Blog 88. Parenting: Even If Adoption Takes Place Just After Birth, The Baby Can Still Mourn The Loss Of Their Mothers Right Into Adulthood. Find Out Why.
As adults we often find it very hard remembering what it was like to be a baby, not only in the womb but also for the first few years of our lives. And as we’re usually so busy getting on with things, taking time to think what it must’ve been like all those years ago, having connected or not connected sufficiently with our mothers isn’t something we concern ourselves with much.
However, research shows that the first emotional attachment we have is obviously with our mothers and that the type of connection we have – can affect us right into adulthood. But most importantly, research shows that the bond we create with our mothers during the first nine month gestation period becomes the foundation of being able to recognise our mothers – her heart beat, her smell and her voice once we are born.
This is also clearly evident in nature and penguin colonies are a good example of this. It is fascinating to watch how penguin mothers recognise their offspring, their mates or even their friends in very noisy and in massive crowds of birds, which all seem to look the same. Scientists are proving that the main mechanism is through sound and their individual calls.
Scientists are now also beginning to realise that human babies too, rely on the sound of their mother’s voice in order to recognise and find connection. And in the early days of a baby’s life, as the baby’s eyes adjust to light often their eyes can remain closed and consequently hearing the sound of their mother’s voice helps to create feelings of comfort, security and safety.
What is also beginning to be understood is that there is a ‘physic bond’ that gets created between the mother and her baby during the first nine months whilst the baby is in the womb. This ‘physic bond’ enables a deep connection to form, which then further enables a mother to know exactly how to care intuitively for her baby.
However, what is also now being discovered is that if a baby is removed from their mother at any time after birth, not hearing their mother’s voice or heart beat, can have devastating long term emotional effects. The shock of this loss can then create many pathways leading to feelings of grief and an emptiness. These feelings can evolve into emotional problems as the child grows up, possibly even causing deep inconsolable depression and sometimes this can even lead to suicide.
But when a baby or a child is adopted – we often think all is well and hopefully with a lot of love the child will recover. This is not necessary true.
Further studies have shown that if a baby is adopted and even if the adoption occurs right after birth, the baby will still experience the terrible loss of their mother’s voice, her heart beat, her smell and so on. This trauma and the resulting loss and grief – can take years to understand and deal with.
And just like abandoned babies or children (see earlier blogs in section 1) they too will always wonder what they did wrong to be rejected. This confusion often leads to feelings of shame for having been discarded and immense guilt along with deep sadness, grief, anger.
This can create all sorts of self-punishment and disempowering behaviour right through adulthood, unless the abandonment is addressed and somehow healed emotionally.
And having lost their ‘first mother’, they often carry feelings of displacement, or feelings that they never truly belong, that somehow they have been dislodged and that something is missing. These feelings can continue for many years leaving a child feeling alone, helpless and empty.
If these feeling are not addressed, a child can develop identity issues especially in adolescence, or a terror of being left alone or a fear of rejection – to name but a few issues that may surface.
Unfortunately, these feelings are not always understood or put into words. And a sudden show of these emotions can come as a shock to both the child and the adoptive parents, who may feel that they’ve given the child lots of love, attention and care. This happens because the adoptive parents are usually never warned that these emotions can arise. But trying to understand the child, when the child themselves is battling with all their emotions, can be very hard.
It is therefore important to warn adoptive parents that strong negative emotions may emerge as a result of the grief and loss the baby or child experiences.
Couple therapy should certainly be considered so as to allow the couple to develop a strong emotional structure in order to support the grieving child without taking on any projections, recriminations and blame on board themselves. They would have to get to know themselves extremely well so that they can also offer the necessary support a grieving child needs.
This would include helping a child voice and communicate any grief but also, sharing that a child has been adopted, yet still loved and adored, as early as possible, is often crucial to helping a child comes to terms with their loss quicker.
Talking freely about the adoption helps keep away all sorts of worries, fears and so on. And children should certainly be told about the adoption at an early age because it is not news to them. They know. They were there. They lost their birth mothers. They feel the emptiness. Showing a child that you understand their grief, will also help them to get in touch with their own feelings and as a result, trust between adoptee and their adoptive parents usually gets built too.
But also, family therapy or indeed child therapy may make the healing journey easier on all involved.
It is however worth noting that, the fear of being rejected or abandoned again, by adoptive parents can make this journey more difficult as often the adopted child may adapt their behaviour in order to fit into their new family. They may even choose to hide their true feelings and consequently what they really feel may remain hidden until adulthood when they may emerge again. As I have written many times over – unaddressed or buried issues will always rear their ugly heads and the timing of this may not always suit, but they will say hello, leading usually to further depression and so on, if they are not understood and healed.
If you were an adopted child or if you are an adoptive parent or indeed if you are considering adopting, I would highly recommend you read, “The Primal Wound” by Nancy Newton Verrier. It is explains in depth the issues involved but it also explains the rewards of adopting and how when giving a child an opportunity of love, as long as the past grief is understood by all, much progress can be made and this is what can make adoption worthwhile.
But one thing that Nancy Newton Verrier mentions in her book is that, “Even though the adult adoptee seems to be coping – this is usually due to learnt coping skills”.
If you were adopted and you still feel a deep inner emptiness (or you find it hard to trust others or even develop meaningful long-term relationships), I urge you to consider beginning a conversation with someone near you, who knows a little about this topic. However I would certainly read the book I have recommended.
This reminds me of line from Lewis Carroll in his book, “Alice In Wonderland”:Who in the world am I? Ah, that is the great puzzle.”
Adoptee Relationships in Adulthood:
If an adoptee were to have a relationship/s in adulthood, and if they sensed that their partner was in any way unfaithful or emotionally unavailable, this could trigger all sorts of emotions from rage and anger, right through to deep sadness and even depression.
All the unaddressed emotions they may have felt towards their abandoning mother and/or parents – may re-surface and get projected onto a partner.
And feelings that ‘I am bad and therefore I need to be punished’, as written about in Blog 4, may also get projected onto a partner, punishing them for what happened long ago, or indeed punishing the self for what happened. This can be done in all sorts of ways – via money or debt, emotional blackmail, emotional withholding, the silent treatment, affairs, control and bullying, and so on.
But also fearing intimacy, yet at the same time fearing abandonment can often lead to insecurities and conflicting needs – and this can be reflected in partner choices – choosing someone who is unavailable emotionally because anything other may seem too frightening and even dangerous to contemplate, because what we learn emotionally as children – becomes our blueprint in adulthood. Or indeed what we fear we create.
However, if this is you and if you as an adoptee, are struggling in your relationship, then I highly recommend talking to someone who you can confide in and who may offer some guidance and understanding.
Because, you may never find out who you are, but know this – whatever you feel deep inside can be understood and healed. You just have to start the healing journey.
© 2018 Deidré Wallace All rights reserved.
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