I like a fairy tale as much as the next person. In fact, given my taste in movies (heavily tilted towards rom-coms, much to my husband’s dismay), I suspect I like them more than most. But when they influence our expectations of reality, I get a little nervous. When they influence our expectations of adoption, I get very nervous. Perhaps the most insidious fairy tale of all is “love at first sight”. Consider this email I received:
We had 2 failed IVF attempts after which the doctor told my wife that she would not be able to have biological children; egg donation could be an option. Needless to say that had a devastating effect on her from which she is only now, more than 2 years later, slowly recovering.
Adoption was always an option for me and recently I started researching international adoption by reading your book and following your podcasts. One of the primary concerns for my wife, beside the lengthy and laborious process of home study, dossier preparation and exposing herself to possible hurtful disappointment again, is the question whether she would be able to really love an adopted child.
We’ve seen the documentary ‘Stuck’ and she is still wondering whether she could get emotionally attached to a child she just met. But maybe not everybody does and that is why referrals get rejected.
There are a few comments on this issue available online like ‘don’t you love your husband who is not blood-related’, ‘adopted children are chosen, while not all biological ones are’, but it seems there are no studies on this available. I was wondering if you are aware of any resources or could give some feedback on this issue?
The Myth of Love at First Sight
Why are we, as a society, so enamored with the idea of falling in love– with its illusion of effortless immediacy? Why do we seem to value that type of love over the slowly and deeply developing kind? I grew in love with my husband, although I fell almost immediately into lust with/for him. There’s a huge difference in that lustful attraction and the deep bonds of love that have sustained our long marriage. This same dichotomy applies to the love between a parent and a child.
I have no idea what makes some people fall immediately in love with a spouse or child, while others grow in love with both, and fall for one and grow into another. Maybe it’s temperament; maybe it’s hormones; maybe it is where you are in life. I don’t think it matters so long as we don’t put one type of love on a pedestal over all others.
The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of
Only your wife will be able to figure out if she is the type of person who can love a child she is not genetically related to. I agree with you that just because you love your genetically unrelated spouse, does not mean that you can love a genetically unrelated child. We grow up expecting to love a spouse with no biological connection, but most people don’t grow up expecting to adopt, or love a child that is not their “flesh and blood”.
Dreams are made of sturdy stuff, and the stuff some people’s dreams are not very flexible. Better they know this before rather than after they adopt. Just know that many many people find that they don’t love their child, whether by birth or adoption, immediately. They make their way to love with the everyday acts of caring and nurturing.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Fear
It sounds like your wife is afraid. I totally and completely get that. The line between common fear of the unknown that most emotionally healthy people feel and fear that is a warning sign of impending danger is seldom marked with a bright line. Only you and your wife will be able to decide which is which in your case.
I know that most people enter any life-altering event, including adoption, with a healthy sense of fear. My fear pre-adoption centered on my child not loving me, rather than me not loving my child, but there isn’t much difference from a practical standpoint.
You’ve Got Options
Your wife is struggling with the grief and pain of infertility. I so feel for her. Infertility, and the accompanying loss of dreams, sucks big time. You have options, depending on your ages, diagnoses, and finances, including:
- Use donor eggs and your sperm for another attempt at IVF
- Use donor embryos
- Adopt (either domestic infant, international, or from foster care)
- Live child-free
One choice is not better than another; they are simply different paths.
Get Thee to an Infertility Counselor
Please encourage your wife to go for a couple of sessions to a therapist who specializes in infertility. A trained person can really help her sort through her fears and put them in perspective.
I would also strongly recommend that she and you join an adoption support and education group to learn more. Even folks that are firmly wedded to following their gut can’t argue that an educated gut makes a better leader. If you live in a large city, there may be an in-person support group you can attend. I hope there is. If not, or even if so, both of you should join the Creating a Family Facebook Support Group. She may only feel comfortable lurking without posting for a while, or forever, but you will still be getting information that will aid your decision-making. Good luck!
Were you afraid before you adopted? Did you love your child immediately?
Other Creating a Family Resources You Will Enjoy
- Is It Really Possible to Love an Adopted Child as Much as a Biological Child?
- Adoptees Help Adopted Parent Answer “You’re Not My Real Mom
- I Worry My Son Will Turn Out Like His Birth Dad-Genetics & Adoption
Image credit: CIA DE FOTO
Add Your Comment
I can’t add much here that hasn’t already been said, but I do want to say that dialogue is crucial to making adoption healthier for all parties. I have secondary infertility. My husband was adopted in 1963. We adopted our second child in 2010. There is truth in all these posts, but I won’t elaborate. I’ll just say this. I adore, in the most maternal, natural ways, my adopted child, exactly the same as I do my biological son. I also adore the birth parents who trusted me with his life.
You all have my respect for being so honest here. Great stuff, as always, Dawn.
By the way, there are those who feel that those adoptees who don’t wish to make contact with their bfamilies are made to feel bad for not doing so. Perhaps the general public does do that because they don’t understand that it isn’t that simple. As an adoptee, I totally understand other adoptees not wanting to connect with biological family. Reunion is not an easy step to make and most reunited adoptees will tell you it is an emotional rollercoaster. Even though in many ways, my reunion with extended family has probably been “easier” than those who have reunited with their biological parents (because extended family relationships are much more fluid), it doesn’t mean it is easy especially as there is the “ghost” of my long departed bmother for me to deal with.
I personally wouldn’t and never have made a fellow adoptee feel bad for not wanting anything to do with their biological family – that is their right and decision to make. In real life, I know a few adoptees who have made contact and a few that haven’t – even in my own family. Each to their own. I might, as a fellow adoptees, just discreetly try to ascertain whether that reluctance is just due to them not wishing to disturb their own lives or whether their reluctance is out of fear for what they might find, out of fear of their aparents feeling betrayed or just them feeling that their bparents didn’t give a stuff about them – it can be hard to tell and often all those adoptees get lumped together as “adoptees content not to know their biological families”. In fact, to me there is a big difference between “I have no interest in wanting to know my biological family because my life is fine and I understand that making a step to make contract could disrupt my life and I am not prepared to do that” and “I have no interest in wanting to know my biological family because hey, they didn’t want me so why would I want to know them?”. Yet in the eyes of the world – both are considered “content adoptees” even though the first adoptee is more a pragmatic individual who just doesn’t want to make the extra step because they understand that reunion is not an easy thing to do and adoptee no. 2 is an adoptee who feels so abandoned by their original parents that they just want nothing to do with them at all. I *was* the first type of adoptee and I would have resented anyone telling me I *had* to want to know my biological family, even though I sort of knew eventually that I personally would want to – however, I wanted it to be at my pace and when I was ready for all outcomes. I also did understand that there could well be fear from the biological parent side of things – I understood that there are biological parents who want to let sleeping dogs lie. I actually did consider it to be a “win/win” situation to leave things up to my bmom to make contact as I didn’t want to disturb any life she might have had – in the end that was all moot because she had died when I was a teenager so my “perfect plan” didn’t quite work.
Btw I don’t remember ever feeling that my bmother “didn’t want me” as such probably because my aparents were quite factual about telling us about our bparents in an objective way. Thus, I think I sort of accepted that “wanting me” or “not wanting me” seemed irrelevant to the choice that she made as it seemed more about extrinsic circumstances, so-called counselling and societal outlooks rather than any intrinsic feelings she may or may not have had. Though I will never know my bmom due to her young death, I realise that she is a human being whose feelings re the adoption were probably quite complex and were shaped by many things unrelated to *me* and thus I don’t really take my adoption *personally*. It doesn’t mean I don’t have complex feelings about it all, it is just that I realise that it wasn’t a reflection on *me*.
I thought I might approach this from another angle.
You see, I have no troubles believing that people other than a child’s biological parents can end up loving the child they bring up and vice versa – one can see that in traditional and biblical adoptions. In those situations, the “adoptions” were more informal and the child remains/remained part of their original family while being brought up by the “non-biological parent guardians”. It is part of human nature that bonds can form between a loving caregiver and the child in their care. The child might also have bonds with other people with whom they didn’t live and that was OK too.
It has actually struck me that the architects of modern adoption didn’t actually trust that natural bondforming. They seem to have felt that the only way to make sure that a bond would form was to not only legally but also psychologically sever all other bonds and have the child and new parents live as “if born to”. It does seem to me that by forcing the bond rather than allowing it to develop naturally, it has turned that bondforming into a competition.
I personally don’t feel that I needed to have my past severed in order for me to bond with new parents. I think it is very possible for children to bond with their new caregivers without needing to sever all other bonds. It seems though that perhaps many adoptive parents don’t feel that they could have bonded to their child unless their child was literally made “as if born to them” but perhaps they are selling themselves short? There are many people in the world who have raised a child to adulthood without legal ties but who love that child every bit as much as those who have legally adopted a child. We in the western world seem to subscribe to the notion that a child can only bond to only 2 people but is that really true? Constant moving around and severing bond and creating new ones can cause harm to a child but if the child has a stable base but has a bond with many, that seems to work well.
In NZ amongst the Maori population, the traditional way of caring for a child whose original parents weren’t able to raise them was a practice called Whangai, where members of the tribe would help raise the child – often a tribe member would take the child in and raise them to adulthood, all the while keeping the biological connections intact. During the height of the BSE, there were Maori children who were both brought up this way and other Maori children were relinquished for closed adoption. Research has shown that during that time, those who were raised in their extended Maori tribes did far better psychologically than those who were adopted as being adopte forced the Maori child to deny their past in a way that Whangai children didn’t have to do.
In modern adoption, the severing of that past has created a “natural” outcome where the easiest route that a child can take is to just ignore that past all together. That is of course what many would consider the “miracle of adoption” because it means that the adoptive parents have no competition for their child’s affections. Many adult adoptees do have no interest in exploring their biological past and one can certainly understand that – most adoptees do instinctively understand that having had our pasts severed from us, it would be extremely hard to try to recreate those former bonds. In fact, I would go as far as to say that for closed adoptees, one should never actually make that step to get to know their biological families without being prepared for all outcomes. Thus it is very wise for many adoptees to not make that step unless they are psychologically ready. It seems that the most successful reunions are each party understands that a new and unique bond may need to be formed.
What Dawn said.
I’d also like to add, why is everyone dumping on Anonymous on this thread?? I know it’s an effort to empathize with the adopted kid who was wronged in life (and for that I am truly sorry), but sheesh, why not have some consideration for Anonymous’s feelings also??
I’ve remained silent on this thread, but as an AP of two boys my husband and I adopted through the foster-care system, I feel compelled to weigh in with my $0.02. Honestly, I don’t blame Anonymous one bit for the way in which she perceived Renee’s statements on adoption–and particularly what she sees as adopted children being “reduced to collateral damage in privileged adults’ selfish games.” To me as an adoptive parent, this was a slap in my face–and it is flat out NOT true and NOT accurate about ALL adoptive parents.
I will preface my further comments with an acknowledgement that Renee writes very intelligently and has indeed brought up some important considerations and “food for thought,” if you will, for people considering adopting a child or children. Although I am happy for Renee that she feels a strong bond with her son, her biological mother, and her adoptive grandmother, I am heartbroken that she and her adoptive mother failed to form an attachment with each other and that Renee fails to see that loss of one woman who chose to welcome a “stranger” into her home and gets so summarily rebuffed as anything except a tragedy. While acknowledging that I don’t know Renee from Adam and DON’T know how good of a parent Renee’s adoptive mother actually was–perhaps she was a horrible parent–Renee’s apparent insensitivity to her adoptive mother’s feelings in the matter is stunning and spellbinding to me.
Renee’s generalizations about adoptive parents based on her own experiences–while sad and I empathize with how rough that must’ve been for her growing up without a connected in-home parent/child relationship–have quite frankly insulted me. Are my husband and I a privileged Suburban White Childless Couple™ selfishly wanting to drag kids into our lives who didn’t ask for us into forced “love” for us in an effort to play “games” with their lives?? Hardly. For one thing, if we were privileged, we may have been able to afford at least ONE round of IVF in a last-ditch effort to become pregnant, but we did not, because *we. could. not. afford. it.* To a truly economically privileged person or couple, upwards of $17K per IVF attempt (with no reimbursement if unsuccessful) may be a pittance, but it would’ve meant financial disaster to us.
Even private adoption was out of our reach, so we went through the year-and-a-half-long process of driving literally HOURS out of our way to take class after class through the state system, having our lives turned upside down and inside out and exposed to every form of conceivable scrutiny, and filling out volumes of paperwork that would make a home mortgage application process look tame. All of this so we could fulfill our own dream of having a family–so we could be childless no longer. We weren’t looking for children to “rescue” from a bad situation, although we have heard of fost-adoptive parents doing so and for all of the misguided reasons. We didn’t want to rip children unwillingly away from families who already had the capacity to take good care of them. We didn’t want to “play games” with our adoptive children or treat them as pawns or props to show off to others. We simply wanted our children to love–even if they didn’t love us back. Because THAT’S what *unconditional love IS*–loving another human being WITHOUT expecting anything–even love–in return. I love my children, PERIOD. As Greg says, if they do not love me in return, I take that as a failing on my part as a parent, but so be it–I will love them until the day I die, and I trust my husband, as their father, will love them, too. If Renee refuses to see “the other side of the coin” that’s been bandied about this thread’s topic of late, I am so sorry, but I can have nothing more to say.
Thank you Michelle for a very well thought out comment. I too “am heartbroken that [Renee] and her adoptive mother failed to form an attachment with each other. As I said, I see it as a tragedy, not that I see Renee’s life as a tragedy. She’s clearly a survivor. I also saw inflammatory language in her comments, but chose to hear the overall message because that message is worth considering. Thank you again.
I think both Renee and Anonymous bring up a great universal point that can be applied to both people TTC and those who are pursuing adoption and that is you shouldn’t expect your child to be the person you want them to be. They are going to be who they are. You can only try to guide them but at the end of the day they are their own person. You can’t expect to live through them. You shouldn’t expect them to love you just because you love them.
To answer your question, if my wife and I pursued adoption, were lucky enough to be selected by someone to raise their child and the child did not love us then so be it? That wouldn’t be something we could control. We would always love and be there for them no matter what even if they didn’t love us. Now that is not to say we wouldn’t be hurt by it because I would be lying to you if I said it wouldn’t hurt. It would hurt, a lot. But for us being a parent means checking your ego at the door and being there for your child no matter what. We wouldn’t expect the child to be and feel something they don’t.
My question to you is (if you are comfortable sharing) did your adoptive mother ever dismiss your feelings with being adopted and did she ever support your relationship with your birth/first mother?
When we went into the adoption process I had to tell my counselor something very important “I will not immediately fall in love with my child.” She seemed confused by this, but given the reactions I had seen with other situations I wanted her to know that. I also wanted her to know because of the birth parents, so she could help them if they found my reaction odd. That is the way it happened, I was so excited to be with our son, but I didn’t ‘love’ him at first.
Given that, I love my son sooooooo much I gladly rush into danger to save him. That didn’t happen immediately. At first, it felt like I was on a extending babysitting assignment. I cared for him like I cared for my nephew or niece, but the longer I was with him the more I came to love him and the more he felt like MY son. Now that he can talk and share things with me, I just love him more and more. I store all of that up to save for the difficult road ahead when the inevitable distance happens that comes with growing up.
I am sorry if I repeated something already stated above, but I have limited time and wasn’t able to read all the comments. Best wishes to you all in your life journey.
Thanks Christie for sharing.
“But I do not agree with your sweeping assumption (and yes it is sweeping, even if it is not a statement) that no adoptive child EVER can love their adoptive parents as much as they would love their bio parents.”
Didn’t say that. Not my words. Didn’t even imply it.
The rest? I didn’t even read. It’s pointless. You’re in an impenetrable bubble. You’re one of those people who just waits for others to finish talking while you put together your next monologue. You’re dismissive, you’re unwilling to focus on the subject at hand, and frankly, I can’t really even figure out what you’re trying to say.
I seem to have made at least a couple of people think, and that was my purpose, so I’ll be done.
What you are hearing is not what is written and I hope you can see that some day.
I echo your comments, Anon AP-we all have to learn as we go. But our children, ALL of our children, present and future, bio and adopted, are worth it. I know they are.
I got my concept that Renee was putting the biological tie on a pedestal from her response to Dawn about how the inability to bond with her AP (a” stranger”) as not being a tragedy at all. I took this to mean that she didn’t ask for this relationship and is actually happy that it didn’t work out, while rejoicing that her tie to her bio mother remained unbroken despite the efforts of her “disappointed in her purchases” AP. I have come across this attitude so much in my research, and while it is a valid question to ask whether children can bond with their AP’s I resent Renee’s interpretation of this event as something that all PAP’s should accept as being inevitable. Because any time a child does not have what they need in order to form a safe secure and lasting bond with the people who have been entrusted with raising them to adulthood and beyond it IS a tragedy-no matter how the family was formed (bio or adoption). Bonding is complex whenever two humans begin forming what will hopefully become a life-long relationship, and I’m sorry but I don’t agree that one should be held up as all natural and all good and the other one should be chalked up to Stockholm Syndrome. I’m sorry but this is where I am right now, even though I am trying my best to learn as much as I can. Although there are days I wonder why I bother-but I still believe it is worthwhile.
Renee-I agree with you that adoption, like biological childrearing, is a gamble. But I do not agree with your sweeping assumption (and yes it is sweeping, even if it is not a statement) that no adoptive child EVER can love their adoptive parents as much as they would love their bio parents. That was true in your story, and I am sorry for that, but the way you tell it makes it sound as if it is true in ALL cases, and the ones who tell a different story are just in denial or hiding safely behind their rose coloured glasses. Because as I tried to express in telling my story, chalk can easily give birth to cheese-it doesn’t just come through adoption. Your comments about your adoptive mother not looking right, smelling right, acting right, etc was a trigger to me because in my case, I was the one who “wasn’t right” in the eyes of my parents because I wasn’t a clone of them or their “dream child” and they made it very clear in how they treated me-as if this was my fault-even though I did come from their combined gene pool. They couldn’t relate to me, even though I was their bio child-am I wrong for thinking that this was too bad on their part that they should have tried harder and relieved me of the responsibility-as any GOOD parent would do? Biological families are not automatically superior to adoptive families just because there is an automatic tie there. That so called “all important tie” can be strained and even broken in relationships of neglect and abuse where the child is made to suffer for the shortcomings of their parents-even though some children persist in loving parents who owed them better than they delivered-even after they come to a point where they know what a REAL family consists of. I can’t assume that things would not have been better for you if you had been raised by your natural parents-maybe they would have been, but whatever parent you had, if they had not done their very best to meet your needs in your life when and where you needed them, you would not have grown up with the stability and security that you and every child needs at all stages in their lives, whether they are biological or adopted. If your natural parents decided that their needs were to be met by you, instead of the other way around, and that you were worthless to them because you could not live up to their expectations, I’m sorry but they do not make the cut when it comes to the definition of “good parents”, and it would have had a traumatizing effect on you to varying degrees. It sounds like that is the kind of situation you had with your APs; and that is wrong too-no parent should be allowed to do that to a child. I’m just at a point in my exploration for more information about adoption where I am exhausted of having to hear time and time again that there are two different standards for parents-one for adoptive parents and one for biological parents-one that says that bio parents can get away with being “good enough” while adoptive parents have to be perfect in every way-with no flaws or humanity left in them. Heaven forbid that an AP should have the audacity to actually WANT to be a parent and may actually have what it takes to offer a child a good (notice I did not say better) home where they will be loved-even one that they have not carried and birthed-how could THAT actually be good for a child? That they might never be fit to be parents because they have known the grief of IF-even if they have done all they can to work through it and put it as much behind them as any human can any grief situation?Because guess what-adoptive parents are human, bio parents are human, and children (adoptees and non adoptees) are human. We all have something to learn when it comes to living together as family-and we all need to learn to do so for the sake of children. Putting ANY of these combinations of people together can be a gamble-I admit that. But I do not believe that one gamble can be excused for the sake of biology because it is assumed to be more “natural” and then be explained away when it is not successful as uncommon or a coincidence, while the other is assumed to be missing something vital that can never be replicated before it has even been proven. As for your question (a good yet hard one)-how will I love an adopted child who does not love me, I cannot say yet because that is not yet my reality, but it is my hope that I would respond in the same way as the story of the gentleman who persisted in making daily all day visits to his wife in the nursing home even though she had lost her memories and identity to dementia. Many people questioned this man for his dedication, and would constantly ask him “why do you waste your time visiting her all the time-she doesn’t even know who you are” His response to this question: “But I know who SHE is, and because I know this I can’t do anything but be there for her because I love her” I will not expect my children through adoption to be there for me, but I will do all I can to be there for them whoever or wherever they are. I still hope that they will love me and my husband, but even if they don’t we will love them. We would do no less for children who came our way through birth, because that is what it means to be a parent, no matter how your family is formed or how many parents a child has to call their own. We will do what we have to do to be the kind of parents that our children deserve(and that includes working through our IF grief-but since we are human, we cannot be expected to completely forget its existence. All we can learn to do is carry it better so that it does not become something that stands in the way of the needs of our children and the responsible parenting that they will need and DESERVE). It will not be easy, but being a parent is not easy. It’s messy and complex and complicated, but it’s not impossible. I also agree that women who are put in the position of giving up their children should not be told that they are noble and selfless for giving up their children. No one will be benefitted from such false flattery. They should be supported in doing what has to be done and know the full risk of their decision, but if adoption is the best decision that this woman can make, she should be willing to make that gamble as opposed to another-keeping a child that would not be better off with her. The choice that is best is sometimes the hardest, and that applies to parenting, too.
Anonymous, I’m not sure Renee is implying that all adoptions are like her or that all adopted children will have trouble loving their adoptive parents. I hear her as suggesting that we consider the possibility.
Oh, and I don’t mean to dismiss in-utero bonding at all. It’s real, it’s been documented, etc. I mean specifically that I don’t think it’s been well studied what the connections and differences are between bonding and attachment and how those processes are related biologically. So, I can’t dismiss that a connection may well exist, though since we know that attachment betweeen strangers sometimes does occur and sometimes doesn’t, it seems like it’s a really complex relationship.
Anonymous, I see what you’re saying, but I think you are putting a perspective on Renee that wasn’t stated. She never said that a biological connection is the ultimate determiner of happiness. She didn’t make blanket statements but rather couched her posts in the language of possibilities: “it doesn’t always happen”, “Because not only do some adoptive parents never really bond with their adoptees, some adoptees never bond with their adoptive parents.” In her experience, she had an attachment to her biological mother as well as her adoptive grandmother, but I don’t see anywhere that she says that biology tops all. I think we need to take her at her word that she’s spoken with many other adoptees, which means she has probably talked to people who were adopted out of very difficult family situations through the foster system.
She does imply that when attachment doesn’t occur, some of that may be linked to biology. Is that wrong? Hmm…I’m not sure. I think there are enough adoptees who have declared they feel a fundamental sense of loss and pain from a lack of biological connection to their families and many adoptees who have written and spoken of the joy of reuniting and seeing people who look like them that I can’t dismiss it.
I do get what you’re saying, and I think some people do get very intent on sending their message out to the world while closing their ears and eyes to other perspectives. I just don’t get that from Renee’s posts, and that’s why I’m reacting the way I am. As an AP and a PAP who grew up with our biological families, we can’t know what the experience of growing up and living as an adoptee is, but that’s what our kids will experience (in a variety of forms and ways). With that in mind, I think more often than not we have to just listen. If we challenge people on their expression of their experiences, then eventually they may feel like we don’t want to hear their point of view or that we are saying their life experiences are invalid somehow.
It is scary as all get out to consider that there might be nothing we can do as parents to help our kids feel warm and loved and familial, but parenthood is full of scary stuff, right? We do what we can, we learn what we can – as you and your spouse are doing – and we try, try, try to get it right for our kids. My hope is that if our daughter faces feelings similar to Renee that our response will not be the same as her adoptive mother’s apparently was. That we’ll be able to help her find people in the family and/or her birth family she can feel a connection to and give her the freedom to have a safe space in which to be herself. I love her. That means trying to recognize and understand what she feels and working with her to help her become a proud, healthy, strong, capable, independent adult. And at the same time…I hope beyond all reason that she will love me too as she grows up…guess we’ll all find out as we go.
Adoption was my first choice, so I never worried if I would be able to love an adopted child. I think I fell in love with DS before he was born. I know I felt like his Mom very soon after he was born, and I loved him immediately. With DD, there were more unknowns, so I felt like I had to be somewhat guarded. I didn’t really feel like her Mom until we got her back to California, and I did “grow” in love with her, as opposed to falling in love the way I did with DS. I can say that, without a doubt, I love them both so very much now!
I am in the adoption process and had a dramatic fall-through six months ago, where I was present at the birth, cut the umbilical cord, etc…and less than 24 hours later the birth mom changed her mind about placing the child. In my case, it turned out to be the best thing that I did not yet feel bonded to that child. Yet I flew home troubled by the fact that, as hurt as I was about the fall-through, it wasn’t because I had bonded with the child. Everyone’s words of support went something like, “that must be so painful after getting so attached to a child and then not being able to bring him home.” I felt like I was carrying around some dirty secret…until I decided to start being honest about it. It was at that point that my cousin shared with me that she didn ‘t bond right away with her biological kids, and that it’s normal. For next time, I am prepared that I will likely develop a bond over time and not instantly.
When I was waiting for my referral from China, during the heyday of China adoptions, I had many opportunities to see lots and lots of referral photos from other excited parents posting pictures of their newly referred babies. Most were absolutely adorable and made my heart melt. Some were less so, and I remember looking at each one and thinking, “Will my baby look like that? Will I attach to her right away? What if my first impression is that my baby if funny-looking or somehow I am disappointed?” I do know that an important reason that I chose to adopt from China was that I had a positive emotional connection to the country and the culture and the “look” of Asian people. That might sound really shallow (the part about physical appearance) but honestly, I did feel like it was important to be able to picture my child as being of that ethnicity and having that general appearance be intrinsically appealing to me. I’m not saying at all that I couldn’t have attached to a child from a different ethnic background because I don’t think that’s true, but I think it helped that I DESIRED my child to look Chinese/Asian (not due to cultural stereotypes, just what appealed to me physically). Gosh I don’t know if I’m saying this well at all…I may be putting my foot in my mouth, but trying to be honest.
Anyway, when I finally saw my daughter’s referral pictures, I DID immediately fall in love with her and I had this instant feeling that she was the right baby for me. I also knew that falling in love with a picture is different than falling in love with a real human being. When I actually met her and cared for her for the first couple of weeks in China, I felt like I was carrying around someone else’s baby. She was still as cute as she was in the pictures, but it was a strange feeling, like, yes this is my child, but we don’t really know each other yet. The feeling of true attachment and bonding and deep deep connection evolved over a period of weeks and months, gradually. My daughter is now 9 years old. I could not possibly love her more or feel more deeply that she is MY child (with the understanding that she also has birth parents somewhere out there). Even at my most exasperating moments as a parent, I adore her and feel completely connected to her. I am very fortunate that she did not have any attachment issues, is a healthy, amazingly bright and well-grounded kid, so we have not had any particular special needs to add complexity. But the loving and attachment came in two stages – 1 when I first saw her pictures and fell in love with them, and 2 when I actually formed a relationship with her over time and truly became her Mama.
Just one other piece of advice: if you can and people are willing, talk to adoptive parents (not just online – you probalby have a friend, coworker, family member who went this route) about the process. They may well have asked themselves similar questions, and they are probably willing to talk about it. (tip: don’t ask them all sorts of questions in front of their kids. Go for coffee or something) Combine that with online input, and you’ll find a lot of people talking about different approaches to adoption, personal philosophies, ways they dealt with uncertainty, and even one or two people who will say they feel differently towards their adopted children than their biological children. Most of us though? Most of us found out that falling in love is a process and not an event. That’s true regardless of the genetics and true of your child too. He or she will have to learn to love, trust, and rely on you. (and ask your wife is she truly deeply loves everyone who shares her genetics…cuz…I love my family and all but…um…)
And, one other thing (I lied about the one piece of advice apparently): education, education, education. Your wife is struggling with a variation of question one, “is adoption a viable path for me?” Question 2 is about the paperwork load and finding an ethical agency. Question 3 is probably about preparation and should start you on the lifelong (if you pursue adoption) path of reading, talking, and learning. You’ll have a lot of that same reading regardless of how you become a parent, but there are definite adoption-specific things you’ll want to learn about. Oh, and since you’re thinking about international, are you thinking about adopting transracially? If so, make sure you check into Dawn’s resources there as well before embarking on the process. Asking yourself, “hmm…what about adoption?” is really just the beginning of a fantastic journey.
Ditto to everything Anon AP said.
This is where my wife and I are at right now. I consider us lucky in that we had a pretty quick diagnosis and won’t be going through any IF treatments prior to making our decision to adopt or live childless. However, it’s still not been easy and we both have fears with pursuing adoption and becoming adoptive parents. Both of us have high expectations of ourselves and even more is with someone else entrusting us with raising their child. We are in counseling and won’t make any decisions until we are ready to make one.
You are so right when you say there isn’t an easy choice and all come with their challenges.
Angelia, I’m so glad you brought up post adoption depression. It is real and it absolutely can interfere with parents attaching to their children. It also is something that passes with help.
I went through post-adoption depression. I didn’t know it then though I suspected it. My son and my husband attached to each other with no problem. Actually my son has no problem attaching whatsoever despite the fact he was 2.5 years at adoption. I was the wreck and felt even worse because I failed to attach that first 3 months. To make it worse, I was not good at pretending either. Things get better after his surgery and I started to get back to work. Now, two years down, I can’t imagine life without him. He occupies all space in my heart and expands it.
Many of us did not love our partner on “first sight”. We adopted older. My trio of siblings had already formed the nexus of their personalities when we met them. Love/affection came from the care given to them and our mostly positive interactions. I have one bio child as well. It takes a while to learn your “infant” child as well. I agree with Dawn that a “talking doctor” would be helpful to process all these conflicting emotions.
Thanks so much for sharing this topic Dawn. My wife had these same fears as we started the long road to adoption. We have a DD we adopted domestically right after birth and can honestly say we fell in love with her immediately. For us, I think being in the hospital waiting room while she was born, and then having the birthmother hand her daughter to my wife 45 minutes later for us to parent was such a powerful experience that our bond happened so quickly. She is _our_ daughter, and we could not imagine life without her. That’s just one other perspective. It /can/ be love at first sight. We are very aware that it might be different next time, though. And we have great empathy and understanding for those that have more difficult bonding with their children. Your article and the above comments are excellent resources. Thanks again!
Dawn, I truly doubted I could ever love a baby from another family as much as I would my own — so much adoption wasn’t an option for me – for 4 long years of infertility – until our last infertility buddies adopted their baby after 8 yrs of trying to conceive. But their adoption alone didn’t change my mind. It was Little Tree. My heart was changed in the gentlest of ways, through the inspiration of a children’s story that flowed from my very own pen. I wrote the story for our adopting friends, and captured for myself the glimpse of bonding love in adoption. 11 months later we adopted our own beautiful daughter and 8.5 years later, our wonderful son. The inspired parable taught my own heart the truth that led us to receive the greatest gift of all .. The gift of family.
I have a closely related question: Will you be able to really love an adopted child who never loves you?
Because not only do some adoptive parents never really bond with their adoptees, some adoptees never bond with their adoptive parents.
I never did. I never loved my adoptive mother. I never even liked her much. I loved HER mother fiercely. And I love (and like) my natural mother very much. We’ve had a wonderful relationship since we reunited. But I never loved my adoptive mother. I literally could not wait to move out of her house–I left at 15 and kept contact with her to a minimum for the rest of her life.
And let me assure you–there’s no guarantee you won’t adopt a baby like me. What happens if you do?
Renee, what happens if you do is that it is a tragedy for all concerned.
That’s not really an answer, but that’s OK, because I really just wanted to provoke thought.
And I suppose you’re entitled to feel it’s a tragedy for all when speaking in general terms, but I’d rather you not project your pity onto my specific circumstances. Because while it may have been a tragedy for my adoptive mother (not that I’d try to speak for her one way or another), it really wasn’t for me.
Losing my natural mother and family was a tragedy, yes, but not loving her replacement? Not tragic. In fact, looking back on it from the perspective of an adult adoptee and natural mother, it seems more ***reasonable*** than anything else.
I mean, why was expected to love her? She was a stranger. She didn’t look right, sound right, smell right, feel right, taste right, walk right, laugh right. We didn’t think alike. We had different talents, interests, passions, views. We were as different as two humans can be. In every way. Chalk and cheese.
When I was young and single and struggling to put myself through college while working and caring for my son, I dated a man who was very successful, very wealthy, and who presented himself as real Prince Charming kind of guy. He loved me (from first sight, he claimed). He wanted to marry me and take care of me and give me everything I wanted, everything I needed, everything I deserved. He promised that he would ensure I’d never struggle again. Unfortunately, I didn’t love him back. And I couldn’t see ever falling for him. The spark just wasn’t there. He was sure I’d learn to love him. I guess he felt it was reasonable to expect love/bonding in exchange for provision.
Um, no. I think that’s called Stockholm Syndrome.
Of course, unwillingness to bond today is often labeled as RAD. And ODD. And other alphabet soup-sounding “disorders” that deflect responsibility onto the adoptee and result in powerful drugs and pretty frightening “therapies” being administered–and when those don’t work, dissolution, institutions, and “rehoming.”
Because clearly, there’s something wrong with someone who won’t (or can’t) love you just because you want them to really, really badly, right?
Or is that just a human being reacting reasonably to a very unreasonable and unnatural situation?
Food for thought, perhaps.
Sorry Renee. I wasn’t trying to be flippant. I didn’t think you were actually asking a question that was meant for a reply, and I’m not sure there is a reply, but since you were expecting one, I’ll give it a stab. Parenthood is full of risk. Having a child who doesn’t attach to you is one of those risk. It happens sometimes in adoption, fortunately not very often, especially with infant adoption. (You didn’t mention how old you were when adopted.) I suppose it happens with children by birth, but I would assume not very often either. Human beings are designed to attach given proper love and nurturance. Although, it is different is some ways, some children on the autism spectrum don’t attach to their parents. It hurts. It’s a risk. It’s a tragedy. It sounds like you did bond well with someone–your grandmother. I’m thankful you had that.
Food for thought, definitely.
Renee, RAD implied inability to attach/bond with anyone. You obviously bonded with your adopted grandmother. As for why you didn’t attach to your adopted mother, without knowing the whole situation, it’s impossible to know.
You mentioned to the original poster that they might end up adopting someone like you – as in you are at fault here that the attachment didn’t work.
Attachment works both way. You can’t exactly grow a strong attachment one way as you obviously pointed out in your story with the prince charming. At least not for long.
My question would be, was your adopted mother bonded/attached to you too?
I was adopted at three months.
I just never bonded. My adoptive father used to tell everyone how when he would try to hug me, I would shove him away with my tiny little toddler hands and shout, “NO I NOT!”
But yes, I am capable of bonding–with my real mother; with my grandmother; with my beloved son; with my close girlfriends, a handful of whom I’ve known for 35 years now; with my husband. And that was kind of my point.
I think it’s really telling, Dawn, that you used the term “fairy tales” in the very first sentence of your post. So much of adoption relies on myths, fairy tales, fantasy, outright delusion, and also, outright lies. Too many adopters have only the most tenuous connection with the realities of trying to parent someone else’s child. They buy into, ever so subtly, the old “as if born to us” fairy tale; they don’t work through their infertility issues; they conflate “I want” with “I deserve” and “I am capable;” they don’t do much real research (ONLY THE POSITIVES, PLEASE!); they don’t consider the realities of in-utero bonding and how very real and powerful it can be; they don’t seek counseling beyond what the agency demands; they don’t really even regard The Baby as a human being with feelings and ties and needs–not to mention a ***mother*** from whom it has been ***severed***.
But the expectation is that this baby will attach to strangers. It doesn’t always happen. And via talking to literally hundreds of adult adoptees–adoptee to adoptee–I believe the inability to bond with adopters is not nearly as uncommon as it might seem.
I’d recommend that hopeful adopters give “Will An Adopted Child Be Able To Love Me?” just as much serious consideration as they do “Will I Be Able To Love An Adopted Child?” Because this isn’t about me or my childhood. This is about what’s still happening today. It’s the children who pay the price when adoption fails. And I’m tired of it. I’m tired of witnessing children reduced to collateral damage in privileged adults’ selfish games.
Also, Angelia, I don’t blame myself. I’m sure I did as a child but I don’t today. I was unfortunately party to a pact that didn’t address my well-being or my needs. I should never have been expected to uphold it.
I can’t say whether or not my adoptive mother bonded to me or not. I don’t think so, but I won’t speak for her. My honest opinion? We were props in her Happy Suburban Family display and not much more. My older (also adopted and unrelated) blatantly despised her and made no pretense otherwise. So I would imagine she felt cheated. First, by her body, and then by her purchases.
I’m glad to see this topic get some discussion. I struggled with attaching with my adoptive child and even though things are better now, I admit that the real “fairytale” of parenting and bonding and all those rainbows/unicorns lies with my biological child. I must have researched every angle of adoption before going forward, but this particular struggle was one I did not see coming.
This idea that if you work hard enough at something you will achieve XYZ is a popular notion in America, but I’m not so sure that interpersonal relationships really work that way. I think people are more complicated and nuanced than that, and I think people’s core personalities and genetic predispositions do affect how families relate to each other. And yes, I read all the books, went to therapy and even considered going on medication to ‘promote emotional bonding’ (but ultimately decided against it; it felt unauthentic and a little creepy).
What happened to me is likely not very common, but I don’t want to be dismissed as some crazy person with a disorder. Adopting a baby and having one via pregnancy are two VERY DIFFERENT THINGS, and I don’t think it is unreasonable to have some very complicated feelings around it. Dawn, thanks for posting this topic. Everyone else, can we have a more authentic conversation with parents looking to adopt on this very real risk?
With my biological child, I have had a very different experience. He is a “spirited child” and that made it very difficult for me to bond with him. He is fiercely independent and has been since the second he came out. He is very determined and stubborn. Frankly, sometimes he comes across as vengeful and intentionally mean (he hits when he doesn’t get his way, he breaks things when he’s mad, etc.) My adopted children are very warm and affectionate and loving. They were much easier to bond with.
My husband and I have recently begun the adoption process through our state foster care system. Well, actually, the process began about 5 or 6 years ago, but two months ago, a 13-year-old boy was placed with our family for the purposes of adoption. At home, things have been mostly good. School had been a different story. His struggles at school (behavior, not academics) have negatively impacted our home life and our ability to attach. Obviously, it is probably too soon to be strongly attached, but he definitely exhibits the desire to attach. As a former school teacher, I find it very difficult not to get really involved when he struggles at school. I have been advised by several people (therapist, social worker, and other adoptive moms) to do my best to separate home from school. My anxiety related to his school issues has hindered my ability to enjoy getting to know him. I do desire to attach with him, and all indications are that he feels the same way. We actually almost disrupted the entire process a week ago because we were so stressed (especially me) and were fearful that his needs could not be met as long as he stayed with us. Fortunately, our decision set off alarms for all of the professional workers, and everyone got busy trying to secure services that will help. We are thankful now that we did not disrupt. I have begun to see a therapist alone, which I think will help me. I tend to second guess everything I do, but, according to the therpist, the decisions I have made are exactly what she and the social worker would have suggested. I left the therapy session yesterday feeling hopeful. Rather than being told eveything I should be doing differently, I was told to try to not be so hard on myself, try to notice the small gestures of care and concern he shows for me (He ALWAYS holds the door for me!), and to find ways to increase our pleasurable times together. Attachment is HARD WORK for both parent and child. But I believe that it will be worth the effort.
I feel like I have had a different experience than most people posting here. I had absolutely no difficulty bonding with my adopted children. They were both just so awesome. Even nine years later, thinking about the first moments that I held them brings tears to my eyes. It was instant love for me.
We were never promised a rose garden. Biology alone doesn’t give a guarantee there will be intimate, loving bonds, just as adoption doesn’t prevent bonding and attachment from happening, either. There are no guarantees for bonding, but we as individuals and as parents can commit to being informed, to open ourselves to seeking resources to help us when we need help, to think of others before ourselves, to practice respect, to accept responsibility, to be willing to heal and grow together, and hopefully become stronger, and healthier. Love isn’t just a fairy tale feeling. It is what we do in the trenches of real life.
Renee-I am trying to take your comments in the spirit that they were intended-to educate AP’s into taking off the rose coloured glasses when it comes to adoption-but I feel like I need to respond with a story that will hopefully force you to do the same when it comes to your side of the adoption triad. I was born to and raised by my biological parents, who made it clear from day one that they were disappointed that I wasn’t the child that they wanted-mostly because I was a girl instead of a boy, but for other reasons as well. My father more or less ignored my existence my whole life even though we lived under the same roof(a condition that continues to this day, although now it is a mutually accepted situation) My mother loved me somewhat, but she always would lament to me that she still wanted her dream family of five sons, and that she believed halfway through her pregnancy that I would be a boy until one day she just intuitively knew that she was carrying a girl (which I now take to mean that it was too late for her to abort me and try again for a son when I am in a bad mood).Fast forward several years when my only sibling-a brother-was born and all my parents’ dreams came true at last!! My parents kept me, but they made no secret that my brother was their favourite child all through our growing up years. I was made to feel guilty for any needs and wants that I had as a normal child, while for my brother money was never any object. I was also very different from my parents in a lot of ways-I loved going to church, while the rest of my family could take it or leave it, I loved certain subjects in school that neither of my parents could stand when they were students, and I struggled with ones that they themselves had excelled in during their school years. I was an avid swimmer, while neither of my parents could swim a stroke. I am an accomplished public speaker, while both of my parents have terrible stage fright and refuse to get up in front of a crowd unless absolutely necessary-in fact, it used to be a family joke (at my expense, naturally) that I took after my “real parents” in that respect-the ones who had “abandoned me on their doorstep one cold winter day”. Yet I knew that I was their real child-I look very much like both of my parents physically, but this did not make me feel any closer to them than I did then or do now. As you can imagine, such a sense of alienation made it difficult to grow up in a household like that-biology be damned! But yet I kept telling myself-my parents must love me-they gave birth to me, they raised me, of course they love me-right? Imagine my surprise a few months ago when my mother passed away and I read for the first time her self-crafted obituary-the one that described my brother as “her only son” and the one person who defined her life as she got up each day and was her single proudest accomplishment in life. I loved my parents, both of them ( I still do in some ways, but it feels more forced now), and I had always assumed that because they were my biological parents that they loved me too. It was a rude awakening to find out otherwise in such an obvious way. I know I had some value to my parents because as a female child, I gave my parents a “rich man’s family”-apparently it’s lucky to be parents to one child of each gender, even if you only love one child and pay lip service to the other. Why do I tell you this story, Renee-it’s so that you and every other adoptee who preach to AP’s about abandoning their fairy tales and fantasies about becoming parents to adoption will do the hard work of abandoning YOUR fantasies that biological parents are always better for all children than AP’s. Bio parents can go into parenthood for less than noble motives, they can alienate their children just as much as AP’s. Just because you share the same genetic ingredients as your parents does not make you a CLONE of them-and some bio parents will not hesitate to take this out on their bio children if they do not live up to that unspoken expectation. And yes some bio parents do carry this expectation, along with other unrealistic ones too. GOOD parents don’t do these things-sometimes these parents can be bio parents, and sometimes they can be AP’s. This truth cannot be erased. I can try to understand where adoptees are coming from when they report not feeling like a part of their adoptive family, but I wish that they would not assume that all their problems would have been solved if they had been allowed to remain with their bio families. Some bio families never bond, either-my story is one of them. I was not adopted, but I sometimes wonder what my life might have been like if I had been placed with a family where I was wanted no matter what.
Renee, I’m re-reading your comments, and probably will come back to them again. There’s a lot there, and I appreciate you sharing your story and perspective. The points your raising are tough to think about and to discuss, but you lived it, and it’s smart to listen carefully to the voice of experience. Right now I’m not sure what it might specifically mean for our family, but it doesn’t hurt to think it through again.
Attachment as a two-way street did come up in our pre-adoption training, but I think it’s easy to let the topic fade a bit amidst diaper changes and bottles. It’s also hard to imagine what life as a parent will be like at all in the middle of pre-adoption training if you’re like us and had no kids yet. Anyway, your posts “ring” a little differently to me today than they would have even a relatively short while ago.
Expectations have a lot to do with your feelings towards anyone…spouse, child, etc. When we expect someone to be a certain way or we expect to feel a certain way we often feel sad or mad or disappointed when reality is different. I know that the reality of spending time with my 13 yr old daughter is nothing like I pictured so I have to constantly remind myself to stay in the present moment and find good things about where I am in the moment. When I try to force either myself or her to feel a certain way it backfires. Acceptance and mindfulness help a lot.
Anonymous @2:11, I don’t feel like Renee was implying that all biological families are full of rainbows and flowers. I highly doubt she’s unaware that many people were raised in difficult situations, regardless of how their family was formed. I think she was saying (hope I’m not putting words in your mouth, Renee!) that it’s important to remember that attachment is difficult and multi-faceted. While as APs it’s very easy to focus on our own perspectives, it’s really important to focus on the children we have or hope to have in our lives and families and the struggles they themselves may face in attachment. Remember, adoption is portrayed by some as smiling babies in happy families, and there are people who would prefer not address the fact that babies grow into kids and into adults and that sometimes those smiles turn into tears, even with the best of intentions. Add to that the fact that there are also many people who choose not to listen and learn from adoptees who open up and share their stories, and you have a recipe for some folks walking into an adoption process with too little information and too many pairs of rose-tinted glasses. This is not good for adoptees or APs or anyone in the triad, really. Her story was presented to help explain her position and point, not as a contrast to anyone else’s family. I take the stories shared by APs in families where attachment is difficult in the same vein: with appreciation and as important input to consider and remember.
Beautifully said, Anon AP.
PS: I should have included “and to varying degrees” in the sentence, “And those losses are profound and will impact that adoptee in various ways at various times throughout his or her life.” Sorry.
I hear what you are saying, Anon AP and I agree to a point. As a PAP who is currently working through BOTH my IF grief AND my remnants of the upbringing I mentioned above, I am in the process of trying to gain as much information about any and ALL aspects of adoption, the good the bad and the ugly so that my spouse and I can go into adoption with our eyes and our hearts wide open and give our future family (whoever it may be) the very best kind of family that those children deserve. I just find it discouraging to hear stories like Renee’s because they carry with them an attitude that clearly says (to me) “whatever you do as an AP it will never be enough to satisfy the needs of your “stolen” child because you do not have the most important thing that your child needs more than any other thing-more than love, more than care and devotion-a biological tie to the people who will be raising him/her. I want with all of my heart to understand and learn from all adoptees, but I admit that I have a hard time with the ones who romanticize and idealize the ties between them and their biological parents at the expense of all other aspects of parent-child relationships. I fear that just like PAP’s who ignore all stories of unhappy adoption situations that don’t fit their idealized view of parenthood through adoption, that these adoptees willfully turn a blind eye to stories where not everyone lives happily ever after in a non-disrupted biological family. I know in my own case that a biological tie was not enough to ensure harmony-in fact if I learned anything from my own family situation, it is how NOT to be a parent, and this is a lesson I am trying to learn as fully as I can so that I can (hopefully) be a good parent to my future children. Because I am IF, those children will(potentially) be joining our family through adoption, so I will learn all that I can about the complexities of raising an adopted child so that I can do the very best that I can to be with them where they are and help them face whatever lies ahead. I will not be biologically related to my children. That does not mean that I cannot be a good parent to them, or that our relationship will be doomed from the very start just because I never carried them or gave birth to them. And I just don’t know what to do with adoptees who make sweeping statements that say just that-that no adoptive relationship between parent and child can ever be for the best, only bio relationships can be. I’ve seen it from the other side, and I know that it is more complex than that. I just hope that adoptees who tell their stories will keep that in mind, too.
Anonymous, as you point it, it is human nature to romanticize what we don’t have. Or to mix metaphors, to think the grass is always greener on the other side. As an adoptive parent I find it tricky to walk the balance when listening to adoptees who either had a bad experience or simply believe that adoption is a deeply flawed institution. I try to err on the side of listening and trying my best to hear the message they are sending and accepting it for what it is–one person’s opinion, but a valid opinion. Knowing full well that it is not the only way to view a situation, but one way.
Anonymous – your story of your mother not wanting you is hard to read and the obit while you knew how she felt must have felt terrible – a final put down. I would challenge you to re-read Renee’s post without your own life story or mentally composing a rebuttal. Here is what I heard of the above comments in a post about whether parents can love a child they adopt.
Renee said: “I have a closely related question: Will you be able to really love an adopted child who never loves you?
Because not only do some adoptive parents never really bond with their adoptees, some adoptees never bond with their adoptive parents.”
I hear the acknowledgement that this happens to SOME on both sides of the coin in adoption (the subject of the discussion).
You heard: “I just find it discouraging to hear stories like Renee’s because they carry with them an attitude that clearly says (to me) “whatever you do as an AP it will never be enough to satisfy the needs of your “stolen” child because you do not have the most important thing that your child needs more than any other thing-more than love, more than care and devotion-a biological tie to the people who will be raising him/her.”
Yet Renee explained further in that: “I mean, why was expected to love her? She was a stranger. She didn’t look right, sound right, smell right, feel right, taste right, walk right, laugh right. We didn’t think alike. We had different talents, interests, passions, views. We were as different as two humans can be. In every way. Chalk and cheese.”
Anonymous – she didn’t say adoption was inherently evil – she said exactly what the problem was – they were chalk and cheese. It happens, the chances of it happening between non-related individuals has to be higher than between related individuals because like it or now our personality and traits are shaped in part (I would argue a lot) by our genes – they have proven this in identical twin separated at birth studies – yet – environment also plays a role. Have you never met someone who you knew instantly or shortly thereafter that you would never be friends because you were so different? I have. It happens SOMETIMES in adoption on EITHER side of the coin. Why is it okay to acknowledge it from only one side of the coin when a coin has two sides?
As to the biological side – she reunited and knows first hand what her relationship is. That isn’t fantasy – that is reality.
We all have our own biases – recognising the bias and attempting to silence it when reading is hard. I fail often.
I apologise but this is going to be a long comment:
Renee-You are entitled to your opinions about me and the dialogue that we have been a part of. I have my personal opinions about you and where you are coming from as well, but I prefer to keep them to myself, as opposed to resorting to commenting on your communication skills. I do not agree entirely with what you have to say about the nature of parent-child bonding when it comes to adoption, and you will just have to accept that.
In terms of the nature of your story about your experience, I have to admit that my main problem is that I have questions about your motives for telling it in response to the original question. In the course of my efforts to learn more about the realities of adoption by listening to and reading stories of those who are part of the adoption triad, I have developed a strong “hermeneutic of suspicion” when it comes to any and all of these stories.
This “HOS” causes me to separate these stories into 2 categories-the ones that are told with the intention of educating others, and the ones that are told in an effort to scare and intimidate those same people. The first is utterly valuable, because it encourages people to gather the information that they need to make an informed choice while not infringing upon their desire to make the choice that is truly best for them (in this case, the ones who are making the choice are PAP’s who are considering adoption as a family building option). The other is intended to scare people into deciding against pursuing a certain path by passing your opinion of that choice along in the form of a value judgment that paints the person making the choice as bad because they made the wrong decision as you see it. I’m sure you had the best of intentions by telling your story on this thread-you meant to give all PAP’s and AP’s food for thought. As I started reading your comments, that’s how I perceived it, as an education tool and a very valuable one.
However, when Dawn responded that your story of being unable to bond with your adoptive mother by saying it was a tragedy, in an effort to call such a situation as she saw it, and daring to speak a truth about such a situation (notice I used the word “truth” and not “fact” to describe the use of the word “tragedy” in this situation), you could not allow the comment to stand as a statement of truth. You could have let it go-you could have accepted it as it was intended-as an effort to empathise with your story and to validate the universal tragedy of it. But you did not. And that’s where I believe your motive for telling your story in the first place changed.
Suddenly it was no longer about educating PAP’s and AP’s about how to navigate this possibility with their adopted children should it become a reality in their own contexts. Instead it became a calling out of all that YOU believe is wrong with adoption (“forcing” infants to bond with people who look different, sound different, smell different, etc., supporting a system that treats children like pawns that are meant to only suit the selfish consumeristic needs of entitled adults who do not/cannot become parents through the “right means” (biological conception and birth), and the impossibility of bonding people who are different as “chalk and cheese” because they do not share DNA. I believe that this part of the story was meant to put an unhealthy and unnecessary fear into the minds and hearts of those who might now or one day build their families through adoption, in order to discourage them from considering it as a family building option.
There is a difference between the two motives. To use Dawn’s fairy tale analogy, it’s the difference between telling your child a bedtime story (Hansel and Gretel), saying goodnight and turning out the light, and doing all those things, but turning to your child when all those things are done and saying “you know, there are witches just like that in the real world. They are around every corner, and they are on the lookout for YOU. It’s just a matter of time before they catch you and make you their dinner. In fact, there might be a witch under your bed right now. Sweet dreams” Do you see the difference between the two storytelling methods? One is meant to share info (in this case a story) and the other is meant to manipulate and scare someone into behaving in a way that you believe is appropriate.
In this case the “appropriate behavior” I believe that you are trying to promote is for PAP’s/AP’s to live in doubt that they can ever be good enough parents to a child that they haven’t conceived and borne through all natural means. I believe that you want them to fear that they have done something terrible by becoming parents through adoption, and that somehow their child will know that they are bad and will consciously refuse to bond with them as some sort of “cosmic punishment” for their bad and “unnatural” behavior–becoming a parent through some other means than biological means. I believe that in choosing to tell your story in this way, you are not so much intending to educate PAP’s and AP’s so that they can be better parents, you are trying to intimidate them by feeding into that already existing fear that often comes with becoming a parent through adoption in the hopes that you will scare them away from considering it at all.
Your final comment to me about “at least some people will learn from my story even if you yourself haven’t” confirmed this idea for me. My question that remains for you is this: For those who you still hope to reach with your story, what is it that you hope that they will learn? That this is a possibility that they may face and will have to learn to navigate AS ADOPTIVE PARENTS who have as much right as anyone to consider themselves a family with their child(ren) through adoption and who may use this information to help their family to grow and be the best it can be, or are you hoping that these same AP’s/PAP’s will learn that “adoption is bad and should not be attempted, because something too important will always be missing from your relationship with your child. You know it, and your child will know it too” Are you hoping that every time an AP tends to his/her crying child’s basic needs (hunger, holding, diaper, etc.) that he/she will instead of assuming “oh my child is hungry/tired/wet/etc.” he/she will instead think “oh my child is crying because I ‘stole” him/her from his/her REAL (bio) parents? Is my child resisting my care and affection because he/she is in a bad mood for the same reasons that a non-adopted child might be, or is she resentful that I am the one responding to his/her needs in the role of his/her parent instead of the ones who conceived and gave birth to them and who share their DNA?” If you are attempting to offer the former, then your efforts are to be commended, but if they are rooted in the latter motivation, then I believe this is an opinion best kept to yourself. Because such opinions and attitudes do not help anyone-not expectant parents who are considering placing, not PAP’s/AP’s and especially not the children who need parents who can give them ALL that they need when they need it. And they need more than just a bio tie-that is FACT, whether or not you believe it.
I have already mentioned that I have done a great deal of research into all sides of the adoption triad in an effort to learn as much as I can about what I will need to do to be the best parent (adoptive or otherwise) that I can be. I have learned quite a bit, but I find that much of my information revolves around separating the fear-mongering and scare tactics of those who have an axe to grind against AP’s/PAP’s and adoption as a whole and who seek to scare them away from considering adoption at all. I have seen far too much of this in my research, and I admit that it has given me second thoughts about whether I have what it takes to be a parent to a child that I am not related to through DNA. What keeps me going on this path, however is the knowledge that I have from my own experience that tells me that those who put the biological ties between parent and child on a pedestal that raises it over and above ALL other concerns where it does not belong are living in their own impenetrable bubble. Renee, I’m afraid I see you as one of those, because of the comments I have already mentioned from you yourself, plus the one where you said that if you had been left in the custody of your bio mother, you and she could have faced the challenges of your shared life(whatever they might have been) together. Just you and your bio mom against the world, confident in the belief that love and your shared DNA would conquer all and make it all okay in the end. Nice thought, but probably not based in any solid reality. Such a belief could be just as dangerous and harmful to a child as the sunshine and roses that are often painted as the only reality of adoption. Because these ideas are rooted purely in the heart of those who believe it, and not enough in the head. Parenting requires BOTH head and heart in equal amounts in order to be best for a child. Sorry to burst YOUR bubble, but parenting is too important a job to be built upon a foundation that is nothing more than flimsy fantasies and dreams of wishful thinking. That goes for adoptive parenting AND bio parenting. And IMO we don’t do the adoption world and its inhabitants ANY favours when we affirm these heart heavy fantasies as facts, by allowing them to stand unchallenged with facts that tell the real and complex truth about this real and complex family situation.
Renee-I wish you all the best in this life. I hope it turns out the way you want, and that you efforts to educate PAP’s/AP’s (but not your efforts to scare them) will be successful.
Greg-you said it much better (and more succinctly) than I ever could. I hope people will take your words to heart!!!
Anonymous (last comment), I don’t have a response for you, because I didn’t write any of the sweeping statements you’ve accused me of writing. I’m at a loss as to where most of your comments even came from. I don’t know if you’re hallucinating or projecting, but all of those words? Yours, not mine.
Anon AP, I appreciate your understanding and willingness to hear. And yes, I’ll agree with Dawn, that your comment was well-stated and insightful.
Beyond those two comments, I don’t have much.
I don’t have to fantasize about or romanticize my bio family because I have reunited with them. I know them; I have relationships with them; I know who they are, and I’m aware that there would have been challenges had my mother and I not been separated. But the subject is bonding, and even though I’ve reiterated my point over and over, I’ll write it one more time, because apparently, it bears repeating:
“But the expectation is that adoptees will, without fail, attach to strangers. It doesn’t always happen. And via talking to literally hundreds of adult adoptees–adoptee to adoptee–I believe the inability to bond with adopters is not nearly as uncommon as it might seem.
I’d recommend that hopeful adopters give “Will An Adopted Child Be Able To Love Me?” just as much serious consideration as they do “Will I Be Able To Love An Adopted Child?” Because this isn’t about me or my childhood. This is about what’s still happening today. It’s the children who pay the price when adoption fails. And I’m tired of it. I’m tired of witnessing children reduced to collateral damage in privileged adults’ selfish games.”
As regards the false equivalencies between bio and adopted I see mentioned, I’m really not willing to argue about that too much. I’ll just say there are two ***profound*** differences between the two sets of circumstances.
One is that bonding time in the womb does make a difference. To varying degrees in varying pregnancies, yes. But to pretend that mother-child bonding doesn’t begin until after birth is ridiculous. To hear society go on and on about the vital importance of in-utero bonding EXCEPT WHEN SPEAKING OF ADOPTION is infuriating to me and many other adoptees I know. Sorry, but you don’t get to dismiss it for us while you celebrate it everywhere else.
The most profound difference between bio and adopted, though, is that every adoption begins with loss. In order for a child to become available for adoption, that child has to be severed from its mother, family, and identity. And those losses are profound and will impact that adoptee in various ways at various times throughout his or her life. Bio families may face challenges–that goes without saying–but bio children do not begin their lives losing everything that society claims is more important than anything in this world: Family.
Also, I’m always perplexed when people equate bio and adoption, given that adoption is sold as “better than.” I mean, how many women have been convinced to relinquish a children with that promise? That they’re being noble and selfless by giving their child to those who can offer it more. Better. A better life–with parents who’ve been vetted. If you want to equate the two, to me, you’re going to have to admit that adoption, like bio, is a gamble. And I do believe that it is. But I wonder how many women will relinquish after being told they’re giving up their flesh and blood to a crap shoot?
“Too many adopters have only the most tenuous connection with the realities of trying to parent someone else’s child. They buy into, ever so subtly, the old “as if born to us” fairy tale; they don’t work through their infertility issues; they conflate “I want” with “I deserve” and “I am capable;”
This works the other way too: “Too many fertiles have only the most tenuous connection with the realities of trying to parent a child. They buy into the belief that “just because I can” (get pregnant and give birth) automatically equals-I deserve to be a parent and am capable of being a parent” Our overcrowded foster care system is living proof of this fallacy, and the children pay the price. And sometimes the ones who are given up and actually get out of those “families” are the truly fortunate ones.