3.29.2011

Love is in the work.

Work makes love.

I had a conversation with a friend recently. He is engaged to a woman who I also know, and she was adopted as a child. They are considering growing their family through adoption, but he has concerns about the capacity to love a child who is not genetically his. He said that he isn’t all that interested in leaving his genetic material for the world, but most animals show some preferential treatment to their own offspring, even when raising others. How can adoptive parents know that they will love their children? How does a parent who has a mixed family know that they can love all their children equally-  and more importantly, how can they raise the child to never question it?

I am certainly no expert on adoption or mixed families, but adoption is something that the Mountain Man and I have considered, and these questions are ones we’ve discussed. In fact, similar questions were raised in bringing our own baby home -  Will I love my baby? How will I know? What if I don’t? Can I love someone who needs so much? What if I am annoyed by instead of in love with my baby?

And of course those concerns all seem so silly now.

But at the time, they were very real. We knew we were supposed to love our children, but what if we didn’t love them right away? What if we didn’t connect or didn’t have the patience for their needs?

My Pie and I came to be in love through hard work. It wasn’t the loving that was hard, it was the hard work that made us love.

Having a baby requires a huge amount of work and selflessness, just to keep the little one alive, fed, clean, warm and content. As much as I found myself knee-deep in diapers and wanting nothing more than to shut the door and take a nap, I had to keep going, because that little baby was counting on me. She couldn’t do it herself, and I was the one who was here to take care of her.

Before she could show any indication that she liked me or even knew who I was, we were bonding over the struggles. I waded through that pile of diapers, changed her one more time, fed her yet again, rocked her to sleep, woke every time she squirmed, gave up showers and hot coffee and spontaneity. It was through the work, the daily drudgery, and the small sufferings that I came to know that I loved that little one.

Maybe I loved her from the start - I’m not sure. I was happy to hold her and hug and snuggle and kiss, and I was fond of her and happy she was no longer kicking my ribs and punching me in the bladder (thank you, miracle of birth!) But I was also suddenly exhausted and in pain, and struggling to care for this tiny thing whose needs I couldn’t quite decipher from her cries. I don’t really know that it was love. And I can’t pinpoint a day or a moment that I knew I loved her. It just happened, slowly, through the days. I didn’t even see it coming, and then... there it was. I just knew. (I could make the “I couldn’t see the love/forest for the diapers/trees” analogy here...)

So while I don’t have any answers, and while I don’t know how or when love happened for me, I know I love her. I know I was committed to her health and well-being before she was even born, and now that she was out in the world I had to work even harder. I was committed from the start. Knowing this, I am confident that I could love another child equally. I am confident that I could love an adopted child all the same. I am certain that mixing biological and adopted children would not impact my capacity to love them, and that I could raise them with the certainty that they are loved as my children. If I am doing the work, they are my children. If I am doing the work, I can’t help but love them.

If you have experience raising adopted or foster kids, I’d love to hear your take on this. Was it a difficult adjustment to parenthood? Did you mix bio & adopted kids? Did you have the worries about loving each child? Did you find that your concerns now seem silly?

2 comments:

  1. I don't have biological children, I've adopted both of my boys. So, I can't speak to the fact that it's the same, but I suspect it is from listening to other mothers. The adjustment to parenthood was somewhat difficult for us, we adopted two toddlers at the same time, having no previous children. It was also crazy because they spoke a different language. But the idea that I wouldn't love these two never crossed my mind. I knew I loved them before we traveled to get them. However, the love wasn't as strong or unconditional as I thought it was. That took time to grow.
    It all worked out so well for us that we have made the decision not to have biological children, we will adopt again.

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  2. So good to hear your take on this, Nikki! I never expected that I would be unsure about whether I loved my baby. All the books tell you that love may not be instantaneous, but of course I thought it would be. And I think it was certainly some kind of love right away, but it's different, deeper, now that we've been though the work together. I love seeing your beautiful boys, and can't wait to watch your family grow further!

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