While I waited in anticipation of my adopted daughter, I worried about what it would feel like to care for, raise, and love a child that I didn’t carry and give birth to. Having two children the traditional way, I never questioned how I would love my child when I was pregnant. I watched my mother do so with ease and beyond the normal apprehension about doing a good job, surviving sleepless nights, and dreading dirty diapers, it wasn’t an issue for me.
The decision to adopt our third child brought up many concerns, especially because I thought that child would be different from the two I already had. Would I treat my adopted child differently without even realizing it? Would I wonder what the birthmother would want at every decision I make about that child’s health and welfare? Would I feel as much responsibility for my adopted child as the two I gave birth to? Would I love that child as much as my natural children?
As I waited over a few months, I observed children playing in parks or shopping with their parents and wondered what it would be like to love someone else’s child. I wasn’t convinced it would be easy and I was worried. Would I always feel like I was raising someone else’s child? Would I be capable of caring for a child that a stranger would trust me to care for?
I also remember feeling apprehensive about suddenly becoming someone’s parent without the swelling belly over nine months. One morning we would wake up as a couple (with two kids) and that night, we would go to sleep as parents of a newborn infant. Could I turn my feelings on for a child as abruptly as she would come into our lives?
It was always my nature to worry excessively about little things but this was huge. I spent sleepless nights worrying about how much this baby would affect the lives of my two sons, as well as my husband and me.
Well, I couldn’t have been more confused, wrong and foolish about all of my concerns. I watched my adopted daughter being born and I immediately felt the same joy and excitement as if I had given birth myself. I held her in the first moments of her life and without a second thought, she instantly became a part of me and our family. I made health and safety decisions naturally that very first day and even though her birthmother was in the same hospital, I didn’t hesitate to make the same careful choices I had made for my two sons. This baby wasn’t one of those children I had seen at the park or shopping mall with their parents; she was unquestionably my child in every way.
I have loved my adopted child for ten glorious years now and she has never been treated differently from my sons. I give her just as much admiration, approval, and scolding when deserved. She feels every bit our child as much as I could have hoped. She knows she’s adopted yet there isn’t an issue or uncomfortable moment for any of us. She loves her parents, her brothers and everything about her childhood so far. She isn’t wondering what life might have looked like for her if we hadn’t come along. My efforts to make sure she has all the support she needs feels intrinsically natural, not forced or complicated.
The most gratifying thing is that she loves me like I loved my mother. This past Mother’s Day she made me a hand-painted book with a dozen pages of moments we’ve had together and what she loves the most about me. On the page titled “My mom is special because…” she wrote: “You love me and I love you back even when I get mad at you or when you get mad at me. I always still love you.” I cherish the fact that our love is as natural as any other mother-daughter love. I have extraordinary love for all my children but the child that came after some hardship, worry, stress and concern is the one that surprised me the most. The joy she has brought our entire family gives me incredible gratification and I am thankful for her every day.