Here's the 'thing' about adoption....
Ok, ok.... here's ONE MORE 'thing' about adoption;
An amazing woman carried my child in her belly for 9 months..... she loved that child and stayed healthy for her and there's no doubt in my mind that she talked to her, sang to her, and connected with her as a mommy should with her baby throughout her pregnancy.
But that woman wasn't me.
And I'm my baby-girl's mommy.
But she was, too.
My baby didn't hear my voice talking to her and singing to her for 9 months. She wasn't calmed by the beating of MY heart or by the rhythms of MY breathing. She didn't snuggle into my chest in her first few moments after birth, inhaling my scent and feeling my skin on hers. I wasn't the first person she saw the very first time she opened her eyes. I wasn't the first one to feed her or change her or put her to bed and tuck her in.
All of that? That's ok with me.
Her First Mama deserved to claim those first experiences and I would never think to take those away from her...she did them perfectly.
But I'm the mama who holds that same baby-girl on a daily basis. When that baby-girl smells my perfume or lotion, it's me who she connects it to. She is comforted by the sound of my voice talking to her or singing to her. She's calmed by the feel of my skin on hers and by the feel of my hands stroking her back or hair. She counts on our nightly routine and the feeling of safety and security she gets from me.
Our adoption agency emphasizes the importance of bonding. They claim that it is absolutely crucial to a baby's development and security. They hold their families to extremely high standards when it comes to ensuring that the babies they place have every opportunity possible to KNOW their parents and feel safe and loved with them.
Because with adoption, nature doesn't trump nurture.
In every way possible, nurture trumps nature.
Our agency insists that in the first few weeks home with a baby, no one but that baby's parents or grand-[parents should be feeding, changing or even holding the baby... those proven bonding experiences need to be cherished and protected.
This goes against the grain of what is commonly known as 'the bonding process' for a newborn.... but it's true.
When we first brought Hannah home we were what most of our friends and family called 'possessive' of our time with her, holding her, feeding her, comforting her, touching her.
We were the only one's to do any of the above.... for months.
To an average parent, we were possessive.
To parents who weren't the first to hold their baby, or talk to their baby, or touch their baby, or smell their baby, or comfort their baby.... to the parents who didn't meet their baby until they had been out of the hospital for days or weeks or months....
to those parents, we were bonding.
When we brougnt Hannah home, we were blessed to be 'backed' by an amazing agency... an agency that had enough experience to know what expectations and guidelines they needed to place on their waiting families.
With Hannah, it was easy for us to place the 'blame' for our 'possessiveness' on our agency... on our contract and on their rules.
We were criticized by *some* of our family and friends... we were questioned when we refused to let our baby-girl be held or to be passed from person to person. We were written off as possessive when we insisted on being the only ones to feed and change her. We were given a lot of 'looks' from those 'more seasoned' parents we knew when we adamantly insisted that those who DID hold her, washed their hands before doing so and limited the time they held her.
People in general, thought we were crazy.
And we were.
We were crazy in love with our baby-girl; The one we had been waiting so so long for. The one who, at times, we never thought would come. The one who our arms physically ached for. The one we loved deeply and the one we were desperate...
to bond with.
There are many many things that differentiate the journey of bringing home a biological child and an adoptive child but this one? This one tops my list of 'Most Important'... it's not even Top 5...
Adoptive parents have to be intentional when bonding with their child. They have to focus and work and yes sometimes, they even have to be...
In Hannah's first few months at home with us, we were crazy parents who didn't let anyone else hold or feed or change our baby. In those first few weeks after our work to bond to our daughter, there was no doubt in anyones mind who she belonged with... who she was comfortable with... who she *knew* and who she was bonded to.
We might have missed the first 11 days of our daughter's life and it may have taken weeks or even months to make up for it...
but it was worth it.
What's my point?
Bringing a baby home is exciting for everyone... for the parents, grandparents, close friends, neighbors, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. It will always be exciting!
But when a family brings home a baby through adoption, there are a few differences....
and if you're reading MY list, *bonding* is #1.
If you're a hopeful adoptive parent;
Don't let anyone make you feel bad for wanting to bond with your baby. Make sure you set boundaries and expectations of the people who love you and your baby. and explain them thoroughly... but make sure that YOU are his or her number one love and his or her safety and security and comfort.
I have never for a day regretted the time and effort Joey and I put into bonding with our baby-girl.... it was difficult in the moment to explain and defend the boundaries we had set and we might have hurt some feelings in the process.... but the end result is having an irreplaceable, unbeatable, and unconditional bond with our daughter that no one else is capable of having with her.
And that's the way it should be... in families who grow through conception or in familes who grow through adoption.