Last night, some things were mentioned in a group I'm involved in about adoption, birthing and bonding. While I can't address the second one, I can address the other two. I've hesitated to write about this but I feel like now is the time. Maybe what I've experienced will atleast provide knowledge for adoptive parents.
When we were in the process of adopting Cade, we were so naive to international adoption. I look back and will laugh at that whole process. From start to finish, Cade's adoption took 6 months. Incredibly fast. One thing our social worker warned us about was that we would feel at some point that we had messed up and probably shouldn't have adopted. Really? I couldn't imagine that, AT ALL. Seeing Cade for the first time, was love at first sight for me. My heart was overflowing. He was such a happy toddler and took right to us. We bonded immediately. Ahhhhh.....Motherhood. It was joyous! Exactly how I pictured it.
Fast forward a couple of months, I began doubting myself and my ability to parent Cade. Did we make a mistake? Surely there was a better parent out there (I can look back and see that maybe I had a touch of post-adoption blues that I thought was completely bogus at the time!). The one thing that I held on to was what our social worker had told me. This feeling was normal and it would pass. It did! I don't remember how long it took but it did. It was okay to feel this way and it was only temporary. I was so thankful she told me about this or I may have become really depressed about it.
Fast forward to Jenna's adoption. This adoption and wait tested my Faith so many times. Completely different to Cade's adoption, I spent a lot of time on my knees praying and crying. What was supposed to take 6-7 months once our dossier was logged in, wound up taking 2 years from log in date-to get our little girl. However, this waiting period strengthened my relationship with our God. I guess it could have gone the other way, but I knew His plan was perfect even if I didn't want to agree alot of the time! Fast Forward to what is called "gotcha day" and we felt prepared for screaming baby! The reality of screaming baby is very different from just thinking of screaming baby. For us, it was 2-1/2 hours of solid screaming. It was not love at first sight for me (in person). I was freaked and sweating profusely-we walked and sang, and walked and sang trying to soothe her. For me, it was impossible to bond that first day. After that, she seemed resigned to the fact that her life had changed. Later, we did get our first smile and things seemed to be moving in the right direction. Then, she got sick. Very, Very sick. Our guide rushed us to the hospital. All thoughts of bonding went out the door. I had a baby that was deathly sick and I didn't have time to be all lovey dovey with lovey dovey thoughts. I was feeling crushed, sick-this just simply could not be happening. Sitting in the hospital with an IV in her head for hours. Just me, sitting on a wooden bench, holding my little girl who we waited for over 2 years for and who was deathly sick. I didn't have time to bond, I was in constant prayer. It was an impossible situation, only made possible through God's strength. She did not get better and indeed, got worse. Thoughts of losing my little girl seemed to take hold and then I got sick. I could tell it was a major sinus infection. I.felt.horrible. But I didn't have time for that. (Jeff had also been sick and Cade went with us on that trip. Jeff had to entertain Cade while all of this was going on). Yes, bonding was occurring, but it was much different than with Cade. Fast forward to arriving home. IT.WAS.HARD. Jenna did not adjust to the time difference for quite some time. She had a double ear infection, upper respiratory infection. I had a major sinus infection. She woke up all night screaming. I would almost pass out leaning over her crib from the sinus infection and lack of sleep. It was not fun. I only wanted sleep. Every time she slept, I would fall asleep. I did not feel myself for quite a few weeks. When you don't feel yourself, you can not bond as easily with your new child (or atleast I couldn't). Then I got depressed thinking something was wrong with me (I would say post-adoption blues again), I loved this child but it didn't take me by storm like the love I felt for Cade-immediately. All of this to say, give it time. It happens and it did happen for me. Everyone talked about how good she was bonding, but noone ever touches on the parental bonding. I don't know when it happened, but one day as I was looking at her, it was there. There was the feeling-unabashed joy. A feeling of such intense love where you just cry from the happiness spilling out of your heart.
Fast forward to Cloee's adoption. This adoption is probably why I have hesitated to write this for so long. I'm not sure I could ever adequately describe my feelings. Cloee was not our first child from Congo, Cassie was. As our court proceedings wrapped up, she contracted Malaria and died. Jeff and I had never experienced anything like this, the utter heart break of losing a child. I was so sure noone would understand how we felt since we had never even held her in our arms. But we had an overwhelming support system. One thing I do want to point out is that we know God allowed this to happen. His Will is perfect. And there is nowhere that states Christians will have an easy life and not suffer the same as non-Christians. But what we do have is Hope and we have our Father God. Cloee's referral came shortly after Cassie's death. My heart simply was not overjoyed because it was clouded with grief. But we knew we would keep moving forward. My feelings were always bittersweet, I'm sure most would understand that. I was attacked with guilt over and over again. How can you be happy about Cloee, when Cassie died? Cassie had to die in order for Cloee to come home. Over and over again, it was relentless. I would feel joy one day and be ashamed the next. It was a horrible cycle that left me wiped out.
The day I met Cloee and finally got to hold her was overwhelming for me. I remember looking at her and thinking, "thank you God, she is home safe" but at the same time I kept thinking, "Cassie had to die for this child to come home." It was an ugly battle within my heart. The bonding, I believe, occurred the way it should. But the guilt at feeling happy is something I struggled with and something I now believe I had to "go through" so I could come out on the other side-a better mom, a bonded mom, a stronger Christian, in love with the daughter God brought to our family.
All of this to say, bonding is different for each person. It could take a while or it could be immediate. By the Grace of God, it will all work out for His glory and according to His Will.