I finally got a copy of the “essential” book for adoptive triad members: The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier. I’m only on chapter 2 and I’m already profoundly affected, not because any of the theories or conclusions drawn are new to me, but mostly because I know in my heart without certainty that it is true. My daughter experienced “the primal wound” at 5 weeks of age, perhaps even sooner after birth if her first mom wasn’t around much. This wound is not very evident right now, for her as an infant and toddler, but I know that someday we will be exploring it together, and then as she enters adolescence and into adulthood it will become hers and hers alone. It will steer her inner life, it is a part of her very being.
I know this because I have seen things from her that I knew, in that deep mother-intuition way of knowing, were coming from a place of loss and trauma. Like other adoptive mothers in the book who report that their child will say, “I want my mommy” and push their adoptive mothers away (at the ages of 2 and 3), I have witnessed my own daughter push me away, inexplicably, when normal hurts cause her to insist on comfort from me. She did this after a visit to her biological aunt. She was inconsolable, crying, and pushing me away whenever I attempted to touch her or offer comfort. It’s not because she didn’t want to be comforted. It’s because she was missing comfort from, and needing a connection with, her other mother. She rejected me on the playground in favor of a stranger who looked like her birth mom… not because she doesn’t love me or need me, but because being around someone so similar to her first mom made her need and miss her first mom, and therefore I could not comfort her. I just couldn’t.
Being an adoptive mom is hard in this way. I want to be the everything that a mom is to a child, but I can’t be. I am so much, yes. I am extremely important, I am her mother in a dozen essential ways, but I’ll never be everything she needs for a sense of well-being. That hurts. It hurts so much. I want her to be whole and healed and to have the magic touch, the power to soothe every ache. But I don’t. Instead, parenting my daughter requires me to equip her with the skills and resources to deal forevermore with the hurts that can’t be healed, the hole that can’t be filled.