Moms, when you considered adopting, you wanted nothing more than to become a safe haven of love for your child, but instead, without either you nor your child desiring it, unresolved adoptee anger bonded you together in a seemingly impossible situation.
It was that way for my mom and me. She wanted to pour love into me from day one when my maternal grandmother brought me home on adoption day. After Dad held me and declared that “you were so tiny, I could hold you in the palm of one hand,” he handed me off to mom.
Immediately, my ten-day old body arched and cried bloody murder. I’m sure mom was aghast. How could she pour love into this defiant child? She had no idea that I was trying to communicate in the only way I knew that I just lost the love of my life–my birth mom.
It’s likely that you’ve heard no one talk about this tumultuous, anger-driven relationship between many moms and adopted kids. Without pointing a finger, consider being an adoption agency professional arranging an adoption. Would you not put the upcoming adoption in jeopardy if you shared the possibility of an adversarial relationship between mom and child? And, how could you comfort naive parents who are now experiencing it in real time?
What message have adoptive and foster parents received? Because there was likely no affirmation of the possibility of this kind of relationship developing, parents were terrified of adoptee anger, for they can’t spank it away, teach it away, woo it away, or love it away.
And, adoptees fear their tiger-like anger originates from a hidden character flaw, possibly from a missing generation. If they hear others talking about “the bad gene,” they’re secretly paranoid.
This transparency is new territory, just being plowed as you read this book. I’m an old adoptee, finally free from anger’s choking grip, and ready to announce that this painful situation between moms and kids is not impossible to heal.
As you may know, I’m a veteran in the world of adoption and as an author, I thought I’d written every book I ever wanted to. However, radical things began happening in my life that seem worthy to share.
Alien thoughts flooded my mind, but at the same time, the last two years have been almost like waking up from surgery, where you vaguely hear the recovery room nurse’s voice in the distance.
Maybe my brain chemistry changed. You hear all these things in adoption circles about how the brain is damaged by trauma, and yet can heal. So I rummaged through all my books about the brain..in vain.
Let me give examples of the unexplainable thought reversals.
Junk Became Treasure
One day I thought about mom’s wedding rings. Why? I carried them for 53 years without a thought, from geographical move to geographical move, and considered them pieces of junk. Tarnished beyond belief, with all the diamonds missing, I wondered why I hadn’t thrown them away.
However, now I quickly pawed through my messy and overcrowded jewelry box to see if they were still there. Oh, my goodness, they were, lying beneath my custom jewelry.
Why would I be searching for my late mom’s wedding rings when we had a tumultuous relationship? And, yet, the thoughts kept coming. What was it like on the evening that Mom and Dad were engaged? Did Dad get down on his knee to propose? And, was she the blushing, soon-to-be bride, dreaming of a house, children, and happiness forever?
With hands shaking, I put the rings on my tarnished rings on my finger and ran into my husband Bob’s office to show them off, like a kid. Just a month ago, while eating pizza at our favorite restaurant, he pulled out a small box. He’d gotten them refurbished without my knowledge. I wear them to this day.
Not only did my junk become treasure, but my painful memories became pleasant.
Painful Memories Became Pleasant
As I shared earlier, the relationship between mom and me was stressful beyond belief for most of my growing up years. Being in her presence was like running long, manicured fingernails over a black board.
But suddenly, is this turn of events inside me, the negativity disappeared and I saw mom’s care for me in a new light. I could smell her best-in-town apple pie, feel her hands gently rubbing oil on my asthmatic chest, and see her carry for Dinny Dinwit, my cat.
The change in memories went all the way back to adoption day. When the caseworker brought me through the front door, she couldn’t help but fall in love. It was at that moment that one of her rarest gifts surfaced—her non-abandoning heart.
She would reverse the script of abandonment to one of safety and belonging. She would love this baby with every fiber of her being.
And so, over the span of a lifetime, mom gifted me, even though I didn’t realize it until it was too late.
Mom dropped over dead of a heart attack when I was only 36. Because she and dad were in Florida, we rushed to Dad’s side. I’ll never forget how they loaded her casket into the jet three days later.
Mom gifted me with the non-abandoning heart over the years by living by these legacy markers:
- I will do everything possible to connect with my child
- I will still love her even when she rejects me
- I will love unconditionally, knowing her back story
- I will love her even though I am afraid
- I will love her by telling her the truth about her back story.
- I will keep loving her even though I receive no love in return.
- I will go to my grave knowing I’ve done my absolute best for her.
That rare gift of a non-abandoning heart can be illustrated by this story about a forest ranger who was surveying the results of a forest fire in California.
All the mighty redwoods were but an ash heap. Kicking his way through the ashes, he came upon a mysterious clump, which he kicked to the side. Immediately, baby chicks scurried out from their dead mama’s body.
What a mom she was. She refused to leave her offspring even though fire raged around her. She accomplished her life’s mission and legacy of gifting her babies with a non-abandoning heart.
What a mom she was to those scurrying chicks…and what a mom my mom was to me.
And so, moms, I offer the truths that brought me freedom, not claiming exclusive rights or guaranteed positive outcomes, but simply with the hope that you will be encouraged to press on.
This post is a wake-up, hope-drenched, revolutionary strategy for healing the adversarial relationships between adoptees and moms.
Without a doubt, your level of fatigue is off the charts and I don’t want you to feel like these 20 strategies are one more thing you must do. Far from it. Read a few pages, or even just one, even if you have to seclude yourself from screaming kids in the bathroom.
I promise to meet you there but I must warn you that this book will not be a feel-good read. No warm fuzzies or heart-shaped emojis. No steaming bedtime tea and cookies. After all, you’re desperate for hope, right? And, I’m desperate to give it.
Let’s lay the historical groundwork from the world of adoption that will enable us to be thrilled about participating in such pioneering work with your adopted child.
Adoptees love the seminal work of Nancy Verrier in her best-selling book THE PRIMAL WOUND: Understanding the Adopted Child. Verrier’s wisdom teaches that without acknowledging and validating deep wounds, healing can’t begin.
Since publication more than twenty years ago, many adoptees have dog-eared it’s pages, quoted it, and carried it around, like a security blanket.
And, rightly so. This indeed, is the adoptee’s “aha book.” In essence, it says, “Yes, it hurts like hell to lose your first family. Yes, you have a right to be angry. Yes, your cry is heard.”
However, twenty years later, many adoptees are stuck in the validation phase of healing. The majority are stuck in tumultuous relationships, rage, and passive hate. We don’t know if there’s any next steps that we may take to be free of our painful past.
The majority of people in the world of adoption give kudos to Ms. Verrier, including me. But, it’s time to move on toward healing for your adopted child and your relationship with him/her.
It’s time for you to have your own “aha book,” don’t you think? Time to have your deep wounds validated, time to bring you into contact with other moms with similar experiences, and time to gain hope that your child can heal from the adversarial relationship with you….which by the way, you don’t deserve. But, we’ll talk more about those dynamics in next posts.
Validating the Profound Mom Wound
Not only must you understand the depth of your child’s wound, but also your own. Rejection from your own beloved child hurts. I don’t pretend to understand, but I do know what it feels like to be rejected by your first mom.
Not only did she send me away after birth, not wanting to know anything about me, but she rejected me twenty years ago when we were reunited. What began as a fairy-tale reunion ended in gut-wrenching rejection.
When I think about you and your challenging calling as a mom, I remember the story of little Jessica McClure, who fell headlong down an abandoned well shaft in Midland, Texas. The shaft was only eight inches in diameter and twenty-two feet deep.
Can you imagine how Jessica’s parents must have reacted? Maybe they couldn’t eat, or refused to? Maybe they slept outside by the excavation site? Maybe out-of-control emotions drove them to a huge dose of valium, or several swigs of whisky?
Finally, after fifteen hours, a highly-trained worker gained access into the shaft, untangled Jessica, and put her in the arms of her waiting parents, who sobbed uncontrollably, as did a vigilant country.
Is this not reminiscent of your story too, moms? Your child fell into a deep hole when she lost her first family. You can barely stand to think about what was happening in that hole. If only you could take her place in the hole. You’d gladly offer.
Just like Jessican’s parents, the incredibly frustrating part is that you can’t do anything to help your child. She’s inaccessible. She’s “lost” to you.
Could it be that this a place in your heart that’s so humbled by your child’s pre-adoption suffering that produces such helplessness that you don’t know quite where to turn or what to do with yourselves? Could this be your primal wound?
Just like Jessica’s hours in the shaft, your child suffered prior to adoption. It may be the orphanage workers who tied her down with ropes onto her bed because she was a “wiggly one.” It may be the suffering of a toddler fried in hot oil by his mother. Or, the pre-birth suffering inflicted by a drug-addicted mom.
Even though many moms may know the particulars of their child’s pre-adoption sufferings, there is still that deep agony in your hearts for the unknown-to-you trauma your child experienced. The part that may shut off access to your child’s heart.
After all, what would they say about the accident to a young child? Would they act like it never happened and that everything was fine now that they had her home again? Would they ask her directly what it was like to hardly be able to breathe in that dark hole?
Those thoughts have likely entered your mind also. How can I connect meaningfully with such a wounded child?
Thus, we’ve thanked Verrier for her contribution to adoption literature, we’ve verbalized your profound wound as a mom, and now we must push on to the exciting part–the next steps. Next blog!
I love you, moms, and am in your corner.