When I Didn’t Love My Adopted Child
When we prepared to bring home our daughter from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I thought I’d be dealing with Nora’s adjustment into our family. Turns out, the harder part was dealing with my adjustments to her.
At first, I was surprised I lacked natural affection for my new 18 month-old and found myself getting frustrated with her over petty things. I read defiance and rebellion into what were obviously her normal toddler struggles, like her demanding appetite or how she wouldn’t pay attention when I was trying to interact with her. I never got angry with our biological daughter of the same age in that way. I was appalled at how my heart was feeling toward the daughter we had labored to bring home and looked forward to meeting for years.
And perhaps that was part of the problem. As adoptive parents, we spend so much time building up a vision of our lives with a new addition, and if we already have biological children, we expect many of the same joys we’ve experienced with our other children to happen again. When life with the child we’ve adopted is hard, for days and weeks and months, we have to adjust those expectations. Adoption, like marriage, is a beautiful gift with the unexpected bonus of exposing some of our darkest sins.
The struggle to love an adopted child is more typical than we think; in fact, I’d say many if not most adoptive parents have found themselves in this position (as confounding or impossible as it might seem). Even the most loving parents have hearts that resist constantly serving another—especially when that person cannot yet show the slightest gratitude for your efforts. That maternal instinct God gives mothers is an incredible force for good—and something I didn’t have with our adopted daughter like I have with my other kids.
My biological daughter, who was a strong-willed little lady, often acted out, but I never took it personally. I knew her well enough to recognize some of her triggers like, “Oh, she must be overtired right now.” But when Nora would shut down emotionally and withdraw from me, I had no ready explanation except the feeling that she must be rejecting me. It was hard not to take that personally. We didn’t yet have an understanding of each other to help explain her harsh or hurtful actions.
When Nora joined our family, I expected to have hard days… I just didn’t expect months of them back-to-back. My heart got ugly. I went from disappointed to barely surviving to bitter and defeated. I found myself thinking “Why can’t I overcome these awful feelings and just love my daughter like I’m supposed to? And whose fault is it? Am I just a terrible person or is this somehow her fault for being so difficult?” My sinful response to adoption was shocking, most of all to myself. I never expected to struggle with such anger and frustration.
To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.