I wanted to go back and revisit the post I wrote a while back about the strangeness and grieving that many of us go through in the early days of an adoption.
I was really touched by how many people wrote to say they had gone through the same feelings, and were glad to hear someone acknowledge them.
But also, as time has passed, I want to talk about the other side of that particular tunnel. I remember reading about people who had difficulty bonding with their child at first, or who felt panicky or depressed or bereaved over their old life. What was hard to picture, as I tried to prepare myself for that possibility, was how you come out the other side. I didn't know how long I might expect those feelings to last..whether you emerge gradually, without really noticing the change, or whether you woke up one day feeling differently. How would it happen? What would it take to make the change? Would it be weeks, months, longer?
So for those of you who are still waiting, I wanted to describe for you how it happened for me.
Tomorrow, Flynn QiuQiu will have been home with us for exactly a month. I would say that I struggled pretty intensely for the first two weeks. The third week was shaky, but the proverbial sun was definitely emerging from behind the clouds. By the fourth week, I was in love.
I had heard friends say that having children changed everything, but that in the end the change was all to the good. But, I wondered (and I'm being very candid here), don't they sort of have to say that? I mean, you can't spend your life resenting your children for changing your life, right?
In all honesty, I wondered whether they were really just convincing themselves that their lives were better now. Those were the darkest of my thoughts.
Well, I'm here to tell you one woman's perspective:
When I say "in love", I mean grinning, goofy, walking-on-air love, the kind of love that seems to change the world around you to a brighter shade of gold. This kid just literally lights me up like a sparkler.
I can't tell you the exact day that it happened. I can't tell you what changed. I think we both changed - I think I got healthy again, and things no longer felt so overwhelming. I think she relaxed and began to blossom and really open up to us. I think the combination of these things sparked something in me...well, in both of us. This is a two-way street. It's in the way she takes my hand with both of hers and rubs her cheek against it, her eyes closing with pleasure. It's in her way of throwing back her head and reaching out her arm to me like a with a ballroom dancer's dramatic flourish, and then grinning wildly at me when I take her hand in return.
It's the way her face lights up each and every time we make eye contact, the way she wrinkles her nose and grins. It's in the way her fingers hold my hands tight while she drinks her bottle, or the way she snaps her head around to look at me searchingly when she thinks I might be saying something important.
But I can say that I'm really quite surprised by how quickly it happened, and by how my new life came into such sharp focus all of a sudden, like it had snapped into a groove.
All those things I hoped for when I hoped for a child? The best of what I imagined? That's what this feels like now. Of course, it is much easier to enjoy life when your child sleeps through the night and can play happily on her own the majority of the time. She needs to "check in" with me on a regular basis, hold my hand or sit in my lap for a juice snack. But I can do chores, take a shower, even work on the computer for short spells.
These little shifts, these ways in which we've fit into one another's life, have left the way clear for real, vivid happiness, and for the love that has been growing between us like Jack's beanstalk. I look forward to each day with more happy anticipation than ever before. For the first time in my life, I actually enjoy doing chores around the house, listening to NPR, with Flynn cooing happily in the background.
Even meals taste better, somehow, with Flynn around.
I could write sonnets about her cheeks (have you seen those cheeks? It's appalling how irresistible they are!) as chubby and ripe as fresh peaches, about the way she gets a single Bob's Big Boy curl in the middle of her forehead after a bath, about the way she puts the palms of her hands on either side of her face and bites her lip when she gets sleepy. Even the way she burps, like a linebacker after a beer bong, is adorable to me.
So while I think it's important to talk about the real fear and the real depression and grief that can come in the wake of an adoption, I think it's equally as important to talk about how we emerge, and what comes next. Just as, in the first days after coming home, I wondered, "Why didn't anyone tell me how scary this can be?", now, I find myself wondering, "Why didn't anyone tell me how utterly glorious this is??"
Of course, people did tell me. It's just impossible to really know until you've waded through it yourself, and come out grinning into a brand new world. Those people who said that their lives changed for the better after they had their kids? They were telling the truth. This is no compromise. This is what it's all about.


Cavatica said...

You do have a wonderful way of telling things. Love is truly complicated, isn't it? It's best this way.

Carrie said...

So happy for you-it really does change you doesn't it?

Yoli said...

It is amazing when it happens. How your whole world changes. For some it is a short time, for others it is a long time. However, you reach this point, you hold it dear to your heart.

Maia said...

Beautiful. And all so, so true.

Vivian M said...

Motherhood agrees with you!
We did not bond immediately. It took over a year, since Kerri had attachment issues and mild RAD. It was so hard to love a child that could not love me back. But she was my daughter, and I would fight for her love no matter how many nights I cried myself to sleep. You would never know this now, to look at us. Waiting for her to trust and love was hard, but worth it. And the fact that it took so long makes it so much sweeter now.
You are very fortunate to have bonded and fallen in love so quickly. It truly is a blessing.

Anonymous said...

Without minimizing it, it is lovely when things work out well.

Barbara said...

The best part of my day comes around 3:45 when I am in my car, headed home and excited to see my babies again. My oldest is 10 but still gets a unique smile with one little dimple when she sees me coming in the house.
Having kids taught me what unconditional love really is.

A Beautiful Mess said...

It is a wonderful journey isn't it??

Heather said...

I love reading your love story and that's what it is. A beautiful, complicated, ever changing love story.

BTW- Flynn's action of putting your hand on her cheek is a natural attachment activity that she is initiating. That's wonderful! Sydney started doing that with us when we were still in China and actually would fall asleep on our hands for months (years?) afterward. I sort of nudged Claire along to go it and now she does it all the time on her own. While they are doing it, I always talk to them about how happy I am to be their mommy and how I will always be their mommy.

kris said...

If I had to speak right now I wouldn't be able, my throat is hurting it's so tight with emotion. I don't think I've taken a breath yet, I'm just all choked up over here. I can't wait to emerge, Maia. I can't wait for this.

kris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rubyiscoming said...

what an honest and beautiful post! thanks for sharing your story - can't wait to meet her in person!


tiffany said...

Yep! The amount of time it takes varies child to child (parent to parent too I suppose) but when it happens...woohoo! I find the bonding/attachment process so interesting and exciting. :)

My Heart Beats In China said...

Maia, your commentary about what we all go through during this experience is so honest and beautifully written. Thank you for putting into words what some of us have gone through or are still going through. Such insight, such love expressed so eloquently.



Mamacita said...

Cheers to love! Its still wonderful five years later!!!

Fliss and Mike Adventures said...

I want to thank you for writing about the good afterwards... you only hear the bad... as important as it is to know the bad... I am keeping all your words in my mind for when it is my turn (a big WHEN)... I love all the photos of Flynn... smiling or not... that is one happy baby... I remember when I would be looking after my niece and she would be looking for you every now and again... I will admit that I loved it... so, I can kind of see where you are coming from - from an Aunt's point of view...

Julie said...

THANK YOU for posting this. For all of parent "in waiting" still out here - although it is just one person's experience, it is good to hear the honest truth about the journey!

Nicole said...

Hi. Great post and I am so happy that you shared. We adopted our son Luke in May 2007. He's been home 16 months and just last month in August did I actually feel like I was bonding to him. Luke came home very sick... very delayed. He was 19 months old but he was like a 5 month old developmentally. Everything with him has been an uphill battle. But I am happy to say that things are improving and I can actually say that I feel 100% differently now and I know that things will continue to move forward. Again, thanks for sharing.
waiting for CA for LOGAN!