Loving Ties – Creating bonds and claiming your child.
Having been involved in adoption for seventeen years I have heard many stories about adoption. Once in a while I hear about an adoptive parent who is struggling with feeling their new baby is “their baby”.
There are many varying scenarios where this sometimes occurs.
The most common I see are:
- Adoptive couple has one biological baby and this is their first adoption. Their placement experience was different than their birthing experience and they compare feelings between the two.
- The adoptive couple thought there would be an instant bond but that expectation wasn’t met.
- The adoptive couple grew very close to the expecting birth mom making it hard to feel like the baby is “their” baby…they worry about hurting her feelings.
- Placement had some unexpected events, conversations etc which has made bonding more difficult.
I am sure the list could go on but the point I am trying to make is how unknown variables can change the expected experience.
When our oldest daughter was placed with us it wasn’t a direct placement. Her Birth Mom chose to have her mother and sister be the ones to place Brenley in our arms. We had two experiences right before we went into the room for placement and then one during the actual placement bringing very unexpected feelings and experiences.
Once Brenley’s birth mom said her goodbyes she left and didn’t want to see us. We were told when she was leaving she was having a hard time. I had a rush of emotion come over me as I realized in a very deep and personal way how much pain this sweet girl, we love so much, was in. I know I don’t know what she felt, but the experience I had, felt like a gift from God…giving me a flavor of her grief. It was profound. It brought a different feeling to our excitement. We were still very excited but it ushered a deep sense of humility.
During the placement some words were spoken which made me worry someone was going to come and take Brenley away from us sometime after placement. We were told after Brenley’s birth grandmother and aunt left what was truly meant by the words but the feeling was there. We had been through a failed placement just a few months before so the fear of losing this baby was real and almost tangible. Thankfully we were blessed with an amazing and instant bond we nurtured and felt grow every single day. However, the fear of losing her was always in my mind and brought about much anxiety which fed into a post-adoption depression. I was extremely joyful but always worried. This same experience for another couple may have made it hard to bond because of the fear of losing the child.
When our oldest son and third child was placed with us he wasn’t a newborn. Camden was 8 months old on the day of placement. He had bonded well to his birth family and he loved them. He still loves them. Bonding with a child who is a little older can take a little more time. We did have a bond to him even before placement because we had been friends with his birth mother during her pregnancy. We felt a connection to him through her. But we needed to claim him. We invited his birth family over to our home after placement for a placement dinner. We showed his sweet birth mother his room and toys. We made her part of his experience here in our home. This was a special opportunity and really helped everyone in the transition. Once everyone had gone home we got to be alone with our new son and we played and held him and loved him. He was our son….and the bonding continued.
Camden walked a month after placement. We felt we had a baby for a few minutes and then he quickly became a toddler. He was everywhere and into everything. By 15 months old he was climbing out of his crib and with that amazing feat came poop painting all over his room. It happened multiple times and it wasn’t fun to clean up and it wasn’t easy…none of it was. Sometimes I wondered what on earth we got ourselves into. But then I remembered my love for him and how he was meant to be with us. Once again I claimed my child. He is my little boy.
If you are struggling with feeling the bond, you so long for, you need to assert and take time to make that bond. Here are some things you can do:
- We love those we serve….make sure you are meeting your baby’s needs. Don’t make the mistake of letting them cry themselves to sleep…when their needs are met they know they can count on you…this helps their bond. When you serve and give your baby what they need this helps your bond to them.
- Both parents…take the opportunity to do skin to skin contact with your newborn. Allow them to fall asleep on your chest. Once again this bonding moment helps both parent and child. You feel the rhythm of their heart and their breathing and they hear and feel yours.
- Of course your baby is going to look like their birth parents. Embrace those things you see. At the same time look for similarities they may have with you…maybe it is the shape of their feet or toes, maybe it is hair color, maybe it is how big or small their hands are or a funny little look they give. Love sees the similarities and loves the differences.
- Swaddle your baby in a blanket and in your arms. Don’t just hold them during feedings take lots of time with them holding them, rocking them, talking to them, singing to them. Be in the moment with them. Same with a toddler….have lap time, reading time, snuggle time. Put aside the responsibilities of the day and be with your child.
Claiming your child doesn’t mean the child isn’t part of their birth family….it just means they are yours too. Every birth mother wants you to bond and claim the baby they love and claim too. They want their child to be loved and treasured….they want them to be yours in your heart and mind and soul. And when you claim your child you are claiming those amazing people who brought them into this world. This isn’t a tug of war….this is family!
Every parent/child relationship develops in its own time and way. Not matter if your child is born into your family or adopted into your family, if you nurture your love it will grow and expand until it fills all of those places in your heart and you belong to one another!
Brenda Horrocks is a mother of four children through adoption.
She promotes adoption, foster care and Utah’s Safe Haven Law through blogging, public speaking and writing. She enjoys time with family, reading books, running, gardening and movies.
You can visit her blog here.