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Bonding

Posted Apr 14 2009 12:00am
I recently had another blog request. Here it is
So, I think you have done a perfect job describing your feelings about adoption and how you used to wonder if you would love it as much as a biological child and that now, after doing it, the answer is a resounding "YES." However, I was just wondering if you feel like the adoption/biological issue has affected your "bond" with the boys.

For example, has carrying Elijah/breastfeeding made you "bond" more with him than you did with Isaac...not "love more" but "bond more?" And what about Isaac's relationship with John? He clearly is attached to him. Do you think Elijah will "bond" as quickly with John as Isaac did, considering that John played such an active role in Isaac's feedings and is limited with Elijah, and so on? Once again, I think the love issue is clear. Just wondering your thoughts on this...

And if it's too personal, you, of course, don't have to blog about it. Just something interesting I thought about as I was reading your blog....


All right, so here is my response. I did touch on this in a previous post. You can read it by clicking here . I write this post to help anyone considering adoption to have the whole picture. Here it is. As best I can paint it.

***

As I write this, my little Isaac just celebrated his eleventh month on this earth. He is currently taking a nap. Well, he's supposed to be. The noise on the monitor indicates he is doing more playing than sleeping. He talks to himself a lot lately. I have no idea what he is saying, but gosh is it cute. He is walking all over the place. He thinks JB is way cooler than Mom. He thinks Scrubs was put on this earth to be Isaac's personal playground and best buddy. He loves fruit. He hates green beans. He puts toys between his legs while I am trying to change his diaper. He loves music. He just started giving hugs and kisses.

As I write this, my little Elijah is nearing his third month on this earth. He is in his swing, staring at me, debating whether he wants to smile, sleep, and cry. I am hoping he chooses the middle option so I can move to the couch for my own nap. He has just started to develop a social smile. He is crying less. Sleeping more. He loves to be held. He loves his pacifier. He is currently infatuated with fans and lights and anything on the ceiling. One side of his head is flatter than the other because he keeps leaning to his right.

These two boys are an incredible gift. They are incredible blessings. I can speak with complete honestly when I say that I love these children with identical love. Both of them have a permanent notch in my heart. I do not look at them and see any difference between them. They are both my boys.

What is bonding anyway? It is defined as: a close personal relationship that forms between people. But how do you know when that occurs and how fast it occurs and when it completely occurs? It's a fairly abstract thought when you really think about it.

Isaac's arrival


We got the call that Isaac was on his way into our lives at around 2:00 on a Wednesday afternoon. May 7, 2008. His due date. And ironically, the birth date of his birth mom, Bri. By 3:00pm we were on the road and by 9:00pm, Bri was on the cell phone telling us "You have a son." We were still somewhere near Orlando, and it would be well after midnight before we first had the opportunity to see our little boy.

I cried when I held Isaac for the first time. It was a moment I cannot put into words. It truly was an out-of-body experience. I knew what was happening, but what was happening did not feel real. I knew that, supposedly, this tiny little baby was supposed to be our's. But I also knew that Bri had 48 hours to change her mind without any questions asked. I knew that the nurses were keeping a very tight eye on us as we didn't have one of the "magic bracelets" you were supposed to have to be in the nursery with the babies. I felt like you do when you are a little kid and you want to hang out in a group but aren't quite welcome. He was going to be our son. But he wasn't our son yet. We'd spend all day Thursday waiting for the okay from our lawyer to bring our family up to meet our little boy.

But that first moment. That first moment was incredibly powerful. I knew that I could love this little boy. I don't think I loved him yet. But somehow I knew I would.

I didn't hold Isaac a lot those first few days. There were a lot of other family members who wanted to meet him ... wanted to hold him ... wanted to love him. I did not feel an immediate attachment to this little boy and I have to admit that worried me. I felt that people were watching, wanting to see how I would react to him. But I wasn't sure how I felt. Did he really belong to us? It just didn't feel real. Bri was like a sister to me. I couldn't help but think about her and how she was doing and if she was sad. Those feelings were more powerful than my feelings about Isaac in the beginning.

While technically that first 48 was what we were waiting to see pass, there was still a part of me that worried someone was going to wake me up from this dream for weeks and months to follow. In hindsight, I think that I protected my heart a bit, worried that something would happen. But after awhile, I knew he was here forever, and I gave myself complete permission to fall in love.

Elijah's arrival


Eight and a half months later I was being wheeled out of the operating room after my c-section desperately wanting to meet our newest family member. As I held Elijah for just a few moments, I remember a whirlwind of emotions. And as I look back now, those emotions mirrored my feelings about Isaac. Here he was. He was my son. But it didn't feel real. I knew I would love him, but I didn't feel an incredible amount of love instantly. (Granted, I was pretty doped up and in a lot of pain. I am sure that contributed.)

Some mothers will tell you that that the moment that they held their child, an incredible bond of love was formed. I think that is awesome. Truly. And I completely believe that for many women that is how it is. But that wasn't the case for me with either of my sons. Both with Isaac and Elijah, I loved them, I cared about them, but my infatuation for them was slow growing.

I think there was some protection in my love for Elijah as well. Even though I watched myself grow as a pregnant woman, I really felt that Eiljah couldn't actually be real. Could we actually have a child? Could this really happen?

Bonding with the boys

For me, my trip to Minnesota for Hans and Rachel's wedding, was the beginning of my true bonding experience with Isaac. That was when he was just six weeks old. It was on that trip that I started to really feel like his Mom. I started to feel my heart swell when I thought about him. I started to truly fall in love with him. Once I started falling, I fell hard. He was the first thing I thought about in the morning and the last thing at night.

As for Elijah, I started feeling that incredible love for him in the last few weeks -- nearly an identical amount of time to his big brother. I think, for whatever reason, that it just takes me a bit to feel like a real Mom. I think it takes them smiling back at me before I really start to have that deep sense of bonding with my children. I truly believe that any child that joins my family will take me a similar amount of time whether they join us from my womb or from the womb of another mother. Whether he is a newborn or a teenager. I am not sure if that is a protection mechanism from the years of infertility disappointments or just how I would react no matter what.

I bottle fed Isaac. I am breastfeeding Elijah. I am being very honest when I tell you that I do not feel that breastfeeding has bonded me to Elijah faster whatsoever. Breastfeeding is not easy. You are trying to get the position correct. You are trying to get them to latch on. You are trying to not have them lie against your c-section incision. You are worried about how much they are getting. Once you get all that down, you are able to start enjoying the time you can spend with your baby. But for me, that time is usually time that I am giving Isaac cheerios or catching up with JB after a long day. It isn't necessarily this surreal bonding time.

I loved bottle feeding Isaac. It was easy. I knew how much he was getting. He took the bottle without a problem. The positioning was easy. There was no latching required. If anything, I felt that bottle feeding allowed for easier bonding. I could sit and enjoy the baby instead of worrying about getting everything just right.

If tomorrow, I was told I needed to start bottle feeding Elijah, I would be perfectly fine with that notion (other than the expense of formula and the fact that breastfeeding is healthier.) I sometimes wish that I was bottle feeding Elijah. Whole books have been written about the bonding that is created by breastfeeding. I'm sorry but I just really don't buy it. I feel as close to Isaac as I possibly can. I love to sit and hold his bottle and play with his little toes and kiss his forehead. We have bonded wonderfully without breastfeeding.

Here's another little bit of truth. They say that you, as a mother, react to your baby and your milk will begin to flow when you see your little one. It doesn't happen right away necessarily, but as you begin to bond to your little one, it happens more and more. The first time that I actually felt my milk "come in" was not when I held Elijah. It was when I was holding Isaac. I went in to see him after his surgery and scooped him into my arms and finally knew what the labor and delivery nurses were talking about. I actually love that this happened this way. It was complete proof to me that I was bonded to big brother.

In addition, I did not feel that being pregnant helped me to bond more with Elijah. I could feel him and I knew he was there, but there was something so "unreal" about the fact that I was actually pregnant! I was waiting a full pregnancy to meet him, and I waited a full pregnancy to meet Isaac too. I think there was probably a bit more of "this is really my son" when Elijah was born since he came from my womb and there wasn't a lawyer that needed to be involved. But we had waited, in different ways, equally long for both of these boys and the experience felt nearly identical.

Fatherhood and feeding

And then there is the father's role in feeding. JB will be the first to tell you that he bonded with Isaac much faster than he did with Elijah. Even now, two and a half months after Elijah joined us, JB is still probably more bonded with Isaac. He attachment to Elijah is growing, but much slower. When Isaac was born, JB was helping to do everything. He got to feed him nearly as much as I did.

That wasn't the case with Elijah. With Elijah, I was the one feeding him while JB tended to big brother. I was feeding Elijah about ten hours a day. JB very rarely got to hold Elijah. When I was in the hospital and during the first week home, JB would change a diaper, hand him to me, take him back, settle him to sleep, etc. But there was very little father-son time. And once I got healthier, I needed him even less for those activities. He therefore was with Isaac most of the time, and I was with Elijah.

JB will tell you that he truly started bonding with Isaac mere days after he was born. He fell for him just a few days after we left the hospital. He was helping to feed Isaac. He was getting up in the middle of the night. He was doing just as much with him as I was. He bonded with Isaac much faster than I did.

JB will also tell you that bonding with Elijah has been much slower and is still an evolving process. He hasn't had as much time with Elijah. Elijah's first week on this earth was incredibly stressful and tense. And then JB was back at work. When he comes home in the evenings, I need help with Isaac. His time with Elijah is still very limited.

Admitting the truth

I can now say, truly, that I have equal love in my hearts for both my boys. But if anything, during the weeks following Elijah's birth, I was more bonded to Isaac than I was to this new little baby. I truly am soooo glad that we adopted before we had a biological child. If things would have happened in another order ... well, picture it. Picture our first son being biological. Here comes adopted brother. Any feelings that bonding isn't occurring very quickly would be attributed to the adoption. But in our case, we were already incredibly bonded to our adopted son when our biological son emerged onto the scene.

I wish, while I was going through infertility treatments, that I would have talked to more people who had what I have: a biological and adopted child. I talked to many people who had adopted. But people who had only adopted. They told me how wonderful adoption was, but I wasn't sure I could believe them. How could they know that they felt the same about their adopted child as they did about their biological child? They didn't have a biological child to make that comparison to. If I would have met someone like me, I wonder if I would have gotten peace regarding adoption sooner than I did.

But I do have that comparison. I can make that comparison. I can tell you that I love both my boys so incredibly much. I have met three other women online who share my story. One is Amy whose boys are one year apart. She, too, travelled through infertility treatments, adoption, and then pregnancy. Another gal, Jess, has a private blog. Her son and daughter are six months apart! Talk about close! Stacy is a new gal I have just met. She is pregnant after adoption. I think a few moments on any of their blogs will show you that our family is not the exception. Here are three other families where the children have an incredible bond with their parents.

The adoption option

I have said it before, and I'll say it again. Every couple needs to travel the road of infertility and adoption in the way that it fits best for them. If that is not adopting, so be it. If that is exhausting infertility treatments, do it. If that is adopting and then doing infertility treatments, bog for it. If that is skipping infertility treatments altogether, so be it.

However, I am mostly thinking right now about the woman reading this post who has been struggling to get pregnant. You are open to adoption. But not yet. Not now. I hope that this post and my words encourage you that if and when you ever decide to pursue adoption -- whether it be to add to your already existing children or to be the first of your children -- you will fall in love with that child completely, wholeheartedly, and fully. You will bond. It may not happen right away. But it will happen. It is impossible to be responsible for a child's entire being and not love them. It is just as God loved us. We are adopted into his kingdom. And He loves us all unconditionally.

When we were contemplating adoption, I heard two comparisons that helped me tremendously.

The first was regarding my spouse. I love JB. I love him a lot. I think he is one cool guy. I would die for him. I live for him. He is not related to me. We do not have the same blood. But I still love him a whole heck of a lot.

The second comparison came from that husband of mine. When I asked him how I could be sure I would love an adopted child completely and fully he pointed at our dog. "Geez, Wendi, you are in love with that dog. And he's not even human!" So true. I love Scrubs. I'd do anything I could to save Scrubs' life. And he's not even the same species!

***

I hope that answered this blog reader's question. It's a hard question to answer, and I'm sorry I had to go into so much detail. It's also difficult not to mix "love" and "bonding" up when you talk about it. They seem so similar and so related. This topic is so near and dear to my heart, and I just want the world to know how awesome I think adoption is and how awesome I know you will think it is too! Stacy, Amy, and Jess, please feel free to comment if you have anything at all to add! I'd love to add your comments to this post as well.

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