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.