By Anna Stewart
Since mothers who adopt don’t give birth, society acts as if there’s no post-partum period. There is but it’s different. ”There’s a lot of physical grief present for most moms adopting since most tried to get pregnant before they adopted,” explains Lucy, an adoptive mother and therapist. “I know I felt inadequate as a mother since I couldn’t get pregnant. It makes me sad that I didn’t give birth to my daughter and I had to work through my grief in order to really bond physically with her.” Though not the same kind of physical process as pregnancy and birth, there is a physical as well as emotional and mental aspect to becoming a mother.
Lucy and her partner had a Mother Blessing ceremony when their daughter was about a month old (they took her home the day after she was born). They asked their friends and family to help them raise their beautiful daughter. Each person shared their blessings and then Lucy put on a CD she'd made and everyone danced, passing baby Molly from loving arms to loving arms and swaying to the rhythms of life. It was a public declaration of the physical reality of being a new parent in the midst of a caring and connected community. Lucy also asked Molly’s godparents to stand and acknowledged their presence in Molly’s life.
Women who’ve waited for a long time to have a child often expect to immediately bond with their new child. But, just like any new mom, attachment takes time. It’s a process, not an event, and you need to remind yourself daily that you are not a bad mother because you aren’t welling up with tears of joy every time you see your child.
You probably don’t expect your new child to bond instantly to you. After all, they’ve already had to deal with being given away (sometimes with integrity and sometime not) in their young lives. Give yourself the same grace period of adjustment. You have to adjust to more than just dealing with night feedings or car seat questions. Give yourself time to go through the portal of motherhood.
You may also feel inwardly focused in the first few weeks and months of parenthood as you figure out who you are in your new role and who you want to be. It may be difficult to be private, especially if like Loretta, your child is a different race than you. “I get a lot of people asking me questions like, “where is he from?” or “Where did you get him?” Sometimes I don’t mind answering, especially if it’s someone who is considering interracial adoption as well but sometimes it feels very invasive.”
Mother or family blessings can help. The first step is to acknowledge the journey you have taken. Yearning for a child may have filled your heart for years. Now it’s time to learn to love your child as a unique person. It’s also time to learn who you are as a parent. What a perfect time to invite close friends to bless your new position in the community. You are now a mother.
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