Please bear with me by reading 4 quotes from “The Primal Wound” as they are important to what I intend to write tonight.
“An infant or child can certainly attach to another caregiver, but the quality of that attachment may be different from that with the first mother, and bonding may be difficult or, as many adoptees have told me, impossible.” (The Primal Wound, page 19)
“An adoptive mother may be at a disadvantage in coping with the affective behavior of her child, for she doesn’t understand the form or depth of his grief or the limitations placed upon her as his mother. The infant has missed something which cannot be replaced even by the most motivated of adoptive mothers.” (The Primal Wound, page 20)
“It has been shown that regardless of the intellectual reasons a child has been given for his relinquishment, there are often feelings of betrayal, anger, resentment and sadness, which are projected onto the available mother-figure.” (The Primal Wound, page 56)
“Sometimes there is a sense of responsibility toward the unborn natural child of the adoptive parents. Dorothy says that she always tried, but never quite ‘lived up to my mother’s expectations of what her own daughter would have been like.'” (The Primal Wound, page 65)
I love my mom – my adoptive one. She has been a great mom and caregiver. She never made my feel “adopted” because she treated me just like she treats my brother, who is her natural child. But I have never bonded with her at the level that I see most mothers and daughters bond (or even at the level of bonding that I see between her and my brother), and it has been a source of concern for me for a long time.
Mom has said (to me and others) that I “took out” on her what my “birth mom did” – meaning that I treated her poorly because of my adoption. I have consistently bristled when I’ve heard this for several reasons. First, I didn’t feel that I treated her poorly – I had the same growing pains that most kids do, but I never intentionally did anything to be disrespectful to her. Second, I thought that what my natural mom did was a good thing (and had been told it was), so I found it difficult to understand how I could be taking anything out on my adoptive mom when the whole adoption process was supposed to be good. Third, I couldn’t understand how what I was doing was any different from my brother, so how could I be acting out based on my adoption when he’s not adopted?
Now, I think I understand. My mom knew something didn’t feel right. She had a natural child. She knew what that bonding felt like. She’d have to know, right? Moms just know that stuff. But I suspect I felt different to her – not because of her, but because of me. Well, really because of the separation from my natural mom and the reaction I would have had to it as a baby. But, you get the point. Something was different, and she knew it.
I knew it too, but I didn’t understand it. I thought it was because we are so different and because moms bond more with sons and dads bond more with daughters. But I’m sure those are explanations I created in my head to deal with an issue that made no sense to me. And, despite bristling against the suggestion that I was somehow mistreating my mom, I admit I have felt bad about this matter most of my life. While I never tried to live up to the image I had in my head of what her natural daughter would be like, I wished my mom could have had a natural daughter who would be more like her. And, yet, was hurt when I saw that natural bonding play out in genetically stamped relationships with my brother’s daughters – hurt not because they had it, but because I didn’t.
I love my mom – strongly and deeply. But I know we are not as bonded as we could have been. And, in fact, I have to ask myself if I ever truly bond with anyone in the manner that most people bond. But that is another post for another day. Today, I finally get why things have been a challenge for my mom and me – I get it and I let the frustration of it go, so that I can just love my mom the way I love. I think that will be enough.