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  • Is It Really Possible to Love an Adopted Child as Much as a Biological Child?

    Dawn Davenport

    42

    Can you love an adopted child as much as a biological child

    One mom shares her story of learning that she could love her adopted son just as much as a biological one.

    Have you ever wondered if it was really possible to love a child that was not born to you and does not share your genes? Many people worry that they will not be able to love an adopted child as much as a biological child. They may not admit it, but they still have these niggling doubts.

    The following was posted by Mani, one of our community on the Creating a Family Facebook Support group.  I think she beautifully addresses a subject that many folks wonder and worry about pre-adoption.  With her permission I’m posting it here. Check out the adorable picture of her boys at the bottom.

    I have a biological son, Skylar, who is 11 years old. He is absolutely the light of my life, and we have always been extremely close. For those of you who are contemplating adoption and may be wondering, as I did, about whether or not you can love an adopted child as much as a biological one … I just wanted to share my feelings and experience with that.

    I will admit that I didn’t immediately love Bodhi (my adopted son) in the same huge, all encompassing, *instant* way that I loved Skylar when he was born.  But I did quickly feel love for him, and it has grown every day.  There were times in the first few weeks that (as much as I hate to admit it) I wondered if the love would ever grow to equal my love for Skylar – and that scared me and made me feel guilty, and at times made me wonder if I was “good enough” to be Bodhi’s mom.

    However, now that Bodhi is (almost) three months old I can confidently say that I absolutely love him just as much as I loved Skylar at this age. I honestly feel no difference because of him not being my biological child. I am just as ridiculously proud and adore him as much as I possibly could a child I had carried and birthed!

    I just wanted to share that for those of you who might be grappling with these same questions and fears because I know I worried and wondered about this a lot.  And years before I ever found myself in this phase of life, I used to vehemently believe that no one could ever love their adopted child as much as I loved Skylar. I am very ashamed of those thoughts now.

    I guess God had to show me just how wrong I was and just how powerful love can be …

    OK, honesty time: How many of you have also wondered and worried that you might not love your adopted child as much as a child by birth?  What’s been your experience?  Check out our extensive resources on combining kids by birth and adoption, including Top Ten Tips, a podcast and video, and suggested books to help prepare older kids for the adoption of a sibling. Also, if you aren’t a part of the Creating a Family Facebook Support Group–join us.

     

     

     

    Originally published in 2011; Updated 2016
    Image credit: Enrique Saldivar

    24/10/2016 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 42 Comments


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    42 Responses to Is It Really Possible to Love an Adopted Child as Much as a Biological Child?

    1. Lissa says:

      My mom was previously married to another guy, had my stepsiblings, remarried my dad, then adopted me. My dad and his side of the family seem to have a slight ‘preference’ for me and my twin, whereas my mom and her side have a different connection with my other siblings. It’s understandable why, since my mom gave birth to my stepsiblings. They are her flesh and blood. But to my dad, I’m his firstborn daughter. He was with us from the start, and therefore has a different connection with us. Since we have different connections with each other, it could appear that we have varying levels of love, which is not the case. We all love each other very much:)

    2. Pingback: 11 Surprisingly Common Things You Should Never Say To An Adoptive Parent | The Latest Online

    3. Anonymous 1 says:

      I had a huge argument, with my husband yesterday about this subject . We adopted my niece and nephew; and I truly appreciate him for signing the adoption papers. It’s just been so many occasions where I see differences between them and our biological daughter. For example, when he cooks for everybody…he will only serve himself and our biological daughter, but not our adoptive children. And if he does, he will do so with a bad attitude. Our adoptive son, knows that he’s adopted, but not his sister(adoptive daughter) because she’s little. Last night, I had cleaned the kitchen and my biological daughter asked for cookies, he served both our adoptive daughter and biological daughter. They made quite a big mess and I asked him to please clean the counters… as I had just cleaned. He got so angry and told me “Ok! I’ll clean up after my daughter and you clean up after your niece”. This saddened me and made me so angry. I’ve asked him so many times to avoid saying “niece and nephew” because to me they are my kids as well. I cried, and asked him if he felt the same love for our odoptive kids…that he feels for our biological daughter. He told me that it’s a different love. He then asked me,if I love his nephews as my own. I told him that it’s a bit different! because we didn’t adopt his nephews, as they have their own parents. And we both vowed to love my niece and nephew as our own. He said “well there’s your answer! I love your niece and nephew as you love my nephews”. To me it seems that he will never accept the fact that adoptive means to love them unconditionally as our own.

      • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

        This is heart breaking and borders on child abuse. Your husband and you need to get into counseling immediately. He is being mean and is causing damage to two innocent children.

    4. April says:

      I am 19, but was adopted when I was 7 years old along with my 3 biological sisters. We all went to the same home. My adoptive parents have no biological children. I was always treated differently than my other siblings because I had PTSD from foster care. As a result, I was sent away many times even after adoption. My adoptive family and I just didn’t “fit” together, we still don’t. But through the years I found a mother figure. She loves me as her own. She doesn’t hesitate to call me her daughter and frequently reassures me that she isn’t going anywhere. It’s like I’ve known her my entire life, we’re 2 peas in a pod, but are 19 years apart. I don’t think it should be shamed, some adoptive parents and their adopted children just don’t have that bond or connection. The one thing I can say as an adopted child..it will always mean the world to them that you stay. That you love them for who they are, and choose to stick around. It doesn’t always matter about being biological, it matters who shows up. Who sticks around. Who’s clapping at graduation and who’s singing at birthday parties. I’m telling you it doesn’t make as big of a difference as people think. And especially if your adopted child is older and as they get older, chances are they already know it isn’t the same. It’s just a fact of being adopted. Family is different. But it means the most. 1 person or 6 people. Love is love.

    5. Anonymous says:

      My husband and I are adopting internationally, and we are both thrilled. If I were to also get pregnant, my husband would still be thrilled and I would be terrified. I’ve thought about this for years because my emotions around adoption are 100% positive (yes, I worry about things, but that’s rational!) and I literally can’t wait to meet my baby, while my feelings about pregnancy and having a baby are soaked in terror and ambivalence. I have a family history of autoimmune and mental illness and I worry that the hormones and fetal stem cells in my body would make me very, very sick in one or both of those arenas. I worry that I would resent my husband or my biological child if that happened. I worry that we would have a difficult child because we are both difficult, intense people and that could make it harder to bond. Conversely, I think about how interesting it would be to have a child that came from our genes, of seeing my green eyes or my husband’s sandy hair, how amazing it would be to feel those flutters in the womb. In summary, my feelings about our adoption are much more pure and unselfish and confident that I can handle what arises and that I will love my child with every fiber of my being, while my feelings about the possibility of bearing a child are conflicted, and I worry I wouldn’t love that child as much.

    6. Gina says:

      We have one bio daughter, one daughter through international adoption, two sons through domestic infant. Our experience has been that personality and situation play key roles in attachment. I have to be really intentional about connecting with three of my four, the other one is just my dream child (adopted) and it’s super easy to bond. Stress makes bonding much harder, as do even minor, annoying behavioral challenges. But in time, with grace, we have found a great appreciation for and love for each child.

    7. Renee says:

      While waiting to adopt I never worried about loving an adopted child as much as my biological son. I always thought that concern was silly, or not me. Now that our adopted son is 2 I am really worried I might not love him in the same way. I am surprised by this and terrified and sad.
      Our adopted son has some behavior issues and I am not working so it has been hard. We spend all day together and he is very destructive.
      Secretly I am terrified I don’t love him as much as our biological son but I am not sure who to talk to or what to do. I am hoping it passes as he gets older and stops pinching and biting and starts to be the sweetheart I know is inside him. Ideas?

      • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

        Renee, you are not alone. This happens with children born to us as well if we have more than one. The reality is that some kids “fit” better with us than others. Their personality and temperament complements our own and they are easier for us to raise. Also, some ages are easier with different kids. And quite frankly, some kids are just easier to raise because they challenge less, act out less, or are more placid. Maybe it would help to reframe in your head the issue from an adoption issue to a “goodness of fit” issue or a parenting issue. This takes some of the worry away and allows you to know that this is something you have control over and can work on. A book that was particularly impactful to me was “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka‎. We have done a Creating a Family radio show with her as well. I think you will really enjoy this interview: http://bit.ly/2e6C5Lh

      • Nilsa says:

        Besides the wonderful book Dawn recommends, look around for parenting classes offering child care during class (we even got into one for parents of spirited children) or join groups (even on Fb) and connect with parents of spirited children or child with SPD. This helped us in so many ways with ours: you have adult company and shared experience with other parents facing similar challenges; you learn from each other; you get play dates that give you and your child a break from routines…
        My two cents worth…:-) Patience and much love/

    8. Amy says:

      We adopted our son from China this past May. He was 21 months at that time, and we brought our 5-year-old biological daughter with us (literally & figuratively) on the journey. When I gave birth to our daughter, I had the immediate, all-encompassing, overwhelming surge of love for her. It was so intense… I’d never experienced anything like it (Mani explained it so eloquently!). I couldn’t even look at my daughter those first few weeks without breaking down in tears. Meeting our son the first time after staring at his pictures for over 6 months just wasn’t the same for me. I was overwhelmed in the sense that I knew our family dynamic was changing forevermore. I didn’t have that instant, intense love. I liked him, & I thought he was really cute, … But the love had to grow for me. It has in the 7 months we’ve been home, but I still can’t claim it’s quite on par with my daughter.

      My husband had the complete opposite reaction to both our children. His love had to grow for our daughter, but he had the instant, intense love for our son. So Rhinda’s comment comparing adoption to our husband’s (or significant others’) reactions is right on target for our family!

    9. Dawn says:

      I think lots of parents who are expecting their second child wonder and worry if they will love the new child as much as their precious first child-regardless if the new child enters the family through birth or adoption. Most of us find that we can and do. It is also very common to bond instantly with a child, again, regardless if you birthed or adopted the child. For whatever reason there are times when we grow rather than fall in love.

    10. Foxy says:

      I had such a different expectation of bonding than what I experienced when I delivered my little fox. We used donor gametes and I can’t help but wonder what role that played. We also had 6 months of terrible awful colic that really hindered my ability to bond. It has taken me time to understand this, but as with any relationship, I think it took us time to get to know each other and develop a love for one another. Nearly two years later and I adore my little guy. More than anything though, I really think that we need to do a better job of preparing families, all families, for the reality of attachment and bonding. This idea of falling so deeply in love with a baby at first sight may be reality for some families, but is most definitely not the reality for all families.
      Happy ICLW! – Foxy

    11. Addie says:

      Wanted to stop back and comment on my previous post, now that my biological son has been born. For those people wanting to know how they will feel about an adopted child, the journey has been the exact same of bonding, both with adoptive and biological children for us. I look at my bio son, and search his eyes and snuggle him, and I am figuring him out and getting to know him the exact same way I did my adoptive son. I’m a blessed mother of two beautiful boys, and they are loved uniquely and equally.

    12. Nelson says:

      I enjoyed the article above. My wife and I adopted a child from a disrupted situation. He has only been in our home for about 2 1/2 years, but I will say this: we love him like he is our very own. I think the key with us was that we had to accept our son where he was and then help him grow. The words “I love you” flow freely around our house (especially when he is getting something he really wants). We would not trade him for anything in the world. He is the most precious young man. Not perfect, but wonderful. We truly believe that he was a gift from God, just for us.

    13. Sage says:

      maybe ONE DAY we ought to change out the words of “birth parents” & “adoptive parents” — hmmm…. this is an idea…help all sides of the triangle???

      • Dawn says:

        I’ve thought that before also. Got any suggestions? I have tended to favor first parent and parent, but on some of our shows with birth parents there seems to be resistance to the term “first parent”; preferring “birth parent” instead. Very often, in fact most often, it is best to call the parents who are raising the child simply “parents”,but there are times when we need to acknowledge that the child became theirs through adoption and we need a shorthand term for those times. I’d love to hear your suggestions.

    14. Sage says:

      I have read quite a few of these comments which are QUITE hopeful to see that many can see how love is undivideable… however, to me the TRUE way of knowing whether or NOT, one can truly love an “adopted” child is whehter one can TRULY accept that adopted childs “other” parents yes, other parents of which IT WILL always have whether accepted or NOT by our culture or individuals who claim they really want to just “love” children & raise them with such love… in my book, you can NEVER truly love a child without somehow, someway, truly loving the other source of which it came — the other parents… in all due respect~ simply stated ~ an “adopted parent” WOULD NEVER BE an “adopted parent” — just a fact….simple & sacred. http://www.imaginepeaceNOW.com

    15. Adrian Carter says:

      Mani,
      Congratuations on your new addition. We had spoken about 3 months ago on the phone ( I am a coworker of Amanda in Virgina) regarding adoption. We have started the homestudy process finally and since looking into adoption over the summer, it has been in my thoughts would me and my husband be able to fully love an adopted child even though we have no children of our own. I enjoyed your article and also the responses to your article.

    16. Noel says:

      I don’t have a biological child and we chose to have a family through adoption (we never tried to get pregnant). I love my son sooooooooo much and often wonder if I love him more than those who have biological children (I am sure I don’t, but the thought has crossed my mind). I am struggling with what many of you are saying. I have heard stories of women placing their biological children in a car seat on the balcony to get some quiet because they can’t stand it anymore. Having surreal feelings about whether or not this is real. I loved my son from the instant I saw his picture. I had an extremely difficult transition period with him (he was 2 years, 3 months) – he was very attached to his nanny and for the first month to month and a half he would sit in the corner for an hour every day screaming at the top of his lungs and pushing me away. Were there times I wanted to give him back – yes – but I have had many birth parents tell me the same thing about their biological children. Any person entering your home to live will change the dynamic. I have also said I don’t know if I want to adopt again because I can’t imagine loving anyone as much as my son and I have talked with biological parents about their feelings with adding a second or third child to their family and having those same feelings. While we have chosen not to add another sibbling for my son, those who have has second or third children whether through adoption or birth tell me that while they had concerns about loving the new child, they always found that there was room in their heart for another child. I think some people have an instant connection with their child, whether thru birth or adoption, and others don’t. My mother never felt an instant connection to my sister when she was born (first child) but she loved her. I know a lot of people who have adopted and a lot who have given birth and have found we rarely, if ever, have different experiences with our children and our feelings towards our children.

    17. Addie says:

      My husband and I adopted our son as a newborn in the US in January of 2011. When he turned 3 months old, I became pregnant – an absolute miracle after 10 years of infertility. I’m due with our second son now any day, and I honestly cannot imagine the idea of loving our biological second child any differently than we already love our first adopted son. Maybe it is because we had the joy and honor of experiencing adoption first prior to pregnancy, but I know that we wouldn’t be the family we are today had adoption not entered our world, and our son came into our lives. God just wanted us to have both of them.

      • Dawn says:

        Addie, I am sure you’ll find like most of us, that we are totally able to love our second as much as our first. I too wondered if it would be possible. Turns out it was.

    18. Pat Johnston says:

      At Perspectives Press we’ve used this definition of attachment in all of our books: Attachment is a relationship between two individuals that endures through space and time and serves to join them emotionally.
      There is a circular illustration that goes with this, showing how need is felt and then expressed, that a specific person tries to meet that need, and when successful enjoys a warm interaction with the person who had expressed the need. This cycle, repeated over and over through weeks and months, eventually produces TRUST, which is at the center of attachment. Attachment isn’t automatic, especially when children arrive other than as a healthy newborn. But parents lead the dance. How can we know that we can bond/attach to someone to whom we are not genetically related? Well, most two parent adopters have the proof right beside them–their partners are not genetically related to them. Attachment between two adults works the same way as it does between adult and child, that cycle, repeated over and over, results in trust between the two. Divorces happen when trust is broken and the members of the couple don’t have the tools or the will to rebuild trust.

    19. Anon says:

      I have to say this has been a rougher road for me. I blindly headed into adoption trusting our agency on this and thinking that of course my feelings about our kids would be the same and that I’d never compare them. We brought our daughter home at 1 year, and 1.5 years later I’m just accepting that I love my bio and adopted kids *differently*. It doesn’t help that we started our relationship amidst a lot of grief and anger, and that once we moved beyond the initial transition we headed straight for the terrible twos. To top it off we have a clash of temperaments, and she is probably the *harder* personality to manage at this stage in her life. Things are much, much better now, but I did question our decision to adopt a few times and see our growing bond as more of a committed marriage rather than falling in love. I know that feelings about children and temperaments can vary greatly even between bio kids, but I can’t help but to go there when I’m struggling with our adopted child. Who knows how I’ll feel in another year, but I was really blindsided by this. As awful as it feels to say, building your family through adoption and birth is just so different, and I wish I had been more prepared to feel this way.

      • Dawn says:

        Anon, I wish you had been better prepared and supported as well. Sometime the grief at “how it might have been” and the guilt over feeling like a bad mother can be almost overwhelming. I’m glad that you’re able to recognize that you have a child whose temperament doesn’t mesh easily with your temperament. That does happen–more often than people want to admit. It happens with children by birth as well, but given that temperament is strongly controlled by genetics, it is possible that it happens more with adoption. I’ve never actually seen research on this, but it has been discussed on the Creating a Family show. Of course, sometimes the child that is hardest for us to handle is the child that is the most temperamentally like us. In any event, I strongly suggest going to see a counselor to help you parent this child in the best way you can.

    20. rhonda says:

      The love for a biological child isn’t instant really. You have 9 months technically but atleast 5 months really of interaction. Starting with flutters, then kicks. Your constant companion. In my opinion, adoption is closer to what the man feels when a child is born. It isn’t as real for him as it is for his wife. Add that to the fact unless you are one of the few who are there for delivery, you are now the proud parent of a child with a full personality that you know nothing about. Then add in trama and language barriers for older kids and internationally adopted children. That is a whole lot of chaos. My worry was that I would not be good enough to be her parent. I came home sick and as a single mom, had to have someone else watch my child the first week for 2 days to recover. Failure from the start. I still have those moments but that is normal (I think). Anna definately bonded quicker to me than I did to her, but now I could not imagine loving anyone as much as I lover her. But I would be wrong. The heart has boundless love to share if we are corageous enough to do so.

      • Dawn says:

        Rhonda, what an interesting analogy comparing the feelings of an adoptive parent to a father by birth. That rings true to me. I wonder what others think.

        • JessiKat370 says:

          I am a biological mom of 1, and adopted 5 more… I felt the exact same way and that analogy has seriously flipped a light swswitch in my guilty mommy mind. Thank you SO much for sharing!!!

    21. Delana says:

      I adopted an older child (age 6 at the time) and had 3 biological children. Just like the author of the above post, I expressed love right away, but did not feel the same attachment to her until after 1 year. I tell about it in my upcoming book “Nine Year Pregnancy” and mention some about it on the book’s blog– http://nineyearpregnancy.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/worth-it-all/

      Blessings,
      Delana

    22. Heather says:

      I had a friend ask me if I loved my younger daughter (who was adopted at 7 months) as much as my older and biological daughter. At first I was offended, but realized she was thinking of adopting and wanted my perspective. I told her that I loved both my kids the same ammount. I must admit that the second my younger daughter was placed in my arms I experience a wave of love similar to what I had giving birth to my older daughter. My younger daughter has had lots of health issues and some behavioral issues that makes me constantly feel blessed that she is with us and not somewhere that does not have the medical facilities she has needed. I explained to my friend, that while I love them the same I feel as though I have a greater responsibility with the younger one to get it right. I feel through adoption someone has trusted me with their most precious of things and it has humbled me so much. It has changed the course of our family’s path and has enriched us in ways (especially culturally) that we never would have experienced before. And yes we do have 40 minute trantrum that involving hitting and extra visits to doctors, but it is just part of life. And it is a really good life.
      ~ Heather

    23. Mani Sheriar says:

      Dawn – thank you so much for posting my musings … what a treat! You are just one of my absolute favorite people in the adoption world, and I listened to all your podcasts all the time when I was working on bringing a second child into our family. You are truly a gift to us all. <3

      Anyway, I wanted to add that since I first started writing and sharing about these feelings and experiences, SO many people have shared with me about the same worries and concerns they had about their second child joining their family – be the order bio/adopted, bio/bio, adopted/adopted, or adopted/bio. So I feel like I am coming to understand that the emotions I went through actually had less to do with adoption, per se, and more to do with the common fears many mothers often have about their second child. Boy, was that a comfort to me!

      Actually, my mother, who has five bio children, told me this exact thing after Bodhi was born, when I confessed my fears to her and my guilt at not feeling the same instant, overwhelming, all-encompassing love. She told me that it's never the "same" as your experience with your first, because before that you were not a mother! That first connection with that first baby (or child) is the thing that transforms you utterly into someone that loves another being more than you do yourself (at least that's what it did for me), and changes the entire dynamic of your life. That experience can never be repeated. But it doesn't mean you won't come to love each child equally. That's what she told me. And that rings true for me.

      I also like what Rhonda said, comparing the feelings of an adoptive parent to a father by birth. That rings true to me also.

      PS – those three "???" at the bottom of my post were originally hearts, and I do think the "???" changes the meaning a bit at the end there. 😉

    24. Suzanne says:

      Some parents do experience a difference between their feelings for their bio and adopted kids. Some parents also love certain children or a child more than their other children in a bio only family or an adopted only family. When I was a kid I saw a couple of really incredible examples of child preference in our neighborhood. Some kids are easier to be around than others. Some kids have winning personailties and some don’t. Some kids are “easier” for their parents to love than others. Years ago a mother I knew who had a bio son and an adopted daughter, told me she felt completely connected to her daughter but not her son.

    25. After having our first two children through adoption, and later learning of a complete surprise and virtually impossible pregnancy (Happy 40th Birthday!) I struggled with a lot of worry and anxiety if I would love our bio child as much as I loved our first two. The love I have for our children is so intense and we came together through such extraordinary experiences, I simply could not imagine feeling the same. I know most people feel the opposite. So I was heavy with guilt for my entire pregnancy…. then our new baby joined our family and only then could I see that he is loved with the same intensity. All three are so unique and we have different parts of our personalities that connect us – but each so beautiful. the best part was when we shared the news with the big kids they were SO excited and said….”So we are getting an ‘our’ baby?!?!?” They are still enthralled with everything our littlest one says or does. It has been such a joy. Hard work – but really a beautiful journey. Every family will find their place and way with one another eventually – just never let anyone make you feel that there is only one way to experience it. It’s setting a family and child up to fail. It’s okay to talk about it and you should. These are honest feelings and valid. Find your support group that is non-judgmental – we all need support in big life changing moments.

      • Dawn says:

        I agree that the important point is to “never let anyone make you feel that there is only one way to experience it”. Most families eventually find their way to love and attachment. Sometimes you need help getting there, and hope is available.

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