The year 2023 has been one of new discoveries and realizations for me, and through a lot of work on my own recovery from challenges that have plagued me my entire life, I have faith that I am moving forward, and only holding onto the things from my past that will serve me well.
Having been relinquished at birth, it was not until I was almost 1 year old that my adoptive parents took me to my ‘forever home.’ I have no record or pictures of my first year of life, other than, through my recent search, I uncovered my original name, and that of both birth parents. I have always struggled with feelings of low self-esteem, loneliness, and simply “not fitting in,” but could never understand why. Through therapy, it became clear that my relinquishment was at the root of these feelings, and I, like many other adoptees, carry “The Primal Wound.”
Because of this new recognition, I have become an advocate for all adoptees, especially those who are adopted through “closed adoption,” which simply means, there is no connection to the adoptees' origin, no medical information, no cultural, genetic, or biological ties. This identifying information is legally sealed, leaving the adoptee left with virtually no identity. This lack of understanding of self, in turn, can cause numerous poor outcomes for adoptees, including increased suicidality and mental health symptoms.
I am learning to overcome my personal challenges, and hope to pursue a greater understanding of my biological history and discover who I am. My loyalty will always be to my adoptive parents, who, I believe God placed me with, as they provided me with everything I needed including love and acceptance, and I am forever grateful to them. I am compelled, however, to further discover my roots, as I know that this information can complete the puzzle of my life. Thank you for reading the attached blog on adoption...enjoy !!
Adoptee Remembrance Day is a day to acknowledge adoptees who have died by suicide, crimes against adoptees by adoptive parents, adoptees who are without citizenship, adoptees who have been rehomed or had their adoptions disrupted, and adoptees with limited or no access to their genetic information and families.
The approaching birth of a baby signifies the arrival of new life and years of bonding, as a family is created and the opportunity to leave a legacy is formed. New parents are showered with gifts, celebrations, and gender reveals, and the detection of a first heartbeat brings tears of joy. Each ultrasound builds love and connection between anticipating parents and their unborn child, as they witness the development of their baby and are even able to detect physical traits like their own. At the same time, science proves that this baby is not only attached biologically and genetically, but also psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. This is one of the most exciting and meaningful times of life. That is, unless this baby is to be relinquished or adopted, separated from the biological mother, and lose all sense of self. This is the reality of adoption.
Adoption can be a wonderful and necessary option for the adoption triad consisting of biological parents, adoptive parents, and child, but it is never without what is referred to as “The Primal Wound.” As anyone who has ever witnessed a birth knows, the reactions of a newborn are real. Infants feel the pain of birth, shiver in the cold air, squint and grimace at the lights and noises, and respond to an array of other environmental factors that are unknown and scary. Through all of this, babies can pick out their mother’s face and voice, and their only source of security comes from the bonding or imprinting wit this person with whom they have spent the past 9 months. Without this immediate connection, an indelible trauma is formed. “The Primal Wound” is referred to as postnatal separation from the biological mother, causing a feeling of abandonment and loss that is often subconscious or not understood, but is never completely overcome.
A person living with trauma has the daily challenge of facing and processing distressing events, and finding ways to cope. What can be more distressing that being separated from a mother? When childbirth causes a biological mother to lose her life, her children will be comforted and concessions will be made for behaviors that might result from this early tragedy. Therapy will be provided, and extended family members will memorialize the lost mother, as they rightly should. Adoptees experience the exact same loss, yet it is not recognized as such. It is assumed that the relinquished children have experienced no harm- or possibly that they might even benefit from the experience- but the fact is that not only do they suffer the loss of their mother, but also a loss of self, through what is perceived as abandonment. Statistics reveal that adoptees are FOUR TIMES more likely to attempt suicide, and are over represented in rehabilitation facilities. Nationally, 15% of children are diagnosed with a mental health disorder, but this increases to 30% of adoptees. Lifelong struggles around separation, loss, trust, rejection, guilt, and shame plague adoptees, even those who have had the advantage of being reared by loving and compassionate adoptive parents. Adoptees live without chunks of their lives…no pictures, recordings, memories. No health history or knowledge of genetic traits or tendencies. Often adoptees have no knowledge of their name given at birth…or IF there was one. These children may have multiple caregivers in foster care before they land in their ‘forever family,’ further confusing and traumatizing an infant. In the best scenarios, adoptees can develop a great deal of attachment to their adoptive families, and true relationships are created. At times, adoptive couples have, themselves, endured the loss of hopes and dreams, coped with infertility, and struggled with painful decisions along this difficult path. It is not shocking that in the worst cases, adoptees can be abused, victimized, or killed by unhealthy or dysfunctional families.
There is so much more to be learned and understood about the complex nature of adoption and the effect it has on the members of the adoption triad, and with research, comes solutions. When possible, facilitating age-appropriate contact with mother or father through letters, calls, and pictures can provide a sense of identity and personal history. This can help to answer the questions of “Who am I?” and “Where do I fit in?” Being knowledgeable and honest about the situation surrounding the relinquishment can be extremely helpful. The availability of health history and information to adoptees is vital yet is not accessible in most cases. Adoptees deserve to know their culture, genetics, and DNA. Much progress has been made in the past several decades, as studies have revealed a new way of thinking about adoption, yet there is much more work to be done to ensure positive outcomes for all involved. Adoption can be a beautiful solution for the 115,000 children per year whose biological parents are unable or unwilling to care for them, as well as an amazing option for birth mothers who choose to give the gift of life to their children. The awareness and proper useof trauma-informed care for biological and adoptive parents, and especially each adoptee can begin the healing process, and allow recovery to be realized.
Please consider joining me, by wearing yellow, on October 30, 2023, in honor of Adoptee Remembrance Day to commemorate those adoptees who have lost their lives, their health records, their past, and their sense of self. I encourage you to celebrate the advances that are being made to support the millions who are part of the ‘adoption triad,’ as they endeavor to reach the bright future that they so much deserve.
Holly Girty, CPSS, Supervisor II
Disclaimer: The opinions and information contained within this blog are that of the individual blog author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Peerstar, LLC.