Does the Bible Validate An Adoptee’s Primal Wound?

This picture shows a crying infant in a basket on the Nile River. It is Moses. Does anyone hear his cry? Learn a surprising answer to his cry.

I’ve heard this story told again and again, but no one ever stopped at the word that stood out like neon to me.

Moses, the Biblical adoptee, cried when his first mom put him in a tar-lined, covered basket in the alligator-infested Nile?

Yes…it says it right here:

Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, 2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. 5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. 6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying (emphasis mine), and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. (Exodus 2)

So, what’s the big deal?

All babies cry, right?

As I studied what the word “cried” meant, it became abundantly clear what I and millions of other fellow adoptees and foster kids experience when separated from our first (second, third, etc). families.

Defining the Cry

The root meaning of crying is: (Thesaurus)

  • to weep
  • bewail
  • sob
  • weep continually
  • weep longer
  • weep bitterly

Even though culture and times were different, Moses experienced the same challenges those who lose families face today. Everything familiar disappeared and for the first time, on a sensory level, he experienced what relinquishment feels like.

Many adoptees today reflect relinquishment’s reality.

How Other Adoptees Describe “Cry”

“I am adopted! Someone didn’t want me. This became my story, my scar and my struggle. When I learned of my adoption, compounded by dynamics in my family life, I ‘heard’ only that someone DIDN’T want me. I was rejected somewhere and somehow, I was now different. All of this became the energy force that kept me, motivated me and often controlled me on a lifetime course of anger, debate, searching and stubborn determination to prove that ‘they,’ whoever the natural parents were, were wrong to give me up.” (Dr. Richard Gilbert, from Jewel among Jewels Adoption News)

Other adoptees say:

  • I wake up at night and cry, but I don’t know why.
  • Something inside doesn’t feel right.
  • I am crying on the inside but the tears won’t come.
  • I need my parents to understand that I have an invisible wound.
  • I need the freedom to cry.
  • I need comfort.
  • If I were a diabetic, they would give me insulin. If I were deaf, they would give me hearing aids. Why don’t they do anything for my wound from adoption

What Experts Say About the Cry

“What I discovered  is what I call the primal wound, a wound which is physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual; a wound which causes pain so profound as to have been described as cellular by those adoptees who allowed themselves to go that deeply into their pain. I began to understand this wound as having been caused by the separation of the child from his biological mother, the connection to whom seems mystical, mysterious, spiritual and everlasting.” The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child, by Nancy Verrier

“The loss inherent in adoption is unlike other losses we have come to expect in a lifetime, such as death or divorce. Adoption is more pervasive, less socially recognized and more profound.” Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self,  by David M. Brodzinsky, Ph.D. and Marshall D. Schechter, M.D.

“Can a baby under one year ‘remember’ this traumatic separation from his original parents? No, he will probably not remember these events as a series of pictures which can be recalled. What is remembered, or preserved, is anxiety, a primitive kind of terror, which returns in waves in later life. Loss and danger of loss of love become recurrent themes or life patterns. What is preserved may be a profound moodiness or depression later in life, the somatic memory of the first tragic loss, which returns from the unremembered past even, ironically, at moments of pleasure and success. What is preserved is the violation of trust, of the ordered world of infancy in which love, protection and continuity of experience are invested in people. The arbitrary fate that broke the first human bonds may damage or shatter that trust, so that when love is given again it may not be freely returned. And finally, what is preserved is likely to be a wound to the embryonic personality in the first year which may have profound effects upon later development.” Every Child’s Birthright, by Selma Fraiberg

How God Responds to the Cry

He had no awareness of Jehovah–the Being who is absolutely Self-Existent, the One who in himself possesses essential life and permanent existence. Even though his mother wasn’t there with Moses when he was floating on the Nile, Jehovah was. Jehovah’s strong hands were holding him up and keeping him safe.

Psalm 63:7-8 says, “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I stay close to you; your right hand upholds me.”

How Parents Can Validate the Cry

Parents and counselors may want to consider using these questions and activities:

  • If you could sum up your adoption experience in one word, what would it be?
  • Describe your perception of  being separated from your first family (parents bringing me into their house; baby in a basket, baby in a dumpster, baby on the steps of a church, parents picking baby out, parents so happy when they lay eyes on you, the day you lost your birth mother, etc).
  • Draw a picture illustrating your perception of adoption/foster care/orphanage from using only your left hand (or right if you are left-handed).
  • How do you think your birth mother felt at your birth? Your birth father?
  • Do you ever feel like you are crying on the inside, yet tears won’t come? If so, how long does the feeling last?
  • What do you need most when you are feeling confused and mixed up inside? List specific ways of getting this need met.
  • Write a letter TO your birth mother about how you were traumatized when she disappeared from your life.
  • Write a letter to yourself FROM your birth mother, expressing thoughts and feelings you think she would want you to know about her reasons for placing you for adoption and how she feels about what you have just said in your letter to her.

Verses that Comfort the Cry

  •  Psalm 91:4“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”
  • Psalm 139:13“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”  
  • Psalm 139:15“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”  
  • Psalm 139:16b“all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Who planned every day of your life?

Feel free to use any of this material.

Sherrie

A Gift Only Adoptees Can Give

This is a picture of a teen adoptee and an older adoptee hugging, showing that the problem of loneliness is healed when adoptees connect with one another.

It’s a gift adoptive parents can’t give, birth parents can’t give, or adoption professionals can’t give. Only other adoptees can give it to one another.

I’ll never forget sitting next to an adoptive mom at an adoption carnival where I was speaking. At the end of the day the time came for the children and teens to come on stage and show the parents an adoption art project they had been working on.

When all the kids were in place one of the therapists yelled, “Who’s adopted here?”

Everyone’s hands flew up and squeals of delight burst forth from the little ones.

“Me!” they yelled in unison.

The mom leaned over and said, “I’ve never seen that expression on my daughter’s face. Look at her! When she said ‘me,’ her face absolutely glowed!”

Something unique happened to her daughter that day. What was it? Was it the excitement of being with kids the same age? Was it a sense of pride about her artwork or love of the spotlight?

I don’t believe so. I believe it was because she had been given a gift that was brand new to her—the gift of fellow adoptee friendships!

The psychological drive that makes this gift so special is that it involves our basic need for connection. Drs. Brodzinsky and Schechter, adoption specialists with 30 years of combined experience, say that connection to an adoptee is like food to a starving man.

But connection to what or whom?

As an adoptee, I would guess it involves something to do with our lost heritage.

For those adopted at infancy or a young age, any connection to our heritage helps satisfy that need. Original birth certificates. A name or photo of our parents. An adoption story that included our birth parents. A reunion with our birth parents.

If we were foster kids and adopted at an older age because of troubled parents, that need for connection may manifest in an unexplainable loyalty based on vestiges of fantasy of what life might have been like had we had nurturing parents and remained in their home.

Many times this connection with our birth families is not an option. International adoptions often make it impossible. Sealed records keep vital information irretrievable.

Nonetheless, our friendships with one another are downright amazing!

The Amazing Gift

By being in the presence of fellow adoptees, we discover:

  • We Are Like Family. Linda says that knowing adoptees has created a wonderful bond because there is a kind of “sisterhood” and “brotherhood” amongst us that has filled some of the void of not knowing her heritage.
  • We Are Drawn to One Another. Gary said that his young daughter seemed to gravitate to other adoptees in her preschool class. Of course she didn’t know they were adoptees, but there was that pull.
  • We Have a Unique Emotional Language.

Sherrie says that adoptees can “read” each other from just a few words or their body language, which she says makes adoptees feel like they belong to each other.

  • We are like Triple-Chocolate Cake. I never had an adoptee friend until I was forty-five. Her name is Jody Moreen. We spent hours in our favorite little tea room sipping spiced tea and “talking adoption.” Life doesn’t get much better than that!

Looking back, I can say that not having a fellow adoptee for a friend was like going through life and having missed triple-chocolate cake!

If your adopted child doesn’t have fellow adoptee friends, start searching!

And, pray that God will bring friends into their life.

Copyright Sherrie Eldridge, 2006. Based on Sherrie’s second book, Twenty Life-Transforming Choices Adoptees Need to Make (JKP, 2013).

Five Social Media Landmines for Searching Adoptees and Foster Kids

This is photo of adopted woman searching for birth family on social media. She's not aware of how she may be hurt. This post provides five landmines for her to be aware of to keep herself safe.

 

I believe all adoptees are searching for lost relatives, even if subconsciously.

With the growth of social media it is commonplace to find a lost relative. Facebook was my means of finding my birth brother, Jon.

Connections may occur, creating an emotional high, But often there are landmines for which no one is prepared.

Here are five landmines for adoptees searching for lost loved ones:

  1. Euphoric reactions.Adoption experts say that the need for adoptees to have connection is like a starving man looking for food. Many of us of been looking for a birth relative for a lifetime, And once that connection is made, euphoria sets in.This is a time to harness emotions.This surely is a blood relative, but we have no history or relationship yet.
  2. Impulsive decisions. Yes it has taken a lifetime. Be patient.
  3. Headed for your birth relatives home.But don’t rush into it! It is wise to take things slowly, get to know the person through photos, phone calls, and Skype.
  4. Unrealistic expectations.Most of us adoptees are famous for having fantasies about  birth relatives.We need to leave behind the fantasy that our  birth mother is a queen living in a castle. Or, that the birth father is a night coming to the rescue on a white horse.
  5. Overconfidence.We may consider ourselves emotionally healthy.Yet meeting members for the first time usually sends us back to the time of separation…the original separation.
  6. Intensity and lack of self-care.Because we have looked for a lifetime, we are on a mission to get that hole in our heart filled with this missing person.We would do anything for this person…to the extent of not taking good care of ourselves.

And some good questions we need to ask ourselves is

  • Do I really want to share my personal details with the whole world on Facebook?
  • Am I aware that people can present themselves anyway they decide on social media and that it is possible to be deceived?

Am I approaching this search like I would literal search? Is there an intermediary involved so birthmothers are shocked? Have letters of intent been sent to family that we want nothing just to meet  them?Wait for replies even though you are anxious to hear back.

 

 

What Adoptive and Foster Parents Can Do When Words Fail

I Wish My Adoptive Mom Wouldn't Blab About My Adoption Without Asking Me

Words often fail…and your child’s ability to receive may bottom out.

What can a parent do?

A spiritual answer is needful, but if your child or teen is in total chaos, of course they won’t receive a spiritual answer. They won’t receive any answer, right?

However, if you know the powerful spiritual  truth that needs to prevail for your child, you can storm the gates of heaven on his/her behalf.

What I am sharing is what God has given me over the years…Feel free to use as is needed.
1.God’s heart was the place of our conceptions. Our lives began, not at conception, not
at birth, not on adoption day, but in eternity past-in the very heart of God Himself. He is our Creator!
Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”

Ephesians 1:4-6: “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to His pleasure and will-to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.”
2. Birth mothers don’t give the gift of life–they carry it. God is the author of all life. He is Life!
John 1:3-4: “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.”
Psalm 139:13: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
Esther 9:6b: “You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship You.”
3. God originated adoption, but human adoption and spiritual adoption are not the same.
He wants to adopt us spiritually.
Ephesians 1: 4-5: “In love He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ.”

4. God says we are all orphans because of our sin (not loving God with our whole heart and soul, every minute of every day). We will be orphans for eternity without Him!
Isaiah 59:2: “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” I John 1:10: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
5. God provided a Way when there was no way for us to enter His family. He sent Jesus to pay the penalty for our sin by His death!
John 3: 16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
6. God requires personal trust in Christ’s finished work on the Cross to enter His family.
He invites us!
Romans 10: 9-11: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God
raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”
7. God knocks on human hearts.
Revelation 3:20: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
If God is knocking on your heart’s door, you can pray this simple prayer: “Jesus, I realize
that my sin has separated me from You and that I will be an orphan for eternity without You. Thank You that for paying the price for my sin when You shed your blood and died on the cross for me. It’s hard to believe that if I were the only person in the world, You would have come for me, but I take Your great love by faith. Please cleanse me from sin and fill me with your Holy Spirit. I take Your gift of my adoption into your forever family
by faith. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!”
8. God validates the emotional realities of abandonment. He doesn’t tell us to bite the
bullet and go on as if nothing happened. He is compassionate!
Ezekiel 16: 4-7: “On the day you were born, you were dumped out into a field and left to die, unwanted.”
9. God comes to us in our abandonment. He is our Helper!
Ezekiel 16: 4-7: “But I came by and saw you lying there, covered with your own blood.”
10. God calls us to Life and declares His opinion of us. He values us!
Ezekiel 16: 7 “…and I said, ‘Live! Thrive, like a plant in the field!’ And you did! You grew up and became…a jewel among jewels.”
11. God planned who our biological and adoptive parents would be. He is Lord!
Psalm 139:16: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
12. God’s love is deeper than any rejection life can throw at you! He engraved our names on His hands!
Isaiah 49: 15-16: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will never forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”
13. God experienced rejection big time. He will walk with us when we are rejected!
John 1:11: “He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.” Rejection by all of us at the Cross—we pounded the nails in his palms.
14. God holds unanswered adoption questions in His loving hands. He is trust worthy!
Deuteronomy 29:29: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”
15. God offers adoptees an awesome legacy. He wants to be our Father!
Psalm 68:5: “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.”

(Note: I know many today struggle with the word “orphan.” Technically, it means a child without parents. There are many physical orphans in our world, but spiritually, we are all orphans…without a family….until we are born again into God’s family.)
16. God promises to hear even the faintest cry of the orphan. He is sensitive!Exodus 22:22-24: “Do not take advantage of a widow or orphan. If you do, and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.”

17. God preserves the orphan’s life. He is our Protector!

Jeremiah 49:11: “Leave your orphans; I will protect their lives.”

Esther 2:15: “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

18. God has a unique plan for the orphan in human history. He is Sovereign! Think about Queen Esther.
19. God thinks highly of those who help orphans. He considers it worship!
James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (Notice the verse doesn’t say “adopt every orphan.” It says, “to look after.”
20. God gladdens the orphan’s heart with the bounty of Providence. He is our Provider!
Deuteronomy 24: 17a, 19: “Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice…” When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord may bless you in all the work of your hands.”
21. God opposes unjust laws concerning the fatherless. He is our Advocate!
Isaiah 10:1-2: “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and rob my oppressed people of justice, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”
22. God cares tenderly for birth mothers. He is close to the brokenhearted!
Genesis 21: 16b-19: “And as she (Hagar) sat there nearby, she began to sob. God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’ Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.”
23. God wants us to offer our broken lives to Him. He sings over us when we do!
II Chronicles 29:29: “And when the burnt offering began, the song of the Lord began also, with trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by King David of Israel.”
24. God told Abraham to let go of contentious birth relatives. He wants us to press on!
Genesis 21:11: “The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said, ‘Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the maid servant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

 

How To Explain Adoption to Your Adopted Child

There is an art to telling adopted children their story.

It is a certain way that snuffs out toxic shame and helps us adoptees go on after a trauma or multiple traumas.

It truly is an art.

Without the right artful approach, your child may silently reaffirm the lie that “my life is a mistake.”

Some parents are scared to death to tell their kids about their adoption. Where do I start? I know my child is already hurting and I don’t want to blow it by what I say and hurt them further. I love this kiddo more than life itself and I want to get this right. But, how can I talk about something that is so complex to my child? What are the right words? Will she understand?

But, don’t be afraid, parents. There is an artful way.

The lie–“your life is a mistake”–came into clear view for me after my birth mother rejected me after our tumultuous reunion. By God’s grace, I have worked through this issue and would like to share it with you. Perhaps, it will help someone parenting an adopted or foster child. I hope so.

What we’re talking about here is really foundational to your child’s healthy identity. Important stuff here.

What Not to Say

Here are some common ways of sharing adoption with your child:

  • Your birth mother loved you so much that she gave you to us. (If that’s what love is, I don’t want anything to do with it.)
  • We couldn’t have kids of our own so we adapted you. (Ouch!)
  • We had only daughters and wanted a son, so we adopted you. (Gee thanks.)
  • Your mother was not able to take care of you. (What was wrong with me?)
  • Adoption is so wonderful. Remember…you are a chosen child, special as can be. (So, it isn’t okay to just be myself?)

How does all that register with an adopted child?

It’s crazy making.

Suggestions for An Artful Approach

I had to go back to the beginning. The very beginning. To God.

I realize now that my life began in eternity past, in the heart of God my Heavenly Father. He was the first to think of me and love me. Then, I was born on planet earth. And there were some bumps along the way. But those bumps never changed God’s love for me. My life will never end. My last breath on earth will be my first in Heaven.

Here are some points from my perspective on an artful approach with your children:

  1. Tell her she is God’s idea.
  2. Show her where her life began (Father’s heart).

  3. Explain bumps in the road after she entered planet earth. (Bumps are the really, really hard things…like adoption, like losing your birth family, like not knowing us when we. were placed in our home, like feeling something inside isn’t right.)

  4. Help her make a timeline of her life. Feel free to use the timeline I’ve created. You may make copies of it.

I wish you all the best, parents.

You can do it!

Sherrie_Signature.2

adoptee lifeline.final3