I'm sure I'm not the only one

In the adoption world, some things are discussed openly, but other things are not. When we first adopted, very little was written about difficult transitions (at least that I could find). Everything was 'rainbows and happy trees' and every child was happy and grateful to be in a new family. Oh, sure, there might have been a few tears at the beginning, but after a week or two everything was hunky dory. So when our experience was not like this, I could add 'adoption freak' on my list of things that were hard. I discovered when I wrote about it that many people did share my experiences and they, too, felt as though something was wrong with them. We are all so afraid that others may think there is something wrong with us that we do not share the truth about what adoption (or parenting or marriage or...) is really like and cause others to think they are the only ones.

We are now on our third adoption and I have learned some things about myself. While I attach very easily to my newborns, I know that it takes me a bit longer to attach to my newly adopted child. This has nothing to do with the child (well, OK, if the child is actively hating you, it does have something to do with it) and has everything to do with me. I'm great at first, but the overly patient and understanding act is very draining and it's tiring to keep up. So long about, oh, now, I am wondering when this new child stops feeling like a neighbor's child who has overstayed her visit.

That sounds horrible, doesn't it? I mean, I'm the one who brought her here. I knew she wouldn't speak English right away. And I can't really complain that she is thrilled to have a mommy and daddy who love her and she wants to show that love all the time. In no way do I come off looking good in this story and perhaps this is why no one mentions it.

People talk about "fake it 'till you make it", meaning that you pretend you have feelings for a child when in actuality they are still developing and over the course of time the need to pretend no longer exists. But it's one thing to say this and another thing completely to talk about how it really works. It means having to override natural inclinations and  force yourself to do otherwise. It means not quickly stepping into the bathroom when you hear the child approach... even though you want to. It means plastering a grin on your face while the child says one of her five English phrases, again, though that phrase is currently equivalent to nails on a chalkboard. It means trying to keep the annoyance out of your voice when explaining something again, for possibly the 15th day in a row.

I have felt this way with each of our adoptions (though I will add it is more difficult the older the child). I wasn't surprised when these feelings started and I know they will eventually disappear as the mobile that is our family settles back into a balanced state. But in the meantime, it's tiring. The trouble is, I don't put my self-care plan into place until I get so exhausted by it all that I'm overtired, grouchy, and as a result sick. (Like right now, for instance.)

Since I know I can't be the only one to experience this, even if no one talks about it, here's my plan for managing.

  1. Get enough rest. I need to be sure to get to bed at a decent time every night. I am running a marathon and  it is taxing.
  2. Allow myself actual respite time. I cannot be "on" all the time, so need to plan in breaks where I don't have to be patient with anyone.
  3. Have a plan for interacting with the new child. If I am the one seeking her out, it is better for both of us.
  4. Don't over schedule things. Just like I have a tendency to mastitis from over doing when I have an easy newborn, having an older than baby new child gives me the illusion that I can go back to life as normal. The trouble is, life isn't normal even though I am not recovering from childbirth. I have to give myself permission to take things easy.
It's actually fairly simple when I look at it written out, but if I don't follow it I become a candidate for grouchy mother of the year.
Linked to Death by Great Wall's Paint Me a Picture of Older Child Adoption link-up.


LawMommy said…
Be gentle with yourself, and don't beat yourself up over this. It will come. Hugs.
Amy said…
I think your advice on number four is very important, taking things easy in every area of your life that you can. Today we celebrate one year being a family with our two newest and those feelings of attachment have grown slowly over the entire year. I am talking about my husband and my feelings along with the boys feelings. I think it takes about a year for things to feel back to the new normal if all is going pretty well. It usually takes us about two years to feel fully attached and I would say it took even longer for our daughter adopted at age four to be fully attached to us. This is not a quick process when it comes to adopting older children.

I appreciate you sharing so honestly. I would say that I have not felt bad about my feelings developing slowly but I have been part of some great yahoo groups so I expected the process to be drawn out.
Anonymous said…
I think it would be permissible, and helpful boundary-setting, to show of your impatience with your new child.If it's the 15th time you've explained something that day,it seems to me that it's okay to let a bit of exasperation show. Or at least to say something like "I hope I won't have to say this again today."
Anonymous said…
...sorry, I left out the word "some." "Some" of your impatience is what I meant.
Anonymous said…
I can totally relate to you experiences and we adopted a newborn. He was born premature and was in NICU for 7 weeks after birth. That really puts a damper on bonding. It has taken me two years to feel the same for him as I do my biological children. At first I thought I was horrible, but then after reading your experiences and others like you, it makes me see that it takes time to bond and I am doing okay. Thank you for being honest, it really helps others of us who struggle to bond with thier adopted children
Anonymous said…
Thank you, thank you for this post! I am definitely living it! DD has been home 9 months and I am still working hard at it! Tell me, how long will it take...when will it get to be natural and easy? We're very committed to her and to faking it until we make it!! But its good to know that we aren't the only "horrible" ones and that there is HOPE! More posts on this would be great! Or at least just tell me again, that it will get easier! :D
Thank you so much for sharing this post today on my blog. You are so right. People are reluctant to share their struggles when they fear they are the only ones. Thank you for speaking out.
Jennifer P said…
I fell in love with every single one of my children, bio or adopted, differently. The bonding time is a tremendous growth experience for my own character. Growing pains are common and I am no exception! Well said.
Donna said…
I can SO relate to all these feelings! I did bond instantly with my younger kiddos, but my new 9 year old...well let's just say I am still working on it. Thanks for verbalizing what I am feeling.

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