NY Times Blog: Biological vs Adopted Child Bonding

nytimesblogThe New York Times parenting blog published an interesting piece the other day titled An Adoption: Six Months Later. The author writes about her difficult bonding experience with her biological sons versus her immediate attachment to her adopted daughter.

Now, maybe that has to do with the fact that her bio sons were newborns and her daughter was older when she was adopted–maybe the author just didn’t take to the newborn stage. (It sounds like she had a bit of a Grumpy Baby.) Or maybe she truly just bonded more naturally with her adopted daughter and would have no matter what age she was when adopted. Either way, it speaks to the truth that attachment and bonding does not rely or depend on biological ties.

Just because you give birth to a baby does not mean you will become immediately attached. And just because you adopt a baby doesn’t mean you immediately won’t.

I recommend reading the whole article on the NY Times blog, but I’d like to share this part here. She writes:

When I met my first-born in a Houston maternity hospital eight years ago, I had had 41 (no, that’s not a typo) weeks to ready myself, but I wasn’t ready. He was colicky; he screamed. It did not go well. I was depressed. For months, he screamed on and I just reeled. Nineteen months later his brother was born, and though the screaming had long since stopped and I now had given birth to a second, easy-going son — well, I had two kids under two. You do the mood math.  

I have to tell this part, because it is the surprising truth: I have finally had that warm and fuzzy, dreamy new-mom experience, not in the Houston maternity ward (where I gave birth), but in the conference room of a businessman’s hotel in Beijing, China.

From the start we were awestruck by her. Funny, intelligent, charming and resilient, she marshaled all her internal resources and took a chance on us. She trusted from the beginning that we would take care of her, and we have tried our best to live up to that trust. As our first six months together draw to a close, I can honestly say the initial adjustment period has exceeded my wildest dreams. We aren’t struggling now. We are, at least as much as my type of family can be, euphoric.  

Parenting both biological and adopted children has taught me this: fit is different with every child, regardless of how they come to you.”

The comments that people on the post left seemed to reinforce the notion that bonding is not about biology at all. One woman wrote:

Our South American daughter was 6 weeks old when we first took custody of her. I had the mystical, magical experience two days later… fell in love like falling downstairs, minus the pain. She was a lovely, serene baby and did absolutely nothing to prepare me for our biological son, who arrived 18 months later. Like the author’s colicky son, ours screamed nonstop, never wanted to be put down, wouldn’t sleep through the night until he was 3.5 years old, and nearly drove me bonkers. Years later, I love them both more than life itself. And I’m convinced that compatibility with one’s children is more, much more than shared genes; that the chemistry between parent and child is a complicated and changing thing.

Another woman wrote:

This is MY life, too! Although we adopted our older children first and then had a biological child, the feelings and experiences are strikingly similar. I anticipated dealing with attachment issues with our older children (10 and 13 years old when we brought them home). I read book after book on the subject and braced for the worst. Instead, our children from Ethiopia are a delight. Fifteen months after meeting them, my husband and I marvel at our good fortune. Simply put, our children fit our family perfectly. Our third child, a surprise baby born nine months and two weeks after we got back from Ethiopia, has been a much greater challenge. I have struggled to feel the feelings I thought would naturally ooze from my pores. It was so much easier with our children we adopted!

From this post and comments, it seems as if it really depends more on compatibility, your personality and type of baby that you have, as to how quickly you bond with him or her rather than on mere biology alone. It reminds me of the Angel Baby Fantasy post I wrote earlier this week. Everyone’s experience is different, no doubt, but I guess what I take from this is that my bonding experience will be no different with my adopted child than it would have been with a biological child–it might be easy and come naturally, or it might take some time.

I honestly can’t imagine it taking anything more than just laying eyes on him (or her), though! I already love our baby so much and feel a connection, as crazy as that sounds considering we are not matched yet. I can only hope Charlie will feel it, too.

2 thoughts on “NY Times Blog: Biological vs Adopted Child Bonding

  1. Hali

    Thanks for sharing this article. Being on the same journey of adoption as you(almost the same timing as well..we are on our 4th month of waiting) i can really relate to your blog.I have been following along and it seems like you have very similar thoughts on your mind as I do at each stage of the process and it is so nice to know i’m not alone with my worries! You have a great way of putting all the thoughts,emotions, and concerns that come along with this adoption adventure into words. Keep it up and I truly hope one day very soon you will be able to bring your Charlie home!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I love hearing from people who are also going through the adoption process–especially those on similar timelines. It is comforting to know that the my emotions and thoughts are shared by others. I wish you the best of luck and hope you can bring your baby home soon, too!

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