How were you born? Were you induced? Natural delivery? C-section? Premature? NICU? Overdue?
How about your kids? What are their birth stories? Your siblings?
I don’t have one.
Well I have one but I don’t know it, and I don’t know anyone who does. I hadn’t thought much of it either, until more recently.
Over the past few years, as my close friends started having kids of their own, and as they journeyed through pregnancy, I would hear the stories of their own births. And then came the story of their baby’s birth, each seeming like a pure miracle. Some babies we didn’t get to meet, which is a whole heart-breaking story in its own right. But each child has been forever impressed with the emotions, experience and the overall tenor of his or her womb experience, and entrance into this world, which is manifested in their personality, preferences, and general way of being.
And so by the grace of God I made it to full term, which made me wonder…
What was I ‘impressed’ with inside the womb? How about my entrance into this world…?
The origin of my curiosity…
In late 2013, I attended a presentation which included a panel of three women who shared on the topic of Pre and Perinatal Psychology.
(For those who don’t know me well I have studied psychology for quite some time)
One in particular provided compelling information on how important our journey is in being conceived and brought into this world. Her name is Anna Verwaal, RN. I’ve provided a link to her TED talk below this post.
In summary, she makes the case for having a fundamental balance between knowing how your womb and delivery experience contributes to your patterns, but not allowing them to sentence you to a life you do not want, nor deserve. This information made a big impact on me since she was correlating personality quirks with birthing experiences and I began to wonder if some of mine came from that early part of my life.
Well, here is what we know about my birth mom: She was a paranoid schizophrenic, and she gave birth to 9 other babies. So, we know she’s fertile! But as far as the womb experience, I think it’s safe to say, the emotional ‘flavors’ that I was swimming around in, were a bit chaotic. And let’s not forget, we don’t know how often she was going to the doctor for check-ups along the way or if she was using drugs, drinking or smoking while pregnant. I just know she was hospitalized while she was pregnant at some point, due to threatening to kill herself and her other children. Yeah.
So there I was, I popped out into the world, not entirely sure how. But reassured that my mother was not in her right mind to care for me, and carrying the only experiences I had thus far from the womb – constant fluctuation from feeling high to low, being consumed with fear and terror, heeding an impending sense of doom… thanks to the terrible diseases of schizophrenia, addiction and paranoia.
To me it was no surprise I tended to focus on how negative aspects of a situation & possible negative outcomes affected me. Or, that I was constantly overwhelmed with maneuvering social relationships, struggling with depression and anxiety on and off. It was because I was always feeling the need to ‘survive’ my chaotic emotions – which made for a poor foundation in learning, a fertile ground for procrastination and a tendency for working best under chaos and pressure. I was never reaching my full potential because I was constantly playing a game of survival, so how could I master anything or develop intimacy when each day was dedicated to securing my basic needs?
What is so interesting is that even though I was placed for adoption in a loving home with a roof over my head, plenty of food, extracurricular activities, support, family vacations, structure, guidance, education, Girl Scouts, and a million other amazing experiences, I still felt like I was trying to survive on a daily basis. I mean, looking at my life growing up you would wonder how I was the way I was. It didn’t compute! And thus I think my parents were a bit at a loss in dealing with me.
So…what exactly do I mean by surviving? Well, here is a list of life experience I’ve gathered based on years of simply ‘getting by’…
- People pleasing to the max
- Avoiding my self at all costs by constantly surrounding myself with others who were just as chaotic if not more than me, taking up their problems and feelings, attempting to fix them, directing their actions or participating in this next bullet point with them…
- When people weren’t around or available to help me distract myself from me, I drank, which usually led me to a party or a bar so I could continue to avoid myself and get involved with your life somehow to avoid my own!
- Trying waaaaaaaay too hard to be liked and just coming off inauthentic and sad
- Trying on different lifestyles until they didn’t work for me anymore
…while simultaneously getting caught up in…
- Ruminating for hours on end over-analyzing EVERYTHING. All. THE. TIME.
- Treating my parents without regard to their feelings OR the acknowledgement that they were investing so much into me, my safety and my future
- Treating other people really crappy when they didn’t co-sign my bullsh%$
- Lamenting over the hurt I experienced and if you were the type that didn’t engage with my anguishing I went to the other extreme and pretended I was so strong that I was too good for you and then became stand-offish
And be careful if you were ever stuck in my pathway. I would chew you up and spit you out so fast you wouldn’t even know what hit you. I was like a tornado. And I needed to survive!
So, have you ever heard that a person’s ‘mental capacity’ is stuck at whatever age he or she experienced trauma in his or her life? Or while you may have healed from the trauma affecting you on a daily basis, whenever you get triggered or get upset you revert back to that age? I think that what I’ve come to realize about myself is that my deepest wounds and traumas were all pre-verbal – in the womb, and then right after, when I was separated from my biological mother within the first day or two of birth and taken to foster care. Aside from adjusting to being out of the womb I was experiencing a loss, a separation from the only thing I knew before. And much of my outlook on stressors and discomfort was that of a helpless screaming infant. I think for some time I truly believed I had no control over how I felt and no sense of emotional regulation.
Something else I’ve learned is that we have a natural affinity for our biological mother no matter what troubles she has in her life or how badly she behaves. It’s biological. She’s our mom. It’s the FIRST thing I ever knew in the period of my existence. It’s the ONLY thing I knew for a while, until I was born, and then normally I would meet my family, and then your family’s friends and then my own friends and so on.
But for a while after one is born, you don’t realize you are a separate entity from your mother for several months. You assume everything you feel, she feels, and so when that person went missing, I think a part of me went missing. And so, much of my life I think I was seeking to find that high, those lows, and that chaos I knew in the womb – which was familiar and normal for me. It may not have been the best thing but it was the FIRST thing I knew, and it meant finding ‘mom’, finding ‘safety’, finding the rest of me.
Until fairly recently, I’d say within the last couple years, I truly wished I could crawl back into the womb, where I didn’t have to deal with you, or live this life. I didn’t ask to live it. I was forced to be here, and ill-equipped. And was tired of doing my dance to convince everyone I was capable of living it, which in turn caused you to tell me that I WAS capable of living a good, happy life. I felt like a fraud.
Here is what I looked like on the outside:
And here is what I felt like on the inside:
A big empty and dark room with no windows and only a door to get out whenever I possibly could.
So, to conclude my first post I guess I will say, it took a looooooong time to realize that what happened to me in the womb and at birth had such a huge affect on me. And as much as my parents love me and did everything within their power to support me, I don’t think they could comprehend the gravity of how the simple act of separation from my birth mom affected me. But, thankfully now I am in a place where I have acknowledged the trauma, and made huge strides in healing from it. Most of the severe symptoms of the trauma are healed, and now-a-days I work on tweaking my actions and inner dialogue to be that of compassion, love, kindness, strength, confidence, mindfulness and generally being present.
Stay tuned for my next post where I reveal the information the LA Country Adoption Agency gave to me in detail.