Awhile ago, someone asked me a question, one I suppose rolls around in people's heads but they are simply too polite (or afraid) to ask. The question was this "Do you love your adopted kids as much as your biological child?" The person who asked this was not asking out of meanness or out of a place where she felt like adoption was a second rate way to have a family. She had a biological child already and was thinking about adoption, wondering how her feelings might compare. She also wanted to know what it was like to attach (as a parent) to an adopted child.
The reality is there should be a variety of answers to this question. It's just like any birth story; everyone's story is different. Some people instantly fall in love with their adopted children and feel very connected from the beginning. Other people find that it is a bit like falling in love with a spouse, where you did not fall in love overnight but that it took time, where over the course of special moments and time together, you can't help but love that person. Others find themselves really struggling. Perhaps it is because the adopted child has a very painful past which causes the hurts to ooze out in extreme behaviors that are bluntly put, hard to love. Perhaps it because the adoptive parent had specific expectations for the adoption and how it would feel and those expectations are going unmet. Or perhaps it is a kind of disconnect because the adopted child has a very different personality than the parent, a dynamic that is also sometimes present in biological families, where a parent who gave birth to a child just finds it hard to understand her own child.
Because our family was formed in a fairly non traditional way (adopting three and then having a biological child) and because my own experience with Kai is still pretty fresh on my mind, I found the questions a bit compelling. Probably because in my experience with Kai, I found myself wondering the question in reverse. "Could I love this baby who was flesh or my flesh as much as I loved my adopted kids?"
In our case, Kai's birth was fairly eventful, providing me with just about every facet of labor and delivery in one experience. I had a quickly progressing, fairly normal labor. I dialated to 8 before I received an epidural. I received an epidural. My labor stalled. My epidural ran out and I experienced labor with no or limited pain medicine. I had an emergency C-section.
But in truth, my delivery story is not the normal one. When Kai was born, I had asked for him to be cleaned up a bit before I held him. So as the doctor delivered him, we heard him cry and heard the doctor confirm that he was a boy. He was handed to a nurse to be cleaned up and then the drama started. His breathing sputtered; when they checked his vitals, he was running a fever. He was whisked off, away from us. There was no opportunity to hold him or to see him. D headed back to the nursery with our doctor while I lay on the operating table. My own body was very shocked and stressed and I actually fell asleep before the doctor came back in, prompting him to ask upon his return if the anesthesiologist had put me all the way out. Upon hearing that I was not under general anesthesia, our doctor explained briefly that our baby was sick and that they would be transporting him to another hospital. I do not remember any of the doctors repairing my incision. I was wheeled off to a recovery room where I literally shook and froze because of the stress, where I was in and out of sleep. Finally someone came and got me to wheel me down by nursery so I could see Kai before they took him by ambulance to the NICU. I did not have my glasses on, was really not allowed very close, and honestly was probably too exhausted and stressed to even remember anything anyway. I really just remember looking through the nursery windows at D and our doctor standing beside the incubator in the nursery and then the incubator being wheeled by on its way out to the ambulance.
That is our birth story. No tender moments of looking at this fresh little baby and watching my husband see him for the first time. No photographs of a tired mom holding a tightly wrapped bundle moments after giving birth. No cuddling, looking at his face to see who he looks like, commenting on his hair color. In fact, I didn't even know what color his hair was. The only thing I knew was that he had a dimple in his chin.
Our doctor was quick to get me transferred to the same hospital as Kai but nothing moves quickly in terms of that sort of thing so Kai was born at 5:30 pm on Wednesday and it was 2:30 pm the next day before I got to see him in person and hold him. It was almost 24 hours past the point of his birth. Of course the first part of that time, I was not very lucid. But by about 3 in the morning, I was doing much better and able to think more clearly. It was in those moments that I found myself feeling this strange disconnect. In my case, pregnancy seemed a bit surreal anyway, because Kai's pregnancy was such a surprise. Then his birth was such a crazy event, one I was not prepared for at all. I had entertained lots of labor and delivery scenarios including a C-section. But it never crossed my mind that I would end the labor and delivery experience without holding my baby or by being separated from him for almost a whole day. I found it hard to believe that here I was lying in a hospital bed,a new mom to a new baby. I felt like I needed someone to pinch me because I just didn't feel like a new mom. And I found myself wondering where those feelings were coming from, if perhaps I would have problems loving my biological baby as much as I loved my adopted ones.
Of course, the answer to that question came rather quickly. But it was one I wondered nonetheless, a stroke of irony in my life as a mom, that instead of worrying about loving my adopted kids, I was worrying about loving the one many might refer to as my "real" kid. If nothing else, perhaps that's the take away. That they are all my real kids, connected to me in powerful ways because of a Sovereign God regardless of how they came into my heart.