Hi--I am coming to this board to get another perspective.
My family has an 18 month old placed with us through foster care. The goal is adoption but it may take another year to finalize. 'Baby' has been with us for 8 months. I know he is attached to us. He calls us mom and dad, he cries when he leaves us, etc. My husband likewise feels very bonded to Baby.
The trouble is, while I can objectively see that Baby is adorable and has great qualities and will someday likely be an awesome adult, I just don't love him. Someone once told me that a child has to be with you for the same amount of time as their age when placed before you are truly bonded. In other words, he came to us at age 10 months, so we have to wait at least 10 months before we feel that bond. Well, we are getting close and I just don't see it happening.
So my question for those who adopted internationally (and thus didn't have the same 'choice' to move the child to a new home), how long did it take you to truly love your child? It would especially be helpful to get the perspective of someone who also has biological children. I wonder if part of my problem is that I have the comparison of knowing what it is like to give birth and love that child before I even saw them.
I would love to hear success stories, but also any difficult stories that may relate to this. Thanks!
Hi,
I think this happens variably for different people, there is no one size fits all formula. You might find out more if you try to figure out what is going on with your own feelings, in a supportive environment, rather than seeking out other people's stories. What is more, they may not even really be good judges after the fact of when the love started. I remember my son when he was 18 months old - he was super cute, but I was working full time and I was super sleep deprived. This made me quite stressed out at times. What worked for me for bonding was to find special things that I enjoyed, some of which I did independently (e.g., exercising), and "special mama days" when we did something together, without my husband. Bonding and loving are related but separate; it may be hard for you if you are stressed out or if you had trauma earlier in life that makes you hold back. Deal with your stress and try to find support.
I agree it is not one size fits all. I brought my two home at 6 months and 13 months (2 different adoptions) but they were MINE from the moment I saw them. I had an instant bond to them. I know that is not always true.
Hang in there, keep yourself around positive people. Count your blessings everyday.
I agree with the others that it is a very individual thing - depending on the child and the family and the unique environment. We adopted a 14 year old last year from Ukraine and it was instant with me and him, but with my husband, much slower. It took a good 9 months or so for my husband to really fall in love and consider him his own child like our two Biological kids, whereas with me, it really was instant. In a way, I think the fastness of my bond with my son, actually got in the way with my husband binding faster. He was almost jealous for a while until it happened with him. But I think the most important point is to allow it to happen naturally and not worry about how fast it happens.
1. Subconsciously, you may be "guarding your heart" in case the adoption doesn't go through. Especially with all the media coverage of children being returned to Biological families or placed with relatives or previous foster families, it's rather easy to distance oneself from the child so as not to be too hurt if the child is removed.
2. The advice given to most internationally adoptive families is "fake it till you make it". Bonding is not instantaneous, especially with some of the international adoptions where a person is suddenly handed a child with green slime coming from his nose, a barking cough, a skin rash, a bad haircut, a total case of meltdown due to fear and grief, and a foul diaper, and is told that this is her son. The child may "clean up great", and may turn out to be gorgeous, smart, sweet-natured, and so on, but it may take quite a while till the parent can feel that she is anything more than a babysitter. Still, the child needs love and attention, because he, too, may not bond immediately. It is the parent's duty to provide it, even if the whole thing doesn't seem real and if it isn't always appreciated by the child. In most cases, bonding WILL occur -- sometimes within a few days, and sometimes nearly a year later. And true attachment is something that grows slowly, over a period of years, if the parent works hard at nurturing it in herself and in the child.
3. Remember what you went through before you received your child. I don't know your specific situation, but many people come to adoption after the heartbreak of infertility/infertility treatments or repeated miscarriages. And then there is all the research into adoption, all the time spent searching for an agency, all the paperwork to be completed, all the home visits and other approvals, and so on. It's amazingly anxiety producing, and the only thing that gets some parents through it is the dream of having a child at the end of the process. In fact, the parents invest so much emotionally in the concept of having a child that they idealize things. And they are so involved in the process that they don't care much about anything except this idealized child. And then, suddenly, the process is over and life goes back to normal. And the child turns out to be very, very human -- crying, pooping, getting colds, throwing up, saying "no", pulling the cat's tail, keeping Mom and Dad up at night. He may be totally normal, but he certainly won't be the idealized child of the parent's dreams, because those dreams are flawed. The mismatch between dream and reality can seriously affect bonding. But the good news is that, as parents gradually adjust to the new normal of less sleep, less money, and less time -- but also less stress -- they usually WILL bond.
4. Post-adoption depression is just as real as post-partum depression. With birth, some people develop depression as a result of changes in hormone levels, as well as changes in sleep patterns, responsibilities, and so on. While there won't be any pregnancy hormones in the adoptive parent, there definitely do seem to be some chemical changes in the brain, related to changes in stress levels and so on. And there will also be emotions triggered by changes in sleep, responsibilities, etc. If a parent, whether Biological or adoptive, finds that she is often sad, crying, angry, or full of negative thoughts, and the feelings doesn't go away readily, depression is a real possibility. Because depression can affect not only the sufferer but the people closest to her, and because, untreated, depression can result in a desire to harm oneself or others, it is important to seek professional help if it is suspected. Many parents benefit from a course of antidepressants, as well as some counseling, and find that the lifting of the depression has a positive effect on their relationship with their child.
Sharon
1. Subconsciously, you may be "guarding your heart" in case the adoption doesn't go through. Especially with all the media coverage of children being returned to Biological families or placed with relatives or previous foster families, it's rather easy to distance oneself from the child so as not to be too hurt if the child is removed.
2. The advice given to most internationally adoptive families is "fake it till you make it". Bonding is not instantaneous, especially with some of the international adoptions where a person is suddenly handed a child with green slime coming from his nose, a barking cough, a skin rash, a bad haircut, a total case of meltdown due to fear and grief, and a foul diaper, and is told that this is her son. The child may "clean up great", and may turn out to be gorgeous, smart, sweet-natured, and so on, but it may take quite a while till the parent can feel that she is anything more than a babysitter. Still, the child needs love and attention, because he, too, may not bond immediately. It is the parent's duty to provide it, even if the whole thing doesn't seem real and if it isn't always appreciated by the child. In most cases, bonding WILL occur -- sometimes within a few days, and sometimes nearly a year later. And true attachment is something that grows slowly, over a period of years, if the parent works hard at nurturing it in herself and in the child.
3. Remember what you went through before you received your child. I don't know your specific situation, but many people come to adoption after the heartbreak of infertility/infertility treatments or repeated miscarriages. And then there is all the research into adoption, all the time spent searching for an agency, all the paperwork to be completed, all the home visits and other approvals, and so on. It's amazingly anxiety producing, and the only thing that gets some parents through it is the dream of having a child at the end of the process. In fact, the parents invest so much emotionally in the concept of having a child that they idealize things. And they are so involved in the process that they don't care much about anything except this idealized child. And then, suddenly, the process is over and life goes back to normal. And the child turns out to be very, very human -- crying, pooping, getting colds, throwing up, saying "no", pulling the cat's tail, keeping Mom and Dad up at night. He may be totally normal, but he certainly won't be the idealized child of the parent's dreams, because those dreams are flawed. The mismatch between dream and reality can seriously affect bonding. But the good news is that, as parents gradually adjust to the new normal of less sleep, less money, and less time -- but also less stress -- they usually WILL bond.
4. Post-adoption depression is just as real as post-partum depression. With birth, some people develop depression as a result of changes in hormone levels, as well as changes in sleep patterns, responsibilities, and so on. While there won't be any pregnancy hormones in the adoptive parent, there definitely do seem to be some chemical changes in the brain, related to changes in stress levels and so on. And there will also be emotions triggered by changes in sleep, responsibilities, etc. If a parent, whether Biological or adoptive, finds that she is often sad, crying, angry, or full of negative thoughts, and the feelings doesn't go away readily, depression is a real possibility. Because depression can affect not only the sufferer but the people closest to her, and because, untreated, depression can result in a desire to harm oneself or others, it is important to seek professional help if it is suspected. Many parents benefit from a course of antidepressants, as well as some counseling, and find that the lifting of the depression has a positive effect on their relationship with their child.
Sharon