I stared at his picture endlessly for almost 40 weeks. This beautiful little boy with the chubby cheeks and the twinkle in his eye would be my son. And even though he lived across the globe in China it didn’t stop me from daydreaming about our life together. Birthday parties, trips to the museum, playing in the sand at the beach, good night hugs and kisses – I couldn’t wait for it. I remember the first time a friend referred to him as my son. My heart swelled and I couldn’t wait to hold him in my arms.
The day had finally come – Family Day. I became a mother in a big room at the Civil Affairs office in Zhengzhou, China. The moment that I had been dreaming about for so many years had finally arrived. Seeing him in the flesh for the first time was an overwhelming experience. I couldn’t hold back the tears. He reached out to me and I grabbed him so that I could hold him close. I didn’t want to let go. After a flurry of paperwork and activity we returned to the hotel as a family of three. Time seemed to stand still for those first hours in our hotel room. I was in awe of every move, sound, and expression he made. He didn’t seem real. I could not believe that he was mine finally. That night while he slept next to me I felt at peace. The emptiness in my heart had been filled.
I woke up the next morning for our first full day as a family. But something was different. The excitement of the day before had disappeared. While getting ready for the day’s activities I found myself avoiding him. He reached out for me and I would walk away. He would cry and I wouldn’t comfort him. While my husband played with him, I turned away and busied myself with mindless activities. I felt like this little boy, who I was supposed to love as my own, was not mine. Who was I? Not his mother but his caretaker. When I looked at him my heart no longer swelled with joy. Instead I felt anxiety, fear, and hesitation. I didn’t know what to do. I found myself retreating further and further into myself. I was disengaging from what should have been memorable first moments with my child. My husband continued to be the amazing father that he is. Fatherhood suited him well. But for me motherhood felt awkward and strange. I doubted every decision that I made and even doubted if I would be able to be a mother. Had I made a mistake? Was I not meant to be a mother? I wasn’t sure anymore about my path in life as I had been before March 9, 2015.
A couple more days passed and I still felt like a stranger had taken over my life. Now my schedule and life revolved around this little chubby cheek boy. He demanded attention and interaction constantly but I had none to give. I grew resentful and began missing my carefree life as an adult without a child. I would look at my husband, so in love with our son, and wonder how he didn’t feel the way I did. On our morning to the notary office my husband prepared to put our son in the carrier. I volunteered to carry him this time since I could tell that my husband’s back was suffering from carrying the weight of our son on his body. I fastened the straps on the carrier and look down at my son. He looked up at me and I felt my arms wrap around him instinctually. When he fell asleep on my chest I could feel his little breaths on my skin. Throughout the day I felt myself staring at my son and my heart opening. As the days in China passed I could feel the love between my son and I grow. I continued to wear him in the carrier and treasure the closeness.
Six weeks later and I could not be more in love with my son. I love being a mother and watching him grow and change. We share early morning snuggles, mid-day hugs, and nighttime kisses. I cannot imagine life without him. But it wasn’t always like this. Bonding with him took time. And that’s OKAY. Bonding isn’t always automatic and easy. Be easy on yourself if it doesn’t happen at that first moment. It might come at the second, the tenth, or the thousandth. But it will happen. And when it does – it’s amazing. It changes your life and your soul.