My husband and I have been married for 7 years this July. He is my rock in uncertain times and always reminds me breathe, relax, and enjoy small moments when I find myself spiraling with worry about things I cannot control. He is cool, calm, and collected, and always offers a clear head to help sort through life together. This past year has been a year of immense growth and transformation for him and it has been a joy to witness as his wife. What does this have to do with my family and our adoption journey, you ask? Well my husband is an adult adoptee. I have known this about him since the first day we met and I have loved the unique perspective he brings to my life as an adoption professional working with expectant parents and hopeful adoptive parents. I find it helps me to remember the small, precious babies who are placed with their loving forever families will one day be adults navigating the complexities of family, their identity, and other people’s questions and curiosities.
My husband’s adoptive parents have always been open with him about his adoption story even though his adoption is closed. They lovingly refer to his birth mother as his Angel who brought him into the world and loved him so dearly she chose them to be his parents. As a child and a young man, he did not have many questions about his adoption and states now he feels he simply took it at face value and did not dive much deeper. In the past years since I have begun working at Nightlight we have started to have more in depth conversations about adoption, his adoption specifically, and his thoughts and feelings about what it means to be an adoptee.
Through these conversations, my husband has begun to open doors he had never thought to open within his own thoughts and feelings towards his adoption, birth family, and adoptive parents. We recently read the book, The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier, together as a couple. In the book, Nancy outlines the theory of the “primal wound”, she explains how post-natal separation of an infant from their biological mother impacts the child’s unconscious mind and biochemistry and the impacts continue throughout the child’s life into adulthood. Long-term impacts of the primal wound Nancy outlines include feelings of loss, depression, and mistrust of others, difficulties in relationships, and low self-esteem and self-worth. As we read the book together, I watched my husband discover and realize things about himself he had never been able to pinpoint or name. After certain chapters, his whole countenance would change, he shared he felt as though he was finally able to see through a fog he never thought would clear, that he was able to have specific explanations for things he just “had.” He shared feelings of relief and comfort in finally being able to understand his own mind. It also felt odd to him to be feeling so affirmed by this book because he had never had negative feelings about his adoption, his birth mom, or his adoptive parents. Feeling abandoned was never anything he would tell you he felt, but as we continued to read and understand the impacts on his unconscious mind and his processing, he was able to connect the dots to many things he never fully understood about himself.
The book comes up often in conversation and my husband always shares a feeling of thankfulness and a desire to continue learning and growing to understand himself as an adult adoptee and to explore the impact of this adoption.
Reading the book together was such a powerful experience because I was able to see my husband reacting in real time to his self-revelations. I’ve felt so lucky to witness him “coming out of the fog” as he says and to be a part of the process of understanding him on a deeper level.
Because my experience was with my husband and not that of an adoptive parent, I can only make an inference about what this process may be like for adoptive families. I know adoptive parents bring their own emotions and feelings to the situation and it can be hard to know how to help your child process through grief and sadness that does not seem to have a name or reason.
Because the book dives so deeply into the primal wound and the long-term impacts of separation from biological parents, it can be a challenging read for hopeful adoptive families. It causes you to feel very deeply and process through real grief and its impacts. Despite the discomfort it may cause, I think it is a great way to help frame the minds of couple’s hoping to adopt and helps to provide explanations for feelings and behaviors your future child may exhibit as they age. Feelings they may not even be able to pinpoint or name and they need you to help them navigate.
If you don’t feel the book is a good fit for you, I hope you can take away from my experience with my husband that even adoptees who seem to have very positive views of their adoption may be struggling with deeper feelings of uncertainty and need the space to explore them deeply. Remember to always speak positively about birth families and adoption but also allow them to feel not okay with it. Allowing them to explore all of the aspects of their identity is important and freeing for them.