My post where I described the sometimes rocky journey of attaching to my new daughter evidently hit a nerve. I can now say without a doubt that I am not the only one to experience this. In fact, I'm pretty comfortable asserting that my experience is far closer to the norm than the love at first sight adoption fairy tale that everyone imagines to be the norm. And because I think it is so important, I will repeat it again, attaching to a new child, even a child who is thrilled to be in a new family, can be hard. (I'm sorry to sound like a broken record, but the more I write about this, the more I hear from or hear about others who struggle with this. If I have to be a one-woman campaign to say they are not the only ones, then I will.)
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a parent who struggles with the absence of happy, lovey-dovey feelings. There is nothing to feel ashamed about because this is a normal reaction which many adoptive parents have. Adding guilt to the whole cocktail of emotions that a new parent experiences is not helpful and probably is more than a little hurtful. Guilt and shame can cause even more avoidance toward building a relationship because every time a parent interacts with the child and those warm fuzzy feelings don't appear, guilt and shame are ready to jump into the breach. Trying to avoid feeling these negative emotions often means avoiding the child who is seen as the cause of them.
But the child is not the cause. The child is merely trying to make sense of the sometimes terrifying situation he or she has been thrust into. None of us is at our best when confused and scared. None of us is at our best when thrown into a new situation where we are unsure of the rules. None of us is at our best when trying to communicate in another language, especially one we have no familiarity with at all. These are the things we have to remember every time an annoying behavior repeats itself. We are allowed to help ease the child out of that behavior, but we aren't allowed to act as though the child is doing it on purpose, solely to annoy us.
And this is where the hard part comes in. We are the ones who invited this child into our home... annoying habits and all. We are the ones who have to be the grown-ups, whether we like it or not. This means embracing the idea that love is a lot bigger than how we feel. We need to take it upon ourselves to do the things which are going to help us to love our child. Even if we don't feel like it. Even if the child doesn't respond. Even if it takes more than a few months... or years. It's not easy. It takes a good support system, lots of rest, and the grace of God, but it can be done.
But most importantly of all, there is hope. If you continue to act lovingly toward your child; be careful not to avoid him or her; work to have more positive interactions than negative ones; smile; and get professional help if it is called for, one day you will wake up and see that small person (or not so small as the case may be) come into your room and you will be surprised to find that your heart is flooded with love at their mere presence.
You will make mistakes. You will lose your patience, You will have set backs. But keep trying. Nothing is too hard for God. Ask Him to help you to not harden your heart towards your child, but for you to find how to love him instead.
My relationship with H. continues to grow. I try to be careful to get enough sleep and rest which gives me the patience that I need. One thing I am making myself do is to only have positive thoughts about her... thoughts that dwell on any negatives I try to be quick to shut down and think about something else. Learning to love and attach is sometimes more a battle of the mind than anything else.