Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Guest Post; Get Out of My Way. I'm Bonding!

Kate's Mom responded to my quest to find guest posters to help me acknowledge November as National Adoption Awareness Month... and I am SO glad she did! She and I haven't met but I felt as if I was reading my own thoughts as I read her amazing post. I've touched on bonding before... it's something I take seriously with my children. Hunter is now 8 months old and I am completely possessive of my time with him... feeding him, changing him, putting him to bed; it's me or Joey. That's it. Kate's Mom gets it. And I love her for her honesty!
Get Out of My Way. I'm Bonding!

This is something I don't like to talk about with friends and family because I don't want to offend anyone, but I think it's something that waiting or newly adoptive parents could benefit from. So I want to thank On Loan from Heaven for letting me post these somewhat private thoughts on her blog! I do want to say that I'm not going to be careful to use totally PC terms, because I'm just telling my story. I'm sorry if any of it seems strange; it's just an honest account of what I went through for the first few months of motherhood. It's also going to sound completely irrational -- it did as I was writing it -- but isn't that what all new moms experience? Irrational feelings and thoughts? Yes, I think so. :) I did add a couple of rational thoughts as footnotes, just so you don't think I'm all kinds of crazy.

First of all, a little back story on our family. We adopted our daughter, Kate, as a newborn. I was lucky enough to be in the delivery room when she was born, and we camped out on an air mattress at the hospital for two days while we waited to bring her home. She was born in our home town, about 2.5 hours from where we lived, and we invited a lot of our family members to come see her at the hospital while they had a chance. After that, we wanted at least a week at home with no overnight guests. I didn't give birth, so I did NOT need anyone's help. (1)

Here I am, a woman who was just given a child by another woman. Here ya go, you're her mom now! (If you step back from all the bravery and heartbreak and other emotions involved there, that's really how it was!) It didn't matter how much love for her I had in my heart, I felt like I was playing the role of a mom. Aside from some legal documents, taking care of her was the only thing that made me mom. Not genetics, not nine months of keeping her all to myself, not the experience of giving birth, and not the opportunity to nurse her. All I could do was be there with her, feed her, change her, hold her. Those things were invaluable to me! Those simple tasks made me Mom and made my husband Dad.

But "playing mom" is something all women like to do when they are around a baby! When was the last time you saw a newborn and didn't want to immediately hold him of feed him or babysit alone? I had always thought that bonding, which naturally is a little different between adoptive parents and their children, meant feeling an attachment with the baby. You know, warm fuzzies. But anyone is going to feel warm fuzzies when holding a tiny, sleepy newborn!

And that, my friends, was the problem. Anyone could "bond" with her. I found that to be terribly threatening. Here are some examples that, at best, made me panic, and at worst, made me cry uncontrollably.
  • "Here, let me take her!" There's no question being asked there. When anyone would take her out of my arms my heart would start racing. I hated it. Handing her over on my own accord was no biggie, but I could not stand it when someone walked up and grabbed her. In some ways maybe it was my guilt for having "taken" her away from her birth mother, who was naturally still grieving

    • "Here, let me feed her!" No. Usually I had the courage to say no, especially to friends, but it was much more difficult with family members who didn't take no for an answer. Feeding was either my job or my husband's. If I were nursing, no one would offer to do it for me. They would sit there while I walked into the other room and let me feed the baby in private while we bonded. But people are not willing to offer privacy to a mom who isn't nursing. What's worse, sometimes they even wanted privacy during feeding time, leaving the room to do it.
    • "You need a break." I most certainly do not! It particularly difficult for me with a certain family member who, whether we were visiting them or vice-verse, constantly tried kicking me out of the house on order to care for the baby alone. At one point, when I felt like I wasn't welcome to stay even if I wanted to, I got in my car and drove around the neighborhood sobbing. I had no errands I needed to run. I just waited until my face got back to normal and went back inside.(2) In another example, a neighbor who I hadn't seen in more than a year yelled over the back fence that she heard a baby crying and of course, "I didn't know you were pregnant!" After briefing her, she stated that she would come over once a week and sit with Kate while I got out of the house. That was such a sweet offer, but I was totally caught off guard and didn't know how to respond! What was I supposed to say? I don't need to get out of the house. You don't need to keep my baby who you've never even seen. (In an unrelated anecdote, the next time I saw that neighbor was the day before we moved out of our house. They drove by, saw the moving truck, and came to the door. Kate wasn't home and she said, "Well I never even knew what she looked like!" After showing her a picture, I realized that she meant she didn't know what race Kate was. People.)
    This really lasted about five or six months, which incidentally was the amount of time it took for the adoption to be finalized. And it actually took me that long to realize that it was just a psychological thing that was part of my bonding process. Bonding, for me, wasn't warm fuzzies. It wasn't our relationship -- the baby and I definitely knew who we were to each other. It was feeling secure enough in my own motherhood to accept help from others.

    Who knows -- maybe no one else has experienced this. I'm sure bonding is different for every family, as adoption is different for every family. But maybe my experience will help some of you prepare yourselves and your friends and family members for feelings that may come up, avoiding any awkward "no thank you, I don't need a babysitter" moments. :)

    Thanks for reading, and for letting me finally get this off my chest!

    ~Kate's mom

    1. I'm sure our moms had dreamed of sleeping over to help after their grandchildren were born. I feel really badly about that. Unfortunately, infertility doesn't just affect the couple, it affects the whole family.
      2. It really is important for all family members to get a chance to bond with their grandchild/niece/cousin/etc., especially when we're lucky enough to have a family who sees no difference between a biological and adopted family member. I should have been grateful for so much love that surrounded her early on.
    Kate's Mom~ You rock :-) Thank you for openly and honestly giving a voice to the raw emotions most adoptive moms go through in their first few days, weeks, and months (or if you're me, years) home with their babies. Yes, bonding with other family is important... but you'll NEVER regret being a little crazy about your baby :-)


    1. Excellent post! I really like the honesty that was shown here. I found it helpful and insightful. I've lived far away from my family for several years (not intentionally, it's just that life has taken my wife and I across the country...) I imagine that living close to family has lots of blessings, but also poses the challenges of setting up liveable boundaries that protect your privacy and sanity without making family members feel excluded. (Unless they just really really want to take offense at any boundaries, but then, you can't help that.)

    2. THANK YOU! We brought our son home months ago and this is the biggest issue I'm having as I adjust to being a new mom. "I most certainly do not" is my line! I DON'T need a break or a walk or a babysitter! I need someone to help me with housework or laundry or bring over a meal so I can spend MORE time with my baby!I've waited for this for what seems like my entire life and yes I'll get overwhelmed and yes I'll need help at times but LET ME ASK FOR IT!

      So thank you. You have no idea how nice it is to hear that I'm not alone in this. It can make you crazy!

      * And I'm remaining 'Anonymous' because most of my family has read your blog at one point or another ;-) *

    3. Amen, other anonymous poster!!! When two people very close to me asked what they could do to help me prepare for Kate's debut, I asked if they'd come spend a weekend with us helping clean and organize the house. They declined. I couldn't believe it. But, now I have to stop and think if I've ever offered to help out any other adoptive families in that way! Maybe not...


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