Up until now I have been mum on what is an essential part of who I am. It is part of my history, part of how I view the world, part of how I process relationships. I am an adoptee.
What I can’t say for sure is how or if my adoption has affected my depression. Certainly my parents provided a loving, nurturing, stable, and supportive upbringing. I love my mom and dad and my sister dearly. It has been a wonderful life, to be certain.
Nor can I say with any certainty that my adult mood was adversely affected by the other side of the equation. In her famous book The Primal Wound, Nancy Verrier posits the theory that the adopted infant, whether consciously or unconsciously, will always remember the separation from his mother, and it will affect attitudes, perceptions, and relationships for the rest of his life. It is an insightful if sometimes difficult read for all sides of the adoption “triad” (the adoptee, the birth parents, the adoptive parents). Of course, each adoptee is different. When I read the book, I found myself nodding in recognition of myself through some passages, while finding others irrelevant and skipping them all together.
It makes sense that a baby would remember his mother, no matter how unconsciously. Even though I don’t remember, I am sure I felt her warmth, her kisses, her tears. I am sure that I heard her voice, whispering words of love, hope, and regret. I am sure that she was feeling a firestorm of emotions deep in her heart. I wonder if I was able to sense that. I wonder how much, if any, was passed on to my psyche.
There is also a more physical, perhaps tangible link between birth parents and their children in regards to the latter’s depression. Genetics appear to be a contributor of susceptibility to depression. Of course, there are other factors as well.
I can say that even though I grew up in a family that was loved and loving, I did think about my birth mother on many occasions. I don’t have any statistics, but I assume that this is almost universal among adoptees. How could it not be? So perhaps Verrier is right, and I do carry a primal wound. One that manifests itself in questions, in personality, and yes, in longing.
The paperwork that I possess states that I was 17 days old the last time my mother held me before placing me for adoption. Young and scared, I am sure that moment profoundly affected her. I have come to realize that for good and bad, it has affected me as well.
Of course, our story doesn’t end there. How could it? Thirty-four years, two months, and four days later, I found myself slowly walking up to her door. An incredible sense of serenity had descended upon me, where I had expected a record amount of anxiety. As she sprang out of the door just as I reached the front porch step, she wrapped me in a hug. I will never forget the first words that I consciously remember her saying to me. “You’ve changed a lot since the last time I saw you.” Perhaps more than that, I will remember the astonishment that I felt. Her voice sounded so familiar.