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Published Friday June 26th, 2009 at 1:52pm

Original Article by Christina

Metaphorically speaking, close your eyes for a moment. You're barely 19 years old, single and you've just taken a pregnancy test. And it's positive. What would you do? How would you feel? What would your choices or actions be? I, to be honest, have never considered what must have been going through my birth mother's head. What she was thinking, feeling, did she love me? I have never considered those questions about her life. I've recently begun to ask those questions. Recently, I've learned more about my circumstances and I can't help but wonder -- did my conception cause the end of a relationship? I always assumed I was the result of a fling, I wasn't, but I was the result of a relationship that wasn't going to go anywhere. Perhaps I was the trigger to examine the relationship and it lead to the break up. I don't know. The point is, it is a profound thing to find out that you're pregnant. At any age, and in any life stage and circumstance. But I've always lived my life, subconsciously, from the perspective that it began not on my birthday, but instead on my adoption day. I've never asked those questions before. But the reality is that, for me anyways, I think it's important to address these questions. To a certain degree. Where examining these questions will lead, I don't know.

What kind of life would I have had, had I not been adopted? Who would I have been? How would my personality and world view be different? What would my identity have been? How has all this affected me and my identity? Those crux, keystone moments in our lives, they affect us. There are moments in our lives, we may not remember them, yet they have impact.

The author, Nancy Verrier, of "The Primal Wound" is a therapist and an adoptive mother. Her research and work looks at the effects of adoption on on the adoptees. Until very recently I have never even considered that it may have affected me, yet I am looking at my life and I am asking myself if it has had an impact on me.

In a paper that Nancy Verrier wrote titled "Adoption: Primal Wound, Effects of Separation from the Birth Mother on Adopted Children", speaking about her own daughter, she comments:

For love to be freely accepted there must be trust, and despite the love and security our daughter has been given, she has suffered the anxiety of wondering if she would again be rejected. For her this anxiety manifested itself in typical testing-out behavior. At the same time that she tried to provoke the very rejection that she feared, there was a reaction on her part to reject before she was rejected. It seemed that allowing herself to love and be loved was too dangerous; she couldn't trust that she would not again be abandoned.
I was to discover during the ten years of my research that hers was one of two diametrically opposed responses to having been abandoned; the other being a tendency toward acquiescence, compliance and withdrawal (Verrier, 2005)

I don't know where I would fall in that opposition, perhaps growing up my parents would say that I fell into the testing out side of things. But now I am quite sure that I am more responding with ‘acquiescence, compliance and withdrawal'. This is definitely how I now respond to those ripping wounds when I realize that I am rejected by those I care about, the difficulty I have in trusting after that trust has been broken. These are those core wounds that I am processing and I have asked the question: has my adoption played a role in this?

It's a challenge, I'm not sad about being adopted -- very thankful in fact. My family's my family I can't imagine the alternative. I'm not angry at my birth mother, I'm not sad that she made the choices that she made. But, that doesn't mean that at the time, as a young infant, it didn't impact me.

And yet, as I do process these questions I am reminded of some key things:

  • My family is my family. I spent time considering this question about whether I have a sense of rejection by my biological mother, and I realized that there isn't. Not at all. My questions are all about me and my identity. My mom is my mom and my family is my family. Even sitting here on the sofa, closing my eyes I can't bring up the picture of "what if my biological mother had been my mom". It just doesn't compute. And in my heart of hearts my mom is my mom, she hasn't rejected me. Therefore, any questions or sensitivity I may feel about rejection and abandonment logically comes from a different source (as an aside, yes I am learning about this source -- that's another in process post, on a different topic. Stay Tuned…).
  • Yes, adoption means severing of, really, the only relationship that the baby knows. I get that. It's something that needs to be dealt with. I'm sure that the severing caused wounds. I'm also sure that my parents dealt with it by telling me "The Story", by making sure I was loved. I've been making sure I've dealt with it by examining myself and my life. But the reality, too, is that I don't really know the circumstances of my biological mother's life at the time when I was born. One wound early on may well have been the "least wounding" of the options. It may not have been, of course, but I can't know that, and I can't make that call. The only person who could make that call is my birth mother. The one thing I know, is that it was a thought out decision. She didn't rush into it at the last minute, right as I was born -- she thought it through.
  • My origin is not my adoption day, my origin was my conception, and then later, my birthday. Those weeks and months were moments that shaped who I am, and even as I look at the biology of who I am, I realize that where I come from does play a role.
  • I am beginning to understand why I hate my birthday. Why Christmas isn't usually easy for me. Why the week after Christmas is usually spent quiet, alone and in reflection. Why New Years is always such a relief. Why I'm thankful for New Years Day. That string of dates probably makes no sense until you realize that my birthday is December 23rd. My first Christmas I was a ward of the province and I was in the hospital. The time between Christmas and New Years? In limbo, waiting, at the hospital, being cared for by the staff. New Years it's almost the time for my parents to come for me, and January 2nd was the day my parents got me (based on the way things worked then, that was the earliest they could come up). I've always celebrated my birthday. But I've always hated that whole time of year. January 2nd? For that day, I'm thankful. Maybe thinking through these things will allow me to enjoy the entire holiday season.
  • My adoption was a wonderful gift. Given to me out of love for me and out of an understanding by my biological mother that as a young woman, just out of high school, she wasn't ready to be the mother she wanted to be. She valued me enough that she carefully considered my needs, and realizing that she couldn't meet them, she gave me a pretty name (Christa Joy), and gave me up. I do understand how that severing can be both painful and an act of love.
  • With the way adoption was structured when I was an infant, there were secrets, my origins were erased but for a simple, generic, letter. I haven't read all of Nancy Verrier's research, but my guess at this point is that it is this attempt to erase the past that in part creates the wounds that many adoptees face. I am very much pro adoption, but I am anti-secrets and "history erasing". I don't know what the solution is, and there are many different options today. The wounds I am talking about, I believe (but I'm no expert), are a result of an obsolete institution. The face of today's adoption is very different.
  • The secrets, the sealing of the adoption records, were perhaps the trigger for my curiosity. I've always had it, and it's this curiosity that drives many of these questions. And you know what? There's nothing wrong with wanting to understand my history, my background, my biology. The question of "Nature Versus Nurture" is an important one, and I believe both factors play a role in shaping who we are. And for most people their "biological history" isn't separated from their "environment", so it's a non-issue. But for me, for many others, it is. Indeed, it is probably partly responsible for why I went into science, in the first place.

So as I continue on this exploration of identity and self, I realize that I am a whole healthy woman. I am loved by my family, friends and am surrounded by healthy communities (dance scene issues notwithstanding). I have a good life and I'm moving forward with better options in the future. I am happy with who I am. And this is good. I am feeling at peace. It too, leads me to explore other questions of 'self'. As I've mentioned before:

Recently I've realized that most people look at their families and can identify 'self' when they see them. They resemble their relatives to varying degrees. I look at my family and I see familiarity. I see resemblances not in looks but in mannerisms, attitudes, responses. I don't look at my mom and dad and see how I will look when I reach their age, or what infirmities I may develop. I see my parents. Most people can look at their families and identify 'self' in their relatives. In my family there is the dimple -- it even has a characteristic ‘name'. I even have a slight version of it. So I fit to a degree. But mine's not the same. It's unique, not the ‘### Dimple' as we call it. I don't look at my cousins or grandpa (when he was alive) and see my dimple, I don't see self. I see ‘the family dimple' but not my dimple. Not in the same way that my cousin and her daughter would see self when they look at each other, or at my aunt. This isn't a bad thing at all. I don't mind. I look at all these people and just see people I love. People who love me.

So where this will lead me, I don't know. With strong, dominate features (like my family's dimple), I do see the similarities, of course, but most people don't have traits that strong. And, I have absolutely no idea what it means to see myself in someone else.

So where I stand right now: I realize I have questions that haven't been answered -- and I will continue to explore to answer those questions (to one degree or another). But on the whole, I am healthy, well adjusted, happy and comfortable with where my life is, in light of my adoption. And those core wounds I mentioned that I'm processing? There's another cause, not related to my Adoption. I'm so thankful that I have identified the cause, because it means I can deal and move forward.