Friday, February 25, 2011

The human infant



Our newborn son is going on one month. As I learn to care for him, I am dumbfounded, startled, overwhelmed by how utterly helpless and dependent he is. I dare to observe that there was never a more vulnerable, more fragile little being than the human infant, and particularly the newborn.

How desperately he begins to whimper or wail as soon as he realizes he is no longer in my arms or on my lap...that there are no other warm embraces or soothing voices that seem able to comfort him as do mine or my husband's.

And yet, still it is commonplace for people to continue to presume that being adopted as an infant, or more accurately, being separated from one's own mother
as an infant somehow diminishes or even nullifies the loss and grief of such an event and the ensuing lifetime consequences.

How anyone concludes that being an infant at the time of relinquishment and adoption indubitably prevents or somehow negates and neutralizes, some would even suggest, counteracts the consequences of such losses is even more perplexing and disturbing to me now than it was before--as I experience my own newborn firsthand.

How can any mother or father or fellow human who has ever cared for a newborn or infant so casually dismiss how profoundly consequential separation from one's mother would be, is?

My son knows me. Our bodies know one another. Our sounds and scents know each other. Our skin, our touch. And although if, God-forbid, he were to be separated from me now and forever (I can barely stand such a thought without going into tearful convulsions), it's true that he would have no tangible memories of me--and yet, I still have no doubt that he would feel the loss of such a premature and unnatural separation for the rest of his life...as have I, emotionally and physiologically.

And certainly, as his mother, I would be haunted by an insatiable emptiness and deep sorrow for the rest of my existence. How abysmal and vast the abyss of grief and angst would be. And yet, how often the consequences experienced by the mother who has lost her child in this way are ignored, denied, disregarded.

Sure, my assessment is emotional and subjective. Yet, are we not human beings? We are not quantities and statistics to be assessed and evaluated (although such measurements have their place and value, they cannot be our sole resource when it comes to the human experience).

There is indeed a place for emotion and subjectivity, and if not among and within the losses and griefs of humanity, then where?

To me, it should be obvious and even logical that a person separated from his or her mother and subsequently adopted as an infant would experience both undeniable short-term and long-term consequences. The fact that when I was a child and up through young adulthood, I, myself was someone that proclaimed I was unscathed by adoption should have been an indication of something askew rather than something aligned.

And yet, if I do not quote research and study upon study, my perspective, my experience is considered nothing but childish and inconsequential anecdote. Everything must bow down to science and its methods. Again, I love science and furthermore, my degree is in the science of psychology.


But it saddens me that the heart is no longer treated as worthy evidence.

Still, I cannot honestly look at my son as I hold him in my arms or watch him sleep or nurse, and coldly conclude that his life, his being would not be affected, changed, altered in profound ways were we to be torn apart...

And hopefully, he will never know such grief...


23 comments:

Amanda said...

He is so gorgeous Melissa. Congratulations.

I completely identify with your thoughts and experience as a first-time mother. Holding my son for the first time is what completely and utterly yanked me out of the fog. My ability to process adoption and adoption loss changed as I went through each stage of development so far and gained new insight and experience in life. Becoming a mother was no exception. There have been few words that have come to me to describe what it is like being an adoptee and becoming a mother for the first time. I think you've explained it quite well.

((hugs))

one + one said...

Melissa, this is so beautifully worded and heartwrenchingly true. I adopted my son as an infant and would love to share your perspectives here with my followers, friends and family. Would you mind if I posted a link on my blog?
With appreciation,
sara

Linda said...

Absolutely, Melissa. As Amanda said, having my own child and seeing the bond she had with me present the instant she was born, was a light bulb moment for me. My adoption "issues" made more sense to me.

My a Mom said the same thing years after she had my a sister, her bio-child. While she loves us the same, the bond she had with her is different- she was one with her BEFORE she was born. Her own reactions to my sister were different- she instinctively knew what her baby needed or wanted.

How anyone can dismiss the effects severing the natural bond between natural Mother and her child has on a child is beyond me, and makes me sad for them, and any child they are raising.

Your son is beautiful!

Melissa said...

Thanks, Amanda. Yes, having a child as an adoptee certainly deepens, intensifies the journey we're on...

@ Sara, sure thing. Feel free to link any time you feel so compelled. Thanks for taking the time to read...

Melissa said...

@ Linda, you wrote, "While she loves us the same, the bond she had with her is different- she was one with her BEFORE she was born."

What a great insight, that a mother & her child are one before the child is even born. I know that's obvious, but I had never thought of it in those exact words. That's really profound...

Susie said...

First of all, I must say that your baby is absolutely beautiful!

This post, and the fact that just yesterday my son and his wife lovingly brought another child into our family, makes it so sadly clear what I did to my firstborn son when I gave him up for adoption. It will forever haunt me, thinking of that poor, helpless babe... needing his mother...

Sunday Koffron Taylor said...

Melissa, he is beautiful, and it is a beautiful post.

I felt the very same thing with each of my children, and they for me. From their first moments in the cold outside world they wanted their mommy and ONLY mommy would do. They KNEW ME. For them I am grateful that I was able to be there for them.

And having been neglected and abandoned by my mother the experience and feelings that came up with the birth (and attachment) of my first child were profound. In some ways it made it even harder to understand how a mother (my mother) could walk away from a child. All of the blame and justifications just evaporated for me, personally.

Susie my heart breaks for you, your loss and your experience, I wish there was a way to know what we don't know, before we find it out for ourselves. (((HUGS)))

il panettiere... said...

This hits my heart in a way few posts ever have. Thank you for writing it. If you don't mind, I would really like to post a link on my blog to this. Please let me know if you would like me to take it off my blog....

And also? My sincere congratulations. Your boy is beautiful and beautiful and beautiful.

Von said...

He will never know such grief and how good it is to hear those words and to know one precious child is safe from the pain, the suffering of the loss of a mother.
This time together is sacred and in adoption is sacrificed.
I see that you now understand things in a way you never did before and in a way only a mother who holds her newborn in her heart can.
I too have been an admirer of science, but no longer, the contradictory words and views of those who perform for whoever pays the bills are sickening. The refusal to acknowledge that anecodatal evidence has meaning and that the experiences of mothers and babies have substance is sad, destructive and damaging.
Your baby is beautiful, a wonder. Enjoy and treasure every moment, create wonderful memories.

coffeemom said...

So glad to find your blog, via Il Panettiere. Your voice and words are important to read and hear and the whole adoption thing is often overshadowed by the transition and adjustment thing and even by the utter joy of having that new baby or kid in your house...but htere are SO many levels and imprints....that it takes a lifetime I think to examine them all...and so we will and are and am and thus...it's all just huge and easy to go into denial about it all bc it's often hard stuff.
Thanks for all of this.

The adopted ones said...

Melissa,

Beautiful son, beautiful post. I would never be able to put it into words like you have but the feelings happened to me also when my son was born. I will say that perhaps adoptees are more vividly aware of their feelings about the bond because of their life experiences. Perhaps not and that is my bias speaking.

Amy said...

Beautiful post. I would also love to share this.

Congratulations on your son!

Kris said...

Beautiful post! I have said before that I initially experienced love differently with my adopted child (who was not a newborn at adoption but rather a toddler) than with my bio newborns. With my bio children, it was love at first sight - actually love BEFORE first sight, but I loved them instantly. With my adopted child, it was more like when you fall in love with a friend. For the first few months, it was like I was babysitting. I had a deep fondness and a protective feeling but it wasn't quite "I would jump in front of a train for you" love. That love came over time as I cared for her and came to know her. I love her now every bit as much as my bio children. It was the beginning that was different.

But having had bio kids, I can't imagine that she will not feel loss as a result of being adopted. There is most definitely a connection between mother and newborn and to deny that is just wrong.

cleanundies said...

What a fantastic perspective. Thank you so much for sharing. This rings so true to what I've been preaching for some time now. Lovely. And such a beautiful boy.

Yoli said...

He is gorgeous. Enjoy this time that is so fleeting together. Wonderful post on what it would mean to have something so precious removed from your life. The damage to both mother and child is irreparable.

Not Just A Birth Mom said...

"How can any mother or father or fellow human who has ever cared for a newborn or infant so casually dismiss how profoundly consequential separation from one's mother would be, is?"

This is something I will spend the rest of my life trying to figure out and change. Your post is so beautifully written, you really hit the nail on the head with everything you have said. Would you mind if I linked to you?

Melissa said...

@ Not just a birth mom, please feel free to link...and although i appreciate you asking, please know you don't need to. This is, after all, a public blog. :)

Anonymous said...

Melissa,
Your son is beautiful- congratulations! We adopted and then had a bio child, and until my bio babe's birth, I really had no idea how deep that mother-infant bond is. I am ashamed to admit that until that point, I was merely guessing at what my first baby was going through in grieving for his first mom.

As my bio babe has grown and attached more deeply, I am understanding that if he were to lose me during childhood, he would never be the same. Yes, he might grow to love other people, yes, he might find general happiness... yet, I believe he would be changed forever.

As bio babe reached the age where first babe lost his birth family, I got a glimpse into what it must have been like for my first babe- knowing how connected we were, and knowing how much he depended on my actual physical presence for comfort and solace. How easily I can kiss those boo-boo's away! Much different than for my first babe. Now, I see my first child going through life without those magic kisses anymore, but with substitute- mediocre kisses that only sort of take the edge off.

I cannot articulate the mix of emotions this has brought up for me, but, I hope that ultimately, it has helped me be a better mom to both of my babes. I am glad that you posted, and I wish you all the best.

Adoptee Deficit Disorder said...

This is great! I continue to be baffled by my amothers ignorance and blatant dismissal of my loss.

I came across your blog for the first time today and I'm so glad I did. I have been out of my own "fog" for several years now and I don't think I will ever get tired of finding other adoptees' who aren't afraid to confront the truth and finding evidence that my feelings are in fact VALID! Yes, I'm the typical "insecure adoptee." Just by knowing that I, myself have these feelings isn't enough proof :)

Having my own children only confirmed the true existence of a real biological connection that I believe should never be tampered with unless it is truly necessary. I applaud the adoptive parents that truly do have the best interest of the child in mind and are willing to deal with adoption as a whole by accepting both the good and, most importantly, the bad.

ms. marginalia said...

He is beautiful.

I agree with everything you've said. It is incredibly sad that we are not heard when we speak to this. It is about emotions, yes, but we are so very human, as you point out!

Thank you for sharing your experiences, and I am glad that you and your son and husband are enjoying getting to know each other.

Kiki said...

In my 40's now and always having dealt with issues of inadequacy, low self esteem, and the desperate need to liked or loved I have finally realized with much emotion that these issues stem from the separation at birth from my biological mother. Having 2 beautiful children of my own I realize this initial bond is equal to no other.....I am happy to have found your blog as it validates what I have been feeling and makes me realize that I am not "broken" but only a product of a circumstance and now I can work on the healing.....your words have empowered me. Thank You.

Demeter said...

Beautiful! Congratulations on your baby boy. And thank you for this post. It is all so very painfully true. All one has to do is open his/her eyes to see it. You hold that baby close (as I know you will)...he needs you as all babies need their mothers. The sooner society sees and accepts this natural fact, the better.

Melissa said...

@ Adoptee Deficit Disorder, you wrote, "I don't think I will ever get tired of finding other adoptees' who aren't afraid to confront the truth and finding evidence that my feelings are in fact VALID!"

EXACTLY my sentiments, too!

@ Kiki, thanks for stopping by & for sharinf your thoughts...I'm so glad you could relate...

And thank you all of you for sharing your thoughts...