My first thoughts as I saw this topic is this: do not put a timeline on yourself or your spouse or your family at all! There are so many different factors that play into adoption. You are really setting yourself up for failure if you put a timeline on love.
Although if you are a timeline person such as myself, I have decided that I would say it takes about 18 months to a “new normal.” In other words, it takes 18 months for the normalcy of your family to settle in. Whether it be a new baby, a major move out of state, or a job change, 18 months is what you should give yourself.
Where does this reasoning come from? From experience. I have three short experiences that I want to share to back myself up.
Our first adoption was an agency adoption of an 11-month-old little boy. He was super busy and never stopped until his head hit the pillow at night. He also had pretty intense asthma which consisted of twice daily breathing treatments and regular medicines to regulate this. Prior to him, we didn’t have any experience with asthma or the regiments that come with someone chronically ill from asthma.
We had one occasion that ended with us in the hospital for a four-day stay to try to regulate our son’s breathing. This was our first adoption and for a handful of months, I kept thinking to myself, “Okay, does this feel normal? Do I love this baby like I love our other three children?” I had been pressuring myself to have instant love so fast, and yet, I didn’t feel this 100%. Even though there definitely was love there. During our stay at the hospital, which was a handful of months after our adoption, I remember one night staying up, rocking our little love to sleep and wondering what I would ever do without him. There it was: I hadn’t been pressuring myself for a while, and I hadn’t even been consciously thinking about whether I loved this little guy unconditionally or not. I just did. I feel like anyone that we serve so unconditionally in this life, we can’t help but end up loving, and not even have to try. We just can’t put timelines on ourselves.
Next, one of our adoptions was a private adoption of a 13-month-old little girl. She was painfully sick and shy when she was placed with us. From the time she was placed in our home, she would cry anytime my husband or older sons would come near her. This was so sad for all of them because they could see how snugly she was with everyone else in the family, and they loved her. During those first four or so months, time seemed to crawl by. We made her spend time in short intervals with my husband and sons. I would go walking, or grocery shopping because I had to be out of sight for her to even try, and the first few times she would panic and throw fits the entire time I was gone. Little by little, her tolerance for them increased. I cannot give an exact timeline because we didn’t measure it. As long as we could see progress, we called it a win. I know by 18 months into her placement in our family, all was well. She learned unconditional love for her dad and brothers, and her fear for life slowly decreased.
Third, our fourth and final adoption was an international adoption of a 3-year-old. She had been raised in an orphanage and definitely didn’t believe that she needed a mom or a dad. I traveled four times, and my husband traveled twice to Ghana separately. My three trips were each two weeks long. While I was there, I had our daughter with me the entire time. We had a language barrier that was very difficult to overcome. My fourth trip was six weeks long. Our little girl had just turned three; she would throw a fit for whatever she wanted that I would not give her. I would time these fits on my watch. In the beginning, they would last for more than two hours each, and she would have three or four each day. After six weeks, the fits were no more than five minutes in duration. It was a long, slow, learning process for both of us. While she would be in the middle of a fit, I would use my time journaling and ignore the behavior. When she was done, I would pick her up, hug, and comfort her.
During our time together, we had many meetings in court as well as the U.S. Embassy—which is not fun at all for a little person and which contributed to her negative behavior. I would also sing, show her pictures of our family back in the U.S. I’d try and teach her the names of her coming six brothers and sisters. Slowly we were coming to depend on and trust each other. I worried and prayed over and over during my time with this beautiful little girl that she could learn to love and depend on me.
Again, I don’t know exactly when it happened. We eventually got her home after a long 19-month process, and things progressed quickly in a positive way. One awesome thing that happened after we made it home was that if she was off playing with our other children, she would randomly stop whatever she was doing, search me out in our home, and jump in my arms and tell me “I love you every day!” Then she would be off and running back to whatever it was that she had been playing.
After 18 months, our new normal was there, and our prayers had been answered in helping this little lady learn to love and trust us.
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