I'm in an online group for families who have open adoptions, and adopted their sweeties at birth. A couple days ago Nicole, a prospective adoptive Mama, posted a question to the group. She and her husband have one child by birth, and now they are considering adopting. But she is afraid that she will not love her adopted child as much as her birth child. This is a common fear! I responded to her question, and Anna, an adoptive Mama who has started a blog to share the ins and outs of domestic adoption and provide a forum for discussions about domestic adoption, asked if she could re-post my email here. Since then, I've been encouraged to talk more about adoption on our family blog. After all, for most people adoption is a big deal, but for us it is just normal life. :)
Here is what I emailed to Nicole, on the open adoption group:
I'm so glad you felt comfortable enough to ask that question. Many parents who are considering growing their family through birth and adoption worry a little about whether they will love their children the same. It's an important question to ask, and one that my husband and I are asked about fairly regularly (not in front of the children, thankfully). We have 3 children already, plus one on the way. Our son by birth is 7, daughter by adoption is 5, son by adoption is 3, and I'm pg with our 4th, another daughter.
Before we adopted, I worried at least a little about this myself. Now my husband and I speak at our adoption agency about our experiences with open adoption, transracial adoption, etc. during their required education classes. The way I explain that part of our journey to people is that the end result -- the deep, intimate, protective love for our child -- is the same for each child. But the journey there is a little different. For instance, when a Mama is pregnant, that love usually grows, slowly but deeply, during the pregnancy. And when you meet your child, it's kind of like that love is solidified and then continues to grow in new ways as your child grows and you get to know each other more.
In adoption, you look forward to, care about, wait for, and plan for this child, but until he or she is in your arms, the experience is not real enough for that incredibly deep "I would kill a bear, would lift a car, would die for this child" protective love to start growing. For some that deep love may come pretty quickly after baby is in their arms, and for others it takes time, and that is perfectly okay. We had fairly last-minute matches, and although I instantly cared very deeply for each of our children from the time they were in my arms, I found that the deeper, settled-in love grew over time.
For instance, I remember a distinct moment with my daughter when she was a couple months old and I realized I *really* felt like I was her mom. (I didn't feel like I wasn't her mom before this, but this showed me that feeling must have still been growing.) We were at a big park, and our toddler son was playing in a splash pad. My sister was with us, and she offered to push baby around in the stroller to help her go to sleep. I said sure, and my sister said she'd be back in 15 minutes or so. Well, 20 - 25 minutes went by and I realized she wasn't back. In my heart, I started to panic! I was really worried something had happened to them. (A couple minutes later, she was back in sight – my sister had just gone further than she meant to.) I remember that at that moment it struck me how fiercely protective I felt, and that I was ready to run all over that park to find them! My love for my daughter had grown deeper, without me even realizing it. :)
I think the main thing is that in adoption it's important to realize that the actual bonding journey is different than with a child you gave birth to, and that's normal and doesn't reflect your long-term love and commitment to your child. You will probably not feel the same toward your adopted child at 2 days old as you did toward your bio child at 2 days old. But as time goes on, your love grows in leaps and bounds. Before long you will probably feel very little difference.
In fact, for at least the first half of this pregnancy, I worried I wouldn't love this little girl as much as my other kiddos. I *adore* my kiddos, and it drives me crazy that people think our family will be more complete now that we're expecting again. Some have outright assumed I will love this child more, or more easily, but in reality I was worried -- just like I was with each of my kiddos before the next one joined our family -- that I wouldn't love her as much as the children already in our home. I think it is a very normal Mama fear. I have also worried about whether she'll be cute or not, will fit in, etc. LOL Now that I'm nearing the end of the pregnancy, I don’t worry about that at all, and I cannot wait for her to arrive!
That’s not to say that some things won’t be a little different about raising both biological and adopted children, but it's not a love thing. For instance, when my oldest son behaves a certain way, I can sometimes look at his behavior and say, "Ugh -- I know about that. He is acting just like I did – or my little brother did – at that stage", or "I remember having a passion for that exact same thing!" But with my daughter, who is very strong-willed, feisty, verbal, etc. (and I know her birthmom well enough to know she gets ALL of that from her, LOL) I don't feel that same familiarity with her behaviors. She has an outgoing confidence that I, my husband, and our bio son did not have at 3 - 5 yrs. old. (We were all shy.) And I love it! We adore that about her, and it is now a great part of our family make-up, but it does not feel like a familiar family trait. I hope that makes sense. It's something that I've heard a few moms of bio and adopted kiddos talk about, so I thought I'd throw it out there also. :)
Okay, enough of my rambling. Please feel free to keep asking questions! And I'd love to hear from other moms about this, too. I’m curious whether others' experiences match my own.
If you have considered growing your family by birth and adoption, have you had these concerns?
If you have children by birth and adoption, does this match your experience? How is it the same, and how have you felt differently?
If you have biological children and then adopted another child at an older age, is the bonding process dramatically different than what I described here?
I'd love to hear from you. :)
2 years ago