"Attachment" is one of those words adopting families and affiliates love to throw around. For those "outside the experience" though, it hardly defines the dense meaning it really has. Attachment is crucial. Attachment is what makes your relationship able to weather any storm because you are anchored so firmly to each other. Attachment is what makes you never question your love for the teenage daughter that just came home past curfew for the 3rd time even though she is grounded for life and you can't stand the sight of her. Attachment is what makes the difference between people you love and family.

Attachment is a critical part of any relationship. Most of the time attachment comes naturally but sometimes it doesn't. Adoption does not equal attachment. Just because a child has parents and adults have a new child does not mean a relationship has been created. The opportunity for a relationship is there, but there is a lot of work that goes in to creating that bond that is the foundation for everything else.

When we were in the process of adopting I did a lot of research and studying about attachment. I learned 101 ways to help her attach to us when she got home so that we could act as a family as soon as possible. What I didn't prepare myself for was the lack of attachment I might feel. Honestly I never thought about the possibility of not instantly feeling like Jaydn was my daughter. I assumed I would click into mommy mode right away and just lavish on her from an endless source of love like I do Jaxon and Jovie everyday. That's what moms do.

Well as soon as we met Jaydn, she attached to us. She has a loving personality and has been looking for someone to attach herself to her whole life. While I can't say she is only attaching to us, I can say that when she sees us, she knows she has a relationship there that she has never experienced before. Yes there are still a lot of hurdles to jump in order to strengthen that bond from her to us, but its been on the right track since day one of being together.

This caused me to take a few steps back and evaluate why I was feeling so different about her than I did about the homegrown kids. Thankfully I have had honest friends that have been in my shoes, who warned me that loving an adopted child IS different than loving biological children but I had no idea it would feel SO different. I started doing some research again- this time about attachment from the other side of the coin-parent to child. While not many want to admit to this shortcoming, the information is out there if you look hard enough. I came across everything from blogs by moms who had attachment issues so strong that they disrupted (reversed) the adoption to articles about research being done on the commonality of "adoption blues" and the attachment issues of newly adopting parents. It was both fascinating and comforting to see that I most certainly was NOT alone.

Here are some interesting words on the topic that I found resonating with me and my journey to attachment:


"The early period of tender mother-infant courtship is missed as sorely by adult women as it is missed by the orphanage kids who suddenly parachute into their lives with their boots on."

"Adoption agency websites and brochures, magazine articles and adoption memoirs brim with 'love at first sight' epiphanies. Some mothers report falling in love the minute they meet their children or when they see a video, still others when they get their first photograph. None of that happened to me. I hadn't been visited by 'love at first sight' and now I couldn't figure out where the love was going to come from, nor how on earth I would survive the coming years of raising the child. If you don't have that kind of connection with a child, there is no way on earth you can bend to the hundred daily subservient tasks of caring for them. All the little things I'd done thousands of time for my other children were impossible to perform for a child I wasn't connected to."

My mom has done some hospice work in her day. She would help people get dressed, eat, go to the bathroom, shower, you name it. Any task the person could not perform on their own but was necessary to still feel alive, she was there. And while she is a woman who loves with her whole heart, Im sure she would say that caring for the people at the hospice facility was very different than the years she spent caring for her mother (my grandma) before she died. Same tasks had to be done but the attachment is different.

Thats the best word picture I can give you for what I feel like I am "doing" for Jaydn. I am performing the tasks of a mother without the attachment. My body has no problem cuddling her, kissing her, cooking for her etc but my heart is not attached to the activities yet.

Truth be told, its hard to share my reality with all of you. Its like a dirty little secret to some adoptive moms. But if you know me well, you know that integrity is the most important thing in the world to me. Its not uncommon for the people who have supported us in the quest to become adoptive parents to believe that we are now the happiest people in the world. Its almost like we were given a higher social status because we have adopted a child. But I have to climb off of that pedestal and admit to you guys that while I love Jaydn immensely, I don't love her like a mother loves her child... YET!


Kelley Eubanks said...

Thanks for sharing this! You don't know me but my husband and I know Nathan from his Nashville days.

We have one child but we cannot have anymore. Long story that I won't bore you with. Anyway... we have talked and been praying about fostering and possibly adopting through that route. I have some major concerns about if I will be able to love a child the way that I love Carver (our son). We are still just thinking and praying about it at this point but your post was very helpful to me! Thank you! :)

Bethany Gaddis said...

Please don't ever let something I say discourage you from adoption if you are called to it. My job is to help other adopting families and other adoption supporters be informed and educated based on my experiences. I so thankful that God is challenging me with this chapter in my story. Its a completely unique way of seeing God work!

So how do you know Nathan?
PS- no ones story bores me, its who we are and I LOVE learning about people. So if you want to share, I am willing to listen.

A. R. Campbell said...

Thanks for your transparency. I'm sure there are other adoptive moms who would be encouraged to read this. It seems so many adoptive families pretend the journey is over once the adoption has taken place. I love reading your perspectives as the journey continues.

Jennifer said...

As always, you share who you are from your heart-no holds barred. That is why we all love you so much! We all know that when we step in obedience, our heart will follow. Keep tying shoes, fixing meals, drying tears(both of yours), and all of the other mommy duties and maybe before long you'll forget what it ever felt like to worry about your feelings. You are all being prayed for!!!

The Raudenbush Family said...

Bethany -- this would be really helpful at WAGI. Let me know if we can use it.

Mrs.Doezie said...

HI Bethany.
My husband connected with your husband through twitter. They spoke on the phone yesterday as a matter of fact. :-) he was so helpful and answered so many questions for us. You blog is so wonderful. I love how open you are. Attachment specifically is something that I am very concerned about if we choose to go forward with our adoption. You were so encouraging in your post because it made me feel "normal" and not alone :-) I just want to say thank you and I would love to continue to follow your story and connect with you guys. Please thank your hubby for us.

p.s. Here is a link to my blog so you can get caught up with our story

Kimberly said...
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Kimberly said...

Bethany, thank you so much for sharing this. We are in Uganda and have been with our son for 10 days. While I can feel the attachment bond forming, it wasn't a fairy tale (love at first sight) like I expected, like I'd read so many times. He was cute and fun, but I felt like he was someone else's kid. While some of this had to do with our impending court date and many uncertainties, I knew there was more to it. I knew that *i* needed to attach to him just as much as he does to me. But not having that instant connection that you read about on so many other blogs was terrifying. I wondered what kind of mother I could be for him. I had/have many of the same thoughts that you share in this post.

So, thank you so much for your honesty and transparency. It's beyond helpful to know that I'm not alone, and that I needn't keep these emotions secret, either. Thank you for sharing what I'm sure more adoptive moms wish they could express. Blessings on you in your attachment journey!

Amanda said...

Thanks for this, Bethany. I have wondered about this myself, so many times. This post was encouraging and reading all the comments. I liked Jennifer's comment especially. The heart will follow.

Sometimes my kiddos make me so mad. But it's that little glimmer I see of their dad in them or of myself in them that sometimes gives me that mercy or that little bit of reassurance, you know? I hope you continue to write about this topic.