(first published Sept 2007)

In her words I felt that miraculous ring of truth. I delved deeply into pre- and perinatal research, which continues to broaden our understanding of how profoundly affected a person can be by the circumstances and attitudes surrounding their conception, gestation, and birth. I soon came to understand Verrier’s “primal wound” as a continuum of separation actually beginning months earlier in the womb of a mother who has emotionally detached from her baby. I learned about the foundational existential traumas of being a mistaken conception, of having a mother who is disappointed—or worse—at the news of her pregnancy, and who psychically rejects the baby inside her or even considers abortion. (These circumstances aren’t true of all adoptive pregnancies, but certainly the majority.) The message transmitted to that incipient being is that she shouldn’t exist, she doesn’t deserve to exist, her creator doesn’t want her to exist. Some believe that it is in those early weeks of intermingled genesis and rejection that the “false self” begins to form, out of sheer survival instinct. This new perspective resonated deeply within me and helped me make sense of the fact that my core issues goes beneath abandonment and rejection, to a basic sense of invisibility and unworthiness of existence—of simply being wrong.

I soon realized that many, many of us, not just adoptees, were conceived by mistake, or in anger, or were carried in deeply ambivalent, fearful, mournful, or rejecting wombs. And there are no boundaries for an embryo, for a fetus; a negative response to rejecting maternal energy or even her stress hormones is a negative response to one’s universe, for the mother is the child’s universe at that point, and until several months after birth. A template is formed in those early months for one’s later experiences, especially in the realm of connection, intimacy, trust, and worthiness; we tend to construct our lives based on those templates. And the primal experience of being denied and rejected—of being wrong—undermines true self-worth so deeply that no “externals” can shore it up—not a very successful career, not admiring friends, not a loving family.

-Marcy Axness in A Mother’s Call to Healing


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