Admitting feelings

Being an adoptive parent can be quite isolating at the best of times, but so much more so if you’re struggling to find an emotional connection with your child; this stranger who now inhabits, nay, has taken over, your home and to whom you feel you are expected to love unconditionally and even feel grateful for having.

It is well documented on Twitter and elsewhere that my husband and I struggled for the first I would say, 6 months, when our daughter came home. She was nearly 3 when placed but with the vocabulary of a 6 year old, the kick and punch of a prize fighter, the bite of a lion and the emotional age of a 1 year old.

That was tough.

Baby time

So when her baby brother arrived, aged 7.5 months, a contented bundle of cuteness, who had already melted the heart of his sometimes hard-to-reach daddy, I thought, ‘this will be a doddle’. We were well prepared for our daughter’s regression and handled it quite well (notice the careful use of the word ‘quite’!) and when daddy went back to work after his statutory 2 weeks leave, I was ready.

Or so I thought.

It didn’t quite happen like that though. I found having a non-verbal, crawling, demanding baby absolutely exhausting. The sterilising, the second-guessing, the feeling of helplessness, the nappies! I guess most new parents feel like that, and boy, did I feel guilty. On top of that, I also felt resentment. Not towards him I don’t think, but towards Social Services. He had been removed at birth whilst his sister had endured goodness knows what in the ‘family’ home and then nearly 2 years in Foster Care.

It wasn’t fair.

I really struggled to bond with him while I had these battles in my head.
I was really happy he’d been removed early but at the same time I felt let down on his sister’s behalf. I asked one night whether my husband loved our baby and I was taken aback by a man not known for his emotional outpourings to suddenly gush his reply and he even had a tear in his eye. He ended by saying, “Do you?” “Er yes. Obviously,” I replied, hiding my face and quickly changing the subject.

I couldn’t tell him. I went online and found a lot about how ‘I loved our (adopted) baby before we even met, our (adopted) baby is amazing and I love them so much etc’, but there was nobody like me.

I covered up my feelings to everyone but privately spent a lot of time in tears. I was scared to tell our SW, even though in hindsight I am positive she’d be nothing but supportive. I was afraid she’d send somebody round to our house to watch us ‘in action’ (as we had had with our daughter – along with camhs) and having been through it once, the thought of yet more appointments and people watching and judging and coming into our home filled me with dread.

Eventually, one tearful night (wine may have been involved), I spoke to my husband and it all tumbled out. He was fantastic and we resolved to share more of the childcare – it had previously been very much, me and daughter (to whom I have a fantastic attachment – albeit ambivalent on her part but we’re working on that), him and son. I did a lot of hands on with the baby and lots of the Theraplay techniques I’d learnt with our daughter. It didn’t help that we were stuck indoors a lot of the time due to the bad winter.

As the weather began to lift, so did my mood. Seeing the interaction between brother and sister was amazing, as was seeing his development. I vividly remember going into his room one morning, feeling fearful of the day ahead (must have been school holidays!) and he looked up from his cot, gave me a smile that lit up Britain, stretched out his arms and said, “Hiya!”. I wept and it was a turning point.

The reason I’m writing this (and I’m aware of how selfish and dare I say, ungrateful, it makes me sound) is because I surely can’t be the only person that has had these feelings? There must be others who have felt or who are feeling equally as scared, ashamed and guilty and if there are (and I hope you are reading), you must talk to someone, either online or in ‘real life’; there’s nothing to feel bad about and nothing to lose – just a whole lot of happiness to gain.

With very many thanks to the lovely Kat who tweets @On_the_Edge. You can read a little more about her over on our Contributors Page.

This post is part of our Blogless Blogging or Anonymous Post section, if you have a story you’d like to tell here please fill in our contact form or email us 


7 thoughts on “Admitting feelings

  1. Marie

    What a relief to read this and to have it out there for others to see. We were chosen to be parents to a relinquished baby of 4 months and it was as if it gave permission for everyone to withdraw their support, implying – you’ve got it easy, there will be no problems now! I kept being told how lucky we were and how easy it would be compared to adopting an older child. I felt so much pressure to feel grateful and to be perfect as he was ‘given’ to us that it all fell down and I struggled to bond. Similar to the above my husband jumped right it and was fine whereas I spent the first 8 months hiding I was struggling as I felt like I didn’t deserve any help because I had been deemed ‘lucky’. I finally got help through my SW when I admitted I was having problems but I am really grateful to read the above post. Being an adoptive parent is hard and its honesty like this that will give people the confidence to seek help and support. Thank you

  2. Lynda

    I adopted an older child a delightful warm caring little boy. I was wrongly accused of something (which resolved satisfactorily) and this caused a huge amount of stress during the settling in period. That caused me to be less available to my son emotionally. Thankfully we now have a lovely relationship. At the time I could not admit my struggles to anyone for fear of further judgement.
    It takes huge strength and admitting to yourself that it is a long hard path and ‘maternal feelings’ don’t always kick in!
    Everyone else has 9months bonding with their child and no matter how many preparation groups etc you attend they do not prepare you for the roller coaster of feelings when a child is placed. Let alone the ‘scrutiny’
    I have had my son 4 years now and it has finally clicked for him and me.
    It is a hard job for others with assessment but they need to allow for adopters to say I don’t feel ok without huge judgement.

  3. Lynne

    Similar feelings about this instant bonding situation exist with non- adoptive families too. Lots of new mums feel quite frantic ,utterly exhausted , resentful etc, and don’t bond as quickly as is the considered norm. People don’t dare admit it though.

    1. Hayley

      It does happen to birth parents too – I suffered with PND and felt awful feelings of inadequacy. I was *expected* to bond with my daughter, because I birthed her. I was ashamed to confide in my health visitor and midwife. I didn’t bond with her in the 6.5months that I knew about my pregnancy.
      But the difference was, my midwife and HV picked it up because of their experiences, and they were able to help me and I was able to confide in my best friend who had also had PND, she helped me.

      As an adoptive mum, it was completely different. I felt so much more alone. No-one I knew had experienced it. And I was worried how it would look to the social worker who I’d just spent 10months convincing I’d be a good mum. Without that all important adoption order, I felt my son would be taken away from me if I wasn’t doing a good enough job.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences OP, I really identify with you x

  4. Kat

    Thank you for taking the time to comment. I was very anxious when I pressed the ‘send’ button, in case it was only me! Your stories and others I’ve heard since posting have convinced me I was right to do it. Thank you again xx

  5. Louise

    I am so happy to have stumbled across this blog…..I thought that I was such a selfish person for not being able to have that “instant” bond with our daughter when my hubby fell in love instantly.

    I think feeling like you are being watched and scrutinized at every moment, as if they are waiting for you to slip up so they can come and take them away at a moments notice because you are deemed not good enough to take care of the child that has been placed with you. The constant stress of waiting for the time to pass so you can apply for the adoption order is a bigger weight for some people so they don’t get the chance to enjoy the first few months properly as they have this black cloud hanging over them until their child is officially “theirs” forever. This waiting feeling affected me a lot more than my husband and I now know that this was having a huge effect on my day to day mood and how I was dealing with any issues we had, something as simple as our daughter not eating her dinner would have me in tears as I was convinced the HV would weigh her she wouldn’t have put on and they would think we were neglecting her.
    In hindsight I know now that she will eat when she is hungry and there is nothing I can do to change that, but the constant nagging at the back of my mind of wondering if people thought we were good enough has taken 8 months to disappear. and the moment was when our beautiful daughter was ill and this sounds awful but all she wanted was mummy (which is very unusual as she is a daddy’s girl), and as selfish as it may sound but at that moment when only mummy and daddy could make her feel better with lots of cuddles did all of my concerns about what anyone else thought went out of the window….because only her getting better through love and concern from mummy and daddy was the most important thing in the world…..and nothing else. x

  6. Threebecomefour

    You’re not the only one. I’ve sort of been there myself this year. I felt totally connected to Pip until intros started. I was exhausted from the stressful adoption process and suddenly there was this 7 month old baby who needed everything from me all day long. His sister had been in FC until nearly 2.5 years but I found her easier because we could go out and socialise. She doesn’t really have any attachment issues, other stuff but not that, so we had lots of fun. Suddenly I was stuck inside with a baby who needed to sleep all the time. He couldn’t really socialise as his sleep pattern was in the mornings and we had the school run in the afternoons as Katie is now 6 years old. I felt so isolated and flat. The Health Visitors and Sws just kept going in about his weight and I felt so much pressure to work some sort of miracle. Eventually I told them all to get stuffed on that front and that I wasn’t worried about his weight but I felt so deskilled at first. I found Pip cute and adorable but the tiredness made me feel like I was going through the motions. I was surprised because I felt so bonded to him before we met and I felt so resentful afterwards because I felt like I was doing everything and suddenly taking a baby everywhere with you changes the logistics of everything. Katie was regressing as well and I resented her for making it all harder. I had bad PMDD and anaemia on top of all that and felt angry and exhausted all the time. I can’t remember when it changed and that feeling of love poured into me. I think it was a bottle feeding time and he was snuggled up in my arms and he held my gaze and I knew I loved him. Now I find him utterly enchanting. I’m still tired but nowadays we can go to toddler sessions with friends and hes able to olay (He’s 14 months old now). He’s recently started walking and that makes life more inclusive. He is so well bonded to me and I to him. We are a tight unit and he loves his Mummy. Katie is now playing with him and interacting with him more and that feels better. I was worried that she wouldn’t. We have a way to go with Katie’s behaviour and I know she’s found it hard sharing the attention and am aware that Pip’s routine dictates everything really and that’s hard in her. It’s getting better though and I feel I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Pip “helps” me do the housework so I feel like I’m more on top of things. My depression feels like it’s lifting now Christmas is over. I’m enjoying them both together more. I still have days when I put Pip down for a nap and just collapse on the sofa in a daze but I’m ok with that now and accept I’m tired instead of trying to prove a point to myself. It hasn’t helped that our SS have been awful at tying up the legal process so I’ve had to fight and complain and it takes up energy I don’t have. Our SWs have been great though at support. I’ve not told them about my early feelings about Pip because I felt confident it would change but I talked at length about the difficulties with Katie with them and they helped somewhat with that. Mostly it’s been riding it out and planning times for Katie to have lots of love and attention. Today I feel happier and feel like it’s gelling now but it’s taken 7 months. Personally I think the whole process is so overwhelming and it is such a shock to the system second time that it’s inevitable we end up feeling like this. The process constantly has ambiguities and you’re not allowed to bond in case the match isn’t approved. You then have a long period where you’re not legally a family (and we’re still not) and that brings anxieties about permanency. I explained that latter bit to our IRO and said I’d had anxiety dreams that Pip was going to be taken away. He was horrified that I felt that way and everyone reassured me that that wasn’t gong to happen but I won’t feel secure until the courts approve it all. And we wonder why we have emotional difficulties as adopters? I’m glad you’re also feeling better. I wanted to reply in detail so you could see you’re not alone. Sorry for the long waffle. Xxx


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