Bonding Isn’t Automatic

She was the cutest little three-month-old baby girl we had ever seen, and the answer to our prayers. The nuns brought her to us, all dressed in a tiny German lederhosen outfit. This was the first time we saw our little girl, and it was also the day we happily took her home to begin bonding with her.

Our Wait Hindered Bonding for Us

Adoption laws in Germany (where my husband was serving as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force) had changed since adopting our first child, a little boy, fifteen months earlier. The new law required that we wait until the baby was three months old before she could be adopted. Since her birth, she had been in a Catholic orphanage waiting out the law.

An adopted baby at six months of age.

Lynda at six months

We can only imagine how difficult this was for our little girl. For three months she did not have the loving care of devoted parents, and then suddenly she was thrust into the arms of strangers. Oh, how we wish we could have adopted her at birth; we feel it would have made such a difference in our bonding with her.

When we brought her home, we had hearts full of hope that our baby girl would respond to our cuddles and caresses. She resisted bonding with us; it was all so foreign to her. It felt like a barrier had been raised between her and us, and everyone else who reached out to her. She seemed unable to accept love. We tried our best to give her the affection we knew she must have secretly craved but didn’t know how to receive. It took a long time for us to win her over and even start bonding with her.

Life with Lynda

I had fun making cute little dresses for her. She looked adorable in everything. We named her Lynda, which means beautiful. Truly she was exactly that—beautiful. We were the proud parents of two little German babies, and we hoped to adopt one more before returning to the United States, which we eventually did.

An adoptive father holds his two adopted children.

Lynda with her daddy and big brother, Michael

As our beautiful little girl grew, she caught the attention of everyone. When she was old enough to start school, great things were expected of her, especially by her teachers. She looked bright and intelligent, which she certainly was, but behind all of this was an inability to do some basic tasks. Many things in school came hard for her.

No child wants to look stupid to her peers, so the better choice, in her mind, was to look naughty. She took the focus off her inabilities by acting out. It took us awhile before we realized what was happening. This was a challenge for us and her teachers. We all worked hard at focusing on what she was good at and bonding with her at that level.

Not only was she suffering from academic problems, but peers who found out she was adopted confronted her. We never held back the information that she was adopted. Nevertheless, we learned that just because we understood how loved and wanted she was didn’t mean she felt the same.

One day when she was about nine years old, she came home from school crying, threw herself on her bed, and sobbed. I went to her to find out what had happened, and it broke my heart. Below is the poem I wrote about this sad experience:

“Adopted”

By Joy Saunders Lunderg

“Oh, Mama,” she cried,
Tears flooding precious cheeks.
They said,” she choked,

“If you’re adopted
Your mother is not your mother.”
Then pleading,
“Please, tell me the story again.”

Nestled in loving arms,
Secure from the hurt
Of unknowing friends,
The words fell from trembling lips
Onto hungry little ears.

“Oh, child, how I wanted
To be your birth mother.
I could not,
But I knew you were out there
Somewhere.
We prayed, your Daddy and I,
And God guided us to you.

“There you were,
A beautiful baby.
My baby.
I held you close and promised
To love you,
To teach you,
To keep you from harm,
From distress.
And here I am—
Your birth mother, no,
But your forever mother,
Yes.”

Standing in Lynda’s Shoes

My loving reassurance pacified her for a time, but often she seemed overwhelmed with doubts and uncertainty. Bonding with her was still a work in progress. I was a young mother, learning how to deal with not just motherhood, but adoptive mother issues. Naturally, it was a challenge for me. We wanted her to love us, and it just didn’t seem to be happening.

Then one day I had an awakening. I needed to put myself in my nearly twelve-year-old’s shoes. How would I feel if I were adopted and knew nothing about where I came from except that I was born in a faraway country? We had so little information to share with her. Adoptions were closed with very little information being passed on to the adoptive parents. It was a walk-by-faith situation, and most of the time that’s exactly what we had to do: walk by faith.

Michael and Lynda

On that day of awakening, she came into my bedroom where I was folding some clothes. She lay on the bed and looked as if a dark cloud had swallowed her up. I knew the look, so I asked her what was going on. But she wouldn’t talk.

“If I were adopted…”

Sitting beside her on the bed, I stroked her back, and said, “Lynda, if I were adopted, I think I would wonder what my birth mother looked like. I would wonder who she was and why she couldn’t take care of me.”

Her eyes opened wide and she said, “Oh, Mom, would you really?”

In all sincerity, I said, “Yes, I would.”

“Well, I do wonder all those things.”

Glad to be making a connection with her, I explained how normal it was for her to think about those things. As a result, her whole countenance changed, and she relaxed. I told her what I knew and expressed how I wished I knew more to share with her.

Then I said, “But this much I do know. Your birth mother must have loved you very much to want you in a safe place where the nuns would take care of you and find a good home for you. You were loved then, and you are loved now.”

The dark cloud disappeared. She jumped up, hugged me, and ran off to join her siblings. Clearly, she just needed to know that I understood what she was going through.

Lynda is now a grown woman with a daughter of her own. She has become a lovely caring mother with hopes and dreams for her own family. We are closer now than we have ever been. Perhaps it’s because we have more in common than we’ve ever had. Now, we’re both mothers.