Saturday, November 6, 2010


I recently found in my jewelry box one of those bracelets that were popular a few years back, you those "Livestrong" ones, but this one was for adoption and says "ADOPTION = LOVE" on it.  So I've been wearing it again. Proudly.

But it's also got me thinking about adoption and love and the bonds that are formed through adoption. 
More to the point I've been pondering the question - does adoption automatically equal love?   Just because we actively seek these children to adopt do we just automatically love them, bond with them?  Or is it a love and bond formed over time?  And even more, does love and bonding necessarily go together and grow together on the same scale, with the same intensity and at the same time?
I guess a comment a friend made got me thinking.  She said something along the lines of *Dad's don't bond with the baby the way Mom does because they don't carry it inside and feel it grow.  They don't get those 9 months of feeling the movement, the kicks.  They just don't have the same bonds and connection...the same immediate love for the baby*.

This is a good friend and I probably could have opened a discussion...but I was rather speechless.  (I know, I know...these speechless moments-so odd!)  I just wasn't sure where this feeling of offense was coming from and what point I would have been trying to make.
And of course I've been mulling it over now, questioning that bond between mother and child - parent and child really.  When does attachment, bonding and love begin?  And where does it the womb or in the heart?
Do I not get to love my adopted child as much, with as much emotion simply because she/he did not "grow" inside of me?  Am I required or expected to work harder at those bonds of love because I've only known my child post birth?  And what gives a child of birth a better bond with their parents, their mother...My children have learned loss and learned how it felt trust again at a very young age...doesn't that mean something?  Doesn't that show how deep our love and our bond truly is?

Now I am not saying I fell head over heels in love and immediately bonded with my children the moment our eyes met.  No, not exactly...I mean I loved them, deeply, but yes I didn't have that complete connection we now so easily share.  But the implication that those bonds were not there at all, that I didn't have a some kind of love- well that's not true, nor is it fair. 

Maybe they didn't grow in my belly, but I had years of desperate wanting of them, months of waiting to see what they would look like and then months more of looking at photograph of my baby waiting across an ocean.   I had oodles of dreams of holding each of them and I definitely had such intense longings to smell, touch and cuddle them.  I knew every inch of their skin and hair and eyes (well that I could see in a picture) and was only lacking the feel of them in my arms.  When I met each of them it was emotional and scary and the need to connect was not one of wanting but of necessity.  We had to get to know each other through language barriers and fear of the unknown.  And they had to trust us, these strangers that had come into their lives.  And once home the connections made daily with each of my children were amazing.  Some days I found new reasons to love them and some days we found new ways to bond.  And some days we did both.
Oh yes, I had plenty of time to bond and love them, just not in womb...but in my heart. 

So does adoption = love?
For me it certainly does.

I didn't give you the gift of life,
But in my heart I know.
The love I feel is deep and real,
As if it had been so.

For us to have each other
Is like a dream come true!
No, I didn't give you
The gift of life,
Life gave me the gift of you.
--- Unknown Author ---


Elizabeth Blankenship said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes and you hit the nail right on the head. I think love and bonding are like a wonderful book each day with each new page turned you grow closer and more intimate with one another. I hope my relationship with my daughter will always be a page turner!

suzanne said...

Your love as an adoptive parent is a strong and powerful love. You don't have to feel the's all the same :) I've loved my friend's babies as much as my own, I've loved my aunt's (Terry) babies as much as my own. The love does grow more and more every day, every minute. You are a mother, no different from me...

michelle said...

I loved that poem, it made me teary. I loved our little girl from the first moment I saw her pictures and each day that she has been with me, my love for her grows. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I didn't give birth to her because she is my daughter in every sense of the word. Someone who gives birth to a baby may have 9 months, but all of our years of waiting and longing have made our hearts ready to share that special connection with our adopted baby. Our bonding does take time as we get to know our little one, but it shouldn't be diminished just because we didn't give birth to them.

Teresa said...

You have summed up the emotions well: longing, but a little fearful; loving this child you haven't met, but loving them in a deeper way when you get to know each other. I remember when we were waiting to travel to get Caroline I told a friend that I didn't "feel" love for this child whose picture I held. She was so wise. She said, "Don't you think you're being a little hard on yourself because you don't feel love for a child you haven't met yet?" (Um, DUH!) It's a lot like an arranged marriage that takes place across the ocean.

Yet the love happens. The committment is there and the love follows. We bond with our children because we make the effort to bond. And it is no different if you give birth or adopt - every parent makes the effort to bond with their child. There's no "magic".

Mark & Kris said...

You are right on, Jen. As a mom who has bio children as well as one adopted I can honestly say there is absolutlety no difference in my love or bonding with Samuel. In fact, it may be even deeper with Samuel. Do not get me wrong, I love all my children deeply. I can't really explain it. Maybe its because when you carry your child you know in 9 months you will hold that child. No one can take that away from you. They are yours. You bond with them in that 9 month period as well as after they are born. Loves grows the whole time. With adoption you love the child that you know in meant to be yours even before you see a face. Then you see that child and love grows so strong while you wait for that child and I guess for me it grew so deep fast because of the uncertainity of it all. Would he be home in 9 months or 2 years? Would the program shut down? Whould the birth family change their mind? All these thoughts one doesn't experience as a bio parent. Then when you hold that precious child in your arms and you know they are yours you are just so gratiful. So thankful. So full of love. Maybe its that you don't take them for granted during that wait time. I don't know. All I know is when I held Samuel I was so full of love. There was no effort. It just was.

Lisa said...

*sigh* Another timely, evocative and poignant post ~ don't stop sharing it all my friend!

I will never know the love that grows through birth but I do know this love.....and it leaves me breathless with joy, humbled, eternally grateful and with a sense of completeness ( and awe!!) never known before.

I do believe that both Tyler and Lauren's (bio) Mamas felt a tremendous love and yearning too ~ that they had the same hopes, desires and dreams for these children as Scott and I do. I believe that thread remains with both of our children and serves to strengthen our own commitment and deep adoration of each one.

My hope is always they grow in life knowing they were cherished by many.

That the love/bond, though altered drastically, shared with their other Mamas allowed them both to seek love again and trust in it.

In my heart I know the love that I share with both of these miracles is nothing short of all emcompassing. Its true, its complete and never static.

Hugs to you and I'm sorry you had to sit in quiet discomfort while your friend shared her thoughts; I have to believe she might have phrased them differently in light of a very obvious fact: that you share a powerful beautiful love with Simone and Sammy equal to the love she must feel for her children.

No qualifiers needed!!

Laura said...

You are so very wise on multiple points. #1: I've had days where I wanted a brief, fleeting return to my life before being a parent. I didn't want Sara gone, I just wanted a break. That freedom to go wherever and whenever just for a short time and I felt guilty because I worked soooo hard to be a mom. Shouldn't I cherish parenthood every second? Shouldn't my love be that much more intense?
Also have had the hmmmmmm....moments when well-meaning friends make comments about pregnancy, bonding, "blood connections"...I think what might rub us wrong is that it can come across as a superiority thing even if that's not what's intended. I think the thing to remember is that love grows. We love the picture, we love the idea of the child similar to how pregnant women love their unborn baby. As we get to know our child, love grows and bonds form. I think what you said is true - we often work harder at it during those first weeks!!

comingaroundagain said...

Enjoyed reading some of your blog, Jennifer! My husband and little girl met your husband and little boy yesterday at Lowes! Anyway, one of my co-worker friends made a comment to me about bonding thing with her (bio) daughter and herself that made so much sense to me 'all those birthing stories that many moms tell - I don't even think about any of that; in fact, I don't really remember it much. What matters is the relationship I have with her now and each day forward; that's how you 'bond'.'
Also, I am reading a book that was just published this year that I'm loving by NPR's Scott Simon called, 'Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other: In Praise of Adoption'. I know that title may turn some off, but it really is good (and personally, I love the title).