Local Adoptee Shares Her Story at Watchung Booksellers

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
Who: Anyone.
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.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds like an interesting discussion and book. However, presenting her experience as universal is presumptuous. As an adoptee (also over 40 years ago), I have to say that the brief description here (and I haven’t read the book), does not correspond to my experience and feelings.

    Perhaps having to hide her adoption from others contributed to her conflicted feelings? I guess I’ll have to pick up the book to find out!

  2. I agree her experience is not universal. I know at least three adults who had been adopted as infants who never felt the need to find their birth parents. They considered their adoptive parents their “real” parents and didn’t feel the need to look beyond that. All three are happily adjusted adults with their own families now.

  3. I don’t believe Phillips is speaking for all adoptees, but I do think many adoptees share similar feelings as my sister was adopted and reading Ms. Phillips’s bio reminded me so much of my sister and the struggles she went through as a child and teen and the impact it has had on her life – although my sister is quite happy and successful as an adult. My son is adopted as well and although he is an extremely happy kid, I cannot forget that there may be complications down the road. I think Ms. Phillips is revealing her story as a way to open up a discussion with others involved in the adoption process. Certainly, not every situation is the same, but Ms. Phillips has been involved in the adoption community and as an advocate for many years and has heard from numerous adoptees who share things in common with her story.

  4. Zara is not trying to speak for ALL adoptees, she is telling her story, her life. By doing this maybe she can help another adoptee do the same. I am an adoptee, I have read her book and I applaud her for sharing her story and for the work she does for adoption reform.

  5. I have many friends and family members that are adopted. Each has their own unique story. My cousin was adopted from Korea. Her birth mother left her on the steps of the police station. Her questions have been why? Is she dead or alive? Did she have a horrible life? Was she a prostitute? Did she lack the ability to love her own child?

    When my cousin was pregnant she was worried that she would lack the mothering gene that perhaps her own mother lacked.

    Every story is different and if Phillips story helps one person than it was worth writing.

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