I must admit that reading the Primal Wound was difficult for me as a birth parent. Especially as I am the everyday mother of two other children, the ability to compare and contrast the situations was sometimes overwhelming. There were parts of the book that left me feeling rather helpless. Nothing can be done about the decisions made in the past and nothing Verrier wrote gives birth parents (and adoptive parents) living in open adoption an inkling of what should be done. (Which, mind you, is not her fault. Different generation, different current scenarios but still some of the very same issues at hand.)
But that doesn’t mean I’m not glad that I read it. I am. I have been procrastinating the actual reading of the book for years. Having read it, I feel that I understand certain things a bit more. I’d be hesitant to say that I understand all adoptees or, even, for a more specific example, my daughter any better. She’s not an adult yet and I don’t yet know if she will feel these ways. I do know, however, that open adoption is not an immediate fix for the primal wound. Anyone who has ever read anything Dawn of This Woman’s Work has written regarding her daughter’s conversation knows that openness simply allows for discussion of those feelings, not a removal of them.
We were given a list of three questions posed by others in the book tour to answer.
How can birth parents best address the primal wound in open adoption scenarios? While the child is young, should anything be done to preemptively deal with potential issues or should birth and adoptive parents work together and wait for the first signs?
I don’t know. I just don’t know. I know that a continuous, open discussion of the issues at hand is a good thing. I know that involvement and love from the birth family is a good thing. I know that unconditional love from both sets of adult parents is a necessary thing and the lack of it can only further exacerbate the issues. But I don’t know how best to address the primal wound in an open adoption relationship.
Perhaps the thing to remember is that neither side should shirk away from the issue at hand. When hard questions are asked, they shouldn’t be dismissed, diminished or ignored. As important as it is for an adoptive mother to be honest with her child when questions as asked, it is equally as important for birth parents to answer questions as honestly as possible, even when they’re uncomfortable. I’ve seen too many birth mothers, both in open and closed adoptions, state that certain questions and answers were off limits to their children. One of my adoptee friends has a birth mother who won’t answer her questions about her birth father. That drives me insane.
Really, I think it’s just about communicating with one another about where the child is, what questions she has, always making her feel able to discuss those questions and loving her unconditionally. Issues will arise. Being ready to present a united front when they do arise is likely key.
Do you feel that adoption, although it has had some changes over the last 20 years, will ever loose the negative stigma that most people place on it? More important, do you think that the image of birth mothers will ever change from negative to positive?
No. No. No. Birth mothers will never be automatically good in the public’s eye. Sadly, they won’t even be automatically good within the adoption world. There are certain groups of people that need to view us as bad. Those are the people that argue that there are crack addicts and alcoholics among us, conveniently forgetting that there are drug users and addicted persons in all groups of people, adoptive parents included. (Try and argue this with me and I’ll laugh.) The truth is that some people need to view birth parents as the enemy, the bad guy, in the adoption scenario so that the adoptive parents are the heroes, the good guys. Some brains simply can’t see two sets of people making two sets of choices that lead them to a common bond. Bad and good. Black and white. Where are the beautiful shades of grey? I don’t think there’s ever a time where the majority of people will see birth parents as people who are just making a difficult decision.
Having read the book, how do all sides of the triad (meaning, all should reply regardless of triad position) think open adoption changes the feel of this book? If you don’t feel it changes it in any way, why? If you feel that it changes everything, in what ways? If you fall somewhere in the middle, how do you explain what does get changed and why other things are left unchanged?
Gotta say, this was my question and I still don’t have an answer. I think open adoption presents a different way to address the issues but doesn’t make the book null and void. I do not think, however, Verrier should write a follow up to this book with her views on open adoption and the issues that abound. It’s not that I don’t think she’s an amazing author but this topic needs addressed by someone who has lived it. I believe a birth mother with enough experience in open adoption and other relevant experience (education, parenting, etc) should tackle this topic. I don’t know what she would write, however. Perhaps there would be more hope in it, since birth parents in open adoption are available to their children from the get go, able to answer questions and provide unconditional love from the very beginning. Do those things remove the hurt? Likely not. Do they help provide answers and assurances far before adulthood? Yes. Is that enough? That’s really the question. One to which I do not yet have the answer.
The truth is that this book, while providing answers for so many, has provided more questions for me. I don’t know how my role as a birth mother in open adoption changes what I can do, what I should do and what I should avoid. These are questions, of course, that I am willingly considering and hope to find the answers to on my own as they apply to our unique situation. It’s frustrating though that, once again, I’m expected to flounder through it on my own. I don’t have the answers as to how I should proceed. I don’t even know what some of my questions are or should be! It’s confusing, the differences from one to another.
I am comforted, however, that the emotional turmoil I have experienced over the years isn’t merely all in my head. That there are reasons behind some of it and, maybe more so, that there are other mothers who have experienced the same or similar things makes me feel not as alone in this journey. Our journeys may differ, no doubt, but even still, we’re trudging along together. That comfort is maybe what I take away most from this book. As I said, I don’t have the answers but I have a whole bunch of mothers who also are just trying to make their way down a difficult road.
To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at The Open Adoption Examiner.