Tonight is our last night as a 5 person family. Tomorrow night, we will have grown to a 6 person family. We will be adding Li Lin. In many ways, the adoption process is like a pregnancy. You know about the arrival of the newest member of your family long before they come. In pregnancy, there are lots and lots of appointments with doctors and ultrasound techs. In the adoption process, there has been lots and lots of paperwork for 2 different governments and meetings with a social worker. For the first child, many people take a pre-natal class, though there is no parenting course available (except through high school, where they figure that carrying a decorated 2kg bag of sugar around for a week will prepare you for what is to come!) In adoption, in Ontario and many other jurisdictions, there is a mandatory 24 hour course. To be honest, we weren’t sure the course would be much use and were not really looking forward to it. However, we found it helpful and interesting (maybe it the course teacher we had, she was excellent!) and learned a lot about topics of grieving, attachment and bonding that were specifically relevant to us.
For me, the main way the adoption of a toddler is very different than the birth of a child are the great questions of “What if my daughter does not like me? What if she doesn’t want me to hold her?” I never had these questions at the birth of the first three. They were tiny (ok, as Sara says, NOT so tiny) bundles of complete dependence. While Sara took care of the feeding, I was involved in the bathing, diaper changing, rocking and comforting. The little ones couldn’t NOT like me. They couldn’t get away. They couldn’t say no and push away my hugs and kisses. They had no prior history, and we were there from day one, helping to establish who they were and their identity.
With Li Lin, she has prior history. She has people that have cared for her, fed her, and comforted her for the first 3 years of her life. She has established her personality. She has an identity. She has her likes and dislikes. What will happen when I first open up my arms to her? Is she likely to come running, snuggling up and enjoying the hugs? Will she be comforted by the sound of my voice if I sing her a song? Unlike an infant, she is able to say NO. She is able to run in the opposite direction if she has no interest in me. It will take time to develop that bond that so naturally takes place with an infant.
This is some of the apprehensions that I feel. I know that with God’s help, and with time, and lots of loving, Li Lin will come to like me singing songs for her. She will come running into my arms and ask for hugs. She will laugh at my jokes (ok... maybe that’s going too far!) She will be very much part of our family and one of the children that God has blessed us with. She will fit in just fine.
But tomorrow is unknown.