Friday, March 6, 2009

love actually

When I first saw Zeni I cried.

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.

20 comments:

Julia said...

As I have occasionally commented on other blogs: there are times when I don't know how to respond to a post but I don't want to avoid acknowledging that they were profound or moving or courageous. This is one of those.

anymommy said...

That I think is the definition of attaching to a child as she attaches to you.

A brave and honest post, my love. You amaze me and your honesty is priceless.

msl said...

Very honest post. Thank you for putting this out there because those first meetings aren't always so perfect. That first week together Tessa hated us. She literally scream cried every time we went to hold her and would reach out to anyone else in the room to take her. It never got any better the whole time we were in ET. The night before we left I had a full blown what have I done panic attack. As I sobbed on his shoulder I told my husband I thought we'd just FUed our family and I wished we could leave her. It was that bad. Thank god for long transatlantic flights because at the end of our 36 hour odyssey home I got my first small smile from Tessa. That did it for me - I knew it was going to be OK. Now, I can't imagine life without little Ms. T. I love her as deeply as I do my son and I know she loves us - it just took time for all of us.

butwhymommy said...

Thank you for writing this. I think about this all the time.

We were so lucky in our first adoption there was no question about love, attachment and bonding. But now that we have started our second (we are now going to ET) I freak out about this all the time. I want another child but I am terrified about what it will do to our family.

LLA-DNA-RDA-JZA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LLA-DNA-RDA-JZA said...

Your individual honesty allows others to know they are not alone. You provide a power to others that no one but those in these shoes could understand or explain.

phulmaya said...

Wow - I am so glad that there are other people out there that have similar experiences and feelings! The support and encouragement that your comments and private emails give me is immense - I wanted to reply to everyone individualy but of course can't figure out how to do it so this will have to suffice. Thank you!

Amy said...

I love hearing stories that are so honest. It will help prepare us for our journey.

Farmboy and Buttercup said...

What a great, honest, vulnerable post. I just posted on this myself yesterday. These are experiences that are so important to share. Yes, it shares the struggles and hardship at the time, but the HOPE, too.

Thanks so much for sharing.

Misty said...

What a truly honest, sincere and heart tugging post. Nothing less than admirable. You have a beautiful family of four!

LoveNotes4CocoPrincess said...

Harvard, your honest feelings will help you in your Mothering. It's not always "fun" to examine our feelings openly where so many are quick to pass judgement without extending compassion.

Keep examining, keep being real, keep moving forward!

Kristen said...

your ability to know and express what you're feeling so eloquently is really amazing. very moving.

i miss you!

GoPlacesGirl said...

I've enjoyed reading your blog. In a sea of adoption bloggers that seem to live on a different planet than me, I appreciate your honesty and your point of view. Stop by mine sometime.
http://damnhusband.blogspot.com/

Smalltowngirl said...

You are so honest with your feelings it is so refreshing to read. I remember when I was pregnant with my 2nd I seriously wondered if I could love him like my 1st. There are so many things about parenting that are not as easy as one might think....I am so happy things are working out well.

shelly said...

wow how honest...how transparent....and how incredibly helpful to others who might be experiencing the same thing....thanks for having the courage to share...and congratulations on the love that has broken through the circunstances!!

Mel said...

Hi,
Came to you from another blog. We have twins born to us and just completed our adoption of our 3 yr. old daughter born in Guatemala.
I so appreciate your honesty about attaching and have found too, that it is a process on both sides.
It was tough for us to merge our twins (now 11 months old) and our 3 yr. old (only home since Feb. 09) and not feel the "human" feelings of fatigue, anger at the extra work etc. etc., all while trying to create the bonds of attachment. All the best.

hhmcadams said...

My husband and I live in Chicago and are currently working on adopting from Ethiopia. I was introduced to your blog by a friend of a friend of yours. I read this most recent post and then sat down and read everyone of the previous ones. I am truly appreciative of your point-of-view. I would love to get more info from you if you don't mind contacting me. PS I hope you don't mind, I linked to your blog from mine.

~melodious mama~ said...

wow!! that was so moving!! I so rarely comment on blogs when I first visit but, sheesh, you have me tearing up and feeling hope/light/love/sympathy/...but mostly gratitude. gratitude because what you wrote was the TRUTH and there is NOTHING more key to our existence then that! Your openness humbles me and at the same time gives me courage. we can speak our truths and be supported and understand that we are not alone....what a gift you have given bloggersville! thanks☼

Susie said...

came via anymommy, and this post has hooked me. we're in the adoption process and it is nice to have places to tuck away where I can run for comfort when things don't go the way I envision they will. thanks.

Kristin @ What She Said said...

This is the most gut-wrenchingly honest post about adoption I've ever read. Thank you for linking it up with Listen to Your Mother and giving me the chance to see it.