You are too new at this.
You have no knowledge or wisdom to impart.
Are you really going to share with all these people about your struggles with bonding with your daughter?
When asked to write this blog post, initially, I was so excited for the opportunity but then these questions crept into my mind. I found myself intimidated by my own inexperience and shortcomings. I thought there was nothing in my experience worth reading about.
For a living, I am a visual storyteller. I found a love for photography a while back and I believe there is so much importance in preserving the story of families. I do this for families all the time, however new they may be. Usually this starts with a wedding day, then to first anniversaries, to their first kid, to that kid graduating high school—and hopefully if I’m still in business—that same kid getting married and starting their own family. With that said, I realized that whatever stage we find ourselves in there are lessons and wisdom to gleam from each one, so here’s a little bit of our story and the things I have learned thus far.
I recently became a mom to my sweet little girl. Even before knowing each other, my husband and I knew we wanted to adopt one day. As we dated and then married, we discussed what life would look like for us together, we dreamt of starting our family with adoption. Enter our sweet girl! My husband and I first met our daughter through his job. The night we met her we learned she was in the foster care system and would be up for adoption the following summer. After a persistent tug at my heart, I finally spoke with my husband about this pull I had been feeling since meeting our daughter. I kept thinking, “Why on earth do I keep thinking of this little girl I’ve only met once?” At the time, she was merely a stranger to us. The Lord had so much more in store for us three.
We were unsure of where to start or if this was the right time for us to start our family but something kept pulling my heart towards this beautiful baby girl in need of a forever family. So we made a few phone calls to inquire more and started the process of getting our fostering license. Through the Lord’s provision we finally found a home in our area—and budget—that would pass a home study. At the time we were in the tiniest little studio apartment and part of the time my husband was basically off the grid with his job, and I was on the go with work as well. We had no need for anything bigger. All in all, it took about a year and a half for us to become her family forever.
Lesson #1: Don’t be afraid to ask others about adoption.
If you are the least bit curious, I encourage you to inquire and take the time to learn what your options are and what the need is around you. I think a lot of people think of overseas when they think of adoption and while that is most definitely a need, there are plenty of needs locally in the foster care system.
I remember when we first started our journey, I was absolutely terrified to call the foster mom. I wasn’t sure if we were ready or if things would work out. I didn’t want to give false hope to the foster family if things didn’t work out on our end. Had I not made a phone call and asked questions, we wouldn’t have our sweet girl in our lives today. Asking questions is good!
My husband reminded me that it doesn’t mean we were committing right then and there, we just needed to see what our next steps were if we were really going to explore the “tug” on my heart. Our philosophy was that we would take each step one at a time, in faith, until we hit a closed door or our steps led us to growing our family. Keep in mind, our story is a little out of the norm because we met our daughter before we started the process of adoption through foster care. So maybe that first phone call you need to make is to your local Department of Social Services. Also, asking other adoptive families about their journey and experience can help you to educate yourself on the different avenues out there that you can take to help meet the needs of a child.
Lesson #2: No adoption story is the same.
We are blessed to be a part of a community that has a lot of families with adopted children. It has been great to have so many families to speak with and get advice from. Amongst these families there are some just starting the process, all the way to adoptees that have now adopted their own. Then there are other stories in our community of families waiting for over 6 years—and thousands of dollars later—to be matched with a child. They stayed faithful in their pursuit and recently adopted their son through the foster care system. Then there is another family waiting to be matched with a birth mom for the second time, to add another precious addition to their 5 boys. I share all this to say that all adoption stories are different.
As humans, and especially as women, I feel we are prone to compare ourselves and our stories with others. Comparison usually leads to discontentment, second guessing, and questioning why your situation looks one way when “theirs” looks another. Keeping my heart in check was crucial to remaining hopeful and diligent on our end to prepare for our daughter to join our family. I have my husband to thank for that one. He’s good at seeing the big picture and reminding me that the Lord has written our story and it’s not suppose to look just like someone else’s. Take the stories you see on social media or hear from those in your community as encouragement and support for the journey that you may find yourself on.
Lesson #3: The connection and bond may not come all at once.
Wow! I think this is the hardest lesson for me. I feel as though this could be a whole blog post in itself so I’ll try to keep it brief. This lesson was physically and emotionally hard for me in the beginning and even now it’s hard for me to share about because I fight the feeling of guilt or shame for something that wasn’t totally in my control. I felt like a monster and a failure. I felt like something was wrong with me, when in all reality I think adoptive—and biological—moms feel this disconnect more than we feel comfortable talking about.
When our daughter first arrived to our home, there was a great deal of build up. My emotions were all over the place and my expectations were high. I had dreams of what that day would be like for her to arrive on our doorstep. It was a beautiful day. The picture of adoption, no matter how difficult, is a beautiful one but those first few days were some of the hardest days of my life. I thought the mushy gushy feelings of motherhood would pour over me and I would just be a puddle of fuzzy feelings and snuggles, and kisses, and all the “mother-y” things. I knew logically I loved our daughter, but my feelings were having to play catch-up. I envied my husband for how easily he had jumped into his roll and how his love and affection for our daughter overflowed. I found my heart cold and anxious, and quite frankly in PANICK MODE. I remember thinking…what have I done? Did I force this to happen? Is this really what the Lord wanted? Am I going to be a good enough mom? Do I really love her? Will she love me? Doubts and anxieties ate at me day and night. I think I literally lost 10 pounds in three days because I couldn’t get any food down. I was a hot mess!
I talked with other mothers and they shared some of their struggles with bonding with their babies at first—some biological kids—and it helped me to ease my anxiety of, “Why am I feeling this way?” Seeing that these feelings weren’t so abnormal allowed me to take a step back and make more of a conscious effort to create moments for my daughter and I to bond and fall in love with each other.
Someone told me it’s like dating, you have to get to know someone before you can fall head over heels. So, that’s what I did. It wasn’t easy, but the more time we spent together the more I settled into the role of mommy and the more my heart grew warmer and warmer to my daughter. Now, I feel those warm feelings, and we laugh and play, and snuggle with ease. I have learned to enjoy her more fully. I share this part of our story because I don’t want anyone struggling these same hardships to feel alone. You are NOT a monster, you’re just human. I had to rely on the Lord for strength and I had to take the time and put in the work to grow my bond with my daughter.
As a part of her bedtime routine every night we pray as a family, “God, continue to grow our bond stronger and our love deeper each day.”
I hope our story has brought you encouragement. So I want to say…
To the new mom,
You are enough. Continue to serve and care for your child wholeheartedly, even when it’s hard or feels inconvenient. Time will grow your love and your bond. They need stability. They need consistency. They need unconditional love, just like that of our Heavenly Father. You are not alone. You can do this! Not everyone reading this may have the same beliefs I hold strong to but I wholeheartedly believe the Lord will grant us the strength and wisdom we need to love and care for his children. We must lean into him and he will be our strength and guidance in this crazy adventure of parenthood.
To the one feeling that “tug”,
Don’t push it away! It’s there for a reason and there may be a child in need that needs you as their mommy or caregiver. (“For we are his workmanship, created for good works, which God created beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10) There are so many kids that need a forever home. They’re not all overseas, some are right in your backyard. Get involved locally, ask questions, be faithful to take the next step and then the next until the door closes or you grow your family.
To the friend of an adoptive mom,
You have no idea how much encouragement and help you can be to your friend. Life has changed for them and they need support. Ask how you can best serve them. Whether that’s washing the dishes, bringing a hot meal, or just sitting in the living room having “adult talk” over a cup of coffee. Every family is different but your friend needs your support, so keep your communication open about how you can best serve them in this transitional time.
Much love y’all! From my family to yours.
Bailey Batten is a wedding and portrait photographer based in Western North Carolina. She loves good coffee and taking in the mountainous views she gets to call home. Her and her husband recently adopted their daughter through the foster care system. Their daughter just turned three and she loves picking flowers, singing at the top of her lungs, and swimming in the river.
Connect with Bailey
Instagram: @bailsbatten @baileybattenphotography