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.
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.
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