By Erin Paterson, an Adopt4Life Community Parent -
We didn't have anything ready when we brought our baby home for the first time. Most people have nine months to prepare for their infant's arrival, we had three days. We walked into our house as new parents close to midnight on a warm June evening. Everything had been so rushed there hadn't even been a chance to let our families know we were coming home.
We slept that first night with the lights on, too nervous to turn them off in case our baby needed us. As first-time parents the days and weeks following were focused on the tasks of caring for a newborn: Figuring out feeding times, nap schedules, and diaper sizes. Learning to cope with the sudden lack of sleep. Trying to interpret the cries of our child.
That first month, I’d sit on the couch feeding our daughter in the loneliness of the late-night hours, trying not to think about the fact that we might have to give her back—afraid of fully bonding with her, in case her birth mother changed her mind during the 28-day waiting period. That was just one of our many fears that tinged the first year of our daughter’s life.
As adoptive parents we had a wide range of concerns to deal with, above and beyond the everyday responsibilities of caring for our daughter. There were times when I felt overwhelmed by feelings of sorrow that I struggled to understand. I had never heard of post-adoption depression and would think to myself: How can I feel sad when my dreams of being a mom have finally come true?
That sentiment was reinforced by the words of countless friends and family who had witnessed our struggle through infertility. When visiting they would say to me, “You must be happy now!” I would smile and reply with a chipper “of course!” Yet a small part of me wasn't. I hid those feelings because it felt ungrateful to say anything negative. What I didn't understand at the time was that I was still grieving my infertility. I was also trying to figure out what it meant to be an adoptive mom. Each week, when I got together with my girlfriends for coffee, I would watch them caring for their babies. I couldn't help but wonder if the love I felt for my daughter was as deep as the love they felt for their biological children. Am I a real mom? I would ask myself.
Accompanying our lives as new parents was the ever-present fear that our adoption wouldn't go through. We felt tension leading up to each of the mandatory social worker visits. I was concerned our wouldn’t think we were good enough parents. After our worker wrote up her report and sent it to the Ministry, we had to wait what felt like interminable months for news that our adoption was finalized. It wasn’t until the day we received the court documents in the mail that the fear of losing our daughter slowly started to dissipate.
As the time approached for me to return to work, my anxiety levels increased again. I was self-employed and not eligible for government maternity benefits. I didn't feel that the short six months I had off were enough time to bond with my daughter. I struggled with the idea of being away from her. If I am at work and not taking care of her, what makes me her mom? I asked myself over and over again. My greatest fear was that my daughter would develop an attachment disorder because I would not be around.
After a lot of soul searching, I knew I had to do what my gut told me was right. I made the extremely difficult decision to leave my business of twelve years. I needed more time to attach with my daughter. I felt it was essential to her well-being.
Having time to fully embrace our roles as parents, to bond and fall in love with our daughter without the stress of having to go back to work so early was essential to my family. It wasn’t easy without a steady paycheck, especially considering we had significant adoption expenses to pay off. It wasn’t until my daughter was 18 months old I finally felt secure enough in our attachment that I was able to go back to work again.
I have no doubt that I did the right thing. My daughter is now an inquisitive six-year-old in Grade One. We have an extremely close relationship. I have found a job with flexible hours that allows me drop her off and pick her up at school each day, take her to extra-curricular activities and be home to cook dinner every night. I am able to be the mom I have always wanted to be.
The opinions expressed in blogs posted reflect their author and do not represent any official stance of Adopt4Life. We respect the diversity of opinions within the adoption, kinship and customary care community and hope that these blog posts will stimulate meaningful conversations.
We're ramping up our #timetoattach campaign until April 2019, for 15 more weeks of parental leave for adoptive parents and kin and customary caregivers. To really make an impact on our mission to Ottawa, we'd like to share your experiences of what it was like helping your child to settle in and bond.
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