surprising difficulties of international adoption, #4

The final surprise (at least, that I'm sharing in this series) that we experienced with Micah happened during our first several weeks with him.

Again, the best comparison I can make is to that of an engagement. Over the years, Vince and I have had the privilege of counseling engaged couples as they prepare for marriage. And the reality is for most couples, their unfolding marriage is not what they were expecting...sometimes it's better, easier than expected...but, most often it's much more difficult. Difficult doesn't equal bad. Difficult simply reflects the fact that humans are physically, emotionally and spiritually-complex beings -- therefore, marriage is a complex institution. Multi-dimensional.

The same goes for bringing a child into your family through adoption. (NOTE: even though we do not have biological children, families who do have bio children have also experienced this scenario that I am about to describe with their adopted children.)

Prior to meeting your child/ren, you've bonded with their photos...and you've bonded with the child that your imagination has created. It is impossible to predict personality and temperament from pictures, so your mind connects a personality and temperament to the child/ren according to how you brain reads the limited data captured on film.

The real child is much different than the two-dimensional, glossy child. Much more complex.

You've been full-steam ahead...focused intensely on meeting your sweet child. Um, well, your imagined child, that is. But when you're united, the imagined child crashes into the real child -- and you immediately enter what is best described as a fog.

Once you're back to the familiarity of your own home, you do emerge from the fog. But not really as mommy, more like baby-sitter -- because you do not know this child.

I think I read about this phenomenon in adoptive-parenting books. But like the dreamy-eyed lover, I must have ignored all that I read because this stage caught me off-guard. I truly felt like Micah's baby-sitter. Jet-lag and Micah's anxiety about his new surroundings didn't help matters either. I grieved and experienced intense guilt because of what I was feeling: was there something wrong with me because I did not have an instantaneous and deep emotional bond with him??

The answer is: NO!!!

What I was experiencing was completely normal. Social workers affirmed that it was normal. Other adoptive families who were united with their children after us also experienced the very same thing. Now, I know some of you who are reading this are thinking: Nope! Won't be me. I'll just read more books, pray harder. I will instantly bond with my children. None of this "baby-sitter" nonsense for me. All I can say is, keep me posted. Let me know if you do by-pass the baby-sitter season. Well, never mind -- don't bother. I probably won't believe you. I'll probably just attribute your victory to a "referral euphoria" relapse.

I don't share this (or surprises #1-3) to scare you, or deter you. It's just the way it is. You will over-come each surprise that you experience in your adoption...some later than sooner. But you will be stronger, more informed because of each surprise you encounter. So don't dread them, or even worse, deny them...embrace them. You are human -- your child/ren is human. All human relationships develop in a linear fashion -- and include the linear elements of time and experience. And this will hold true for your adoption...it will hold true for you, and your child. So give yourself, and your child, time and space to grow.

That's what adoption is: the process of fulfilling a life-long commitment. Through your obedience to your commitment, life-long blessing will follow.

Indescribable blessing.


lori said...

Wow. You described that so well and clearly. I imagine that was quite a challenge, but I'm so glad you're able to speak on this side of it to encourage everyone reading! It even encouraged me, although I haven't experienced the adoption process firsthand, because I actually experienced some of that fog when we had Caleb. I didn't even feel "baby blues" so to speak, but the bonding wasn't as instantaneous as I thought it would have been. I felt really disconnected from him. The guilt I felt was strong. But sure enough, as time progressed and we had space to grow, the bonding occurred.

I'm really enjoying this post series! I'm excited for you two as each step is approaching to bring home baby Martin #2! :)

Julie said...

I've experienced that fog with Samuel. I remember telling my parents when he was just a few weeks old that I felt like his babysitter. It really caught me off guard but over time reality kicked in that I was actually his mom.

Thanks for this series. It has helped me understand some of what my friends who are adopting are going through.

Amanda said...

Hey...I used to work for an adoption agency and got married a year ago and my first year of marriage was so difficult! I used to relate to adoptive parents throughout this year b/c of this. I KNEW what they went through, especially when bringing older children home was very similar to a marriage's first year, especially if you had a quick dating time and engagement. But, the good news is, if you don't give up and stay committed, you will turn that corner and the love will be there, deeper than before. How great to see someone else use the marriage/adoption analogy....

Tim said...

Right to my heart once again. We just had this discussion today. Thanks for the encouragement!

Traci said...

Oops, Tim's comment was actually me. I'll blame it on the fog. :)

Peter and Nancy said...

I hopped over to your blog after someone posted it on the Dillon Intl. parent forum. I'm so glad you're sharing the truth -- so many parents feel ashamed of their struggles. It's so helpful to know that other people go through normal bumps in the road too.

After we flew home with our daughter, I distinctly remember thinking, "We're strangers to each other." I had to give myself grace while I got to know her and she got to know me. You put this feeling into words so well!

-- Nancy
(mom to bio sons Aaron-9, Nathan-7, Anya Rashi-3, from India; and on the waiting list for another daughter from India)

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