Never Too Young To Grieve

Today’s blog is courtesy of a Facebook post by Stacey Jackson Gagnon.

Have you seen a newborn grieve loss?

How about a 6 month old?

I didn’t recognize grief. Through all the years and all the foster babies that came through my home, I didn’t see it.

I never realized that a mother is not interchangeable; you cannot just change a known mother with an unknown one.

I guess I thought these babies were coming from such horrible circumstances, that they wouldn’t understand the loss; because in my mind, my home was a gain. They were gaining safety, love, attention,…I now understand that foster care and adoption begin with loss; the loss of the known.

I used to think that a foster baby coming into my home would not remember.

I was wrong.

While in the womb the child knows not any difference between mother and self; they are one. They are tasting, smelling, touching, hearing and seeing within the womb.

Upon birth, a separation occurs and what had once been a unified, indistinguishable source of life, is now separated. And suddenly there are things that prohibit the attention and care that had once been always present and never-ending. So the baby learns to express a need for this attention and care; they learn to cry. And the mother responds, and she is known…the baby knows her smell, her sound, her touch, her taste. All is remembered and well.

But then imagine, this mother is suddenly gone. It is now someone else’s face and eyes; someone else’s touch, smell and routine. The mother is gone and replaced by someone who is unknown.

All is not well. Where has the known mother gone? Why has she left me with this unknown?

I was the unknown mother and I didn’t recognize the grief.

I wish I had understood that every foster baby coming into my home was experiencing grief. No matter the circumstance of their removal, they were experiencing loss.

Grief is a normal response to the greatest loss.

I was an unknown mother. Every baby I held still remembered the known mother. Grief was not assuaged by my home, my family, my deeds, or my words…it was instead held in the space of shared daily moments.

And slowly over time I became known too. Babies remember.

Is It Really Possible ?

A discussion in an adoptee’s group caught my attention yesterday but it wasn’t the first time I have pondered this coincidence (which I don’t actually believe is one).

A woman noted that on her first Christmas in her new adoptive home she was given a doll.  She named her doll Carol.  Decades later she learned her natural mother’s name was Carol.  Her adoptive family said it was only a coincidence because she was so very young could not have known.  The good ol’ blank slate theory.

My mom died never knowing her natural mother’s name (she only knew her parents were Mr & Mrs J C Moore which hardly told us anything at all !).  My husband and I have theorized that she named my sister LOU Anne because she had heard her mother’s name while in the womb since we know that fetuses in the womb can hear.

My grandmother signed her name on my mom’s original birth certificate “Lizzie Lou” and in letters to Georgia Tann after losing my mom to that master manipulator and in a divorce from my mom’s natural father, her first name is listed as Elizabeth.

However, imagine my wonder in coming into contact with my mom’s cousins (the children of my grandmother’s youngest brother) and hearing them refer to my grandmother as Aunt Lou !!

Not only that but the first time I saw a photo of my grandmother I thought she looked a lot like my sister Louanne.  I believe.