Book Review of the Adoption Memoir “Found”

Dawn Davenport

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Adult Adoptee: Jennifer Lauck's Memoir

A discussion of Jennifer Lauck’s memoir.

I love the idea of an online community book club, especially an online community that shares the same interest, albeit from different angles.  I jumped at the chance to participate in this discussion of Jennifer Lauck’s memoir Found. Since a lot of you that will be reading this are my regular blog readers rather than book tour participants, a bit of explaining and a short summary of the book is in order.  The Book Club participants are divided into three groups, each posting a blog on one of three days. Each group is given a different list of questions, and each blogger chooses three to discuss.

To say that Jennifer Lauck had a hard life would be a gross understatement–this is the third memoir she has written on her troubled childhood.  This poor woman was literally overwhelmed with life traumas. She was adopted in 1963  at birth by Bud and Janet.  At the time of the adoption, Janet had a fatal illness, but wanted a daughter.  Bud was already burdened with a dying wife, a young son, and mounting financial debts. From a very young age, Jennifer felt very different temperamentally from her parents and brother and burdened by the idea that she was in the family to save her mother from death. She learned of her adoption from a taunt by her brother shortly before her mother died when she was seven. Her father died of a heart attack one year later, but not before he married the most wicked stepmother since Cinderella’s. Wicked Stepmother abused Jennifer and her brother until they finally were sent to live with separate relatives. Richard and Peggy, distant relatives, adopted the teen-aged Jennifer in order to get her social security payments. Her brother kills himself as a young adult.  Oh, and along the way, she was sexually abused a couple of times, starting when she was six.  It seemed there were no adults in this child’s life that ever truly cared for her or protected her.  It made for a heart breaking read. Needless to say, she grew to be a troubled woman, struggling with a sense of self and unable to form lasting relationships.

Lauck seeks answers and healing in many ways, including marriages, near fanatical devotion to various spiritual pursuits, and parenthood.  Ultimately, she found the primal wound theory, and concluded that her lifelong inability to form relationships and lack of self-worth were due to her original separation from her birth mother. “Infants are unable to regulate their own emotions; they need their mother’s response to their cries to teach them mood normalization. And the infant doesn’t wait for any mother, she waits for her birth mother—the one with which she shared a hormonal connection while in utero. Any other caregiver is rejected.”

She searched for and found her birth mother, but had a troubled reunion for many reasons, including her neediness (her word) and her birth mother’s tone-deafness (my word) as to how to meet these needs.  Her desperation to know and be known by her biological mother is almost physically painful to read.  In truth, neither Lauck nor her first mother were prepared for or supported through the reunion, so no fault can really be assigned, other than perhaps to the therapist who encouraged the search without first preparing Lauck and suggesting ways to support the birth family.  Even though the reunion was strained, Lauck believes that meeting her birth mother helped heal some of her wounds.

I need to add here that I am more than a little uncomfortable commenting on someone else’s truth. Who am I to question or even have an opinion of someone’s personal story that they had the courage to share so publicly.  I decided to drop out of the Book Tour for this reason, but realized that I’d be letting the organizer down since I had taken one of a limited number of spots.  So, let me start by saying that my hat is doffed to Jennifer Lauck for putting pen to paper to explore her life and allowing us to learn along with her.

Now to the questions I’m supposed to discuss. Keep in mind that other bloggers will be talking about other aspects of the book, so you should definitely follow the link at the bottom to get a better understanding of the whole.  I am going to group my responses, rather than answer each question individually.

  • Did the detachment, anger and loss in the author’s voice at times made you question your own pursuit of a child that will not be genetically linked to you?
  • Lauck argues that “the primal wound” affects all adopted children and reunions with first parents should be encouraged in most if not all cases.
  • On pp 17-18, Jennifer talks about a baby searching for her mother after being born. How did this sensory-rich passage strike you? What thoughts did it trigger about the role you play in adoption?

What struck me most about this book in relation to the questions above is why Lauck attributed her lifelong problems solely on the loss of her first mother.  Couldn’t her inability to form healthy relationships be caused by the tragic death of her adoptive mom when she was seven, or by the fact that she was likely never fully parented by Bud and Janet since Janet was terminally ill and Bud was likely drowning in his responsibilities.  Although I realize this wasn’t Lauck’s question, I certainly wondered if her emotional development would have been different if adopted into a healthy loving family. Could her problem have been caused by the lack of any consistent loving care after the age of seven?  By the abuse from her stepmother? By the sexual abuse at age six and as a teen?  Of all that happened to this child, it seemed incongruous to me to select one event on which to pin the blame.

The whole primal wound argument has always seemed too simplistic to me. Humans are complex beings—there are few direct line, single factor causes and effects, especially in human psychology. How a person reacts to any big life event depends on many, probably hundreds, of factors. And we all have our own potentially big life events: for some it’s adoption, for others it’s a depressed mother, or a single mother living paycheck to paycheck, or the death of a parent, or an alcoholic father, or a divorce, or parents who constantly fight. And some unfortunate souls, like Lauck, get hit with more than one.  For most of us, our lives are a mix of positive and negative big events. How we respond to each, and which one leaves an everlasting imprint is individual.

But then who am I to question what helped this gifted writer heal.  Throughout the book, I was hoping and praying that she would find some peace, both for herself and for the people in her life.  If she believes that her problems stem from being separated from her birth mother and found healing through meeting her first mom, then good for her. My problem is when she extrapolates outward to all adoptees.

The passage referenced in the last question above is one example.  Lauck says she searched for her birth mother from the moment of birth.  “I would have also listened, intently, for the timbre of her voice; I would have tested the air for her scent; I would have reached out to make contact; and I would have salivated in anticipation of her milk.”  Beautifully written and evocative of Lauck’s lifelong longing for love.  But then she says:

“What is not commonly known—although it is common sense–is that within moments of separation from the mother, a newborn will experience outrage, panic, and eventually terror. Within 45 minutes, studies show a baby will go into shock and lose consciousness. Once the baby awakens, she will use her senses to search for her mother again and if the mother isn’t there, the baby goes through the same process.”

She presents this information as if it is a universal scientific truth and a sensible one at that. I question both assumptions.  I’ve never seen any research that would support such a conclusion.  If she is referring Dr. Harry Harlow’s famous experiments on maternal separation that he conducted on rhesus monkeys in the 1950s, I think she missed the point.  While Harlow’s study found that the baby monkeys needed contact to thrive and preferred a soft, more life-like surrogate (terrycloth coated wire frame to a wire frame surrogate), he did not find that the monkeys needed contact with their biological mothers.  In fact, Harlow was rather revolutionary in the 1950s by pointing out that a primary caregiver could be anyone, including the father.

Throughout history, babies have been removed from their mothers for hours after birth with apparently no ill effect and certainly not shock and unconsciousness.  Mothers who have a general anesthesia for a Cesarean section often don’t hold their baby immediately after birth.  If a problem is suspected with the infant, doctors, rather than the mother, are the first to hold the child often for hours or days.  Throughout much of the 1940s through1960’s, most mothers who delivered in a hospital were drugged and often didn’t see their children until many many hours after birth, with the infants spending most of their hospital stay (often up to 5-7 days) in the nursery being cared for by nurses rather than their mother. While I’m not suggesting that any of these circumstances are ideal, I do think that if separation from a biological mother for more than 45 minutes causes a baby to lose consciousness, we would all know about it.

Now it is possible that Lauck was being metaphorically rather than literal in order to extend her experience to others, but therein lies what I see as the fundamental fallacy in this book.  In the author’s experience, she believes that the act of separation from her biological mother left lasting and deep scars to her psyche. I have no reason to doubt her.  But I do doubt the next step in her logic– that ALL adoptees are permanently and deeply scarred by the very act of adoption.

At the end of the book, she agrees for the first time to chaperone her daughter’s school field trip. She’s spent a lifetime avoiding being around children because her childhood experiences made her nervous around kids, including her own. She is assigned two children to drive, a 9 year old Asian boy and a 7 year old East Indian girl.  She suggested they all listen to the book The Kite Rider on tape and the kids readily agree.  She is surprised that they are so well mannered and polite and agreed so readily, nothing like her own children.   As they listen to the story, she is stunned that they don’t ask her questions and share their outrage at the injustices of the story with her, a complete stranger. But then she realized why they were so reticent to open up in contrast to what her own children would have surely done.  “I looked from child to child and they are so very familiar to me—these kids are adopted.”  She concludes that suffering was nothing new to them; they were older than their years.

I can think of no better illustration of the hubris of over-generalization.  Almost all children behave better and are more compliant with adults they don’t know, especially when not in the company of friends. Few children share their deep feelings or tough questions with strangers.  From my experience, this reticence is part of all human nature, and has nothing to do with how children joined their families or with separation from their biological mother.  Adopted children and adults are not a species apart and are not all the walking wounded.

Those adoptees that carry the wounds of separation deserve to have their pain recognized, and the adoption system needs to address ways to lessen the potential for this wound.  Open adoption is a step in the right direction, as is opening sealed records.  More effort to provide alternatives for families to stay together is another important step.  In the endnotes Lauck says that a child should not be taken from a mother due to her economic struggle, her age, or her education. She’s right. It’s not good for mothers and it’s not good for kids.

It’s equally important to recognize that many adopted person do not carry this “primal wound”, or if they are wounded the cut doesn’t go so deep. They are relatively happy, relatively well adjusted people, not so different than their non-adopted peers.  Who is and who is not maimed is likely dependent on temperament, how soon the child is adopted, life experiences, specifics of their adopted families, and a host of other factors that we may never know.  Adoptees are a wonderfully diverse group, and they deserve better than any automatic diagnosis.

You can read more of my thoughts on The Primal Wound on this blog post.

To continue to the next stop of this book tour, please visit the main list at The Open Adoption Examiner.

Thank you Lori Luz for organizing this book tour. If you have not read Lori blog where she talks about life and living and loving in an open adoption, you’re missing something. Add her blog, Write Mind, Open Heart to your list of weekly blogs to read.

Image credit: ashley rose

14/01/2012 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 32 Comments



32 Responses to Book Review of the Adoption Memoir “Found”

  1. Lynn Assimacopoulos says:

    New book called “Separated Lives” about a search
    for someone’s birth parents. It is available
    from Dorrance Publishing, Barnes and Noble and
    Amazon.

  2. Dawn says:

    We’re experiencing technical difficulties with getting this comment accepted, so I am posting for Erin Altrama. Here’s her thoughts:

    “I am an adopted person who has become acutely aware each adoption story is unique. The one shared truth is the severance of our biological links. Nature intends its young be nurtured by the ones who give life. So therefore I do believe the Primal wound exists.

    I agree with the post saying the word wound implies a capacity to heal. The healing depends on many factors such as the age of the child, personalities and the quality of care given by one or more to enable the formation of new and meaningful attachment. The synergy and environment introduced to our world and the capacity to adapt matters.
    The wound does not need become all consuming but can quite easily if mishandled.

    Adoptees cannot be told what they should feel. What we experience is individual to each of us, be it positive or negative has need to be validated. We are different from biological offspring but can belong in our new world and grow into well adjusted adults.

    There are many among us who experience adoption as a positive force but also those who do not. I do not believe self pity or mere curiosity are the forces which motivate us to seek our roots. This comes from a far more deeply embedded primal source.”

  3. Tonya says:

    Dawn, I appreciate your response to Ms. Lauck’s global response. I have debated for several days whether to reply to her response. I really felt that the responses on the book tour were honest and thoughtful from all participants — and gave me much to think about even when I didn’t necessarily agree with the viewpoint presented. I think that is the ultimate value of these tours is being exposed to the viewpoints of others who see adoption differently than I do. I have learned much from birth mothers and adult adoptees, and some of what I’ve learned changes and informs my approach to parenting. I want to learn from other members in the adoption triad. At the same time, I am always incredibly uncomfortable when someone says this applies to all adoptees or all adoptions, or for that matter to all of anything — I think most of the issues are far too complex for there to be one answer. The reality is none of us know what it is like to be inside someone else’s skin. We can only tell our truths and be available to listen and try to understand the truths of others. I accept that Found is Ms. Lauck’s truth. What I don’t accept is that she speaks the truth of every adoptee. I accept that separation from birth parents matters, it matters a lot, and it matters forever. What I don’t accept is that it always and for everyone creates the core of who they are or why they struggle. And I don’t accept that adoptees who hold different viewpoints or speak to a different lived experience of adoption are somehow “unenlightened” or in denial about their own personal truths.

    • Dawn says:

      Tonya, needless to say, I agree. The part that confuses me, is that all the comments I read took the approach of respectful listening and sharing that is at the heart of learning from others. Granted, I haven’t read them all, so I may have missed some.

  4. Dawn says:

    A number of folks have “found” a blog I did earlier this year that is eerily relevant to this discussion and have suggested I link to it here. I’m embarrassed to say, that I didn’t think of it myself. “A Dialog Between an Adoptive Parent and an Adult Adoptee” http://www.creatingafamily.org/blog/adoption-domestic-adoption-international-adoption-embryo-adoption-foster-care-adoption/dialog-adoptive-parent-adult-adoptee/ I think it hits some of the core issues that are running under the surface of some of the discussion about the memoir “Found”.

  5. Dawn says:

    Jennifer Lauck’s, the author, response posted above confirmed my original concerns about participating in this Book Tour. “Found” is her personal story and her personal truth, and any attempt to really discuss the underlying topics can, and apparently did, feel like a personal attack. I so understand this.

    After I decided to go ahead and participate, I wrote simple, short, and safe answers to the questions that in no way could be viewed as discussion starters. Melba milk-toast all the way. “It sounds like the author was feeling that…” In fact, these responses were intended to kill all discussion because of my discomfort with appearing like I was challenging the author on her personal truth. (I am a people pleaser to my very core.) In the end, I decided that was a chicken way out and would be a waste of my reader’s time and my blog space. (It also helped that I convinced myself that Lauck would never read what I wrote.) I tried to broaden beyond Lauck’s personal truth, but in the end, I think she felt attacked- if not by my blog, then by others.

    I am left wondering if this Book Tour is the right venue for having this discussion between adopted adults and adoptive parents and adoption educators. But the one thing I know for sure is that this is a conversation we MUST have.

  6. Tonya says:

    While I do think that separation from a biological parent has an impact on children, I agree with you that each person manages that initial loss differently. While I think that the primal wound theory is an important one for adoptive parents to understand, I think it’s also important that we not over-pathologize our children and assume that every problem is about adoption. My daughter often struggles with adoption related issues, but she also often struggles because she’s feisty and independent and wants things her way, and at 7 that’s simply not always possible. I suspect those struggles would happen with or without adoption. I think it’s important that we are in tune with our children so we’re able to acknowledge and help them deal with their struggles — both those related to adoption and all the others as well.

    • Dawn says:

      Tonya, I couldn’t have said it better: “While I think that the primal wound theory is an important one for adoptive parents to understand, I think it’s also important that we not over-pathologize our children and assume that every problem is about adoption.” I was attending an adoption conference once with a session where a psychologist was answering questions from the audience. A parent was asking about their baby who didn’t like to be rocked in a rocking chair and didn’t like being cuddled. The more she talked the more worried I became, because she was describing my son to a tee. (Wiggled out of my hugs: check; rocking was not soothing: check; never went through an intense stranger fear stage: oh dear, check.) I had missed all the signs of something BIG. The psychologist was talking about failed attachment and recommending therapy, when it hit me: this was my biological son. Our attachment was just fine. I had never worried that his “behavior” was a problem. I had assumed that he had a different temperament than me-he’s a full charge, never stop, wiggling, running dervish with an extroverted personality. 20 years later he remains a full charge, never stop guy who has never met a stranger. I love that about him. No telling what would have happened if I had pathologized him for just being himself.

      I’m not suggesting that adoptive parents not be aware of potential problems or that they ignore the loss of being raised by their biological family, but then I think all parents should try to be tuned into their children. I think the Primal Wound idea is important because if nothing else, it counters the prevailing advice through the 1960’s+ that adoption was no big deal–“just ignore it and it won’t raise its ugly head.” However, I remain suspect of extremes of any kind.

  7. Z. says:

    Thank you for understanding all sides involved with adoption. I don’t participate much in the online talks/arguments/debates but I do often feel like the normal adoptee is not heard from. I loved how you said we all weren’t the walking wounded.

  8. KeAnne says:

    I’ve been making the rounds of the book tour and reading each response. I didn’t have a chance to read the book and I don’t think I would have liked the book based on what I read. What shocked me was that the debates about attachment and primal wounds made me wonder if I need to think about those issues in context of my son’s origins. I had him via gestational surrogacy and it never occurred to me that some of the same issues might be present in our situation.

    • Dawn says:

      KeAnne, we will be talking about this issue on an upcoming show we’ve scheduled with Dr. Marcy Axness on The Primal Wound. From what I understand of reading her article and her response above, she would say that some of the same issues can be present. I look forward to reading her book, which I believe will touch on this issue.

  9. Risa says:

    I think this is among the most important blogs I’ve read. I loved your support for adult adoptees not being all the walking wounded. I may have my issues, but I’m far more held together than many people and am a happy health adult married for 15 years with two great kids. all in all I’ve had a great life even if it hasn’t been perfect. Whose is?

  10. Marcy Axness says:

    I’m impressed by the number of thoughtful posts and the people who wrote them. As an adopted person, adoption reform professional for almost 20 years (and author of that article on the primal wound Dawn linked above), I feel myself saying “Yes, right on!” to many points made here–most recently by Erin’s wise points, most particularly (referring to earlier mention, which I somehow missed) the critical perspective regarding CAPACITY TO HEAL. I call this an “adaptive perspective” and that’s where I come from 99% of the time.

    In my upcoming book “Parenting for Peace” I address adoption (and surrogacy and other somewhat more circuitous routes into families) as a section in the chapter on the postpartum period–after an extensive section “Separation: Baby’s POV” in which I cover much of what Lauck includes about the psychoneurobiological havoc created when offspring are removed from their biological mothers. This includes the sad Harry Harlow and Robert Hinde litany with which many of us are too familiar.

    I write, “I don’t embrace a hand-wringing, doomsday attitude that pathologizes adoptees and adoption; when we can expand our perspective and apply an adaptive lens to adoptees’ behaviors and “disorders,” we can see them as brilliant adaptation strategies that have gotten stuck and are no longer adaptive, but disruptive. An adaptive lens interprets a child’s behaviors and expressions *in light of what they have experienced.*”

    I cannot TELL you how many “mysteries” of a child’s behavior or development have been resolved once I ask a mother or father (and we’re talking general parent here, not adoptive) to “tell me the story of x’s birth…” or, “talk to me about your pregnancy with x, and even the circumstances around conception”–and sitting like pearls awaiting discovery in the homely shell of a painful story are the “ah hahs” that emerge once the story is on the table. A friend tells me that the etiology of the word “responsibility” has to do with exactly that: putting things on the table, as they are. Not as we WISH they were, but being WITH what actually is. THAT is taking responsibility. And THAT is being a loving, conscious parent, whether adoptive, biological, via-surrogacy, or any of the growing possibilities with the many stripes of IVF.

    It is when a parent can hold a child’s TRUE, HONEST reality that the healing impulse we all have can indeed engage and that primal wound can recede and recede and soften and pale to the point where so many healthy layers of connectedness and robust health… new neural pathways… all but render that old painful pathway a faint watermark.

    This is why I included such relatively scant material *specifically* about adoption in my book: adoption indeed was my deep teacher about all this, about how unfathomably early we form memory traces and gather wounds… but it also pointed me to the blatant reality that adoptees do NOT have anywhere near the corner on the market of experiencing certain painful primal losses or hurts. In one paradoxical regard, we actually have a leg-up: we KNOW what happened to us! How many non-adoptees were conceived without being intended… carried in an ambivalent or even outright rejecting womb… maybe even separated at birth (I mean, come on–look at US hospital policy!!)… but then are raised in a “happy, normal, ‘everything’s hunky-dory’ family” which never affords them a hint of an inkling of where THIER issues with intimacy, trust, invisibility, worthiness come from!?

    My overarching position these 20 years downstream from my first polemic, passionate talks at adoption conferences (with the likes of the late great BJ Lifton and Annette Baran), is that adoptive parents are… PARENTS! The same seven principles I offer to parents in my book, if followed by adoptive parents, would help them tend beautifully to wounds their children might have suffered.

    And yes, in all this I acknowledge (though not explicitly in the book, from which I had to go in and edit LOTS out!) that these experiences mark adoptees (people!) in different ways and to differing depths/intensities depending upon specific circumstances, the individual’s temperament, and a whole tapestry of other variables.

    Many of those variables in the case of adoption are unchangeable. Always a pragmatist in my work with parents, I focus on what we CAN do something about–and the biggest variable there is the consciousness of the parents. Again, from the book: “What about when a newborn is separated from his or her mother because of unavoidable medical necessity, or in the case of adoption or surrogacy? Here again, Nature is a strict taskmaster: neither the best intentions nor the noblest justifications can rewrite her laws of neurophysiology. The above realities about the trauma of maternal separation don’t yield to accommodate our cultural arrangements. The only recourse available to us in these cases—as whenever Life throws us a curve ball—is the consciousness with which we perceive and engage with the events we encounter.

    “Contrary to the breezy, overly simplistic characterization of adoption (and now, increasingly, surrogacy) as “just another way to build a family,” adoption is a somewhat more complicated way to build a family than nature intended and calls for extra consideration and care. When we overlook complications we risk missing rich opportunities for building family intimacy, which pulses at the heart of peaceful parenting. Tremendous blessings can be experienced by all the participants in adoption, but we must never forget that most often, those blessings are born of loss—the loss for the birthparents of a child they will not parent; the loss of their dreamed-of biological child the adoptive parents won’t have; and the loss for the adopted child of his or her biological, genealogical, and possibly cultural, connections. When we deny adoption’s losses, we also deny ourselves—and our children—its greatest blessings.”

    Happy to see Jeanette Yoffe up above–coincidentally enough, I’ll be guest speaker at her “Adopt Salon” in LA in a couple weeks!

    And thank YOU, Dawn, for having the mettle to take responsibility and put YOUR cards on the table–which I think you did with great sensitivity and integrity. (And of course, thanks for the link to my article, and I’ll look forward to coming on to “Creating a Family” with you.)

    • Dawn says:

      And that folks, is why I loved Marcy’s article on The Primal Wound, why I immediately booked her for a Creating a Family show on this subject, and why I can hardly wait to read her new book to be released in Feb., Parenting for Peace. (Sign up for our weekly newsletter to receive notice of upcoming shows.)

  11. Geochick says:

    Dawn, thank you for not taking the “chicken way out” and opening yourself up to this discussion. I learn more and more every time I read a post from the perspective of an adoptee. While I didn’t jive with Jennifer Lauck’s style of presenting information in her book, which isn’t that surprising given my by the numbers, thinking nature, I appreciate that adoptees have a much different experience than I did and do as an adoptive parent.

    • Dawn says:

      Geochick, thanks for that. Yes, I agree, we have a lot to learn from each member of the adoption triad. I’m sorry fewer first moms haven’t participated.

  12. Susan says:

    This is SO helpful to me. To respect Lauck’s experience without having to generalize it also permits me to respect each of my children’s experiences (as adoptees, as members of our family, as boys) without having to generalize it to all of them. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful understanding of primal wound theory. It is a relief to me as an adoptive mom.

  13. After having read the blogs related to Jennifer Laucks book “Found”, I am responding in support of the Adoptees point of view as well as an advocate for Adoption Reform, and also as an Adoption Psychotherapist in Los Angeles treating Adoptive Families where I also host a monthly Triad Support Group called Adopt Salon.

    I want to first commend Jennifer for writing and sharing “her scientific truth” (that considered, she being a paraprofessional and/or expert in her own life). I have such great respect and empathy for her having endured so much pain and despair due to not having that significant, nurturing “caregiver” to help her make sense of her story through her growing years. I feel for her. Having said that, my experience, working with 100+ Adult Adoptees, is there IS a common “thread of pain, that is psychologically and emotionally connected to that early separation from the birthmothers which, in my experience, if not acknowledged and understood, either in childhood or in adult life will be the core issue that needs to be addressed or else this core self will act itself out in all other relationships.” And you can quote me on this that this “thread of our pain will never be fully resolved… ever! Because it is impossible to fully work through the entire psyche. Science cannot measure the unconscious mind because Science is based on calculations and the emotional mind is immeasurable.” Thus, Jennifer, as well as many adoptees I have encountered, did not get these early opportunities to work through their early losses, because they were babies and could not speak their truths but only cry for their please for their birth mothers to return. In order for Adoptees to heal, in clinical practice, it is important that they connect a “logical language narrative” for their early cries for their birthmothers or their “Primal Wound” will fester and act itself out in destructive ways. There is a common painful joke among adoptees, “we are not ADOPTees, we are ADAPTees.” We are forced to adapt, deny, or “let it go.” Adapting to our losses is not a journey we ultimately choose, “we can’t just get over it, it’s too painful!” And Jennifer had to grow up quickly, in order to survive, by adapting to her experiences of rage, despair and helplessness, which in turn became utter hopelessness, and formed her belief of the world: “The world is not safe” not only for herself but for her brother who could bear it and felt alone in it.

    I understand what Jennifer is referencing when she quotes “Within 45 minutes, studies show a baby will go into shock and lose consciousness.” In the book, “Magical Child and Evolution’s End,” Joseph Chilton Pearce reminds us of the same concept “that it takes 45 minutes for an infant separated from his mother to go into shock.” I think this is what Jennifer is referring too when she talks about the experience of early separation and how trauma occurs, develops and lingers in our consciousness. Does this experience stay with an adoptee their whole life and is this early memory a part of their psyche? YES, it cannot be surgically removed and is impossible to eradicate. Believe me if it could be, there would be a yearly event named “Adoptees Black Friday!” Are ALL adoptive kids feelings related to this initial memory, no, BUT, does this early memory affect/influence/inform how they interact, trust, and identify with the world….absolutely YES.” Being adopted, is their initial introduction to the human race…that first experience governs all unless deemed otherwise… by YES, conscious parents, who can help make sense & join with their child’s grief/loss and make sense of it so it is not so unbearable….

    Speaking from my own experience, I am not ashamed to say “I have been in years of therapy, making sense of and understanding my own early experiences of the multiple caregivers whom I attached to and were separated from, by no fault of my own, similar to Jennifer’s and I am still grieving All of these losses.” I can’t just get over it, as I hear parents telling their kids all the time….getting over it, just continues to deny that which existed in me and if you deny that part of me, I might as well not exist.” Which is another core issue for adoptees, “not feeling like they exist” or were meant to be here. The early separation from a birth mother that an Adoptee experiences, in my opinion as an Adoptee & ParaProfessional, DOES affect who they are, and DOES inform that core, beginning of their lives as overwhelming and the experience does stay with them the rest of their lives as a “part” of their psyche. I believe, an Adoptees ultimate journey is learning how to manage “the separation of the past from the present and discovering who they want to be in their stories NOW versus identifying with their circumstances then” which, I believe, is what Jennifer is doing by writing her journey and sharing it with the world. Because she does matter and her experience does exist and she is meant to be here.”

    In closing, I commend any adoptee who speaks their truth and puts it out there to be reviewed, be seen and be heard. It takes a lot of courage! And if adoptees continue to hide from their early experiences and deny them, they will not know the full strength of their existence.

    I share Jennifer’s hope that all members of the Triad be able to heal and find themselves and be free…and I will add “together in our understanding, we can make each other whole if we just listen because we all share the same grief.” -Jeanette Yoffe

    • Dawn says:

      Thank you Jeanette for your beautifully written post. I have read most, but maybe not all, the blog posts on this Book Tour, and haven’t heard anyone suggesting that their adopted kids “just get over it” or suggesting that Jennifer just get over it, so maybe we’re making progress in better understanding the impact of adoption.

  14. I’ve posted my global response to this tour: [and I have copied and pasted her response here]

    he information provided in Found, on the impact of separating mother and child, is readily available to anyone with the most rudimentary research skills. Someone with more refined research ability will discover even more evidence of the unbreakable bond between the original mother and her child. And in the future, there will be that much more that will be discovered that will reveal our ignorance around this institution we now call “adoption.” Overtime, I have faith that we, as a species, will course correct just as we did when women were given the right to vote and black people were freed from slavery.

    Found, like all of my books, Blackbird, Still Waters & Show Me the Way, was a creation of my heart. I wrote of my experience in the language of the senses.

    Those who have responded from their own hearts are the ones who have written so well about spontaneous tears, sleepless nights and haunted walks under winter skies. These are the people who “get” the deep stirrings of the heart.

    Those who read Found as a prosecuting attorney, eyes squinted and mind a whirl with counter arguments, do not “get” it. And that is fine. I am likely not the right messenger or this is not the right time.

    The heart moves in mysterious ways.

    After a good deal of quiet and thought, I agree with what Judy has written here. Adoptees are the ones to listen to.

    On “Insert Bad Movie Title Here,” Lori Lavedar Lutz wrote: “I think it’s important for adoptive parents to listen to adult adoptees, if only to understand more fully the range of interpretations that can be reported by those who have been-there-experienced-that.”

    There is a universe in those two words, “if only.” Awakened adoptees who read this “of only,” will understand the qualifier.

    Listen does not mean, “if only.”

    Listen means to stop thinking, don’t formulate a response, open your heart to hear what is impossible for you to conceive and “be with” the truth of another.

    Listen: If you have not experienced being taken from your mother, or surrendered by your mother, or being abandoned by your mother, you cannot know what it is to be adopted.

    You can live with an adoptee but you are living with a person with a wide space between you and their true heart.

    Adoptive parents are very easily deceived because so many of you only see what you want to see, hear what you want to hear and believe what you want to believe.

    You cannot know what it is to be inside an adoptive persons skin anymore than a person who has never made love will know what it is to savor a lovers kiss.

    You cannot know what you have not lived and it is not enough to live with a person to truly understand them. The sadness, the total and utter sadness of our predicament is the fact that too many adoptees—I would venture to say the majority of them—deceive themselves as well because they were raised by people who taught them deception from the day they were born by denying there was any impact in the fact of adoption.

    One day, I will be gone but Found will live on. One day, this world will change and mothers and children will be first—not last. One day, infertility will be understood and properly grieved and “the fix” won’t be another human being who can be bought. One day we will all understand that happiness cannot come from outside ourselves at all. And one day, those who have been adopted will have the space and the place to sit down and read a book that will speak to their heart and they will begin the difficult but necessary journey toward their true selves.

    I wrote Found, first for me and second for all the adoptees. My great hope is that we are able to heal and find ourselves and be free.

    That is all I have to say.

    Good luck.

    • Dawn says:

      “Adoptive parents are very easily deceived because so many of you only see what you want to see, hear what you want to hear and believe what you want to believe.” Good point. Let us all work together to see, hear, and believe the myriad of “truths” about adoption.

  15. Melynda says:

    Just making the rounds to all of the participants in the book tour so please forgive the copy and paste job. 🙂 (I am trying to get to bed before 11:00 p.m. tonight!)

    As I have read every single book tour participant’s blog posts (haven’t commented on all of them, but I have read them all!), I have been longing for a way that we could standardize our impressions, etc. Would you be willing to rate this book on a scale from one to five, one being the lowest and five being the highest. Also, would you recommend this book to others? Who? Can you sum up your feelings about the book in two or three sentences?

    I can’t help myself…I’m a mixed methods researchers and love to have numbers to go along with people’s experiences!

    Thanks so much for humoring me on this one.

    Melynda

    • Dawn says:

      Melynda, while I sympathize with your desire for simplification and standardization (I’m a research geek after all), I’d rather not give a number rating. This book is of such a personal nature, that rating the book would make me feel like I’m rating her. And yes, I’m am influenced by the knowledge that she is reading and participating in some of the discussion.

      As to whether, I’d recommend the book, I would suggest someone read my review and decide for themselves. I do however, strongly recommend that people read the article on The Primal Wound referenced above. I’ve been in touch with the author, and she will be a guest on the Creating a Family show within the next couple of months. It should be a fantastic discussion. I don’t have a specific date yet (we’re in the process of booking the first quarter), but will let you know via our weekly newsletter. If interested, you can sign up at the upper left of this page.

  16. Mani Sheriar says:

    Oh Dawn – thank you for your thoughtful response. I have to tell you that you are just such a light in what can sometimes feel like the dim world of adoption blogging. The way you give respect and careful thought to the feelings of all members of the triad, regardless of which side of what debates they are on, is just so inspiring and heartening. Your maturity and kindness is a constant inspiration.

    I started listening to your podcast as soon as we started considering adoption, and I’m eternally grateful for the education I received through your shows. I can’t imagine going into adoption without making yourself aware of all these complex issues, and I’m so glad that my first guide was YOU! 🙂

    OK, so enough of this love letter and onto this post … what a great response! I agree wholeheartedly that there is plenty here to cause a person great harm, beyond just the trauma of separation from the first mother. I find that I, as a younger person, fit the profile of a traumatized adoptee with a gaping primal wound almost to a tee. However, I’m not adopted. If I had been, I may have been tempted to blame that as a genesis to all my troubles. I think it is natural to seek a cause. But, like you say, we are complex and the roots of our problems are usually complex too.

    The trouble I have, mostly, with these types of theories, is the way they are often ascribed to ALL adoptees. I actually know several well and they are very happy and well-adjusted people and honestly not too interested in their biological roots, as they feel firmly rooted in the families they were raised in. What’s tricky is that it often seems as though they are unable to even claim themselves as being psychologically healthy because Primal Wound subscribers would then assert that they are simply in denial.

    I don’t like a system in which there is no option for being OK as you are.

    • Dawn says:

      Mani, thank you so much for your kind words. They mean more than you probably realize. When describing some of the characteristics of someone suffering from the primal wound of separation from a biological mother, it’s tempting for non-adopted persons to say “that could easily be me” because many life events can cause someone to struggle like this. But I worry that by saying that, we diminish the very real pain that is unique to some adoptees. Non-adopted persons can’t ever really know what it is like to not “know” and be nurtured by your biological parent. For so long their pain was either ignored or minimized, and I certainly don’t want to contribute to that. I simply question the universality of it.

  17. What an absolutely wonderful post, Dawn! Having read this book, I agree 100% with your insightful post. And I especially liked your insertion of the car ride post and the line, “I can think of no better illustration of the hubris of over-generalization” is perfect!

  18. I’m so glad you brought up the field trip car ride because I forgot to. By that logic, my kids could be considered NOT adopted because they would have been chatting and questioning and challenging and maybe even sassing another mom!

    Also, Dawn, I love this whole part: “Those adoptees that carry the wounds of separation deserve to have their pain recognized, and the adoption system needs to address ways to lessen the potential for this wound. Open adoption is a step in the right direction, as is opening sealed records.”

    I’m so happy that you added your perspective to this book tour — it’s richer because of your this post.

    • Dawn says:

      I’ve logged many a mile on school field trips, and almost all kids are fairly reserved at the beginning, especially if they aren’t grouped with friends. Most of my kids’ teachers allowed the kids to choose one friend to ride with to make it less intimidating, but even then, I could usually count on “best” behavior (read: quiet and compliant) for the first leg of the trip. But then Lori, I don’t know your kids. 🙂

  19. Thank you for writing this. You eloquently wrote what I was unable to and I appreciate reading your thoughts on this book. I think you hit the nail on the head when you say, “It’s equally important to recognize that many adopted person do not carry this “primal wound”, or if they are wounded the cut doesn’t go so deep. They are relatively happy, relatively well adjusted people, not so different than their non-adopted peers.” Maybe this is just what I need to hang on to but if I don’t believe that my children have a chance at a healthy adulthood, what am I doing?

    • Dawn says:

      It’s not just my opinion that this is true. I’ve read a lot of adoption research and we’ve done a number of Creating a Family shows with adoption researchers, and although, it seems impossible to make a simple blanket statement, the well designed longitudinal adoption research shows that adopted persons compare favorably to nonadopted persons. This result can be skewed by prior abuse, neglect, and of course, orphanage care.

  20. m. says:

    Blown away by yet another fantastic post on this tour. I started to quote all the pieces here that resonated with me and quickly realized I would simply be cutting and pasting your entire piece.

    I’m really glad you brought up the field trip. That whole passage seemed incongruous to all of the self-discovery that Jennifer had undertaken herself. We are more than our adoption. We are more than our stories of origin. There were some things about that passage that made me quite uncomfortable. Hubris is a great word here. And it brought up that nagging phrase that I’m sure every kid hears at least once from their parents: “you’re so different around other people.” Well, um, yes. Because I am my own person. Sorry about that.

    As an adoptee, I don’t like to give the fact that I was adopted all the credit for the person that I am right now. Did it have a hand in it, sure. As did many, many other events and people and tragedies, and loves and so much more. Us human beings, we’re a pretty complex lot.

    And the concept of the primal wound, for me, brings up so many more questions. Again, oversimplification is a great describer. What of the child who’s genetically yours, but born via a surrogate? What of the child you bear that’s not formed from your own eggs? What of the adopted child who is lucky enough to be born in the presence of both his/her birth mother and their new family, there and ready and waiting? Where does the primal wound fit into these complex couplings?

    • Dawn says:

      “Us human beings, we’re a pretty complex lot. ” Amen, and thank God! You raised some great points, especially about all the different reproductive scenarios. How does that all fit in? We are all the product of so many influences. Your comment about our kids behaving better around others made me remember my first parent-teacher conference with my eldest in first grade. The teacher commented that our daughter was so sweet and agreeable and eager to please. My husband, ever ready with a quip, said, “Now, what child are you talking about?!?” Our girl was many things, including sweet, but I had never heard her described as “agreeable” before. 🙂

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