My friend Eryn asked me a few posts ago about our attachment to the Bean, and his attachment to us. You might remember when we first brought the Bean home (August 08) that I felt like his auntie, and didn’t yet feel like his mother. If not, here’s the post where I answered some hard questions.
At that time, the Bean was 5 months old, and I still had to learn all these things about him that would consecrate our relationship as mother/son … I needed and wanted to be the person who knew him better than anyone else on the planet–how to soothe him, discern his cries, how to feed him, how to encourage him, etc. We’re on the back-end now, and I absolutely feel like the Bean’s mother (I am!). But it took some time, and I thought I’d address some of the reasons why.
1. The Bean happened to be a completely different baby than my other babies. He was my first ‘spirited‘ child. His personality was big, assertive, determined, courageous. I wasn’t used to this at all. My other two were cautious, orderly, and easily contained. The Bean’s personality was foreign, and it made him stand out, and it made me wonder about his DNA, and fear what I didn’t know, fear the future, fear that he might feel out of place in our family not only because he was adopted, but because he was black, and now because his personality was boisterously miles above the rest of the family.
2. When we brought him home, the Bean wasn’t himself then either. He was trying to get to know us, just as we were trying to get to know him. Courting each other took time. You presume that because he is a baby, it will not be that big of a transition for him. But it was. And I underestimated this truth, which probably didn’t do me good, or the Bean either, for that matter.
3. The Bean loved (and I mean REALLY loved) his daddy more than me. I felt rejected by him on a daily basis. It seemed that he would rather be in anybody’s arms than mine, including all of my girlfriends. I was the bath lady, the food lady, and the song lady. (I think that singing to him was one of the biggest bonding activities we did together, because he loves music so much.) His clinging to Daddy is still a struggle, actually. It’s great that they have such a strong bond, but it divides the family at times. The other children need Daddy time too, (and Daddy has limited time to give compared to Mommy). And Mommy and Daddy need time too.
We talked with our social worker about the third issue, and she gave us some good ideas about how to tackle this. Now, please note there’s a difference between attachment and preference. We all believed the Bean had attached to me. But he preferred Daddy’s company. And it isn’t atypical for a child to pick one parent over the other. But it did affect me and trigger some of my personal insecurities. And it was another emotional hurdle because I had always been the preferred one when the older kids were babies (now I see how BookGuy felt back then!). Why didn’t my baby want me? Was it attachment related? Was he rejecting me because he was rejected by his BM? and the worry: What will our relationship look like when he’s a teenager if he doesn’t want me as a 1 year old? These were big, hard fears that I felt at that time.
So I would say for us, it took about 9 months to feel settled into our new family. And when I think about it, with the other kids it took about 9 months too. 9 months to get used to another member of the family, another personality, another child needing attention and love, to figure out who he was, and for him to learn who I was, for us to emerge from the blur of new baby and enjoy each other and our new completed family.
I’m sharing this information hoping it will help. It’s good to be vulnerable with each other. It’s good to share that mothering isn’t always easy, and attachment doesn’t always come straight away. (Remember too, it’s not uncommon for a parent to feel disconnected to a birth child–it isn’t necessarily adoption related, is what I’m saying). You are a good mother. Choose to love and hang in there. And it WILL come. And stay vulnerable with people you trust–we need each other.
If you are a mother, will you comment and share about how long it took for you to feel settled with your new child, whether adoptive or birth child? I’m very curious what your answers will be. I’m not talking love. (I truly felt LOVE for the Bean before I even met him). I mean settled, adjusted, over the hurdle, bonded…
Here are my answers:
Pumpkin: 5 months
Peanut: 10 months
Bean: 9 months