Montclair resident, adoption-advocate, and author Zara Phillips just released the American version of her adoption memoir, Mother Me, after having previously published it in her native England. It hit bookshelves here yesterday, Valentines Day.
Phillips’s book chronicles her journey to discover the truth about her birth and herself. Although Phillips knew she was adopted ever since early childhood, it was something that was never spoken about.
“Yes, you know, but don’t tell anybody,” Phillips recalled of the prevailing sentiment in 1964 when she was adopted. “I could never talk about being adopted.”
And, so, Phillips kept those feelings inside, never at liberty to discuss her conflicted and confusing emotions. “I didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel connected to anybody or anything. I really needed to know my story because in my head I thought I must be a mistake. I really felt my [biological] mother didn’t want me. I carried that into my teenage years.”
Years that are tumultuous for most became disastrous for Phillips. She began to act out, use drugs and alcohol and express her internal strife. “I had a terrible anger.” Phillips said. “It was rage, really.”
At the time neither Phillips nor her mother understood the root of her emotions and behaviors, and Phillips’s involvement in the 80’s London rock scene didn’t help provide any clarity.
It wasn’t until Phillips read the book, The Primal Wound, that she began to understand the dynamics of adoption. After reading the book she said she felt “a sense of relief that I wasn’t alone.”
At 22, Phillips put down the alcohol and drugs and stopped running from her feelings. She knew she needed to make a change. “I can’t move forward with my life until I know my story,” she realized. But she admits, “I was terrified to do it.”
More than 40 years after she was adopted, Phillips notes that while adoption has become more prevalent, many of the same issues still persist. She hopes sharing her story can illuminate some of the issues for all those involved in the adoption triad: the adoptees, the adoptive parents and the birth parents.
Phillips points out that even when a child finds a loving home with an adoptive family the circumstances surrounding that relationship are complex.
“Your child comes with another set of parents. Even if you don’t meet them, they are still around us. They are in the shadows.”
Those shadows, whether acknowledged or not, seem to hang over the head of the child as well as both sets of parents.
“Some people think, ‘You have a new mom and dad. What is there to complain about?’ But our first family we lost,” Phillips said of the emotional scars left on adoptees.
These scars cannot be healed by love alone according to Phillips. “Parents say, ‘I love this kid as my own, but the baby doesn’t come from the same place. The baby has a wound – the primal wound – because it was relinquished, which cannot be filled even with love.”
When Phillips became a mother herself, she began to gain an understanding of the situations both her mothers had faced as pieces of the adoption puzzle. It seemed that grief blanketed all three of the women. Phillips grieved over the loss of her first family as her adoptive mother grieved over never being able to give birth to a child herself while Phillips’s birth mother grieved over the shame of enduring an unwed pregnancy, the terror of laboring alone in a girls’ home and finally the enduring sadness of giving up a child.
“It’s complicated,” Phillips said of the bonds broken and formed by adoption. Undoubtedly an understatement, but one Phillips plans to bring some clarity to with her book. In doing so she hopes to help those involved to understand and accept the emotions involved. You can hear her story this Thursday at Watchung Booksellers.
Author at Watchung Booksellers
What: Author Zara Phillips discusses her memoir on adoption.
Where: Watchung Booksellers, Watchung Plaza, 54 Fairfield St., Montclair, NJ 07042
When: Thursday, February 17 at 7 pm.
Cost: Free. Books are available for purchase for $13.46. For more information, call 973.744.7177.