I mean, I understand: it's important for both the child and the family to feel connected, especially since you don't have the pleasure of growing a baby in your body and welcoming them into the brand-new world. To create the connections that one needs for lifetime relationship, it takes intentionality.
But recently, I have read a couple of posts from popular adoption blogs debunking the myth of attachment as the sole pinnacle of a good adoption. Kids come home with so many challenges, and it's nearly impossible to imagine that we might attached to them in the same ways that we attached to our biological children.
Maybe it depends on who the kid is that you bring home, but in our case, attaching to Matthew and loving him have taken a different path than with our first two, homegrown babies.
And it's not bad. It's just different. It has taken me several years to be able to say these words and not feel guilty about them.
I love Matthew deeply. I do. He's a hard guy to parent, but I feel very connected to him. But because of his many challenges, especially with autism, it's not possible for me to have the same kind of social relationship that I have with my first two children. Matthew doesn't give love and affection back in the same way.
I'm being honest, I have carried a lot of shame and guilt about this for quite some time. We did everything the adoption agencies, the books and the blogs said to do: We wore him in the ergo, we did skin to skin time, We fed him his bottle hundreds of times while snuggled up close, and for several months after he came home, we kept our lives very simple and focused on him. Both my husband and I did hours and hours of floortime, playing with Matthew, teaching him skills, helping him with emotional and social growth.
I don't regret doing any of these things. They helped build the foundation for the relationship that we have with our youngest son. But along the way I have carried quite a lot of guilt over not having an attachment with Matthew that mirrors our attachments to our other two kids.
So just like so many other things on this adoption journey, I am learning to let go of that too.
And instead I'm trying to open my heart to the relationship I do have with Matthew: one that is filled with humor, fun, and a sense of presence. When I am with him, I try my best to be very present with him. And when I'm away, I try my best to get the breaks I need and not worry about him and what he's up to.
There are so many things I could worry about. But by letting go of some kind of forced notion of attachment, I find I can re-orient myself to the relationship I DO have with my child: One that may not look typical but is deep and real in the best way it can be.
And then I'm free to be Matthew's mama in the best way I know, which I hope is also the best for my sweet boy.