Once upon a time a child was conceived by a woman who was not pleased about it. Oh, she was too honest to call it rape--she’d willingly consented to the sexual act, but she was also too honest to believe it had been an act of love for either of the participants. She “didn’t believe in love”. She was a cold, lonely woman, damaged by the experiences of her own life, which included an alcoholic father and a mother victimized by domestic violence. When her condition became recognizable, the violence in her family turned on her. She was verbally abused and degraded. When her father struck her in the face one evening, her mother performed a most heroic act: she sent the pregnant daughter to a maternity home.
At the home, the tones of voice were softer and sweeter, but no less abusive. She continued to hear what a terrible, foolish thing she had done, and she readily agreed that the best solution for the mess she’d made of her was to place the child for adoption.
During this time, the unborn child heard the turmoil around his mother. He never understood the words spoken, but their loudness disturbed him, and he sensed his mother’s emotional state by the changes in her body. At such times, he comforted himself by sucking his thumb!
When it was time for him to be born, he entered the world quietly in the late evening hours. He was cared for by the overworked nurses and placed in an isolet in a quiet, semi-darkened room, away from the other babies, as though his bastardy were contagious.
Each time the door to his section of the nursery opened, he hoped to be picked up and held tenderly. Sometimes he was, but usually he was systematically cleansed, diapered, fed, and returned to his isolet.
He became aware of the sounds of others like himself but could not fathom their presence. You see, this little one was being warehoused in an infant care facility until he could be placed in a foster or adoptive home. He and the others were tended by a constantly rotating crew of nurses. He rarely recognized the faces of the people who saw to his daily needs. He sensed the lack of the loud, angry voices he’d heard before his birth, and found the routine of the nursery and his ever-present thumb to be quite comforting.
At four months of age, he was transferred to the first of a series of foster homes. The experience of a single caregiver for “extended” periods of time was new and strange. It disturbed him, however, that about the time each face would become familiar, it would be replaced by a new one. Each replacement was complete with different smells, sights, sounds, and sensations. Through these changes, he grew more dependent on his thumb for comfort, and grew more indifferent to his surroundings.
At 8 months, he was placed in an adoptive home. He didn’t understand the difference, though, and merely waited for the next move. His adoptive mother bragged to everyone what a “good baby” he was. She didn’t understand that he just didn’t care!
After a few weeks, he became ill, and the illness progressed. He gratefully accepted the ministrations of his adoptive mother, but experienced them as no different from the care he’d received all along. His health quickly deteriorated, and he was soon admitted to the local hospital with double pneumonia. Three days later, alone in another isolet, he sighed quietly and died.
HINT: Quietness and acquiescence are not necessarily positive traits in an infant. Some times, it signals a child who has learned early that life can be very hard and painful.
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