I believe for many adoptees this lifetime journey is to find a true sense of self. Adoptees who are relinquished at birth have a quick first life that ends when the separation between mother and child occurs. Adoptees who were relinquished later have longer first lives: a week, a year, four years, ten years, seventeen years.
Most adults spend their lives looking for their other half in a partner after having spent the child years first learning to bond and then to separate from the mother-partner.
I don’t know if my mother ever held me. I don’t think she did.
Imagine. All that work to grow into a human being who is meant to come out into the world to be held by the mother, and that does not happen, or it happens briefly and then doesn’t happen again.
If I did not learn to bond and then to separate from the first mother, if I only learned to separate, is it a surprise that later I would be better at separating from things, people, potential life partners, than I would be at bonding with them?
It’s a lot for the nervous system to handle: dying from one life and awakening to another. If you are an infant, you have feelings without language. You experience a radical change and the loss of familiar smells, tastes, sounds, and rhythms feels like death. The being that was to mirror you and introduce you to the world and to your sense of self disappeared. That means you also disappear.
When a new mother appears to mirror you, there is upset. Rage. This is not the right one. But this mother holds you and feeds you and rocks you and so you swallow your feelings because food is food and love is love and you need to survive.
Since the world doesn’t match your internal vibrations, you learn that life is dissonance and surprise and you expect this to continue forever.
You may even go out of your way to make sure this happens the rest of your life because it feels better when dissonance is matched with dissonance. Even though it is not the vibration you were first born to, the song of yourself, even though this is trauma induced vibration it is the rhythm of the self that you know in your body and so it feels like home even though it’s not the true home that is the home rhythm in your heart.
You expect to not match with your surroundings. You learn that something is wrong with you but you have no idea what it is. It’s like when you try to sing at church and you can’t get your voice to sound like those around you. It can make you not want to sing.
My mother, the mother who adopted me, was my mother. I bonded with her, but then something happened: she died. And even though I was an adult with a child of my own when my mother died, it all came full circle: mothers, the source of life, leave, and so even though I was an adult, I fell apart. It was like I was an infant all over again, immobilized by loss, but this time something was different. This time I had language.
When you try to catch a fish, you hope to hook it in the mouth when it goes to take the bait, but sometimes the fish goes for the bait so completely it swallows the hook. It’s a terrible thing to get the hook out of the fish’s guts.
That was what it was like to first write about being adopted. I thought I would die. I had swallowed the feelings of rage and grief, but when my mother died, they finally started spilling out on their own.
I thought writing a book about what it felt like to be an adoptee would cure me. I thought I needed to articulate what I hadn’t been able to talk and then I would be fine. Not adopted anymore.
It didn’t work that way.