The possibility of trauma passing down through generations as genetic mutations affecting health had reason to re-enter my awareness last night.
My mom was an adoptee. I know for a fact she suffered because of it. She told me so. She died believing she had been stolen. While her made-up story based upon other stories that were sadly all too real under the reign of the notorious Georgia Tann were not entirely accurate, I do believe deep in her soul “stolen” was not that far off. She died believing it and now that I have her adoption file from the state of Tennessee, I know that her mother never intended to give her up and was trapped into an impossible situation.
She had left my mom at an orphanage in Memphis (Porter-Leath) for temporary care. That was a decision point from which there was no return of the mother-child bonding for my mom and her mother. My grandmother was allowed to see my mom one final time before she was ripped away and placed with strangers. I have those black and white photos now. The happiness upon seeing her mother again is evident in my mom’s body language.
The adoption file tells me she screamed all the way from Memphis to Nogales Arizona as my adoptive grandmother carried her home. No wonder my mom felt stolen. When they reached Arizona, she was drugged to calm her down. Eventually, with no other choice, she adapted to her circumstances and coped.
Yet, the health impacts left her a medical basket case all her life and I believe her stress at conceiving me as an unwed high school student impacted my health. And it may go on down the line to my daughter and granddaughter. Medical science is discovering through research some truth to these theories on my part but they have a lot of work to do yet.
It does appear that genetics loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger. Some people are born with genetic vulnerabilities and circumstances can then cause those vulnerabilities to manifest as disease. This is true for every adoptee, regardless of what the manifestations are or how minimally impacted that adoptee may appear.
why am I so unhappy ?
It is a paradox and difficult to explain beyond the fact that fear and trauma put the child into a survival mechanism. Yes, even with a loving and kind, caring adoptive family, an adoptee can feel messed up a lot of the time. The adoptee may rationally feel like they should be okay with having been adopted by such nice people. Yet, they are sad. There is a trauma that exists deep down in every adoptee whether they ever become aware of it or not. Adoption by strangers is never a normal experience in reality.
Adoptive parents may say, “My adopted child is so close to me. It is like they are attached at the hip.” While this may seem like a good thing, and the adoptive parent interprets this to mean that their child is well adjusted and/or bonded to them, it is actually a fear driven survival instinct in response to an abandonment, even if the child could never define it as such to their adoptive parent.
Sadly, the perspective of many adoptive parents is something akin to owning a possession. In some adoptees, the response to the adoptive parents is similar to repulsion. While an adoptee may attach, it is an attachment based on a longing for what is not there between the adopted child and the adoptive parents. It is inescapable that all adoptees are deprived of something fundamental that affects them developmentally.
The young adopted child will eventually stop crying for the need that can never be met. Unfortunately, in this surrender, the adoptee is seen as “such a good baby”. By the time this happens, the adoptee’s attachment style has already been deeply altered. They adapt.
Adoptees know how to use all of the different attachment coping styles, and switch between them based on the specific situation they find themselves in. Very little of what they are expressing outside reflects their true internal feelings. It is not how they are really feeling or what they are really needing. Mostly it is about appeasing the adult who is caring for them. It is a survival tactic. Always, what is seen, is even so, coming out of a deep and unaddressed trauma.
Painting by Nazar Haidri
At the time my parents were given up for adoption, not as much was known about how the initial relationship of a child to his mother contributes to a healthy self-esteem. My parents were each with their mothers for 6 months or longer and that was a good thing. My mom seemed to me to have less self-confidence than my dad but she had a difficult adoptive mother who I doubt my mom ever felt she lived up to the expectations of that woman.
My niece and nephew who were given up for adoption were taken from their mothers shortly after birth. I don’t really know what effect that had on them and it is difficult to know which was worse. I think my parents probably suffered more because they had that time of closeness with their mothers and then suddenly she was gone. They were pre-verbal. How to explain that the sun has ceased to shine and won’t be back ?
The success of human beings on this planet has much to do with the ability to adapt to changing conditions. There is yet much to learn about the cost of having to adapt, regarding the attempt to substitute an unrelated mother for the original natural mother. I would suspect that at the least there is a wariness about what is happening.
The relationship of a child to their mother is profound and mystical.