I just finished reading ‘The Primal Wound’ by Nancy Verrier. I had hesitated to read it earlier on because I know there is a lot of controversy around it, and understood its precepts going in. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to expose myself to the potential negative feelings it might evoke. But flush from all of my successes I felt comfortable enough to read it.
My initial reaction was that I do believe there has to be significant damage to the psyches of both the mother and the infant when they are separated at or soon after birth. In my case, however, there were large portions of the book that I felt did not apply to me, or perhaps applied only to my subconscious mind. When I finished it I wanted to read a book analyzing the effects of the primal wound specifically on an LDA. I was extremely shy as a child and preferred to sit alone and read rather than engage much with my peers, but is that evidence of damage to my psyche or simply a personality trait? My adopted brother was much more social than I was. I was more shy with peers than with adults, though, and I can remember wanting very badly to impress any adults I was exposed to. I was precocious, and so I think I often did. Was that me trying to not be abandoned again? Or was that, too, just another facet of my normal personality? Surely there are non-adopted children that have those traits. I think the danger is in putting so much emphasis on the primal wound or the adoption experience to the exclusion of other significant factors that contribute to development.
That said, however, I do feel a strong need to get more detail about the 11 weeks between my birth and my placement in my adoptive parents’ home. It seems that was standard operating procedure for that facility, because my brother who was also adopted from there has a similar gap between birth and placement. I have written to the Chicago Foundlings Home but have not as yet gotten any response. In a conceptual sense, however, my heart hurts for infant-me. I know from my mother that she was never allowed to hold me, and that she returned home shortly after my birth. So I was most likely living in a nursery and in the care of a rotation of nurses for the first 11 weeks of my life.
My only conscious experience of that time in life is from the experience of giving birth to my own daughters, and I know that during the early days of their life I could not stand for them to be separated from me. I would not allow them to be removed from the room where I delivered them, and took them home at the earliest moment I could extract us from the hospital bureaucracy- in the case of my elder daughter, 8 hours after delivery, and with the younger we were forced to wait until morning so roughly 16 hours. When they were newborn I wanted them touching me skin to skin and that is when they were the most content, and I nursed both of them for roughly a year. Was that obsession just a normal expression of motherhood, or was there an additional overlay of need because I had been denied that as an infant? Who can say? But Verrier does put to words what I experienced very vividly with my daughters. I used to feel their awareness and their mental state with perfect acuity. I knew exactly when they fell asleep, even if they were in a different room. I could physically feel them transition to sleep. I thought perhaps I was just being overly fanciful but now I think not. There is truly a deep connection between mother and baby.
I think no one could dispute that dumping a newborn infant in a bassinet to be fed and cared for by a rotation of nurses is an entirely unnatural state of affairs, and I object to having been so treated. Not that I can do anything with my objection but stew sullenly. One might argue that I came out all right so why should I concern myself about it? I don’t have a ready answer, but all I can imagine is a sterile nursery with plastic bassinets, a half dozen or more infants being bottle fed and changed by a parade of strangers. Perhaps occasionally taken out for extra cuddling by this or that sympathetic nurse. It makes me feel ill and heartsick to think about it.
I’ve read about regression hypnotherapy and the idea intrigues and frightens me. I am not sure I am prepared to cope with the feelings that pre-verbal me was experiencing in a situation that can only be described as incredibly traumatic. Perhaps it would be healing for me to intellectualize and so settle my infant-mind. Or perhaps there is no way to do that, and unearthing such a deep-seated set of pre-verbal feelings would only depress me.