It’s funny how all those adoption books I read to prepare for adopting were quickly forgotten in the blurry first weeks of new motherhood.
My firstborn was four-years-old when we adopted our daughter at 10 days old. I was formula feeding for the first time and forgot you weren’t supposed to mix types, and she immediately became constipated.
The books told me she would go through her own transition phase, even as an infant, as the entire world around her changed from what she had heard for nine months in the womb. I totally forgot this, even when I saw the confused look on her newborn face. I’m pretty sure I didn’t think of her emotions as much as my own and that of her grieving birthmother.
And I totally forgot I was supposed to exclusively feed her!
Best Advice Ever
So the best advice I ever got was done in a wonderfully passive-aggressive way by our amazing social worker who came to check on us around the two-week mark.
At this point, I was two months pregnant with a surprise baby, up all night with the new one crying and the growing one making me ravenous at 2 a.m. My husband was finishing up a deployment in Afghanistan, so I was on my own, save my mother.
And I wasn’t bonding with the baby girl I thought I would fall in love with at first sight.
So when our social worker came to check on us, she was surprised that I was letting my mom feed my daughter. She asked if I was feeding her exclusively, and I said no.
Then she said nothing. And it dawned on me – oh yeah. I’m supposed to be doing that.
Let the Bonding Begin!
Part of me wanted to roll my eyes, but I also knew I wasn’t bonding with her as I wanted to, and breastfeeding my son had bonded us far more than me carrying him in the womb.
So that day I committed to feeding her exclusively. And let me tell you, within 10 days she and I were madly in love with each other. I could see the change in her eyes. They went from cold and empty to bright and happy. I could tell she would smile at me if she could. And all the symptoms of bonding with my child were kicking in – I became obsessed with holding her, smelling her, and could barely walk away to cook dinner. She started turning her head at my voice, and we basically couldn’t get enough of each other.
And I know that exclusively feeding her did that.
I know the advice for parents of older adoptees is to make sure you’re the one comforting them at all times, until a bond is formed. It really does come down to being the one to provide those basic emotional and physical needs. It’s the difference between a mother and a mom.
And I love being a mom.
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