If you’re not part of the adoption fraternity, and perhaps even if you have been touched by adoption some way, you may not know about the primal wound.
What is the primal wound?
In its application of information about pre- and perinatal psychology, attachment, bonding, and loss, it clarifies the effects of separation from the birth mother on adopted children. In addition, it gives those children, whose pain has long been unacknowledged or misunderstood, validation for their feelings, as well as explanations for their behavior.
In short. It is the wounded soul of an adopted child, which occurs at birth and separation from his or her birth mother. A loss so deep that it forever alters how these children see themselves.
No matter how perfect an adoption placement is, there is ALWAYS trauma.
Ava had an idyllic placement as far as placements go. Her birth mother loved (s) her deeply. She came into the world during a beautiful and peaceful natural birth, I was with her birth mother. It was a loving and beautiful time.
But she STILL has trauma and the primal wound.
Walter and I have striven to create a loving, open environment for both our girls. A safe place for them to openly express their emotions and ask questions about their adoptions. No question is taboo, we have always been 100% open and honest with them. So imagine my surprise when Ava displayed behavior that is so typical of adopted children, especially those who felt they could not talk about their emotions surrounding their adoptions and their birth mothers?
Here’s what happened:
A couple of days ago, we visited The Lighthouse Baby Shelter to make a donation. I took the girls with me (for a number of reasons which I’ll get into in another post at another time). We spent time in the nursery with the babies. When we left, there were a lot of tough questions asked. Ava wanted to know how those babies got there. Where their parents are, did their parents forget about them. And so, as best I could I explained it all to her. I explained to her that a mother NEVER forgets her baby. EVER. That one day, when she’s a mommy herself, she’ll understand a mother’s deep rooted love. She got quiet and I assumed she was processing everything.
Then yesterday, she watched the Christmas movie, Elf.
On Christmas Eve in 1973, an orphaned infant boy stows away on Santa Claus’ sack. When discovered back at the North Pole, he is adopted by Papa Elf. Papa Elf names his son Buddy.
Buddy grows up at the North Pole believing he is an elf, but due to his human size is unable to perform elf tasks. When Buddy accidentally learns that he is human, Papa Elf explains that he was born to Walter Hobbs and Susan Wells, and was given up for adoption without Walter knowing. Susan died and Walter works at a children’s book publisher in New York City. Buddy travels to find him, whom Santa indicates is on the naughty list due to his greed and selfishness.
Then last night….
We’d been having a family braai and Ava started to get quiet. She told me she wanted to tell me a secret but she was scared if she told me that I’d either get mad or she’d hurt my heart with her secret. It took a lot of persuading, but eventually, she agreed to tell me, only if she could whisper her secret in my ear.
“I miss my tummy mummy!”
And then she burst into tears! Guys, my heart, it physically broke. It was a physical pain to see the manifestation of adoption trauma in my child. I had always naively assumed that because of the circumstance around Ava’s placement, she’d be spared the trauma, the primal wound. But there is was, in all it’s painful glory. I held her and let my big fat tears drip down into her hair as I reassured her that I was not mad nor hurt. That I thought it was normal and natural for her to love and miss her tummy mummy. That I loved and missed her tummy mummy and that she could tell me whenever she wanted to, that she missed and loved her tummy mummy. I asked her how long she had felt that way, her answer floored me:
“My entire life!”
She asked if she could meet her tummy mummy soon. She asked to write her a letter. She drew a picture of her family, that included her, me, Walter, Hannah, our 3 dogs and her tummy mummy wearing a crown. She asked Walter to help her write the letter, she dictated it and he wrote it and what she said astounded me. The emotional intelligence, the hurt, the longing, the love, the insight of a 7 year old!
“If you look around every corner, you will see me!”
Afterwards, she came to me and very maturely thanked me for listening to her and for not getting mad. She has been extremely affectionate and emotionally needy since then and I feel like it’s almost her way of trying to ensure that she will not be rejected by me because of what she shared. She has told me 100 times in the past 12 hours how much she loves me, how I’m the best mother she has ever had. While I love hearing those things, it makes me sad that she is fearful her perceived rejection and potential second rejection. The primal wound is deep in this one!
We have decided to take her to see a Rachel Makoni who is a psychologist with a special interest in the needs of an adopted child.
I am just so thankful that we have such an open relationship with Ava’s birth mother. That I was able to message her last night to tell her what was happening and to have input and her love and support as we navigate through this hurt and pain and help heal our child.