October 30, 2013 by greenhouse04
In my last post, I wrote about the difference in my relationship with Eddie from our first pumpkin-patch trip to the latest. But what happened in between these pumpkin patches to bring about this change?
I have become Eddie’s mommy. He’ll always be his first mother’s son as well, but if you ask Eddie who his mommy is, he’ll point to me. And in my heart, Eddie has become my son, too.
Become is the important word, however. There was a time when Eddie lived under our roof but was not our son. When he first came through our doors as a two-and-a-half-year-old, he was a stranger to me. He had an earring, an unknown smell, and a strange, serious look. He didn’t trust me, I didn’t delight in him. Our relationship had little of the typical mother-son characteristics. I fed him, bathed him, put him to bed, tried to comfort him… and he missed his mother.
For a whole year we lived with each other and got to know each other, but we still never developed mother-son feelings for each other. I held back, honestly believing that he would return to his birth mom. He had increasingly long visits with her, eventually staying four days and three nights at her house every week. Added to this mix was a baby girl named Emma, a child who truly became my daughter when she first entered our home at three days old.
During that year I knew I didn’t feel the same for Eddie that I did for Emma, but this fact didn’t disturb me until we discovered to our surprise that Eddie’s case would likely not end in reintegration with his birth mom, but in adoption. I was disturbed by the thought of adopting a child who didn’t feel like my own, but at the same time I knew we would adopt him when the time came.
The time did come, and one day in the spring two amazing children became our very own for life. Our life after foster care and adoption progressed blissfully. We were a happy family, carefree at last. Our worries over losing these children were over, and we could focus on building memories and bonds as a family.
But in certain moments I would again have the disturbing sensation that something still wasn’t right in my relationship with my son. I sensed it in myself and in the way he felt towards me. I felt guilty that our bond wasn’t coming as naturally as it did with Emma. I analyzed the way I treated him, worried about showing favoritism. On really bad days I agonized over our decision to adopt him – didn’t he deserve parents who were absolutely in love with him?
Finally, I sought help from our foster agency. I met with a woman who had worked with adoption cases for years, and she gave me good perspective. Basically, she told me that what I was experiencing was not at all surprising or unusual, and that Eddie was doing extremely well settling in to our family under the circumstances. She gave me permission to build a bond with my son at our own pace, and to have a different relationship with him than with our daughter.
The wisdom and validation from this woman helped me tremendously. I could begin to relax with Eddie. I could start to see how far we had come.
And I kept on intentionally bonding with him. Yes! Bonding can be an intentional act!
Here are a few bonding “techniques” that seemed to help us:
- Rubbing lotion on his legs (for his eczema) each night
- Cuddling and rocking with him
- Kissing his face all over (while he giggled and tried to hide)
- Lots of eye contact
- Lots of touch – mussing his hair as I passed, quick squeezes, etc.
- Building family memories – special “Family Days;” vacations; just playing together
- Openness in our communication – being open to talk about his birth mom; talking honestly about my emotions (as appropriate) and letting him talk about his (in his time)
My talk with the adoption worker was nearly a year ago, and our bond has strengthened so much since then. I see him as our son as much as I see Emma as our daughter. Our relationships will always be different – they are different people, after all – but we are the same in that we are all Green’s.