After years of failures trying to have a family, through many failed fertility treatments and adoption heartbreaks, I (as many of us do) was starting to think it wouldn't happen.
Then, suddenly, around 6pm the day after New Years Day in 2010 (a Saturday), I answered a call that forever changed our lives. I picked up the phone and heard a woman's voice "Hello Mr. V?" I responded back that it was indeed me. "The baby was born yesterday. You can pick him up on Monday." Wait. What? That's it. This is the call? She was so monotone and spoke with the same tone as someone telling me my dry cleaning was ready. It was surreal. I remember being stunned and all I could say was "She went through with it?" I then handed the phone off to my wife as I knew I’d forget any details that would follow.
The next day was a blur. We, with the help of some adoption friends, ran around like lunatics getting everything we thought we needed to bring a baby into our house a day later.
At the same time, amid all this craziness and anxiousness, I realized something was off. I felt very melancholy. The same question had been in my head since we agreed to try to adopt, and now that it was actually happening, it was pushing through all of the feelings I thought I should be having at that moment. Will I love my adopted child the same as I would have a biological one?
You see, I come from a larger family. I am the youngest of five. My two older brothers and two older sisters are all married and have two kids each. We (they) are like the Noah's Ark of families. I've constantly heard that so and so's son gets his looks from his mom or little Billy gets his smarts from his dad. I wouldn't have that now. I would never be able to say that. No one would ever look at my child and make that kind of comparison. It really hurt.
We took our son home on that Monday and I really didn't feel anything. I went through all of the motions of trying to be a dad and learn how to take care of him. However, I didn't feel a connection. My biggest fear was coming true. This wasn't how a dad was supposed to feel about his child. There is supposed to be instant love and feelings that swell you heart.
I talked myself into that fact that the fear that he could be taken away in the first 45 days was probably causing these feelings. I was definitely afraid of getting too close because of that. I used to joke that we were babysitting him, but deep down that was exactly how I felt.
The 45th day passed and we were in the clear. My wife and I celebrated and I was hoping that things would just click. Now I would finally feel what everyone talked about – an instant connection.
But I didn't. It was no different. Most days, I couldn't wait to go to work because I could forget about it – even if it was for an hour. I could stop beating myself up for what I wasn't feeling. I started to believe that maybe it was because he was adopted, or just maybe this was how parents feel about their kids, adopted or biological, and I just thought it would be more. I was really confused and very disappointed in myself. Disappointed I wasn't feeling what I thought I was supposed to. The love that was supposed to swell my heart didn’t exist. It was the hardest thing I have ever dealt with and I felt like a failure as a father.
Then one day - I can't say when or how - I realized that it clicked. I didn't even feel it happen. I suddenly felt myself looking forward to going home. Looking forward to seeing the big smile on my son's face when I walked through the door. He would wave his hands up and down because he was so excited to see me and that was the only way he knew how to express it. It didn't happen in a moment. It was over some time, but I embraced it and never looked back. The feeling of failure just faded away.
I still feel bad to this day that I lost that time with my son. I feel bad that I was so distant and not really a good father to him during those first months. He deserved better, but I didn’t know how to give it to him. He will probably never remember, but I'll never forget.
Ironically, five years later, I actually got the answer to my question and some perspective. By some freak miracle, my wife became pregnant and gave birth to a boy – a biological son. It wasn't planned and was a complete surprise. I was nervous and excited all at once. I looked forward to the moment when he was born and I would look at him and have that instant connection just like I always heard about.
In April of 2014, my second son was born. The nurse handed him to me, and I looked down at him ... and felt nothing. No instant connection. No swell of the heart. No feeling of pride. It was like my first son all over again.
It turns out the real problem was me. It was me who needed time to connect with a child. I apparently don’t get the “I just saw him and felt it right away…” feeling. It had nothing to do with adopted or biological. It had solely to do with my own personal process.
I love both of my sons immensely and I love them both the ABSOLUTE SAME. I feel unbelievably embarrassed with how I originally felt and the question that was haunting me, but I guess that is what I needed to do to get to where I am today.
Hopefully if any of you go through something similar, you will get some comfort in knowing that it may take time, maybe even much more time than you think it should, but it is so worth it in the end to know what having unconditional love for your child feels like. It's a feeling like no other.
Written by Rick
Join us at our next PRE/POST General Meeting June 5, 2015