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This week’s Tuesday Topic comes from Renae:

I would love to hear from other adoptive parents about their experiences(and yours) with attachment…NOT the adopted child’s attachment, but THEIR attachment!  I’m struggling a LOT to bond with my newly adopted daughter(she’s three)…I have 5 bio kids, so part of the problem is that I expected to feel that “ooey-gooey” baby love for her, and it wasn’t there! I’m on my knees daily, praying for the love to come, and I trust my LORD to finish what he started:)!  Nevertheless, it has not been the happy ending I wanted or expected….never mind the fact that this child has NO attachment issues of her own that I have seen!  She is attaching well to me and her Dad…NOT wanting others, etc…and is a very happy child so far(home only 6 weeks though)…this just adds to my guilt and shame….  Some days I do well…and some days I’m angry at everyone, including her!

I appreciate Renae’s honesty and her desire to hear from other adoptive parents.  It is hard to admit that things are tough and that we are part of the problem.  I’ve certainly experienced it myself.  How about you?  How did you work through it?

Please take a moment to share your thoughts.  I will be on the road tomorrow, so I will begin approving comments on Wednesday.

Encourage one another,

~Lisa



  1. Kate in NY (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    Renae, Be kind and patient with yourself. I know some adoptive parents are instantly, head-over-heels in love with their new children, but for many, many of us, it is more a process of slowly falling in love. Remember, unlike with your bio kids, you are doing this without the benefit of hormones or biology! Instead of worrying about whether or not you love your child unconditionally, just provide her with unconditional nurturing. In time, your attachment will deepen and grow.

    My adopted son (home 5 years) turned 12 today. In our house, we put up a "photo gallery" in the kitchen for the birthday kid. I was looking at the photos of Abi from the orphanage in Ethiopia, and then the one from the kindergarten play, with missing front teeth, and Halloweens past, and bam! It hit me! I was feeling all "ooey-gooey" and nostalgic over him – just the kind of feeling I get when I look at the pics of my newborn bio kids coming home from the hospital! Have faith, and you will get there.

  2. Cyndi (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    I know that I have attachment issues! I'm TERRIFIED of falling too far in love and then losing the children somehow. I've been through miscarriages, unsuccessful placements, and more near-placements than a human should have to endure and I want nothing more than to love my kids wholeheartedly. I'm scared of being hurt again – of grieving again for a child who no one recognized was "mine" in my heart. Each day our adoptive children with me, it gets better. Some days I have to go check them out of school and keep them with me so I can stop panicking. I spend a lot of time thinking about the difference between possession and relationship. I try to forgive myself for the anger and guilt and holding back emotionally. I try to be honest about my emotions with my husband and children and let them see me cry. I want them to know that no matter what, I'm working on this.

    I wish someone had told me at the beginning of this road that love wasn't instant. Love grows in adoption the same way it does in a marriage. It's a merging of personalities, a sharing of fears, and learning to accept and love each other the way we came. It does get better with time! Don't blame yourself for this and don't be ashamed of it! You are choosing to be honest and let honest emotion grow instead of faking it and robbing everyone of the end result. *hugs*

  3. Kayla (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    This was the issue that did my husband and I in in our short stint as foster parents. No one told me how it would feel like glorified babysitting and how much I would resent the little girl who was a stranger in our home. In our case, this was compounded by not having any other kids so not only were we adjusting to a new person but also a new way of life. I carried a lot of guilt; then after Leela left (she was an emergency placement), I read The Post Adoption Blues. It made me realize that I was not alone in all of that and how unrealistic my expectations of "love" were. You didn't fall in love with your husband overnight (at least most people don't). So don't force yourself to feel like you have to fall in love with your daughter overnight either. Know you are certainly not alone in those feelings, that guilt is only useful if it is motivating rather than condemning. Press on; love takes time.

  4. Angela (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    I don't claim to have any great "adoption" wisdom to share, but I just think the poor mommy has not given herself enough time to grow her seed of love. I didn't have any overflowing feelings of love for my kiddos and every day – even on the HARD days, I know that love is growing bit by bit. I can now say I love these kids 7 months down the road in a new sort of way than when I said, "I loved the twins" when they first arrived. Give me another 6 months and the plant of love will look totally different with tendrils entwined, and plenty of foliage visible. Give me a few years and that plant will be a tree.

    There are times when I am repulsed by the children's behaviors. The first three months I could hardly eat. The pooping all over and the vomiting at will had me so grossed out I could hardly bare to be in my own house. There were mornings I woke up and wished it was all a bad dream, or that I wouldn't have to get out of bed. The children didn't know any better… I forced myself to "love" on them and treat them like fragile seedlings with huge needs. I knew if I sent them back (adopting from foster care) they didn't have much of a chance. God had given me these children and a lot of times it was a conscious CHOICE to love them and put up with the horrendous behaviors, smells, and putrid clothes. We are past the worst. They are potty trained, and will eat anything I put in front of them, I wake up ready to smile at them and draw their hearts towards mine. It's not to say there aren't days of utter frustration and embarrassingly, despair over the control issues and combativeness I'm still working with, but my plant of love has grown sufficiently to allow me to enjoy their presence in the good times and cry over them in the bad times.

    I would say, not having had a son previously made me more tentative to "love and understand" the boy over the girl and she's actually the harder of the two. I wish this mommy God's richest blessings and pray that she will not be so hard on herself and let the seedling sprout and grow in it's own time.
    Blessings,Angela

  5. Jane (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    Oh my. This is hard for me to even respond to, because it's so difficult to admit I struggled with those same feelings. Our social worker at a post-placement visit pointed out that I probably had unrealistic expectations, which were especially evident when comparing bringing home older children with giving birth to a newborn. Allow yourself some grace. It does take time, but it WILL come. Six weeks is a very short time to expect a full attachment. I am sure you are still exhausted. It will come, it really will. Some days are easier than others, and I will admit, sometimes I still struggle with the knowledge that my biological kids have an attachment advantage in having spent their whole lives with one adoring mother. The same just can't be true for children adopted at older ages. It is a hard truth, but it doesn't mean you're not capable of being a wonderful loving mommy to your new daughter.

  6. Jane (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    continued…
    What I will say, is it is a gradual process, one that you almost don't realize is occuring until you look back and realize how far you've come. Just keeping acting in a loving way toward her and eventually you will be able to stop acting, and just naturally do it. You are right that He will finish what He started! And I hope it helps you to put away the guilt and shame to realize that it is a normal part of adjusment and not something that you alone are struggling with. When you are feeling angry, try to remember God's adoption of us as His children…that always helps me put my feelings into perspective and keeps my actions in check.

  7. Jamey (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    I can really relate to this, way too much, actually. While my two year old daughter does have some attachment issues of her own I am struggling more than she is and I'd say my husband has some of his own struggles too. Honestly, for me, part of my problem was/is PostAdoption Depression and I have started taking medication for it and that has been helpful. It certainly has NOT solved our problems, by a long shot. I really think that it takes time and prayer (and sometimes medicine!). It was almost four month before I felt actual love toward my daughter. I've written a lot about my attachment problems on my blog and I'm always open to personal emails as well.

  8. Rose (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    I truly believe what you are feeling right now is very normal. I have two bio children – a son and a daughter – and one adopted son. There were times after my adopted son came to us that wondered what I had gotten myself into because the feelings weren't always what I thought they should be. But it takes time and shared experience to for those feelings to develop. When we give birth to a bio child we have already had nine months to "bond" with this child. We have lived through nurturing this baby within us, feeling movements and all the other moments that help to build this bond even before the baby is born. And after birth the interaction continues with the two of you growing in together in the mother/child relationship. When you adopt a child, especially an older child, there is aready a totally seperate history for both of you and it takes time to bring these two seperate individuals into the mother/child relationship.

    I hope I haven't been to wordy here and that some of this is helpful.

  9. Alison (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    OH, I know that feeling! You cannont let the guilt and shame get in the way though. You have to shake it off! We have 3 adopted children – one at 2 days old, one at 14 months and one at 20 months. The 14 and 20 months old girls came at the same time from a disrupted adoption. That was two years ago this month. I still struggle that "I" might not be completely attached to the older one – she is now 3 1/2. I carried the guilt around with me for quite a while expecially when I would attend adoption events and hear people telling me how important attachment is and what adverse behaviors will happen if we don't attach. But, I had a really good friend listen to be sobbing over my guilt and fears. She reminded me in that moment that God's Grace is bigger than all of that stuff floating around in my head. Since that time, I have not let that guilt and fear take over and I am more intentional in my love, patience and grace with her. She was a little bit slower in attaching to my husband and I, and each day I find myself loving her more and more.
    So, my advice to you would be: relax, be intentional, rest in the arms of God and enjoy your daughter!

  10. carla (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    There is so much to say here, but yet can be put simply. I believe these are "normal" feelings. Adoption is not natural it is supernatural. You are not going to have the same feelings and emotions that you have with your children already in your home that you have bonded with. It takes time to bond and the older the child the longer it takes, I believe. Adoption is a spiritual issue and God will provide what you need. I am 18 months into this and it is getting better. One thing I read, it may have been a comment on one of the posts in the blog, an adoptive mother shared that she had to put herself in "foster care mode". I tried this and it helped me because I did not put such high expectations on myself. Since I quit being so hard on myself, things have gotten much better. I care for the children and try to meet their needs and allow God to work in me. Still not where I would like to be, but God will work it out over time as long as I am willing. There were many times I wanted to put the children up for re-adoption, I didn't think I could be the mother they needed. But God has shown me that He put these children into our family because we are exactly what they need…our parenting style, our beliefs, etc. Also, they are exactly what we needed to grow closer to Him. Just remember, you are NOT alone and I think sometimes the "guilt" of it all makes us angry at ourselves and/or the child.

  11. Teresa (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    Hi,

    The most common expression I hear regarding attachment in adoption is: "Fake it until you make it."
    Do all the gestures, do everything as you already loved her madly as your daughter and one day you'll look at her and you will.

    That is all part of the attachment process in adoption, it wasn't a phisycal child birth, no hormones to help, you need to give yourself some time for the LOVE to kick in.

    Good luck on your journey!!!

  12. jill (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    I think this is a dark secret that frankly made me feel like a monster. No one talked about. None of the books I read for our homestudy or after our adoption talked about it. One day while talking to a fellow adoptive mom she said something that brought it out. I was so happy, amazed and carried a lighter load knowing someone else felt this way.

    Slowly, I began counseling. I began to understand my daughter. I began to understand the root of some of my issues in attaching to her. Slowly, still working slowly, I have become more attached. It is still a huge struggle….some because she has a lot of "stuff" that she is dealing with. However, just know we are all out here. So many of us struggle with this. There is support and love out there!

    Jill

  13. Michelle (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    I have 2 bio children, a step son and one adopted son who is home and 2 more girls coming home in 2 weeks (yeah!). My attachment with each child has been different and taken different amounts of time. My first bio daughter I had to fake it until she was about 6 months old. I was breastfeeding, cosleeping…the whole 9 yards. I went through the motions and then slowly started attaching to her at around 6 months. My second son – it took almost a year to really attach to him. My third son I loved…I mean loved from the first day he was born.
    I did not beat myself up over it and I still don't. You fake until it is real and you don't feel guilty about it – because aint nothin good EVER come from guilt! Just know you are not alone and you are not the first mom to ever feel that way … and it doesn't just happen in adoptive parents!

  14. Elizabeth (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    In many respects I could have written this, except not only did I have trouble attaching to my son, he had his own issues with rage and grief which exacerbated everything. I can say that now I am most definitely attached to him, but it took more than a year to get to this place. My best advice is to give it time and continue to act as though you are attached to her even if it is difficult. Don't beat yourself up over not feeling the same way you feel about your new child as you do your biological children. From what people have said to me, it is more common than anyone lets on… you are not abnormal. But it is also something that has to be givin time and room to grow. It is important to think in terms or months, not days or weeks.

    Hang in there it really does get better.

  15. mary.owlhaven (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    Hi Lisa,
    Sometimes it does take some time to feel the warm fuzzy feelings. It could be she has some distancing behaviors that you are noticing subconsciously but not consciously– things like avoiding eye contact, not molding her body against your for hugs, bumping roughly against you with hugs, etc. Those things can leave a mom feeling rejected even if the child is not consciously rejecting.

    I think the thought to hang onto is that love is a decision more than it is a feeling, especially early in a relationship with an adopted child. Keep ACTING loving toward your child, cuddle her lots, stroke her skin and hair, etc. If she does have some un-cozy behaviors, don't hesitate to gently coach her towards behavior that is truly enjoyable to you as well as her. For example, encourage eye contact, gentle hugs, molding, etc. Kids who haven't gotten lots of affection sometimes aren't good at being reciprocal.
    But be patient, love WILL eventually come.
    All the best,
    Mary, mom to many including 6 adopted

  16. expressmom (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    There are plenty of biological mothers who needed more than six weeks to get that "ooey-gooey" baby love going! Each baby is different, even bio. babies. Be a little more kind to yourself, if the baby is bonding and happy, you are obviously DOING everything right, even if you don't feel perfectly 'right' just yet yourself.

  17. stonefox@pobox.com (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    I can relate. I have had the same experience, mine has lasted quite some time. I know people say to do lots of touch, and that has helped me. But what has helped me the most is to face and deal with some of my own underlying issues. As a Christian, God has used adoption in my life to hold my feet to the fire, so to speak, and force me to let Him point out the "yuckies" in my heart. Then, to rely on Him to lead me through the yuckies to the other side. It isn't a quick fix, but it has brought about some huge changes in me!

  18. 7fromHeaven (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    I have 2 bio children and 5 adopted. I have also fostered over 60 toddlers & babies. I think the best advice I can give you is to let go of your expectations of how adoption was suppose to be in your mind. Please try to remember this isn't the ending, it is just the beginning. I learned a lot in my 12 years as a foster parent and as an adoptive mother. One big thing that I learned is that it is o.k. if you don't instantly bond with some children. I learned that some personalities I clicked with and some I didn't, and that was o.k. too. I truly believe in the phrase "Fake it til you make it.", you will be glad later that you did. Don't stress about the bond, it would come as you serve your child.

    In foster parenting/adoption we learned that a child coming into your home kind of shook things up a bit. Like rocking the mobile on a crib. It always took me at least 2-3 months for the settling of the mobile. Our 4th child (2nd adopted) is the half bio sibling of our 3rd child(1st adopted). We found out about getting to adopt him when he was 1 month in utero. We finally got him at 15 months old. We had waited for him for so long and were so excited. After 3 weeks I was crying my eyes out. It was not my happily ever after either. Saying it was hard would be an understatement. He didn't know how to give or receive hugs and didn't want anything to do with us. Slowly but surely he settled into our family. It is still not a fairytale and never will be and that's o.k. He is now a wonderful 11 1/2 year old boy that we call Little Big Heart. I love him with all my heart.

    I also learned that it was o.k. to have favorites.(I didn't tell any kids this or show favoritism in front of any other children) I also learned that my favorite could/would change as the ages and stages of the child changed and that was o.k., too. I think it is expected in the world that every child and every situation be a fairytale "especially" adoption. When in fact adoption is the farthest thing from a fairytale. I also learned that you shouldn't feel guilty if you feel overwhelmed with your adopted child. With bio children you feel overwhelmed and sometimes wonder why you ever became a parent in the first place. LOL It is o.k. to feel the same way with an adopted child, it feels taboo but it is o.k.

    In my experience I had babies and toddlers up to 5yr.s. I learned that 3yr. old's were the hardest for ME to bond with and the hardest for ME to parent. Also, one of my adopted sons came to our home at this age(it was tough), he is now 5, AND HE IS MY FAVORITE!!!!

    I hope this helps. :)

  19. gloria (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    Oh, how I can relate to Renae's situation! We came home with our daughter 3 years ago. We also have 2 bio kids. I had expected to deal with her attachment/bonding issues. Instead it was my challenge. I felt guilty, I felt trapped. I even felt angry. It's been a long and sometimes difficult road, but I will say that I truly, truly love and cherish her. Sometimes I still ask myself, "But is it the same love as I have for my bio kids?" And sometimes I have a hard time answering that question. And sometimes I think, "What does it matter?" as long as it is love and there is openness to that love expanding over time. I can say that with each passing day, week, month, my feelings grow stronger.

    Please be kind to yourself. The early weeks are so, so, so difficult. There is so much to adjust to, not to mention the jet lag alone takes it's toll (for us it was a good 2 weeks before we were completely over that small part of the puzzle!)

    With an open heart and open mind, I know you will get there… just breathe… All the best!

  20. Amber (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    I'm so excited to hear this! We've been home for 7 weeks with two girls ages 2 and 6. I have to pray daily for the Lord to help me love them with His love, because I am angry right now. I am struggling emotionally. I have faith that you and I WILL attach to these children, it will just take time. I continue asking God when I feel that anger and frustration toward them to give me peace and to help me love them. I do believe this is the first prayer I've ever had answered IMMEDIATELY! (He must know that I'm desperate!) Not to discourage you, but He gives me what I need at that moment. It hasn't been a miraculous fix to all.

    I will pray that He will overfill your cup so that it flows into your new daughter. Don't feel guilty, this is not only traumatic for the children, but for ourselves as well. Your world has been completely turned and a strange person is in your home and now going through all of your cupboards, drawers, your purse, and your personal belongings. I also pray for the Lord to help me to see these children as He sees children and to love them as He loves them. -cont.

  21. Amber (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    I don't feel that I 'love' our new girls yet. I've had people ask if I love them like I do our bio children. When I tried to answer that, I felt terrible. I realize, that question needs no answer, not now or ever! I hand it to the Lord daily, He will be our judge, and He WILL answer our desperate pleas to Him about the children He has choosen to entrust us with.

  22. learningpatience (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    Six week home! At six week home I was nothing but exhausted – not attached, not adjusted, not in my groove, just tired. Give yourself time, and keep praying!

    It's been almost three years home, and I'm sad to say that I still go through stages. For a while I will feel like we are all completely adjusted and attached. Then I will have a few days where I feel like every problem we have is somehow attached to attachment; sometimes it's my own issues, sometimes it's my kids' issues. It all makes me a little crazy, but when I stop and think I can see progress over time.

    I think back to the days when we just had bio kids; I remember that there were times when I just couldn't figure out what makes them tick, and I would be so frustrated. I couldn't blame it on attachment then. I think adoption and all of the attachment stuff I've read sometimes makes me a little over-sensitive, out of fear that whatever is wrong today might be an attachment thing . . . that we might never be a "real" family. When in reality, everything is working just the way it should; it just takes time and prayer!

    That said, if you are not seeing any progress, I'd encourage you to talk to your social worker or a counselor or a pastor who understands attachment.

  23. Ashley (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    Well, I don't know what to say, except I've been struggling with this as well. We've been home 5 months and I am just now allowing myself to admit (to myself or anyone else) that I'm having problems. I think at first I was so worried about their feelings that I didn't allow myself to feel any of my own. I would love suggestions on how to help the parent attach as well…

  24. Lisa Brandt (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    Our daughter has been home for almost ten months. She’s four (at least the paperwork say that) and our 7th child. All of the others are biological.

    I liken this to the Puritan’s view of marriage. They chose a partner based upon spiritual issues, not physical. We adopt, partially, because it’s right. We’re not ruled by emotions or feelings, similar to the Puritans.

    God honors obedience to His word. We can’t trust our emotions. When my feelings don’t line up with the Word, it’s an opportunity to cry out to God and pray that he would grant repentance, compassion and love for our child (and others). This is not all about us…it’s about being conformed to the image of Christ through trials and hardship, counting it all joy as we are purified into His beauty. We need to be on our knees and let Him do the work in our hearts.

  25. Sharon (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    "This is not all about us…it's about being conformed to the image of Christ through trials and hardship, counting it all joy as we are purified into His beauty."

    Amen, amen, amen!

    I so agree with this statement, and have been learning to die to myself DAILY and trusting in God's provision DAILY. I truly believe that if attachment had come quickly, I would not have clung to God nearly as tightly these past years. We have been home 2.5+ years with two of our adopted children and one year with the last one. Attachment is not complete, but God has taught me that as I prayed to "feel more connected, feel the deep love", the prayer in many ways was selfish….about my desire for the deep love so it would be EASIER. God is NEVER about easier. He is about us looking more like his Son every day and bringing Him glory. I do believe I will feel this deep love and many days at times, I do, especially with the ones here longer. But this whole thing is not about our feelings. It is about being willing to show love, do the loving thing, no matter what, with His strength, and glorifying God as we do this.

  26. Marissa (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    I've been there and felt that same overwhelming guilt. Like others have said, no one talked about it and I thought I was a horrible, horrible woman for not falling in love with my son right away. He was such a charming and loving child. Everyone was in love with him……..everyone except me.

    It took over a year for me to feel "attached" to our son. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't truly value the love I feel for that child because it took so much work. Our relationship is now so close and warm, and I find that we are building a closer connection every day. In fact, there are times that I now feel I'm closer to him than any of my other kids.

    We've adopted 2 more children since our first came home. I found it very easy to attach to the newest kids because I can relate to them a lot more. Our personalities are more similiar. I look back now and see that my son and I didn't connect early on because we were so different. I had to learn to appreciate the way he saw the world.

    Good luck! You are certainly not alone.

  27. Renae Richard (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    Thanks so much everyone! God is working and dealing with the "yuck" in my heart for sure! I so appreciate your encouragement and openness in sharing your struggles as well! To Him be the glory!:)

  28. faith (Reply) on Tuesday 5, 2010

    I have 3 bio kids, 3 grandkids and 7 adopted children from the foster system. Wow, can I relate!! There are times I secretly wonder what is going on in my heart – am I capable of loving some of the kids like they deserve to be loved. It's painful to watch their struggles from drug/alcohol issues from the birth families choices, and I get very angry at what their bio parents have done to them. In our oldest, who came at 9 and is now 14, I had to realize much of our relationship would be more of a mentoring relationship. I have grown to love him in small stages, and take the burden away from myself of having to feel a certain way. I nurture as I can, and try to set good examples. Since he is the oldest of our at home brood, it gets difficult to deal with behavior that are unexceptable, realizing he has challenging issues we may never . I try to stay levelheaded and think ahead, and try not to beat myself up for the bad days. They do not define us!! Good days are coming and the love will grow subtly. It just takes time…best wishes.