Not because I immediately fell in love with her, but because all of a sudden it was real. This baby, who we didn't know, was ours. She was coming home with us and three would become four as we added an unknown variable into our family which already felt full of love and joy. I cried because all of a sudden I didn't want to do it. I didn't want another child. I didn't want the responsibility. I didn't love her - I didn't even know her. I thought she was cute and cuddly and small and felt sadness for her situation but if, at the moment when they handed her to me, I had been given the chance to turn back and go home without her, I would have taken it and run.
Zeni and Jeremy on the day we met
We came home and fell into the routine of having two kids. Figuring out how naps fit in with activities, allowing an extra two hours to get out the door, trying to make sure Hayden was ok with this whole new baby thing. Every once in awhile Jeremy and I would look at each other. "Do you love her?" We would ask, and while I wanted to reassure him (and myself), no matter what I said out loud the answer in my heart was always "not yet", and then: "please don't let that turn into not ever".
For the first few months that Zeni was home, I preferred to be in the company of other people. It was easy to pretend to care for her. All I had to do was smile and coo and hold her, and everyone assumed things were going fine. It was when we were alone that I had to admit to myself that I didn't want to play with her, or get to know her, or spend time bonding. I wanted to meet her needs and then I wanted her to play by herself or sleep. It felt horrible. It felt like those feelings would never change, and like I would be pretending to care and going through the motions for the rest of our lives while I secretly preferred Hayden. I was angry at myself, angry at Zeni, sad for my family, and most of all felt so deeply ashamed that I was unable to bring myself to love this helpless, adorable baby who hadn't asked to become a part of our crazy family in the first place.
About a month ago, I started to see little chinks in those feelings.
It started when she began sleeping better and, as I became less exhausted, I forced myself to play with her. Patty Cake, Piggies, tickling - little games that I played with Hayden without thinking twice about it. She LOVED it. She looked at me and grinned and drooled and giggled. The love I felt from her began to soften me. She started raising her arms up for me to pick her up. I began reading to her at night and she loved that too. I found myself giggling when she did. I started telling her stories; About her birth mom, about me, about our family.
Zeni this morning eating a banana
Yesterday, when we were at the pool, she got scared by a loud noise and hugged me tight with her arms. She had never done that before. As her attachment to me has grown, mine to her has as well. Jeremy asked me last night - "Do you love her?" and I answered, without guilt of hesitation or second guesses, "Yes". It felt fantastic.
I know there will be struggles ahead. I know I will spend most of her youth trying (and probably failing) to parse out what is "normal" behaviour and what is related to attachment/adoption issues. I know that I will love her and Hayden differently. But I now feel sure that my love for her will be equal in intensity and ferocity to the love I have for Hayden. A huge weight has been lifted from my heart. My family feels complete and happy and I feel so thankful to Hayden and to Zeni and to Jeremy for showing me how to open my heart and love deeply and differently and wholly.