How does it happen - bonding?

(31 Posts)

If anyone would be willing to share with me how they bonded with their child during the adoption process or afterwards, I would be very grateful to hear, please.

I have not adopted yet. I do have a birth child. When she was born I was very ill for a few days (well I felt very ill even if it was not life threatening!) and was in hospital for about 10 days. I did not really start to bond for a number of days until we were home from the hospital.

I've had lots of contact with kids, helping with them in creches, schools etc and I am trying to imagine creating a new bond with a child older than a baby and how that happens. I expect it is different for everyone and maybe there are no tips, but just to understand a bit how it feels would be helpful, please.

After 7 and a half years I feel my bond with my birth DD is still growing (and maybe always will) so I am sure it is very hard to pin down how you feel about your beloved children.

I find thinking about adoption both scary and exciting. I guess as we wait for it all to unfold I am just wanting to educate and inform myself as much as I can!

I know this is a potentially very private area so I will not be at all offended if my thread drops off the end with no one replying. If any brave souls do reply I would be very grateful.

I would also be delighted to hear of any links to sites with interesting articles. I have tried buying a couple of books on adoption but I am not an avid reader and the first I dived into has left me a bit cold! So I thought I would ask you ladies, please, if anyone wishes to share......

Thank you.

AngelsWithSilverWings Tue 24-Jul-12 08:41:06

Hi - I've mentioned this on a couple of threads recently as it seems a very common worry for potential adopters - as it was for me before I adopted my DS ( I don't have any birth children)

I remember telling my SW that I was worried about where the love will come from and when it will come -of course she couldn't answer as it is different for everyone.

For me it was different with my DS from how it was with my DD ( my second adopted child)

With DS the love was there from the moment I saw a photo of him ( I cried )Then we watch a DVD of him playing at his foster carer's home and I really fell in love!

By the time we finally got to meet him I was besotted and then when he came home with us permanently the bond just kept growing as I'm sure it does with birth children.

For me there was a moment about three months after he came to us when I thought I would lose him. He had a convulsion and was rushed to hospital in an ambulance. I felt like my heart had been ripped out and still get emotional thinking about it 6 years later. He was fine ( if I had known what a febrile convulsion was before he had one it wouldn't have been so frightening but I honestly thought he was going to die) Anyway I think that was a defining moment for me when I really realised that I was his mother.

With my DD it was very different. Her photo didn't match up to the image I had created in my head from her description. I was worried I wouldn't feel the same as I did with my DS.

The introductions were more stressful because I was juggling with my DS's day to day needs at the same time. My extended family were not as close by as they had been because we had moved away so I didn't have as much support.

I look back on that time and just remember it being really really stressful and as a result the bonding took much longer. When I look back on the early days with my DS it was like a lovely honeymoon.

I love both my kids more than anything but I think I will always have a different relationship with them as individuals.

Devora Tue 24-Jul-12 11:44:12

I think it is Kewcumber who always says on here: fake it and it will come.

It IS nerve-wracking. Most of my adopter friends seem to think it took awhile - about a year in most cases. I think my own pattern was something like this:

Slightly resentful, feeling I'd been palmed off with a burdensome babysitting job: 3 months in

Getting fond: 6 months in

Love: 12 months in

I would throw myself in front of a truck to save you: 18 months in

I glow every time I think about you: now

Which is pretty much exactly the same trajectory I went through with my birth child. Actually, I feel very lucky that I was slow to bond with my birth child, because I had lower expectations when I adopted. I think it must be very hard if you were one of these birth mothers who felt instant, crashing love straight after giving birth, because it would be hard to feel like that on taking a toddler into your home.

Hayleyh34 Tue 24-Jul-12 11:49:14

I bonded with my daughter from seeing a photo. When she moved in we had 3 lovely months and then all hell broke lose! grin

She had basically been portraying a false self (very common in adoption) and after 3 months felt she could relax and be herself. It was a really hard year following that but I now understand her a lot more and adore the true, complicated her.

Even though I felt like I bonded with her straight away, when I took her to nursery, I still told everyone that she was adopted as I felt like they were "real" parents whilst I was just pretending.

That has now disappeared (18 months after placement). It's different for everyone but I think there are different levels of bonding and I think it is always ongoing.

Incidentally, we were very lucky and she bonded with us from the start, never pushed us away. She was ready for a mummy and daddy and has always been very affectionate

Lilka Tue 24-Jul-12 12:20:31

I connected with DD1's photo and information straight away. I can't describe the feeling but there was a definite instant 'click'. I didn't feel that with either of my other two

However it did take a long time for me to attach to her. She felt like a stranger for months, sometimes I liked her, and sometimes I disliked her. And i didn't feel i could say anything because you aren't supposed to look at your child and think 'I don't love you, and i dont like you'. It was difficult not to resent her at times which made me feel awful because the adoption was my idea not hers. But slowly I did start feeling love for her. I didn't feel it happen, but when I looked back after 9 months-1 year or so, I knew that if she left my home, i would feel really sad and miss her. And after another 6 months, I would have been devastated had she left. I think it took 18-20 ish months to feel unconditional love

It was really similar with DD2, but it took even longer for me to really love her.

It was easier with DS, maybe because he was quite clingy and wanted me near him all the time (unlike DD1 who was very self sufficient and independent, and DD2 who was very push-pull when it came to wanting me). Certainly, it was easier in that I knew what to expect! When I adopted DD1 I was thown by my own feelings, which made it much harder, but by the time I adopted DS I knew what to expect, so I wasn't beating myself up about my lack of love.

That's the attachment on my end - on theirs it took much longer. I'd say it took DD1 4.5-5 years to form a solid attachment to me, and we never stop building on and strengthening our relationship

'Fake it ill you make it' is great advice. I would say, don't be hard on yourself if you don't attach easily, because it's quite normal! Beating myself up about it was not healthy but i thought I was abnormal or something. No, I was normal, but bonding problems are not often talked about. And they really should be, because I can't count the number of times new adoptive parent have asked for advice because they are struggling to bond. It's fine if you don't feel anything, it's normal

funnychic Tue 24-Jul-12 15:36:28

What a great question but more importantly what fabulous, honest answers. I know this isn't my question but as a prospective adopter it has also been on my mind so I would like to thank you all for your responses, it's so helpful hearing how you felt and your caring advice.

HappySunflower Tue 24-Jul-12 17:55:52

I'm in the process of writing about my experiences of attachment, including the process that we went through, and what worked/didn't work for me.

I'd prefer not to post it on the board really but If you're interested in a copy once I'm finished, send me a pm.

Thank you all for your lovely and moving responses. I am so hopeful for this and it is good to know I am not alone in being fearful.

OhDoAdmitMrsDeVere Tue 24-Jul-12 20:04:44

I didnt even know my DS existed until a week before I met him for the first time.
We were asked to care for him by family and after a week of assessments I went to pick him up from court (it wasnt quite as smooth as that but that is for another thread!). I didnt know his name.
I also didnt know how long I would be caring for him.
I had to decide to put everything in to him because he was only 8 weeks old. i knew it would be agony when it was time to give him back but I thought it would be unfair to hold back.
To be honest I didnt know what I was doing, what was expected of me and what was going to happen!

The main things I did
1. wore the same necklace everyday
2. wore the same perfume everyday
3. sang him the same song every day and everytime he came back to me after a contact, at medical appts etc.

I made sure I looked in his eyes a lot. I used massage and physio time to bond with him.

He was a tiny baby so not all of these things would apply to an older child smile

When DCs 4 & 5 were born I did have experience of 'faking it' to a certain extent. I loved them very much but I was wary of bonding because of losing DD. I knew that I would have to make sure I smiled at them, look in their faces, sing and chat to them a lot. I really just felt like holding them in silence but knew that wouldnt be the best thing for them.

It did work. They didnt know that it was hard for me to do. They just saw me being smiley cooing at them.

OhDoAdmitMrsDevere thank you, those are such wise words. I will make a note of the necklace, perfume, song thing.

When DD was little we got a book called 'Love you Forever', I thought when I first saw it that it was very naff! It is by Robert Munsch. When I read it (and it has a song in it), it really warmed my heart. Dealing with an ailing mother and a reasonably young child it does warm my heart still. I am not sure if it is the kind of things suitable for a child who has been through adoption but I loved it.

robertmunsch.com/book/love-you-forever

I know something of your story from previous posts, thank you for sharing.

PS if you read why he wrote the song it is really sad, sorry to be a downer, I guess love and sadness are sometimes linked.

I also have a birth child and being very honest, I worried hugely that I might not love dd as much as I love ds. I spoke about it with our (lovely) social worker who gave the same advice as Kew, to fake it and the love would come eventually.

Ds was a very easy, placid baby, I had a lovely pregnancy and the bonding came immediately. Although we knew for months that dd was coming, there was part of me that held back from loving her until she was actually home with us. We're 7 months home with her and I can hand on heart say I love her wholly, completely and absolutely. She's made it easy, to be fair to her, she loves cuddles and very quickly decided that her Mammy is the best person in the world, clever girl.

I will say, though, that in the first couple of months, there were times when I felt I was faking it. I found the waking up in the night hard and would feel frustrated and almost angry with dd. (Of course I didn't let it show, I hope.) I'm embarrassed to even write that. Ds woke in the night too, of course, but I never felt the frustration with him that I did in the first couple of months with dd. These days, she still has bad nights with her teeth etc but I just feel sorry for her now, the way it should be.

So in short, for me it was about 5 months to that stand-in-front-of-a-lorry love to come. I can't imagine I could love her more than I do now, but I know I said that months ago and I know I do love her more now, so I suppose the attachment is still growing for both of us.

Thanks happy that is beautiful.

FamiliesShareGerms Thu 26-Jul-12 21:34:42

It took me a while to really clock that I was a mother when DS was born. He was early, he wasn't expected for some time, labour was ridiculously quick and then I was discharged from hospital and he stayed in SCBU for a bit. And I just didn't feel like a mother: when someone asked how "my son" was doing, I didn't think they were talking to me. And I find little babies rather boring too, esp when they literally feed / sleep / feed / sleep for weeks longer then usual because they are catching up.

That's a long way of saying that although I did alway love DS I didn't have that immediately rush of overwhelming love lots of mothers talk about after labour. I can't quite remember when that happened, but I think it was weeks rather than days.

So I expected something similar with DD. I certainly wasn't prepared to be bowled over pretty much straight away. It was the closest I have been to love at first sight except for with DH. Immediately I met her I knew she was my daughter and I would do anything for her. I found it hard to hold that back, both so as not to overwhelm her but also I suspect SS might have found it a bit weird.

I think my experience is probably unusual (we are programmed to love our genetic relations, after all), but I do know a couple of others who had that immediate whoosh (one male, one female)

FamiliesShareGerms Thu 26-Jul-12 21:39:19

Oh, and DS fell in love with the idea of having a sister straight away; fell for DD pretty much as soon as he met her; and had to get through her not reciprocating the feelings then becoming very fond of him. The other day he said to me "if someone had a gun and shot at my sister, I would throw myself in front of her and take the bullet so that she wouldn't die"...! Goodness only knows why he was thinking such things, but it did bring a tear to my eye, and I think it shows he has bonded with her...

Families that brought a tear to my eye!

On another note my DD was singing that ridiculous Bruno Mars song

"I'd catch a grenade for you
Throw my hand on a blade for you"

her next line was ... "Step in front of a maid for you!"

bonnieslilsister Fri 27-Jul-12 18:38:16

italiangreyhound you are amazing! That book! I can't believe I have found it again! About 10 yrs ago my dd brought it home from school and we loved it, all of us. I was so sorry she gave it back without me writing down the title. We said the rhyme to each other and my ds every single night for yrs and still to this day we write it in every card for birthdays and messages we send to each other.

I am on holiday at the moment but when I get back I am going to order some copies.

Thank you smile that would be so nice to do with a newly adopted child..... Just before sleep when children are sleepy and in what's called a hypnogogic (I think) state and anything you say to them is accepted as truth by the subconscious mind.

Thanks again x

Kewcumber Sat 28-Jul-12 21:34:20

sorry I'm late to this thread (computer problems) - I was the queen of worrying about bonding! With good reason. I had been fed stories courtesy of (mostly american) adoption blogs where it seemed that everyone fell in love at first sight with their new child. I didn't despite the fact that DS was very very cute and very very small (size of a 3-6 month old). I thought it was very odd of me and I felt like the only person adopting who felt like the babysitter for the longest time. So I wrote about it reasonably honestly in my blog so as not to mislead anyone who read it.

I can't tell you the number of emails from adoptive parents I got thanking me for being honest and saying it made them feel much better as they too hadn't bonded with their child initially.

My experience was on the whole is that people who had a photo some time in advance felt they bonded better than those of us that met our children cold (as it were). I'm not actually convinced they really were more bonded any quicker but I think you don;t spend the first few weeks processing who your child is - with DS I had no idea what sex he was or age or even race! Nor did I have any medical information which proved to be a stumbling block initially. SO I spent the first week of meeting DS getting to grips with the fact that I had an extremely premature 1 yr old asian son.

Bonding happens because they need you and you need them and there isn't a child that I've ever come across who doesn't have lovable and unique and its our job as parents to find out what that is and nurture it.

Oh yes and as others have said... just fake it until you make it. I don't know how it happens but it just does!

Thanks bonnieslilsister for that very positive comment, glad to be of service! Now is anyone can tell me where I can buy a copy of The Tinsel November - I will be mightily glad, please.

Kew thanks for your wise words and open-ness.

FamiliesShareGerms Mon 06-Aug-12 22:11:02

Just a small additional thought on this (I've been mulling it over the weekend, following a comment from someone). One thing that didn't "click" straightaway was being able to pick out DD's voice / cries across a busy playground, for example. With DS I have always been able to tell if it was him who was crying, despite a load of hullabaloo around us. With DD it took some months, and sometimes now - a year on - I still don't always immediately clock that it's her making the noise. I was a bit worried about this, but a friend pointed out that you get to know birth children over many months before they are at that stage, and my "ear" for DD will come in time.

It'd be interesting to hear other's experiences and thoughts on this (sorry for hijacking, Italian!)

thereslovely Tue 07-Aug-12 21:12:36

If I were you I would read up on attachment theory and any info on bonding that you can rather than just rely on instinct and feelings. I bonded with my dd1 very quickly, she was the centre of my world and I felt close to her for years. However as time has gone on (she is now 10) she has developed severe problems (some related to attachment disorder) and tbh things are dire and getting worse to the extent that the adoption could break down completely. I look back and question if I could have/should have done things differently in the first months and years. Sorry to present a different view from others but it is important you know how difficult adoption can be - forewarned is forearmed.

thereslovely thanks so much for your words of warning and your honesty.

I sincerely hope you have some help and good advice where you are.

I am so sorry things are really bad at the moment. I won't pretend to know what you are going through or how things will work out but I do hope someone in real life is supporting you and your daughter and family in general.

All best wishes for a change for the better.

Maryz Tue 07-Aug-12 22:28:28

I had a week's notice before getting ds, and 2 days before dd. In both cases I met them and took them home the same day - within an hour of meeting them - so it was quite a shock. No introductions, only one printed page of instructions (I remember ds's had a list of when and what he ate, and a sentence at the bottom saying "he cries a lot" sad).

With ds I was scared of him at first, then I felt sorry for him, and within a couple of hours I would have killed anyone who wanted to take him away. But bonding fully with him was difficult - he didn't like me much and wouldn't look at me. He was much better with dh, and I subsequently realised that his foster parents had dark hair and eyes like dh, which presumably explained why he was happier with him.

With dd it was easier in some ways (she was a very attractive child, and very cuddly from the start), but it was much more stressful because of dealing with ds1 and because she came with so little notice, so I wasn't mentally prepared at all. Beginning bonding was easier, but it probably took longer overall to feel she was "mine".

With both of them we almost lost them after about 3 months, ds because of a change in Irish adoption law, dd because her birth father applied to have her returned. In both cases it was only when the blip happened and I thought I would lose them that I realised how much a part of me they were.

Interestingly, I had a friend at the time who informed me that the love I had for them was very different from the love people had for birth children, as it was impossible to bond in the same way with an adopted child hmm. After I had ds2 a few years later, I told her I felt the same about him as I did about ds1 and dd, at which time she told me that it was because I had him by CS and therefore didn't bond naturally with him either [baffled].

In my opinion, bonding (or at least quick bonding) is irrelevant and unimportant. It is the slow and careful building of a true interdependent relationship over a period of weeks, months, years that make a parent-child bond special. And that builds over time in exactly the same way whether a child is born to you, adopted at birth, or adopted later. It just takes time, and sometimes effort, but in the end is so very much worthwhile.

Maryz Tue 07-Aug-12 22:30:50

thereslovely, I'm sorry you are having such a rough time sad. Have you another thread on it, or pm me if you want to talk off-board.

We have had a nightmare five years with ds1, and there are many people who think that I regret adopting him, but I'm lucky, I never have, no matter what he has done. And slowly things are improving. The ages 10 to 18 can be very very difficult for adopted children, and sometimes even more difficult for their parents.

I have no illusions that all adoption is straightforward, but then neither is parenting any challenging child.

Maryz Tue 07-Aug-12 22:31:13

Jaysus, I'm writing essays tonight blush.

Kewcumber Tue 07-Aug-12 23:32:09

thereslovely - I sometimes feel that my tricky bonding with DS worked for us in a way - some and long worked for us in the end and eventually I would say that we were better bonded that those we were travelling with who appeared to have bonded almost instantly. Possibly partly because it didn't come naturally - I did have to work at it and used much of the advice I learnt on the prep course to promote bonding between us.

Of course thats not to say that there won't be problems ahead for us. DS does show issues with attachment on the over-attached end of the spectrum and it does worry me that self esteem is so brittle and so dependent on me.

But all of us can only do our best at the time.

Are you getting any support from your adoption team - I know post adoption support is patchy though our team seem to be quite good locally.

Thanks Maryz for sharing about your experience. I do know someone who started the adoption process and had a child placed with them and then he went back to his birth mum, not sure of all the details, but it was just heart breaking. It scared me and maybe that has been one of the factors that has made me hold off from going down that route (I am sure it is pretty rare!). That and a lot of other factors. It must have been very scary for you thinking you may lose your children (understatement of the year! Sorry). I can't believe your friend said that about bonding! How the heck does anyone know how others bond or how they feel! I mean we can all read about the subject and study it but ultimately how do they know how you feel about your kids!

Kew thanks for your wisdom as ever.

thereslovely thinking of you and hope you have some help where you are.

Can anyone recommend good books on attachment, please?

FamiliesShareGerms Thu 09-Aug-12 05:44:32

thereslovely, sorry you are having such a difficult time at the moment, I hope you are getting some RL help and support x

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