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August 10, 2006 / allyo

No pooh

I don’t even know how to begin this, so I’m just going to start dumping words onto the page. Dawn has been writing a lot lately about primal wound theory, and because she’s such a thoughtful and talented writer and because I’m just generally interested in adoption, I’ve been reading with a great deal of interest. But those aren’t the only reasons why – below is the comment I left on this post:

I’ve been following this discussion with interest because of the
long-lasting emotional fallout I experienced due to my parents’
divorce. Not so much their divorce but the particular set of
circumstances. Between the ages of 2-4 I lived with my mother. My
pot-smoking, drifter mother. Who sent me to my grandparents’ house
alone in a cab when I was 3 (that’s when they started making
arrangements to take her to court for custody).

Anyway, for years and years and years I had this big hole in my life
and in my heart. There are very few baby pictures of me. My mom would
disappear for years from my life, only to show up high, two months late
for my birthday party, with a car full of stuffed animals she got from

I’m 36 and have only gotten over all of this in the past 5 years
(yay therapy). It wasn’t so much my mom’s idiotic behavior that was
difficult to deal with, I’d pretty much made my peace with that. It was
feeling as though I didn’t exist until I was 4 years old.

It’s not a direct parallel, but what you’re writing about primal
wound theory is striking a chord deep within me. One of the things that
made my feelings so difficult to deal with is we never, ever talked
about my life before I lived with my grandparents. There are no wedding
pictures from my parents’ wedding (shotgun, of course). No birth
picture of me. Maybe 6 pictures of me with my parents. And no context
from my grandparents. In contrast, I think you’re handling all this
openly and wonderfully.

So while the discussion was causing me to think and revisit things that took me years to work through and it’s been an interesting if somewhat intellectual exercise. Personal, but also about me understanding the idea of primal wound theory better and that how Dawn lives with adoption and how she mothers both her children is a good approach in general and probably a very good approach in dealing with her daughters feelings, as nebulous as they may be at this point in her life.

Then I read this post.  And the sky fell. Too dramatic? Ok, it took everything in me to not burst into tears while sitting in my desk at work. Ever been to therapy? Ever experience a breakthrough that left you sobbing in a little heap, clutching your waterlogged tissue like a talisman against the pain? That’s the kind of moment it was. It was this statement, "In other words, sometimes the kids I knew in shelter hated their real
fathers (the ones who beat them and beat their mothers) but that didn’t
necessarily mean they didn’t miss them. Some of them missed the ideal of who he should have been. Even losing terrible parents is a loss and it’s on top of the loss of having terrible parents." That did me in.

No, I have never been abused, physically or sexually. No I’ve never slept in a shelter. But the first four years of my life are a complete mystery to me. I know my parents married because my mom was pregnant with me, they were 18 (mom) and 20 (dad). I know they lived in three apartments (my dad actually drove me around to each of them when I was around 20 I think), I know they tried to make it work, I know my mom is the one who wanted to get divorced and I know she broke my dad’s heart. That is all I know about my parents as a couple. Like I said in my comment above, between the ages of 2 and 4 (approximately) I lived with my mom and most of the time no one knew where we lived or if I was ok. My grandma used to tell me about my mom sending me to her and my grandpa in a cab when I was three, without even my pooh bear for comfort. And how my grandfather rushed to the store in the dark, in a thunderstorm, to buy me a new one because I was so distraught. It was how I knew that no matter what lies my mother told me, my grandparents took me away from her because they loved me, they feared for my safety, and they wanted me to have a better life than that.

What I did not know is just how horrific that story was, until I told my therapist about it. Ever see your therapist blanch, at a loss for words? It’s a little scary actually.

No, I wasn’t ever physically harmed, and yes, I was lucky, so lucky, that my grandparents took me in, but that is all I ever focused on. The pain I felt at not living with a mother and a father, at never, ever, once in my life saying the phrase, "my mom and dad," it wasn’t logical, it was silly, it was just something I needed to get over.

But Dawn said it for me – I was missing the life I should have had. And sometimes, sometimes, I still do.



Leave a Comment
  1. MoMo / Aug 11 2006 11:07 am

    Thank you for sharing. It was really powerful. I don’t know much about the primal would theory, but I do know that the words you quoted above spoke to me too. Tomorrow is my birthday and every year on my birthday, I wonder if my father knows I was born on that day. I wonder if he remembers that I exist, if he cared at all – and every year, I think I should be old enough not to think about it anymore, but I know that’s never going to happen. So, it seems to me that the primal wound theory can mean different things to different people, but that it’s clear that children can experience a feeling of deep loss.

  2. karrie / Aug 12 2006 6:55 pm

    I’m simply blown away. And angry for you. 😦

  3. erika / Sep 14 2007 12:03 pm

    This has touched a nerve with me this morning. Thank you so much for sharing and making me think about my childhood in a different light. Thank you.

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