There’s a wonderful piece of advice about adoption floating around on the internet. I don’t think it’s something that is discussed enough by the professionals during adoption prep – it certainly seems to be a bit of a secret. The motto is this – and I am aware it is borrowed from elsewhere – Fake it til you make it. Most of us are not blessed with love at first sight, and without the hormone rush associated with birth, the genetic connection, the 9 months of fantasy about a particular little person, you’re not necessarily going to fall in love with your adopted little one straight away.
For us, it was almost necessary that we didn’t – we were “only” fostering her to start with anyway, so you’re told you need to hold back, just in case. Because Baby Side Mullet was so young we didn’t worry about calling each other “mummy” in front of her, but maybe if she was older we would have had to hold back on that too, to really make the distance clear. I think that would have been really hard.
I’m not really someone who holds back their emotions. I cry a lot. I love a lot, and the idea of keeping a bit of love in reserve wasn’t something I could really imagine. Having said that, as much as I wanted to let it all loose from the moment we met baby, it wasn’t really like that. My brain kept some shutters down all of its own accord. At every stage there was something that could go wrong and take her back from us, and as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t let go of the fear. Even now, when we are days away from applying for the adoption order, I’m pretty sure there’s one more shutter still down. Just in case.
The shutters come up at unpredictable times. I think I said before – after the placement order, there was no rush of emotion, more a slow burn. In the early days me and the wife would compare notes in the evening and try to be brutally honest with each other. How close to total love are you? I’m a 7/10. I’m a 9. The numbers have ticked upwards at strange times. Just walking down the corridor to sit her in her high chair, it’s like a hand reaches down from the sky and touches you, and suddenly you have to gulp back a big bit of love that might smother you. And after that it doesn’t go away. I know that lots of people have the feeling in the early days of being an “unpaid babysitter” and I can totally empathise! Especially when you don’t know all the tips and tricks and things that make your baby tick yet. Some of the early nights I cried and cried because I knew the foster carer could have settled her much more easily than I could at that stage. But you just have to put your big girl pants on and keep moving forwards. At first, you feel affection, you feel a compassion, you feel an obligation to look after and protect this little person. And it’s important not to feel guilty for not being totally in love with them from day one. You don’t even know them yet! As someone wise on mumsnet said, the kill-a-bear love comes later. And it really does come. You don’t have to work on it or worry about it. I can’t wait to see how I feel this time next year. I can’t imagine how amazing it will be once we have the adoption order in our sweaty hands.
*disclaimer – all these feelings are mine and opinions are mine and mumsnet’s! your experience may and probably will be different. please write about it.