An arranged marriage

Three weeks.

BLM (before Little Man), three weeks could pass in the blink of an eye. But these past three weeks feel like years.

I mean that in the best way possible, of course.

As much as you can try and prepare for having a child, there's just no preparation for this. And life with a toddler has made the learning curve a little steeper for us. He rarely crawls at all now that he's found his balance on two feet. We'd have it no other way, but it is strange to think that some people adjust to parenthood with a baby that stays in one place!

It's been wonderful, challenging, happy, frustrating, invigorating, exhausting...I could keep going but I think you get the idea.

The best way to sum up my emotions, is that I feel like I'm in an arranged marriage. (Disclaimer: I've never been in an arranged marriage and what I know of them has been learned through fictional stories and Lifetime movies.) I guess it's more appropriate to say this feels like what I imagine an arranged marriage feels like.

Someone matches you up with a stranger---then one day you are living together. You try to take care of all his needs despite the fact that you don't know one another at all. And you question yourself constantly...are we bonding yet? Does this guy even like me? What does he like to eat? Will we ever be fully comfortable around one another and live in harmony? Do I have to put up with that snoring for the rest of my life?

(Ok. The last one is really about The Man.)

So, after the marriage, after the parties and the celebrations, the real work begins. And so it's been for us too. We got LM home, and for the most part we all seem to be doing OK. I'm thankful that The Man has been off of work for the entire month. That has really helped the transition and made the adjustment easier for all of us. Unfortunately he heads back to work today, so I'm wondering how all this will go when I'm a solo act.

I won't sugar-coat it and say that everything has been perfect. There are plenty of those stories out there. People want expect adoptive families to be out of your mind crazy happy, because you've waited so long, been through so much, etc.

We are happy. Most of the time. And we've also had some really tough moments.

For LM, he's sorting out this whole new world. He's usually charming and smiley, but lately he's had more of a quick temper. Smiling one minute. Screaming the next. And no obvious reasons for either. That could be toddler behavior, but something in my gut says it's more. He just seems pissed. He wants to be comforted, but not by me. He wants to be held, only to push away and scream to be put down. And there's the pinching and occasional biting. He's trying to cope with those emotions that he just doesn't know what to do with.

Or perhaps this is his real personality? We just don't know enough about him to understand these things right now. That is a bit scary for me.

As for us, we're doing OK. Tired, for sure. Utterly frustrated and impatient sometimes. But mostly, it's learning to deal with a new life that is based on someone else's needs. I miss my workouts at the gym. My alone time. After-work martinis with friends. I knew those things would take a back seat for a while. But I still miss them.

The hardest part for me right now though, is the constant dialog I have with myself. A litany of questions that I ask myself every day, like some big emotional test.

The obvious one: is LM bonding to us? I just don't know. He smiles when I enter the room. He wants us to hold him (sometimes). He's been giving occasional hugs. And he's been touching gentler. This seems to happen more with me (he was really scratchy and pinchy for the first few weeks, more with me than with The Man). Now he touches my face gently sometimes, or pats me on the back when I'm holding him. Some moments I think, hey, this kid is starting to like me. And that's an awesome feeling.

I probably spend too much time thinking about this stuff. To be honest, it keeps me up sometimes at night. There are days when I feel like a miserable failure and that I need to find a way to connect with him more. So we keep having face-time. Playing lots of touching and interaction games. Trying to squeeze in a snuggle or two during a day, when he'll let me.

But the harder question (and the one that I feel like a bad mother for wondering it): do I love him yet? I mean really love him? 

That's a more complicated answer. I feel a little guilty that I'm not one of those "love at first sight" kind of moms. Yes, I was thrilled at first sight; joyed at first sight. But love comes slower for me. It's built in learning his expressions, his habits, what makes him happy, and his quirks. In unexpected hugs. In shy smiles.

That's the same way I fell in love with The Man. Slowly. One day at a time. Then one day, I realized, damn, I really, really love this guy.

And so it seems to be with Little Man. We continue to take it one day at a time. I remind myself that this is a long-term relationship. It's OK to take it slow. Over time, it will grow. A good friend told me, just before we brought LM home, that bonding goes two ways: him to us, but also us to him. How true this is.

LM is taking his time too. He's a bit cautious, just like me. The memories of his foster family are strong, and he holds on to those tightly. I do that too.

I'm glad that LM doesn't just throw his heart out there to anyone who comes along. He's building a relationship with us one day at a time. And learning things like that about him, is what makes me love him a little more each day.


  1. A lot of this does sound like regular ol' toddler behavior. They are mercurial, they lash out, especially at their primary caregivers, and sometimes they need comfort desperately but can't, in the midst of a tantrum, accept it from anyone. At least, that has been my experience with our now 2yo, but I see all my mommy friends coping with the same things. Toddlers are challenging and it is indeed tricky to start at that stage rather than with a snuggly newborn baby lump. But toddlers are more fun, too, because their personalities and interests are becoming so clear and expressible. Parenthood is a big adjustment but it sounds like you are doing great, and it will only get easier with time.

  2. Hugs! Chuck that guilt out the window! The things you're thinking and experiencing are normal.

    When E was born I felt bad that I didn't immediately feel close to her. I was more concerned with how B was doing. She was a stranger, my boy was with strangers (not completely strangers, but we'd only lived in Indiana for a few months so we hadn't known them as long as I would have liked), I didn't like that situation at all. Now - she's Mommy's girl completely and I wish I could spend all day cuddling with her. But that took time, and that's from birth. I expect with a baby who is not a newborn it will take longer!

    It sounds like he's really starting to love his Mama - that's great! Try to enjoy as much as possible, and let the struggles slide off at the end of the day.

    I think that is one important (but hard) lesson of parenthood. Learning to let go off the imperfections of each day and start fresh the next not worrying about them. Not ignoring possible problems but not worrying about road bumps.

    As for the hitting, etc. - it's probably a mix of normal toddler testing and some frustration and grieving. Hang in there! Hugs!!!!

  3. I totally agree with everything you've said. I remember even comparing our adoption to an arranged marriage after Matthew first came home. The falling in love part? It takes time. I have a hard time buying the "love at first sight" stuff....maybe with infants, but opinionated toddlers?? It's harder, that's a fact. It doesn't mean it won't happen--it just takes time.

  4. first, just because someone else did something or had a different experience, doesn't mean your experience is wrong or bad. It is your experience. Each person is different. Each child is different. Each experience is different. And I think you hit the nail on the head saying that you were thrilled on first sight but learning to love. Your son is a stranger to you now, but less now than when he was first placed in your arms. But more now that in two weeks, two months or two years. I think your analogy of an arranged marriage is a good one.

    and the gut thing - trust it. And trying teething tablets too. My kids did that a lot when they were teething. Drove me nuts.

    thanks for the update and the honesty. You're doing great, mama.

  5. Sounds SO familiar! A fellow mother-via-adoption wrote to me after being home 3 weeks asking if this wasn't the most wonderful time and wasn't I the happiest every second of every day?! I felt terrible! I was struggling, still with happy moments and still glad to be his mom, but it was super hard too.

    I like the arranged marriage analogy. I love him like crazy now, but true love wasn't at first sight (happiness was, but not true love), it grows each day as we bond. This is the same for some birth-mom's too. My friend told me it took a while to bond with her child.

    Our guy used to bite and pinch a lot. Less now as he does it more when he's tired. I put teethers all over the house and I'd shove one in when he'd bite me or the furniture, saying "insert-object isn't for biting, this is for biting". He still tries to bite stuff but it distracts him when it's something inappropriate.

    I love your honesty. PS When my DH went back to work, I thought I was going to throw-up due to being the only one responsible for our little guy. The responsibility was almost overwhelming at first.

  6. I used to compare it to online dating. Everything may look good on the screen, but there is definitely a flow of love/like/dislike going on in the first months home. You can read sections of my blog from my first few weeks home where I wanted to put a dated section of the newspaper in the corner of the pictures just as PROOF OF LIFE! Your mind is in overdrive, you are exhausted and it is totally normal. Both of my kids (one bio, one adopted) did not come to me easily, and neither did my attachment/bond to each of them. I really struggled with the first few months of a newborn baby and I also struggled with the first 6 months that Kellan was home. But, it gets SO much better :) Time moves on, days pass (some great, some NOT so great), and pretty soon you will look back and see how much progress everyone in your household has made. Some days it is the small things that count ~ a longer nap, no nighttime wake-ups, a successful outing at the grocery store without a tantrum ~ find something away from this that can be your "thing". It may be exercise, photography, dinner with friends/hubby, a new book ~ but it will help. There were a lot of days where I didn't feel that I loved anything (including people), because I was just too tired!

    A friend mentioned to me that "nothing worth having comes easily" and it really stuck with me. This may suck. But it is worth having. Keep your chin up and keep writing, we are all here to help!

  7. Thanks for such an honest, heartfelt look into what you're feeling. You're so right in that you can't force love overnight. It has to grow naturally and it sounds like you are on the right path :)


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