Saturday

Urban Dictionary: cred short for "credibility". An ability to inspire belief in others.

I'm the type of person who'll stop and think about what someone has said to me, even if I don't like it. I'll even admit I've made a mistake, although I'll hate that I've made one.

In the past while, I've thought quite a bit about the trauma in adoption. I've allowed myself to feel around inside for some of my own, have wondered if I'm "in a fog" as so many have accused me of. Not necessarily accusing me directly all the time, but also indirectly by avowing all adoptees suffer loss and trauma by virtue of being separated from their biological mothers.

I got to visit with my good friend the other night, we've been pals since grade 4. Although we'd talked on the phone about our last visit where we'd butted heads on an issue (Lord's Prayer in public schools), we hadn't seen each other in person. It reminded me of what I'd discovered about myself after our prior visit when we'd argued. That it bugs me when someone I think I'm like, someone who I respect and/or care about, doesn't think or no longer thinks the same way I do.

Another example of this was during the last US presidential election. I was all on the Obama bandwagon, rolling my eyes at the opposition, thinking who in their right mind wouldn't want Obama to win?! Well, I found out quickly there were people I enjoyed very much who didn't want him to win. I remember being surprised, shaking my head, and making a bet for drinks that "my side" would be the victor, and just dropping the subject...until I cashed in my winnings of course. Thing is, it kinda shocked me that this person thought the way he did, but it didn't upset me. I enjoy this guy and we have fun together, but I don't feel a strong need to be of same mind, have the same point of view, and frankly, now it would worry me a little if we did think the same way.

This wasn't the case when it came to my husband. Obviously I care very much about what he thinks and depending on what the issue is, I can not like it at all if we don't think the same way. Well, when it came to the election, it wasn't that he was on "the other side", it was that he didn't think it made that big of a difference, that they're all politicians and this wasn't some new great hope candidate, it was just business as usual, same old crap. After some fairly lively discussions (arguments) about this, we decided to just stay away from the subject. We cared too much about what each other thinks to have this type of discussion, to experience those, "are you nuts?" looks or have the faces we love frowning and eyes we love rolling at what our beliefs are.

To be very honest, it does feel a little like I'm betraying other adopted people who feel traumatized because they're adopted when I say I'm not, but, I'm not. I could say nothing, or say I'm traumatized too in an attempt to fit in, be a part of the cool kids, but I just can't do that. I can't do that because it's not real and it's my belief that if we aren't realistic about problems they can't realistically be improved or fixed.

When my son was younger and not feeling well I'd try and determine just how unwell he was feeling because it truly mattered in how we dealt with what was ailing him. If there was no need for medication, I didn't want to administer it. If we didn't need the doctor, what was the point in going? If it was serious, I didn't want to dismiss his pain only to have it become worse and more difficult to treat.

The measure of pain does matter. If it was fact that every adoption resulted in trauma the same way it's fact it starts out as trauma, I'd be all over it. I'd be right on board screaming in most situations it's unnecessary and wrong to do that to an innocent baby. That in most adoptions it's detrimental to the person who's been adopted. That most adopted people will be more prone than others to deviant behavior, more prone to becoming criminals, drug addicts, sex addicts, serial killers. But I won't say that, because it's not true.

I will say that accepting these tendencies as fact seems contradictory to me, contradictory to fighting discrimination and stereotyping. It's also insulting to me and hard for me to understand why it isn't insulting to all other adopted people. How is it any different than saying most mothers are teenage crack whores who don't deserve to keep their babies?

I am sorry to disappoint other adopted people by relaying my experience. If I thought it did anything to hurt the movement to reform corruption in adoption, I wouldn't relay it. Be assured that I do talk about what I've learned about coercion, loss of culture, the lack of real choice, the influence of economics, infringements of adoptee rights regarding their own information, and the very real sense of loss and abandonment some adopted people and parents experience.

My concern with the movement is the lack of credibility because of the "one size fits all or you're delusional" mentality. I think it makes it far too easy to dismiss the problems if they're not presented realistically with the least amount of sensationalism or emotion as possible. I know one of the biggest complaints is when people say "well, I know someone who's adopted and they're just fine" but like it or not, it's part of the equation. It's fact that sometimes adoption isn't the worst thing in someone's life, that it's not the big deal it certainly is to others.

To discount that fact is to jeopardize credibility and when you have no credibility, you have no trust, and if people don't trust the message or the source of it, the message is lost.

45 comments:

  1. The reason that adoptees get annoyed is because the ones who say they do not feel traumatized often portray their feelings in a way that suggests that because they do not feel traumatized, it is impossible for there to be trauma in adoption. The assumption (or direct statement) then being, that the other adoptee who feels traumatize must either (a) be weak. (b) be self-victimizing (c) be traumatized from something else in life and they're just blaming it on adoption.

    I am NOT saying that you are one of the adoptees who do this. But there are adoptees out there who take every chance they get to dismiss the idea that there can be any trama in adoption because the fact that they feel fine *must* be proof of it. It's like it impacts them personally as an adoptee if another adopted person feels impacted by being adopted.

    I'm not talking about research relating to adoption here either. A multi-disceplinary approach to infants tells us what is important for growth and development and what both mother and child need. Yet it's odd that infants destined towards adoption are magically impervious to these needs AND, in addition, somehow are expected not to be impacted when they don't receive the things that is claimed other infants need?

    That makes no sense.

    If there is someone who does not feel impacted by being adopted--great! I don't take delight when people have issues, I want people to be happy, I want people to be healed, I want people to have wonderful lives and strong relationships with others! But I don't understand how one adoptee's feelings vs. another refutes what we know about a bio-psycho-social (etc.) aspects of human life.

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  2. Part 1.

    Amanda, your parting shot is not a good one.

    I would say, that the jury is still out on what infants and mothers absolutely "need" to do well in life and not be traumatized permanently. Styles in maternity and infant care have shifted back and forth in the last 100 years, with each generation proclaiming that the last one was "wrong" and now we have it right. "Experts" in the 20s and 30s told us that infants were a blank slate that could be molded any way we wanted, and that picking up a crying baby and not sticking to a rigid schedule would "spoil" the baby. Toilet training was started before the child could walk. Millions of people were raised this way. Were they all permanently harmed?

    Dr, Spock came in in the 40s with a more baby-friendly permissive style, and in the 60s was derided by the right wing for "causing" student rebellion! When I had my kids in the 70s it was all natural everything or your child would be messed up, then it went around to many C-sections for convenience in recent years, and less breastfeeding because women had to go right back to work. No matter what, the human race has gone on and most people grow up OK. Including most adoptees, despite the real grief that many experience.

    What we think we know now about "the bio-psycho-social aspects of human life" can totally change in ten or 20 years. People may find our current preoccupations as bizarre as we find the child-rearing methods of the 1920s. We do not have all the answers, and the more extreme examples of pre and perinatal psychology today are perilously close to pseudoscience.

    Does adoption cause many adoptees problems? Sure! Are all adoptees permanently traumatized and damaged by separation from the biological mother at birth? NO. Some may be. But many adoptees who feel this way, as Campbell has noted, are not content in speaking for themselves and their own feelings, but insist that this trauma is universal and backed by science, much as you have done in your final sentence.

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  3. Part 2.(previous post continued)

    You know "the TRUTH", those who feel like Campbell must be "in the fog" or less sensitive or have some negative agenda against those who do feel traumatized, just by saying that they feel differently.

    Everyone should speak for themselves, and feel free to question any theory that does not seem right given their experience. Those for whom any theory fits should feel free to embrace and express and believe it for themselves, but neither should generalize to include ALL adoptees who have to feel a certain way or be considered traitors or in some way defective.

    As a mother who gave up a child, I am met with the same kind of scorn that Campbell has experienced when I question the validity of Primal Wound theory. I have NEVER questioned that adoption is painful for many adoptees, nor that many feel a great loss. I would never say to anyone "you don't feel that way" or "you can't feel that way" or "I know how you should feel". Yet every time I have questioned the theory of Primal Wound, not the feelings of individuals, i get accused of dismissing their feelings. And also attract many snide comments about my not being willing to admit the pain I have caused my own child.

    In fact my son has never expressed any "wounded" feelings to me, and I have apologized for any pain he has felt as a result of his adoption. I take responsibility for surrendering him. I lived in fear for years that his life was ruined by adoption, and am amazed and thankful that is not the case, despite the many difficulties in his adoptive home.

    All of have to stop taking other people's different stories and different feelings as a criticism of our own, or feeling that all who do not feel as we do are the enemy or in some way out to silence or diminish other's feelings and stories. We each should be able to tell our own stories in our own way, to express how we really feel, without having to make every feeling a universal mandate for all adoptees or all mothers,

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  4. Campbell! Great post, as usual. I have always found the differences in adoptee opinions very fascinating. I won't say that my adoption has scarred me, or that it prevails as the biggest scar in my life. But it HAS affected me- and in some pretty big ways.

    But the fact is, I know FAR more adoptees who say it hasn't had a big affect on their lives than I know those who think it has. I know 6 adoptees well enough to know how they feel about being adopted. And out of all of us (one of them includes my own bio sibling!)... I'm the only one who will admit to any repercussions. I'm the only one who feels the effects.

    I don't believe that one can be placed for adoptin, and out of their family of origin, and feel NOTHING. I don't believe it. Not because its not my experience. Just because it seems outrageous. But who am I to say?

    I have a friend named Mary, who never brings up adoption, and rolls her eyes if it comes up on my end. She respects my decision to be in reunion, but doesn't agree. She basically thinks its all folly. She tells me adoption has had no affect on her, and that she doesnt even think about it. Well, one day- we were discussing my reunion (not in any depth) and I asked her if she had ever thought about reuniting with her birthfamily. And she said, very simply (and quietly):

    "They didn't have time for me. Why should I have time for them?"


    I think adoption loss is a sad place to go. I don't think its easy to navigate those waters. It's something that was done to us as infants, its something that we can't change- and frankly, I think for some people, its easier to "just not go there". It's the message society gives us, and frankly I think it's easier.


    I respect, acknowledge, and accept that many (most?) adoptees do not feel as I do. I also admit that there is a part of me that wonders how they can feel nothing regarding a situation that affects me so deeply. And a part of me has doubts.


    Regarding the validity of the movement? There are a lot of mother effing crazies out there. A LOT. Moderate voices tend to get lost in the shuffle. A lot of people want to talk about problems in adoption, but nobody wants to take responsibility for any of them. So, the industry gets blamed- and although they shoulder QUITE a lot of it, in the end we are all individuals who are responsible for our own actions, happiness, and reactions. And those of us who deny that will get nowhere when it comes to speaking and educating the public.

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  5. Adoption can work. Adoption sometimes is necessary because people don't change - or change *enough* - and countries will not change.

    I agree - that one caring role can substitute for another. Another caregiver (a substitute mother) can perform the job of motherhood just as well as the child's biological mother.

    So then, where does that leave the role of birthing? Of motherhood in itself? Would it matter in the long run if we all just swapped infants around and nobody raised the child they conceived?

    Biology is not the end-all and be-all. If that was the case - and I know it's been said before on other blogs that nothing can replicate the connection in DNA - then I wonder, what about abused children? What about children whose mothers shouldn't be mothers? Does DNA count for them?

    However, I do wonder... why does biology cease to be important in adoption?

    Motherhood is important - but then put it in an adoption situation and we suddenly dismiss it in the biological context.

    My mom is an amazing person. She raised me well; she has done just of a good job parenting me as my mother has done raising my kept sister. Clearly, the role in this case can be substituted.

    So then, when does it matter if another mother takes the place of biology? Or does it? Or do we say adoption is sometimes a sad but necessary substitute for a child who cannot be raised by their biological mother, but it ends up working well, so even though people cannot be "replaced", roles can be?

    Or do they just co-exist in a paradox?

    Motherhood *is* a role. What is the difference, or rather significance, of a mother to a child? And why does this change so much in the adoption blogosphere?


    I don't believe all adoptees have trauma. I don't believe all adoptees feel trauma. My adoption reunion was traumatic for me, but just because I felt that way doesn't mean everyone else will.

    The issue I have is that inevitably, someone will point out they know xx adoptee who doesn't feel grief, and that also makes me wonder, well, am I defective?

    People are socially inclined to "side" with the adoptee who doesn't feel grief because it's more comfortable. People don't like to face pain. People don't really know how to handle grief. It makes things uncomfortable, unsettling, awkward, because there is no "cure" for it. It just is what it is.

    Adoption further compounds this because grief isn't supposed to exist in adoption - if the role switching is adequate in that one caregiver can possibly provide the same amount of emotional/physical care of another, then there should be no need for issues in adoption, right?

    But clearly there is. You see it everywhere in the blogopshere. Cognitive dissonance. Simultaneous grief and joy. Biology is not the end-all and be-all, yet there are always others who feel earth-shattering grief.

    So then when does it matter?

    I guess this is one of those gray areas, hm?

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  6. "So, the industry gets blamed- and although they shoulder QUITE a lot of it"

    Adoption in its nature is controversial. If it was really as clear-cut as everyone wants it to be, none of us would be out here debating on identity, biology, culture, family, grief, etc.

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  7. Campbell, I freely admit that some adoptees might be completely happy and have no issues related to their adoption. We must believe what people say about their own experiences. I agree that it complicates the task of advocacy that there are so many different experiences, and that some people do feel trauma. I just don't get why people can't accept that there is a spectrum of experience, including people who feel trauma related to being surrendered at birth. There are different theories about why some people feel pain, and some make sense to you, and some don't.

    Rather than expressing disbelief about the primal wound theory, how about saying, "Wow. That must be hard for you to feel such sadness. Want to talk about it?" Without judging, without calling neonatal research junk science, without saying, "Well, there is no primal wound, so you must be sad because you found out you were adopted when you were three."

    I've had this conversation with you and Maryanne many times elsewhere, and I accept that you don't subscribe to the primal wound theory. I don't have anything new to say about it; I know I won't convince you. But I stand just as firm in my place as you do in yours.

    Yes, Maryanne, there have been many models of infant care and parenting over the past 100 years. But one thing remained a constant, whether the baby roomed in with the mother at the hospital or was in the nursery, breastfed or not, was picked up when crying or not. MOST babies were cared for by the mothers they were born to (not ALL, but MOST). Adoptees lost the one person they knew at birth, or shortly thereafter. THAT is the difference. So to compare adoptees with children raised in more draconian parenting times is disingenuous and dismissive.

    As both Amanda and Mei Ling have said, society makes a big deal about infant bonding. I am an L&D RN, and it is written into our protocols to provide for skin-to-skin contact, etc., immediately after birth. Why? Is this random? Is it just a fad invented by a freaky person who likes skin? NO. There is a large volume of research that shows neonates do much better maintaining blood glucose levels and temperature if they are with their mothers. That they can identify their own mother's smell and milk. I have textbooks and professional journals full of studies that indicate improved neonatal health if *natural* mothers and babies are kept together. You say that it's bs. Okay, refute what you like, but it just makes *no* sense to have such things be important for everyone BUT adoptees. Poof! Adopted infants have magical powers that make them able to have their blood glucose controlled and temperature regulated if they were held to the chest of anyone, anytime, anyplace? Wouldn't that be nice. Society frowns upon doing scientific research on infants, but the only way to prove this to satisfy you would be to have random infants held to the chests of random women and men during the first weeks and months of their lives, and checking blood sugar, temperature, weight gain, and other health markers. Oh wait! Maybe we could do this by studying infant adoptees! Great idea. We're always the guinea pigs.

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  8. Part II

    I have told you before that I was hospitalized for 10 weeks after my birth in the NICU. I had no parents, and RNs were busy. I cried and cried and cried. The RNs gave me phenobarbitol to shut me up and make their lives easier. Was I crying for the hell of it? Was I a "bad" baby? Or did I want my mother? I slept 12 hours through the night, when my aparents took me home. Not normal for a 10 week old. I struggled to get out of their arms when they held me. Why? Can't say, because I was preverbal, but I bet it's because I had had my attachment skills broken. I lost my mother, and even though I was fed and taken care of in the hospital, I was alone. I am a decent, kind, loving person today, so I guess I "got over" it. But I still wish it hadn't happened. "Ah," you say. "If your aparents had taken you home from the hospital immediately after birth, or three days later, no problem!" I know plenty of adoptees who went home from the hospital immediately and still struggled and fussed and cried at the top of their lungs. For days. They weren't colicky. Again, you may brush this off as anecdotal evidence. It is. Nancy Verrier's book, to be honest, is anecdotal. No footnotes that I can remember; she's really not an academic. That said, I do believe in the research of Dr. Brodzinsky and Dr. Schechter, who admit that there is loss from the beginning, not just loss from the moment some adoptees realize they are where they are because of a contingency.

    To take you point to the extreme: if biological connection doesn't matter, why do hospitals have systems to keep babies with the mothers they are born to? It takes a village, and any child with any parent will do?

    Maryanne, about your placed son not complaining to you: I am sure that you realize it is not for you to speak for him. Many adoptees are not completely honest about their feelings to either set of parents; some people are, some aren't. You can only go by what he tells you, certainly, but there must be possibility that he worries about making you feel bad about placing him. As I recall from the e-mail you posted elsewhere that he had written to you, he was telling you to let go and forgive yourself, that he had forgiven you. Perhaps he is trying to help you with that by removing reasons to blame yourself. Some adoptees make a habit of shouldering pain so that others don't have to carry it around. I would believe you a whole lot more if he spoke up for *himself* in a venue like this. It's HIS experience, not yours, after all. Just offering a different perspective.

    Finally, I think one of the reasons that there are vast differences in the experiences of adoptees related to the *fact* that they lost their mothers relates to individuality and temperament. Some kids are born more flexible, some are more emotionally brittle. I opine that Campbell is a pretty resilient person; I am pretty resilient myself. We both have great afamilies and love them to pieces. But a less resilient adoptee in our positions might have had a more difficult time. I might have been more challenged in a situation with abuse. I certainly believe so. Match a brittle temperament with an abusive environment, and perhaps that leads to the horrible event of adoptee suicide. We all know it happens. Terrible. Adoption has to figure in there somewhere.

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  9. Maryanne, my last sentence does not stand alone. It fits into the context of what I said. You're asserting some things here that I never said or even said the complete opposite.

    I never said all adoptees feel traumatized. What I said was that I think we have enough scientific evidence to validate those who have the feelings that they do. I don't believe this is something they are just making up.

    If someone were to ask me, personally, what in adoption has impacted me the most, it would be the unanswered questions I grew up with in combination with all of the adoption stereotypes that my very, very religious community liked to repeat. That's me; that's my journey. I don't claim it to be anyone elses.

    I also never said that the feelings of being traumatized or the impact of the stress of separation were permanent.

    I also said to Campbell that I was NOT saying she was one of those adoptees. I did not say she was in a fog. I've commented on her blog before that I appreciate that she speaks for herself. If I didn't want to hear her thoughts, I wouldn't come here and I wouldn't have her on the list of recommended blogs on my blog. I don't always post in disagreement with her (and I don't feel that I was even truly disagreeing with her now--I simply gave an explanation as to why some adoptees feel offended when others disregard the primal wound theory).

    The good thing about this being 2010 and not 1950, 1960, 1970 (so on and so forth) is that we've had the opportunity to learn from the past. We will continue to learn and gather good information. I don't believe in the "jury being out" on so many things.

    Take, for instance, the "Back to Sleep Campaign" that was started in 1994. The U.S. looked at countries with low SIDS rates and attempted to find trends that might help lower SIDS rates in the U.S. And thus, the recommendation that putting a baby to sleep on its back instead of its stomach was started. Loads of women today say "my mother put all her babies on their stomachs to sleep and nothing bad happened to us." Yes, it was common to do that and so many children were absolutely fine.

    But since the campaign, the SIDS rate has reduced by 50%.

    Of course, that's not adoption related but it's a great example of gathering information and applying information and a positive outcome being the result. There's a difference between using research and cutting out one mold and demanding that everyone fit into it (which I did not do)... and taking good information and trying to apply it where it makes sense.

    Amanda, I like you have adopted friends who say they feel a lot of adoption-related pain and some who say they feel none. Like Ms. Marginalia said, it's a spectrum. On this spectrum, so to speak, I would probably have at least one friend who stands at each point varying feelings of both positive and negative. All whose views are equally valid and none of whose views invalidates another's :-)

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  10. Thanks all so much for the thoughtful commentary. I appreciate it.

    I have a question. Are the adopted people who read here not offended by people saying we're more prone than other people to become murderers, criminals, deviants, sex addicts etc.? Am I the only one that finds that incredibly offensive?

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  11. "Are the adopted people who read here not offended by people saying we're more prone than other people to become murderers, criminals, deviants, sex addicts etc.? Am I the only one that finds that incredibly offensive?"

    They're often from the same camp who says "most adoptees" in a lot of generalizing statements.

    I tend to not take those statements at face value.

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  12. What I'd love to see happen when it's said, no matter who is saying it, is every adopted person who's reading it or hearing it speaking out and say no way man, not so.

    I mean, for those that do feel abandoned or rejected, displaced, cheated or any other extra weight because of being adopted, to not be messed up to even half of the extent of these claims is quite an achievement, isn't it?

    I don't know. I just think it's crap and it's being used to make a case against adoption at the expense of the image of adopted people.

    Perhaps I'm just too sensitive ; )

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  13. Hmmmmmm...

    I can't really be any more offended by someone saying I'd be a serial killer because I am adopted than to be offended by someone saying I'm going to be a serial killer because I eat broccoli. Both sounds absurd to me and as my mother always said...Consider the source. Chances are that someone saying that is either adopted and has issues with it, has given up a baby for adoption and has regrets(aka issues) with it, or is just flat out an opinionated moron thats talking out of their ass. Either way I don't take their word as gospel.

    My mother told me years ago that studies showed that statistically children born to young mothers are more likely to become young parents themselves. Even if they were adopted by "average" age parents and not "in that situation" with the young parents. To be honest, in "real life" it does seem plausible and I've noticed that it seems true in many cases. However, when my mother told me that...LOL I was bound and determined to not come up on that side of that statistic and there was no way I would be having a child as a teenager. Best birth control insentive...thats what that was. I wasn't about to allow myself to be put in any situation where I would get pregnant while young because that was NOT going to be my story. NOT because I resent of look down upon my birth mother for getting pregnant as a teen, but because I'm stubborn and if you tell me I WILL do something then I will do the opposite ;) Looking back on it, it was a great move on my moms part to make sure I didn't get pregnant before I got married :)

    As for the rest...I just don't get what people think is so great and "normal" about being raised by your biological parents. Obviously I never have been but still...if people are coming out saying that adoptees must be so effed up then really...whoever raised them didn't do such a great job anyway. People should learn to hold thier tongue and not lump people into one catagory.

    Happy Thanksgiving Campbell!!

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  14. Amanda, thanks for clarifying your point of view, and sorry I came down hard on you. I think we may agree more than disagree.

    Ms.Marginalia, I do not recognize your screen name, yet you say we have debated this many times before. Perhaps you were posting under another name? About my son, he does not post on adoption blogs or lists and I have no idea if he reads them. He is not an activist adoptee or an apologist for adoption. He is very private in some ways, and the fact that he has let me into his life as much as he has is a blessing to me. He did not search, and as a young man was not delighted to be found. After his father died, he cut himself off from adoptive mother and sister, but did not reach out to me for many years after that.

    I was reporting what he has said to me , not purporting to speak for him or read his mind. In fact he has been quite explicit about the deficiencies of his adoptive home, living with a mentally ill adoptive mother who was abusive and paranoid, and father and much older sister who ignored her problems and went along. He seems to be a very kind person, but one who does not take crap from anyone. I do not doubt that he has inner pain due to his adoptive experiences. But as you say, that is his to express. I am reporting what I see. He has made a good, healthy life for himself and his wife. He has always been honest but compassionate to me. I don't think he is capable of being phony; none of my sons are.

    Whatever harm I caused him by surrendering him has not ruined his life forever, whatever pain it may have caused. Is that an excuse for me, or an escape? No. Because I do not believe in a universal Primal Wound does not mean I back away from responsibility for surrendering my child. or from years of crushing guilt. Did it harm me to be separated from my son at birth? I suffered severe post partum depression that landed me in the hospital a month after the birth and led to "therapy" that made things worse, not better. Without knowing the whole story, please do not make assumptions about me or my son or my motivations. Thanks!

    Campbell, I too find it offensive that adoptees are portrayed as murderers, psychos, nymphomaniacs etc. It is sensational, it sells books and papers, but it is hardly a true picture of most adopted people, especially those who did not spend years in foster care or abusive situations before being adopted.

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  15. On the subject of babies recognizing their natural mothers by smell, skin to skin contact etc. Yes, that is valid research confirming those things. I do not dispute that. And all babies should get that, even those about to be surrendered.

    The part of primal wound I have trouble with is not that babies can be aware of a different caregiver and upset by it, but the idea that this is serious trauma that is stored in the mind or soul and in and of itself causes life-long traumatic symptoms. Some claim it causes PTSD, even when there is no other serious trauma in the person's life. I agree that resilience plays a large part in this, but feel that most babies have had to be resilient as many mothers died in childbirth until the last half-century or so, and infants had to adjust to wet nurses or other caregivers even when there was no adoption. I think most infants can adjust fairly quickly to another loving mother. Of course I may be wrong. It is dueling anecdotes here:-)

    I would like to see a long-term study of adoptees adopted at birth vs. children whose mothers died shortly after giving birth. Do they suffer the same trauma? Are those raised by blood relatives better off than those adopted by non-related parents? It would be interesting to see.

    Adoptees often talk about losing all their blood relatives, their clan, their tribe, their name and history. To me, that is separate from the primal wound of loss of natural mother, which is claimed to biological in basis and occur shortly after birth. What do you think?

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  16. Alex, you're funny, happy thanksgiving to you too, easy on the broccoli, eh?

    Maryanne, I so appreciate you taking the time to comment. It's beyond me how offense is taken to what you have to say. It's always clear, consistent, and seems to me brutally honest. As I've told you before, I also believe it's brave as it does go against what many people want to hear. Thanks : )


    What you said here is what I think about babies and what happens when they're born.

    "On the subject of babies recognizing their natural mothers by smell, skin to skin contact etc. Yes, that is valid research confirming those things. I do not dispute that. And all babies should get that, even those about to be surrendered. The part of primal wound I have trouble with is not that babies can be aware of a different caregiver and upset by it, but the idea that this is serious trauma that is stored in the mind or soul and in and of itself causes life-long traumatic symptoms."

    I would go further to say that they are very likely not upset by different caregivers if the care being given is quality. I think it takes a bit of time before babies develop more than instinctual behavior, to be emotionally bonded to anyone. Not a ton of time, but certainly not pre birth or upon birth. Hopefully upon birth it's all instinctual reaction on the babies part because seriously, if they intellectually know us at the time of birth, I can't help but think they'd be terrified of us after the trauma of being born.

    I'm no expert, this is just what I think, what makes sense to me in my experience of life.

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  17. I'd just like to say when I talk about different caregivers, I'm picturing hospital staff, nurses and in the case of non adopted people fathers grandparents friends etc. even after the baby is home if it's just a day or two.

    I wasn't even thinking about adoptive parents or adoptees specifically, just babies in general.

    They need nurture upon birth, and maybe it's best from the mom, I don't know, I imagine it is if the mom is keeping the baby, that way the baby gets to start knowing mom (in an out of womb sort of way) right away.

    If the mom won't be in the picture for whatever reason (because there are a few) I think quality nurture from someone else is just as good...could even be a guy.

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  18. Some fathers have done a great job of raising babies from birth, due to a variety of circumstances.

    If anyone wants to see what I mean by pseudoscience around birth and prenatal issues, check this website:
    http://www.birthpsychology.com/

    Among the gems here are that autism is caused by induced labor and lack of eye contact with Mom immediately after birth, circumcision is a leading cause of violence in society, the uterus is a sentient organ and you should talk to it. Oh yeah, and the thoughts of the parents at the moment of conception influence the life of the child conceived!!

    Especially check the link for their newsletter. Spend some time browsing. Amid some solid science and good advice, there is a whole lot of woo woo crap.

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  19. So we could all swap babies and mothers and it wouldn't make a difference (depending on the babies' resilience level)?

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  20. "Oh yeah, and the thoughts of the parents at the moment of conception influence the life of the child conceived!!"

    Is it really that far-fetched? We have science that claims babies can recognize voices while still in the womb.

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  21. I don't remember anyone accusing you of being foggy. People didn't like you because you made fun of them and betrayed their trust on your blog.
    I'm sorry you have made so many enemies but perhaps if you were more ethical in your dealings, you wouldn't be so universally disliked.
    You can dispute science all you like. You are entitled to your opinion. I don't like you because you are unethical and dishonest.
    Fogged or unfogged is none of my business. I just wish you'd stop trying to blow other people's candles out to make your own shine brighter. It's unnecessary.

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  22. Made fun? Betrayed trust? Enemies? Universal dislike? Unethical? Dishonest? Blowing out people's candles?

    Huh.

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  23. Maryanne, I recently began blogging again and have been posting under that alias. I previously posted under the name "Katharine." We have had exchanges here and at Lorraine's blog.

    I find it confusing that you think I was insinuating that your son was "phony." I never said such a thing. What I said was that some adoptees protect their first parents from pain by shouldering some of it themselves. From what you had posted of an exchange with him elsewhere, it sounded like he really cares for and loves you. One can want to shelter loved ones from pain without being "phony"; "phony" means not genuine or real. Moreover, I didn't say word one about any of your kept sons. I do think, as you admitted, moreover, that it is your son's story to tell, and I would have to hear from him that he's happy and fine with his life as an adoptee. You are his mother, yes, but you are observing from the outside. I would consider it out of place to speak for my own first mother and what she feels about anything. I can only guess and identify my guesses as such.

    I also don't comment on what first mothers go through because I have no idea. I am sure there is an equivalent spectrum of experience, with some women "issue free" and at peace with their decision, and others who remain terribly wounded. How would it be for me to go around saying that giving up one's flesh and blood has no lasting consequences on a woman's psyche, and all the women who say otherwise are holding onto a fallacy? I don't imagine you'd find that acceptable. On the flip side, I don't understand why you are so dismissive of adoptees who say that they feel a permanent wound. That's not to say they're *all* incapacitated by it, or that they can't lead normal, happy lives: but it's there for them. If they say it is, I believe them.

    I am relieved that you don't want to refute stacks of medical studies about neonatal health; if you did, I would love to see your own sources and credentials!

    As Lorraine said in the parallel dialogue on her blog, it's a the primal wound is a THEORY. You don't have to believe it, but there is no reason to be snide about it, either. You suggest comparing adoptees who lose their mother and identity at birth to infants who lose their mother in childbirth: there probably is some similarity of loss, but the whole comparison is confounded by variables that would be hard to control for. Would the adoptee *know* he or she was adopted? What would be the makeup of the families (stepkids, only children, biokids only)? It sounds like a monstrous study, really, playing games with children.

    Campbell, I really have to disagree with you saying that there is no tie between fetus and mother before birth, or that any caregiver is just fine for any baby. I asked whether you believed that possible in my comment, as did Mei Ling in one of hers. Would you have been happy with any baby you took home, or did you want your son? It seems ridiculous to ask that, but your train of thought doesn't make sense otherwise. And if it is true, why *is* biology important for everyone but adoptees?

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  24. "Campbell, I really have to disagree with you saying that there is no tie between fetus and mother before birth, or that any caregiver is just fine for any baby."

    Not sure I've ever said there's no tie between mother and child pre birth. I believe that in the absence of the mother other replacement quality nurturing is good enough.

    My son's father had strict instructions to follow my son upon birth, I even joked about bringing a marker to make an X on his heel so we got the baby I'd carried. I was quite concerned about getting the right baby. At that point though, it was likely more important to me than it was to my son.

    I just don't know what the facts are, just like everyone else.

    Mei Ling also wonders if the thoughts of the parents at the moment of conception influence the life of the child conceived is that far-fetched.

    I'm curious what are your thoughts on that Katherine?

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  25. "I believe that in the absence of the mother other replacement quality nurturing is good enough."

    No, that's what Maryanne said. That's not what you've said.

    You've said pre-natal bonding is a myth. You've said bonding is a myth. You've said there is no fetal bonding between mother and child and the child (upon birth) will turn to whomever meets its needs.

    If you didn't mean that, well then, what were you saying? Or what were you trying to say?

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  26. Just to clarify:

    Campbell, I'm trying hard not to "gang up" on here. But you've said something in your comment which refutes everything else.

    You've said repeatedly to me (and probably on this blog as well) that there is no such thing as bonding or that mothers who shouldn't feel they "need" to bond just because they conceived children.

    You've sent me links about how bonding is a myth and it's just a socially accepted train of thought - which would invalidate women who do NOT bond with their child through or after birth.

    "I just don't know what the facts are, just like everyone else."

    So why say that?

    If you don't believe in bonding, then this:

    "Not sure I've ever said there's no tie between mother and child pre birth. I believe that in the absence of the mother other replacement quality nurturing is good enough"

    ... makes no sense. Or is a tie not a bond? Is a tie just an emotional attachment perceived by society?

    Your second statement is more akin to what Maryanne said, which is why it's confusing me. Perhaps she could come and clarify herself, but I don't want to assume she does or does not believe in the bonding and whether or not it is a myth.

    I'm confused by what you say and what you mean.

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  27. Mei Ling, to me a tie is not a bond. When I think of a bond I mean love and emotional attachment. I believe bonds can take time, sometimes effort, a closeness of being.

    I guess I think a tie is biological, physical, whereas a bond is emotional?

    It would actually validate women who don't bond upon birth, wouldn't it?

    Also, I'd like to say that any links I sent you were as a result of you engaging me on the subject by email.

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  28. "You've said repeatedly to me (and probably on this blog as well) that there is no such thing as bonding or that mothers who shouldn't feel they "need" to bond just because they conceived children."

    Also, I never said no such thing, in fact I told you that I did feel "bonded" or love for my son upon birth. What I said to you is that it's not the same for every woman who gives birth, and that there's nothing wrong with that.

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  29. Are you suggesting that we should encounter each person's experience as a unique entity? I'm shocked. That sounds like an attitude that respects the dignity and truth of each person's experience. Mortifying.

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  30. Mei Ling, I do believe that there is such a thing as bonding between pregnant mother and child, and between neonate and mother. I believe studies that say that babies can recognize their mothers by smell and voice tone. All mammals bond in some way on a physical level. In many species this bond lasts until the young are weaned, then they are on their own and do not even recognize each other if they meet in later life. Others form life-long bonds with their pack. Humans are mammals, and sure, some kind of biological bond is there for us too.

    But humans are much more complex psychological creatures and so many other things can interfere. If bonding during pregnancy were absolute, how could any woman have an abortion?
    If for some reason the mother is unable or unwilling to care for her child, I do believe another loving caregiver can substitute adequately as far as the needs of the child in infancy and young childhood go. I also believe that children can develop strong and loving attachment to those who raise them who are not their natural parents, other relatives or strangers.

    However, for a mother and child to be separated at birth for any reason eventually must be dealt with as a tragedy for that child. as the child grows to understand the circumstances that their mother died, or their mother left. No, I do not think that children can just be passed around from family to family without consequence. That is ridiculous.

    I do not think that infants have enough consciousness or permanent memory of any sort in infancy to miss their mother as an older child would, or to grieve for her until much later. I do think the grief will come, but not until the child minimally comprehends what adoption means. From there on, yes, it is there for life. in varying degrees depending on the individual. I hope this clarifies things as far as my opinions, which again I admit may be wrong.

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  31. Campbell, the conceiving couple's thoughts upon conception are never something I've thought of. Sounds weird, just like the old wives' tales that said a baby would be physically harmed if the mother saw a spider or whatever and freaked out during gestation. That said, there is a new book out that's being reviewed all over the place: "Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives," by Annie Murphy Paul. Jerome Groopman, a renowned doctor and medical writer, reviewed it in the NYT last weekend. Perhaps we should read it and debate with more facts behind us, although it's probably "junk science" from where you stand. I can't say, because I haven't read it yet, although the review was interesting.

    I meant "bond" when I wrote "tie." You have said in many places and venues that bonding is a myth, so I am with Mei Ling on this one.

    I was confused, just as Mei Ling was, when you wrote, "I just don't know the facts are, just like anyone else."

    It sounds like you believe were happy to get your baby, but it was *you* who wanted him, not the other way around. And it's nice when people get the babies they came with, but some babies won't go home with their mothers, and that's okay, with no repercussions for the baby? And there, I would have to part ways from you. I think that some mothers don't bond with their babies, but the *babies* want their mothers.

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  32. "It would actually validate women who don't bond upon birth, wouldn't it?"

    Yeah. Typo there.

    "Also, I never said no such thing, in fact I told you that I did feel "bonded" or love for my son upon birth."

    You said it was a myth.

    You said that in fact you DID bond with your son but that you did not feel that could apply to any woman, and you felt that some women may feel pressured to bond with their children upon conceiving simply because society says a mother "should" bond with her child.

    So what makes the difference in a scenario where adoption does exist, and where it doesn't? Where mothers are "expected" to bond, and where mother is considered an interchangeable role?

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  33. "I guess I think a tie is biological, physical, whereas a bond is emotional?"

    You know, in some aspects that would make sense - particularly in the scenario of an abused child. If the "bond" has already been emotionally broken, then that would explain why a mother could hit her own child and not feel any remorse.

    Still, though, it doesn't explain why that child feels compelled to stay with a parent who abuses them or why that child would try so hard to be "worthy" to their own mother. You could technically say no one is supposed to abuse a child - but when you add the label of "mother", the general reaction is that it feels so much more wrong.

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  34. Bonding and attachment are two different things. Bonding is generally known as the adult's instinct to care for and protect the child. Attachment is the child's ability to feel secure in the presence of the caregiver. Mothers bond to babies that they will not raise and babies can attach to people who did not give birth to them.

    None of this negates adoption as loss, grief-inducing, possibly lifelong, and traumatic for some. None of it negates surrender as loss, grief-inducing, possibly lifelong, and traumatic for some because bonding usually occurs for biological mothers at birth. It's the specific theory that the baby registers the loss of the natural mother as traumatic over a lifetime and has registered that loss at birth, as opposed to coming to consciousness about adoption as loss over a period of time that bugs many people who disagree with pw.

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  35. Thanks, O Solo Mama, you said what I have been trying to say more clearly and succinctly than I did.

    Katharine, I was not trying to speak for my son, only reporting what I had observed about him, and what he has not said to me. Surely I have a right to do that, just as you would have a right to say what you have observed about your mother, or what she has or has not said to you. That is not speaking for the person.

    I am sure he has many feelings he has not confided to me, nor does he have too. I venture to say you have even less reason to know what he might be thinking, not knowing him at all, and even though you are both adoptees, I do not see where that gives you special insight into what he might think or what his motivations might be. Adoptees are individuals with a wide range of opinions and experience, just like everyone else. They do not all react to the experience of being adopted or being reunited in the same way.

    I do not feel I speak for all or even most surrendering mothers. The less generalizations we all make, the better.

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  36. Below are links to two posts where some of this "bonding is a myth" is being drawn from. I don't like my point of view being misrepresented and I feel that's what's happening here.

    To address your questions Katherine,

    "It sounds like you believe were happy to get your baby, but it was *you* who wanted him, not the other way around" - Yes. He came to want me most over time.

    "...but some babies won't go home with their mothers, and that's okay, with no repercussions for the baby?" -No. There obviously can be many repercussions.


    Point of interest, I generated the title of the first link using the words that were used to describe my thoughts on this subject by another blogger Mei Ling consulted with.


    http://campbellscoup.blogspot.com/2010/05/backward-insight-and-empirical-evidence.html


    http://campbellscoup.blogspot.com/2010/05/to-be-more-clear.html

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  37. Maryanne, I have no idea what's going on in your son's head. Neither do you. What I said was that when you say that he never spoke up about the primal wound or a lasting feeling of sadness, there was a possibility that he was trying to protect you. Then you said that you are sure he wouldn't do that, that he's not "phony." People are interesting creatures, quite unpredictable in many ways. My point was just that there is a POSSIBILITY he doesn't not speak as openly with you about his feeling surrounding adoption as you think. That is all. No, I don't know this. I am playing devil's advocate, just as you and Campbell and osolomama and everyone else who pooh poohs the primal wound.

    Osolomama: I was interested about your differentiation between bonding and attachment and I googled it. Guess what? The top articles were all written by adoption professionals to help adoptive parents! How curious. Dr. Sears, the attachment parenting guru, also came up, but he doesn't differentiate in the same way. Wow. Yet another selective use of data we could discuss.

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  38. The history of attachment and bonding theory does not originate with adoption professionals.

    However, there's someone you could pose your question/comment to over at my blog. I've just posted an interview with Jean Mercer. Neither an adoption advocate nor adoption facilitator (but very much IMO an advocate for adopted children), she might be able to address this.

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  39. Yes, Katherine, it is entirely possible that my son is protecting me by not telling me how he really feels. Or he isn't. I don't know and neither do you, but it is a possibility. We generally do not discuss adoption. Sorry I used the word "phony" as you seem to be hung up on that. Maybe it would be better to say he has been honest in his dealings with me, but never brutal or accusing. He is not an effusive person. I have no idea if he loves me but think he likes me, and I have loved him since he was born, which I have never expected him to reciprocate.

    There are legitimate reasons to doubt primal wound theory that are not "pooh-poohing". I am not playing devil's advocate, but seriously believe that this theory can be harmful to some who embrace it, as much as it is helpful to others. It is something that cannot really be proven so it taken on faith by those who wish to believe it. If it helps you to make sense of your life by believing it it true for you, fine.

    You think it would be "monstrous" to study the reactions of adoptees vs, those whose mother died? Why? Nobody is suggesting killing mothers or taking babies from mothers, but merely questioning adults this has already happened to years ago to see how they compare as far as long-term trauma due to separation from mother.
    A study of that sort might shed some light on the validity of primal wound, if it covered a large enough sample. There certainly would be a lot of variables, but that would be true of adoptees as well as those whose mother died.

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  40. As I suspected when I commented the first time, conversation on this topic between us is going to lead nowhere. Babies conveniently cannot tell us what they need or want, except via behavior. If all infant behavior is viewed as pure instinct rather than having any emotional component, then the primal wound doesn't make sense because babies are oblivious blank slates. You believe this, I don't.

    Yes, Maryanne, I believe using adoptees or any children as psychological lab rats is monstrous, especially when it has to do with manipulating things to assess for loss.

    I would also submit that the prevailing thought 40 years ago was that babies didn't feel pain, and they would not receive anesthesia for painful procedures. Some MDs still don't anesthetize for circumcisions (not that I am saying circumcision is like the primal wound) which seems barbaric. I believe that babies can feel pain. They probably have emotions, too, but lack the cognitive framework and words to tell us.

    I also want to correct what I wrote to Maryanne; I put in a double negative. I meant to say that there's a possibility your son doesn't tell you all he feels about adoption.

    Campbell, you took me to task for not understanding you, but you really weren't clear. I now see that you believe in the Blank Slate theory. Got it.

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  41. Maryanne, have you designed studies? Do you know how important it is to control for variables? Results mean little, and are "junk science" if there are confounding factors. If a study were done right, it would be good, but too many studies of adoptees treat them as lab rats without feelings. Not okay with me.

    As for "phony," it was a very negative word you used, I feel to discredit me. I wanted to point out that it was *you* who used this word, not me. I did not say what I did with rude, malicious intentions.

    Osolomama, I never said that attachment theory was developed for adoption, but I think the distinction between bonding and attachment was developed to help adoptive parents find a way to speak of meeting the needs of their children so that they can erase the biological component and elevate their contribution.

    This isn't to say that adoptees don't and can't attach to adoptive parents. Usually they do. I did, and love my aparents more than I can say. I am attached to them, but I don't discount what I went through my first 10 weeks as just nothing, "instinct" or something that because I was preverbal mattered not a whit. It is my life, and I am entitled to my opinion and thoughts. I have spent my life struggling to deal with self-loathing and anxiety about people not meeting my needs. I couldn't conquer it until I put it together with adoption a few years ago. After all, my parents were great and I had every material advantage. I have four degrees, a successful career, a loving husband and two great kids. I think my problems are complex in origin. Just my opinion.

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  42. my god I couldn't even bring myself to read all this. *sigh* my head hurts now.

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  43. Thanks for the very nice thing you said over on the other blog about me working to change the NICU policy at my hospital. I really appreciate your support.

    I do think that the baby would have been able to recognize her father's voice and distinguish it from that of a male nurse (research shows that babies recognize their parents' voices), but most of all, I think it would have been a good thing for the family to have gone through it all together. The worst for me was that before the baby even died, the parents were talking about getting pregnant and replacing her. Really hard for an adoptee to hear. Sigh.

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  44. Well, I meant it ms.marginalia. I'm not a nurse but I've been with people through their death and I just feel every human, young or old, deserves to have someone with them who cares if it's possible, ideally family but if not, the touch of a volunteer or nurse...or someone. It's not easy to do this for a loved one but if we can manage...

    When I was pregnant, my son's dad and I erred on the side of our son being able to hear us. Why not right? In fact, not to be morose, but in death or unconsciousness, why not behave as if we can be heard as well, just in case.

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