After months (or years) of endless paperwork and eager anticipation, adoptive families finally reach their goal—meeting their son or daughter for the first time. With our first adoption, we had a 6 month wait between accepting our referral and meeting our daughter. During the wait, I memorized her picture and her health information. I read up on attachment and how we could best help her bond with us. I gathered all the toddler sized items we would need. I prayed for her, for her caretakers, and for our family. And, I imagined all the happy times we would have as a family of four.
Finally, the magical day arrived. The hours and minutes crawled by until, at last, she was in our arms. She cried the tears we expected when her escort said goodbye, and then we headed home to live happily ever after.
Once we were home though, reality set in. I knew attachment would be tough and would take time. I had just always thought of her attaching to me, not me bonding with her. The baby I had fallen in love with didn’t really exist. Our daughter looked exactly like the girl I imagined, but her personality, her likes, and her dislikes were nothing like the girl I’d been dreaming about. Suddenly, I was spending 24 hours a day, with a screaming toddler who both hated to see me and hated to see me leave. Caring for a complete stranger was emotionally draining and physically exhausting. I moved through the days as well as possible until I could no longer deny the truth: I didn’t love my daughter. I stumbled on, silently carrying the guilt and praying desperately, “Lord, you gave me this child; now please give me love for her.”
I didn’t know that loving a child could be so hard. I didn’t know that I would have to work on my relationship with my daughter, not just for her sake, but also for mine.
One especially low day, an incredibly wise friend told me, “You’re thinking of love only as an emotion. Love is an action word. It is shown by what we do. Keep doing—feeding, carrying, cuddling, comforting, praying—and the emotion you’ve envisioned will follow.”
My friend was right. As the days and weeks passed, my relationship with my daughter continued to grow. Years later, I can still vividly recall the day I was hit with a new realization. My dream had come true. I did love my daughter, and life was just as I had imagined, “warm fuzzies” and all!
**Please note, each adoption experience is unique. Some parents do bond immediately, others don’t. Both are "normal".