“You were chosen”. These words are said carefully by parents who adopt, but they are not true. They are meant to make up for the fact that there is a silence, a gap in history not spoken about, the gap between being born and being adopted of which nothing is known in any closed adoption. This gap for me is 7 weeks, which is how old I was when I passed to my adopted parents.
The words are not true because you are not chosen from a range like selecting a brand of washing powder from the supermarket shelves or a new car with a variety of options in a showroom. No, not chosen, you are delivered like information on a piece of real estate, in a letter with your particulars and those (that are known) of your anonymous birth parents. The new parents can then accept or reject you, as my adopted parents had already rejected one baby on the grounds they (read my mum and grandmother) didn’t think the baby would be intelligent enough. Mum was already, unconsciously perhaps, emulating her cruel mother by loving conditionally, even before this baby was able to talk.
Then you are collected, like a parcel from the post office. In my case, there were six days between letter and delivery. You don’t, however, come with instructions so everyone is feeling the burn of the change; no nine months to get used to it, read up, or plan anything in the case of parenting, and no way of helping the baby understand what was going on. Like a plant, I went into transplant shock and I am still dealing with it today.
The big trouble is until about 1990 no one realised that babies noticed the difference. The separation from biological mother postpartum is a primal wound, the bonding that begins in utero is the start of a continuum, so bonding does not begin at birth. Thinking about it that would make no sense – the baby is literally formed from the mother’s cells, within the mother’s body – she grows a fully formed human connected by a blood pumping cord – how could they not be attached even at birth!
I blame Descartes! The separation of body and mind. And a human history of arrogantly thinking ourselves “above” being an animal. Of course a baby separated from its mother is hurt and terrified, we see it happening in all animals – it is not natural and it is a trauma. In terms of understanding it from an adopted child’s point of view, I recommend The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier. It’s where I started my journey into all this 20 years ago.
So, that was me, traumatised, in an alien environment for the second time (having spent four weeks in foster care) with an alien mother, who, as I’ve described previously, was ill-equipped for mothering any baby.
But still, the world kept turning.