Sorry for the delay, but I'm here, everyone--hi! (Getting up to speed on the new expert forum format has been a fits & starts proposition.) Moonbeem, as an adopted person (forget "expert" for a moment) I have often said "Motherhood brought me to my knees." I had been through many years of various kinds of therapy, but not only had NONE of my therapists explored the adoption piece (??!), nothing had prepared me for this. Many years ago (when my children were still fairly young) I wrote about it in an article you can read at http://www.quantumparenting.com/articles/12/. In it I wrote:
The experience of mothering relentlessly chipped away at the artificial self I had presented to the world—and myself—for 30 years. Mothering broke me open. My stolid fortresses of defense and control, my “Thing’s are perfect, I’m handling everything fine” persona that had thwarted a few earnest attempts at therapy over the years finally began to shred under the pumice of my son’s raw, baby neediness, his control-shattering toddler defiance, and the terrifying demands of intimacy that children innocently exact.
The famed child psychologist Erik Erikson used to say that when we spend a lot of time with a child of a particular age, our own unresolved/unexplored issues (typically unmet needs) from that age tend to surface. I wrote in that article about how I was super-great at everything... except "just BEing" with my son! That's when the restlessness would roil inside me and up I'd have to pop--to check on something-or-other, make a phone, call, etc. I finally called my previous therapist, who told me, "You never grieved. Find ways to cry." Turns out it wasn't quite that black-and-white or straightforward, and my son's birth had begun a rich journey of healing, self-discovery, and growth that has been, well, sort of epic.
You mentioned the word "alien" near the top of your post, Moonbeem, and I just wanted to mention that a favorite qualitative study I often quote when teaching about adoption dynamics interviewed many adopted adolescents and found that some of common terms they used to describe themselves/their feelings... and the common themes of experience were:
“…alien… rootless… flotsam… in limbo…”
* A sense of homelessness
* Being different, not belonging, having “fallen out of everydayness”
* Profound estrangement from generally taken-for-granted realities such as the security of parental relationships
As an adoptee who grew up thinking it was "neat" to be adopted (after all, everyone else had to take what they go, but they got to CHOOSE me--or so the well-meaning slogan went), and was one of the statistically roughly 80% of "good adoptees" (who don't act out, get into trouble, etc.), I have to admit when I read these descriptions they struck a familiar chord deep within me. And having this live in me certainly informed ALL my relationships, but certainly those with my children, in which I was "their all" and also--a la Erikson--their very close presence was teasing up old visceral, primal feelings I had no context for. It's a little crazy-making!!
While inside I struggled, outside I strained to present a status-quo face. I wore J. Crew, cooked nutritious meals, went to Mommy & Me, clenched my teeth, and tried to keep it together. I was living what Clarissa Pinkola Estes calls “the grinning depression.” So for awhile I thought that my real healing began on Ian’s first 4th of July, when, after nursing him and tucking him in for his morning nap, I drove up to a scenic overlook and screamed from my Saab at the panorama of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and the carefree beach communities, “I HATE BEING A MOTHER!!!!” I had been psychically pummeled into letting go of the desperate facade that all was okay.
I had also slipped back into the anesthetic numbness of my infancy and childhood. I felt like Meryl Streep’s character in “Postcards From the Edge”, when she tells Gene Hackman, “I know I have the perfect life, I just can’t feel my life.” I had a wonderful husband, a beautiful son, a lovely home, great friends…but I somehow couldn’t connect with the experience of all that. I couldn’t inhabit it, feel it against my soul. I was skimming over the surface of life, for fear of the menacing undertow beneath. I wasn’t unhappy, but I wasn’t happy. My history was repeating itself, and I had enough consciousness to realize that this wasn’t how I wanted to live out my life.
I could go on for ages, believe me (I have even written a fictional memoir--only about .5% is fictional--about an adopted woman coming to terms with the relational demands of motherhood--Upon Waking), but Moonbeem and CI Mama--and anyone else who would care to join in--I would welcome hearing more about your own experiences on this adventure. A forum is so great for that, because that's exactly what it is--a forum! There are many threads that make up this particular tapestry--including the pre- and perinatal psychology piece, whereby we do now know that yes, a newborn separated from her mother DOES suffer the trauma of loss in myriad ways that trace through body, mind and spirit; the fact that ANY parent can be blindsided by the old, body-borne history of their life & love that is so ripe to be reawakened (and healed, hopefully) through the practice of parenting--at least when we're striving to practice that important principle of PRESENCE; the kind of "suffering in secret" aspect of being a woman who is struggling with motherhood, which is supposed to come so naturally--and an adopted woman at that, which carries a whole other dimension of secrecy and silence. (Because, Flightgoddess, while what you say about attitudes about adoption having changed so much is certainly true to an extent, it still remains freighted with all manner of cultural loading, odd assumptions and projections. I was just a few days ago at my pal Adam Pertman's book party for his revised edition of Adoption Nation, and he is the first to agree with that assessment.)
Please forgive me if it takes me a bit of time to figure out how all this works. (I thought I'd receive an email when someone had posted a question to me; I only saw these postings when I was checking the link to this forum on my own website!!)
I look forward to a rich discussion and sharing...