important support, I believe, in this situation, is to always have a source to serve as a reminder of exactly why it is so important to continue to foster and nurture such relationships, even when times are tough and it would seem so much easier just to quit all together.

As for age of the child, I think such support and help should occur no matter what age the child is. And for transition, I really just can’t find any answer that can ever make it any easier on a child to be separated from his parents. Yes, there should be consideration so that no child is simply yanked from one life and tossed into another but, truthfully, I don’t think any kind of transition will change the loss a child feels from being separated from his or her mother.

And as for relationships, I think I pretty much covered my answer previously in reference to when an adoptee is a child. As for an adult, they are they are old enough and mature enough then to guide and direct their own relationships. The only input and influence we should have at that point in their life is to always let them know that we support them no matter what they do and that we understand that they do have and always will have two families in their life and that we will never, EVER expect them to have to choose between them.

In all of this . . . in all the questions and answers . . . I don’t’ have any guarantee how, if at all, there will be changes in our views of adoption or an understanding between all sides about what is truly best for adoptees.

But I do hope that discussions and debates such as this one will at least make us more aware of some things we never knew or never thought of in the world of adoption and that maybe, just maybe, in this tour, there will be something, some tidbit of knowledge, to learn from and carry with us from this point on.

To read more and follow others thoughts and answers, continue to the next leg of this book tour by visiting the main list at The Open Adoption Examiner.


  1. What a great and thought provoking post! I am an adoptee who found and reunited with my first mom 9 years ago. She did not want to be found at first and it was a struggle for her to overcome her own personal demons in order to develop a (new) relationship with me.

    Intellectually I understand her life and the problems that she has around why we cannot have the type of relationship I would like to have, but emotionally it is difficult. I don't know that I would say that I feel rejected or abandoned by her again, but it has certainly been a bumpy road full of struggles.

    I would love to see a lot more support for everyone going into reunion as I think that would make a lot of difference.

    Good luck in your journey.

  2. ABSOLUTELY AMAZING post!!!!!! I think you hit it all spot on. I especially thought your answers regarding the question about what the adoption process should look like if it HAD to happen. Just wow.

  3. I agree. Excellent post.

    I liked Verrier questions how the govt/powers that be pay OTHER people to raise children removed from their homes (foster care) but wouldn't be willing to give mothers that money to support their own children. Doesn't that seem so backwards?

    You gave me a lot to think about! Thank you.

  4. Cassi -

    Thanks for another great post. Though I am an adoptive mother, I agree with what you bring to light.

    Your concept of preparing all members of the triad for reunion with support is extremely relevant, and your insight on how you would now have approached your own reunion, invaluable.

  5. Cassi
    This is a remarkable post. Thank you for extending a hand in the form of not only your compassion (second question) but also your vision of 'what we call the adoption process' -what it should look like. You have me energized with your ideas. Thank you

  6. A. When I first came to adoption, I learned all I could about it, but complex layers are continually being revealed. One thing I intuitively knew is that I wanted to avoid reunion if at all possible, and the best way to do that was to have fully open adoptions from the very beginning.

    We have that for one of my children, but not for the other. I do hope that my son's firstmother (and father, for that matter) does someday come back and that she never goes away again.

    B. I had never thought about getting professional help in relationships with my daughter's firstparents. In some cases, people can navigate these relationships without professional help, IMHO.

    C. "the better the relationship between the two families, the better environment and security for the child" Hear, hear!

    "we understand that they do have and always will have two families in their life and that we will never, EVER expect them to have to choose between them." Hear, hear!

    Thanks so much for adding your voice here, Cassi!

  7. I personally have never been able to read this book to the end. It is just too, I don't know, wrong in some ways and so close to perfectly true in others. The whole of the book makes me cry, or throw up. I just can't do it.

    Your post was one that provoked more thought to attempting it again...but I don't know.

  8. Thank you for your perspective. I think you are so right that everything possible needs to be done to help the child. I think too often children are seen as being adaptable and while they are, those adaptations still leave scars.

  9. Wow. Your post hit me hard. I am an adoptee and all I can say is I wish my natural mom had a computer and could read this, I wish she could read your response. Your post was amazing, thank you so so much. I am going to come back and read this when I am not so emotional,'s a good thing ;)

    Lisa =)