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Confessions of a Mom with Attachment Disorder
That's right, I have attachment disorder, not my daughter
January 01,2013 / Dawn Choate
Untitled Document

Maybe I should have left my name off this one. Perhaps I could have been one of the anonymous writers who change their name to protect their identity. I will probably open my inbox to find I've been booted off a Yahoo adoption group or two after this confession. I'm sure I won't be invited to the next LifeBook creation group or called up by the Discovery Channel to cover my next adoption. But, I'm not really confessing this to win any popularity contests anyway. The truth is, I am quite certain that what I am about to confess is a dark, deeply held secret of other adoptive parents out there and I am just the one with the big enough mouth to say it. Okay, here I go.

I have attachment issues.

Yes, me. Not my daughter (our second adoption), although she has her own set of attachment issues, too. But I am talking about me. After a year and a half, my heart still struggles to latch on firmly, to feel free and open with her, to feel the wonderful bonded feeling of being completely attached in heart and spirit to another person. I still catch myself looking blankly at her, wondering if I even know her yet. I am still more easily frustrated by her, less patient, slower to forgive and recover after she misbehaves. I still have to fight feelings of wanting to pay more attention to the children with whom it is easier to feel close. And sometimes I am the one who can go without contact with her and not feel like I even miss her absence.

Before you lynch me, before you throw me to the Yahoo group trash bin, before you black list my name to every agency on planet earth and turn me in to Dr. Phil and his evil message boards.

Let me leave you with some thoughts just in case this strange phenomenon ever lurks its way into your adoption fantasy and threatens to turn it into a nightmare.

Why Adoptive Parents Face Difficulties in Bonding

There are many reasons an adoptive parent may experience difficulty in bonding with their new child. Post-adoption depression is actually a term used now by many therapists and experts in the field. Below are some possible reasons a parent might struggle with bonding:

  • Unresolved grief over a previous child-related issue (such as miscarriages, inability to conceive, previous adoptions that fell through or previous difficulties with an adoption)
  • Previous experiences with attachment issues with an adopted child
  • Adopting an older child who no longer exhibits the natural baby/toddler development stages that promote bonding with a parent
  • Adopting out of birth order (this can make navigating the baby of the family developmental stage tricky)
  • Attachment issues in the child that cause the parent to feel rejected
  • Inability to communicate adequately with the child (language difficulties, speech issues, special needs issues)

This is, of course, only a partial list of the myriad of possible reasons a parent may feel that block that prevents the free-flow of emotion from parent to child. It is a list that we could mark off multiple items that relate to our experience. When we adopted our daughter, she was 3.5 years old. While she still had much of the baby look to her rounded cheeks and pixie face, her behaviors were not in any way like a baby. When I tried to follow the advice of re-parenting her (treating the new child like a baby in certain ways), it only became a source of frustration for us both. She would bite the bottles or pacifiers until she chewed them off, she would regress and wet her pants since she thought that was what I wanted her to do (behave like her little sister), and all the effort didn't produce any real feelings of change in either one of us because she seemed to grasp that she was really not a baby and didn't particularly want to be treated like one.

Another issue we faced was that it was an out-of-birth-order adoption. Although there are many successful cases of this type of adoption and we do not regret having done it ourselves, it certainly presented us with challenges. Our younger daughter still needed to be babied in some ways, and it was tough to make sure that our new daughter was receiving the amount of attention she needed. In addition, you really can't trick your mind into seeing a child who is not the baby as a baby. We were learning firsthand how those critical baby years form that soft foundation of bonding before you have to face the more difficult toddler years with a child. Yet we had missed all of that with her and were thrown head-first into the tougher toddler years.

Communication was also a great hurdle for us as our daughter came to us not only as an older child who had learned over 3 years of Mandarin, but as a child with cleft lip and palate that severely impaired her ability to speak at all. Once again, I was startled to realize something we take for granted in parenting other children that is such a vital key to successful bonding was missing in our relationship with her. Even now, if you ask her why she is crying, she can rarely answer you. All you get is, Um..um..I'm crying! Language and communication are the cornerstones of relationships and it is very tough to find alternate ways of communicating with a child who is impaired in a way that truly brings understanding and the ability to form bonds and attachments.

Perhaps the most critical key to understanding my struggle to bond to my daughter, however, is to understand the struggle we had to get our first daughter to attach to us and how that struggle impacted and scarred my parental psyche. Over time, I have learned and recognized that the awesome weight I bore in the journey to help our first daughter through her struggles left me far more emotionally exhausted and wounded than I had realized at the time we completed our second adoption. After all, Hannah was doing great by the time we adopted again and was getting better everyday. The battle was over (for the most part) and now our new daughter was quiet, gentle and much easier to care for than Hannah had been. How could I not be okay and bond instantly with her?

Yet when the first crying jags started, even though they were not nearly as wild and uncontrollable as had been Hannah's, I found myself holding my new daughter up by her shoulders as she wailed and shrieked, looking her straight in the eyes, and pleading with her, I'M NOT GOING TO DO THIS AGAIN!!! I CAN'T DO THIS AGAIN!!! Red flags should go off at that point. Someone with a megaphone might as well have been screaming at me, SECONDARY POST-TRAUMATIC SYNDROME!!! Of course, I had no idea what that even was at the time. It took a few late nights of internet searching before I recognized it several months after it began to surface. My heart had been greatly wounded before, and now my emotions and spirit were struggling to bear up under another child's journey through grief.

Strategies for Navigating the Journey to Attach with Your Child

After months of agonizing over the lack of attachment I felt towards my daughter, we slowly began to piece together some strategies that we hoped would eventually build the necessary bonds between us. Over time, we noticed small changes that eventually led to even more significant changes. Though the process is slow, the effort and energy we have expended has always eventually paid off. Here are some of the strategies we used that have contributed to the growing bonds between us:

  1. If your child is out of birth order, separate time out specifically for that child away from the children who are younger. Find an activity that suits the new child's age and personality and make it a special event between you. For example, my daughter is very domestic (unlike her wild, Harley-riding sister). So, when I bake an apple pie (okay, this is a rare activity), I bring her alongside of me to help instead of Hannah (distracting Hannah by telling her she can go swing from the trees with her brothers, an activity she would prefer anyway).
  2. Do not feel like you have to follow all of the tips of re-parenting if you adopt an older child. When we tried many of the suggestions (giving a bottle, pacifier, etc.), we found it just frustrated us and did not build any connections with her. Those methods may work well with some children, but our daughter did not respond to them, so we had to move on and treat her like the age that she is instead of trying to regress her. She was happier when we did and we found connections with her easier when we did not try to treat her like something she wasn't.
  3. Work hard to find skills, personality traits, and talents unique to your new child. We tried many things until we discovered what a great swimmer our new daughter was. So we spent extra time developing that in her, praising her for that skill, and used the time in the water as a way to attach to her. Some of my best interactions with her and most affectionate times are in the water.
  4. Give yourself permission to not have to feel all gushy about your new child. It is okay if it is not a fairytale. It does not make you a bad parent or evil. It is what it is. Many days I told myself that I was just going to be a good babysitter that day and gave myself permission to not have to force myself to feel anything else.
  5. Work through any unresolved emotional issues you may have that are blocking your ability to bond. If you have issues of grief, resentment of previous failed adoptions or attempts to bond, or secondary post-traumatic issues, it can really impede your ability to connect with a new child. Get help if necessary.
  6. Find at least one person other than your spouse that you can be completely honest with about your struggles . You might need to air some feelings that can cause some to judge you. But if you don't have at least one safe, outside place to vent, the pressure can build and cause further damage to your relationship with your child.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, no matter how you feel, no matter what your emotions tell you, after all is said and done and you have done everything you can to change your feelings.just keep moving forward anyway. This may sound simple, trite or ignorant of your needs. I certainly stress the need for you to have time away, time for yourself and time to vent to others. But in the midst of all that, there are many days you have to just realize that you made a choice to bring this child in and whatever you do or do not feel towards that child, love is a choice.

Choosing to love your child mentally even when you do not feel it emotionally is a powerful step in the journey to bonding with your child. The rewards for that choice may not surface immediately. The process may be very slow and lacking in immediate gratification. But every day that my daughter laughs a full belly laugh instead of a weak giggle, every time she spontaneously comes to me with arms open for a kiss and says, I love you, Mommy, every time she comes running to see me when I return home with a giant yell, MOMMY'S HOOOOME!!!, I realize that though the journey is long, we will get there. Though I have doubted at times, I know it is true. What you reap, you will sow and one day I know there will be a bountiful harvest in my relationship with my daughter.

This is not an adoption that was microwavable. I could not create insta-attachment for her or for me. No, this is a relationship that is in a long, long simmer. Every once in awhile I get a whiff of what it will eventually be. I cannot wait to taste it fully, but until then, I will keep kissing her good-night, brushing her long, beautiful hair, biting my tongue when I'm frustrated, and hugging her just as fully as I do my other children. She's worth the wait. I hope she thinks I am, too.

P.S. I intentionally left my daughter's name out of this article. It may sound silly as I'm sure I've used her name in other articles. But I felt I at least owed her a little privacy in this particular article considering the candor with which I am expressing our struggles.

Dawn G. Choate and her husband are the parents of 5 children, including 2 born in China and 1 in Guatemala . A writer, speaker and advocate for adoption-related issues, Dawn is the founder of Healing Hannah Ministries Please visit www.youtube.com/user/fisherdawn to view the Healing Hannah videos. Dawn is a frequent contributor to Voices of Adoption

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Readers Comments  (112 Comments)  View All Comments
THANK YOU, I just knew there had to be others out there. I just do not understand why I can't connect. It has been 9 years!- Anonymous
thanks so much for all you shared. i appreciate and can relate to a lot of it. You are awesome!- A
I would like to include this article in the FOCUS, the Texas Foster Family Assn. publication. Can I have your permission to re-print it?- Carolyn
I would like to include this article in the FOCUS, the Texas Foster Family Assn. publication. Can I have your permission to re-print it?- Carolyn
As a parent who has two bio children and is waiting on our first adopted child, I really read this article with vigor. I've been wondering what it will be like, bringing a child into this house, when I love my first two so much and absolutely. Thank you for the honesty. Now maybe I won't beat myself up so much if everything isn't textbook perfect.- Kolter
Thanks so much for your article, it mirrors my own struggle. Our son was 4.5 yrs old when he came home from Vietnam 2 years ago and we have struggle since then. it has gotten better but for me I have to remind myself daily to love him. Our other son was adopted as an infant and we didn't have any problem bonding.- Anonymous
I fully understand what you mean I still struggle with attaching to my adopted sons even after them being home almost 4 years. It really frustrates me as I bonding very easily with my foster son. I think it has a lot to do with him being an infant when he came to live with me and my adopted sons being toddlers. It has really discouraged me from wanting to adopt an older child ever again- Anonymous
After reading this article, I feel very lucky that the two-way attachment with my one-and-only, almost three years old when she came from China, went smoothly. She grieved over leaving her foster parents but never seemed to blame me for the separation. She was great at communicating without a common language, and as an ESL teacher, I wasn't too bad myself. I think it helped that I was careful not to impose unrealistic expectations on either myself (as many new mothers do) or on her.- Barbara
I have adopted 3 kids and all 3 have been different bonding experiences. The first was instant, the second I realized that I needed to talk to the child to feel completely connected so it came with language skills, on the third, he could not be sweeter or a better baby, everyone loves him, but I struggle feeling the same attachment that I feel for his siblings. My husband walked out a month after he was home and I just think I shut down emotionally. So unfair to him. I do love him though.- anonymous
My daughter does have attachment issues, but I do now think they are contageous. I find it very difficult to feel anything but preventative, guarded, and arm's length feelings towards her. I am finding myself quite difficult to please. My daughter is now an adult but not much has changed between us. She will be moving to independant living soon and it is my last hope that somehow, not having to deal with the negative things she hands me will allow us to enjoy all the positive things about her.- deb
thank you so much for putting this out there. It has been this way with our youngest son. Between 2 failed adoptions before him & the strong possiblity of his failing while I was caring for him in guatemala to his severe emotional problems I had built up a wall between us to protect myself & it has been a long & slow process to bring that wall back down.- Kat
Thank you! It is comforting to know that others feel or have felt the same way at some point in bonding with their child. It can tear one apart not to have that emotional connection. After 2 1/2 years, it is better and continues to get better as my child matures and adjusts to life with us. Don't be afraid to consult a pediatric psychologist to help get over the rough times. We did and it helped tremendously.- Anonymous
Thanks for pointing out the impact of unresolved parenting issues on attachment. I struggle with feeling attached to my bio daughter - our relationship has been a painful issue for both of us for several years, although I know I love her. As we prepare to adopt, I've thought, "Well adoption can't be any harder than parenting Grace!". After reading your article, I wonder if the rejection I feel from her might interfere with attachment to an adopted child. Thanks for a thought-provoking article!- Shannon
Thank you.- Anonymous
I wish I had read this article 9 years ago when I adopted my first toddler with all of her issues. I tried to tell people that I was struggling. It took time for my daughter and I to bond. Each year, it gets better. However, it is still a struggle and we are working through the early teen years one day at a time. I wouldn't have felt so all alone and abnormal for not instantly loving my daughter if others had your courage to write about this topic years ago.- Kristi
Dear Katie, I'm sorry you feel so sad about your adoptive mother's rejection of you.It took me many years to over come the feelings of rejection I experienced because of my adoptive Mother's constant criticism and anger towards me and now I look to others for my closest relationships. I am blessed to have two wonderful adoptive daughters with whom I can share the experience of adoption and have found this has gone a long way towards healing the pain of my own childhood.- Anonymous
I was once an adoption social worker and I think you are a fantastic adoptive parent. Oh for a safe place for all adopters to admit it isn't always easy or perfect.- Elizabeth Yap
Thank you for writing this article...I completely understand. - Sarah- Anonymous
Dawn, Thank you for your bravery and your candidness. I have also struggled with many of these same issues. You have given me hope, but you have also given me the ability to accept these things without condemning myself.- Kristi
I believe far more parents can relate to this than would admit. When I was working on my masters in counseling I researched "the transition to motherhood" for all mothers (not nec adoptive) and found that the "mask of motherhood" prevented women from being honest about the less than glowing aspects of being a mother. So this does not just affect the adoption community. Societal pressure to sugarcoat the parenting experience results in moms afraid to admit the truth when they are struggling.- Vicki
I too struggle with these same issues, it's been 8 years and I still have not bonded like I hoped to, to our son. He was adopted out of birth order. Your advice about finding something the child is good at is excellent advice, it does make it easier to praise and encourage him and support him. It's difficult but we are hanging in there.- anonymous
Again, thanks Dawn! Like many others who posted comments, I'm right there with you! Thanks for speaking up and may the Lord tear down the walls that separate us from our children as only HE can!!- Renae
Your words have slayed a nasty dragon!! Thank you for taking the risk.- Becky
Very fine article -- however, please be accurate -- based on this essay it is clear you do not have "Attachment Disorder" as that is a medical term with specific diagnostic criteria and, there are, indeed adults who suffer from Attachment Disorder. It sounds like you have not developed a strong attachment with this child -- but that is different from having a serious psychological disorder like Attachment Disorder.- Anonymous
We've adopted 4 kids from China. I attached to the first 2 instantly, the next 2 have been slower, I believe because like your daughter they have cleft palate and could not speak, I felt I had no idea what was going on in their heads. But I think there was an underlying attachment growing. Once our 3rd child began to speak (concepts, not just basic needs) I fell in love. This gives me hope that I'll attach to our 4th child once he has more speech therapy and help with his other delays.- martha m.
Thank you so much for sharing this! Wow, I can relate and it was so difficult to accept that fact that I wasn't an evil person because of it. You give words to what I felt in the first year and a half of having our daughter home. When just one person breaks this issue open, so many more will feel the courage to come forward. During those difficult days It was so vital to my survival of motherhood to know I wasn't alone. Thanks for breaking through that wall!- Anonymous
Dawn, This was so generous and thoughtful and full of hope. For all of us approaching, in the middle of, or looking back at a journey, please know we are grateful. We look forward to hearing about your evolution.- Anonymous
Wow! Friends of mine are sending me the link to your article b/c it REALLY sounds like I wrote it. I also have 5 kids, 2 from China and 1 from Guatemala, and my 2nd youngest who came home at a little over 3.5 years old is the only one to whom I am not attached (yet) at all. It is amazing how much everything you wrote sounds like my experience. Thank you for writing this!- Anonymous
Thank you thank you thank you for writing this article. For reasons unrelated to her adoption, it was difficult to bond with our child. Only until recently have I been able to truly attach to our daughter. She is now 8 and we got her at 13 months. Thank you for giving me the hope that I am not alone...- Anonymous
I really am glad that you opened your heart and wrote this article. This is my story too, and though life is much better and easier after almost three years, there are still days that my adopted son leaves me wondering why I ever thought that I could raise an older adopted child successfully. I never did find anyone that could understand my struggles and reading your article has reassured me that I am not the only one who has this struggle.- Ann
Great article....we adopted 3 children at one time and one had some severe issues with attachment. It made it so hard to love him when he hated us with such passion. I pray everyday that the love between us grows, it's a slow slow process but I have faith that it'll happen. After 3 years I can still relate to your article though....so it is definitely not an instant relationship.- Anonymous
I too struggle with a Pre-Adoptive placement. We have 2 adopted sons placed as older infants and they couldn't be anymore ours in our hearts or theirs. This little girl, almost 5, is challenging every fiber of our home & sanity. We struggle everyday to start fresh & not hold a grudge from the day before, when we know the fights will begin the moment her feet hit the floor. It is nice to hear that it isn't just me, and that we can hope for a positive end. We are determined to bond & make it work- Anonymous
THANK YOU for your candor in this article. Five years ago we adopted two boys from China - they were 3 years old at the time. They both came with attachment issues and special needs. Even though it has been five years, I have not attached to one of my sons. I appreciate the list of reasons why a parent may not attach to a child. I appreciate the words "love is a choice".- Anonymous
It was ugly and hard. She tried to bond, I felt literally sick if she touched me. Five years later, we are not where we wish we were, but it's so much better. For 2 years I wished there was a way out (luckily for all of us, she and her sisters are awesome together so disruption was never an option). Now we work daily at finding our way to love and be loved. Thanks for sharing. It can happen to ANYONE.- Another Anonymous contd
Ditto it all. 4th child, 3rd adoption, out of birth order, adopted at 6yo. Cute, funny, smart, pretty easy, just ought-to-be-expected issues due to age, language etc. I was an experienced parent, read all the books, and was completely blindsided by the anger that this child released in me. (contd)- Another Anonymous
I am printing this article and will read it daily. This has given me hope in a situation that I am going through right now. I see the importance of forgiving my lack, and just keep moving. What a great article. You have helped more people than you can imagine.- Anonymous
Thank you! I could have written most of this myself. It's a beautiful road, but also a very hard road, truly one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life.- B
Thank you. You have no idea how much I needed to read this. I say a prayer, literally everyday, "Please let me love this child." And I know someday I will. I found myself smiling the other day as I watched her do cartwheels. And I love the way she says her "s" sound when she tries to read. It's a start.- Anonymous
Thank you Dawn for expressing your reality in such a forthright and honest way about parental attachment disorder. The possibility I would have problems bonding stopped me cold from pursuing adoption 10 years ago. I just couldn't get the "what ifs" out of my head and move forward on faith that they may or may not ever materialize and if they did, I'd be able to successfully overcome them. Your tenacity and persistence in dealing with this is powerful and gives others hope.- Vanessa
Good for you for speaking up!!- Anonymous
Katie....I have a biological mom who has not bonded to me and its been 30 years. I am funny, but when I make a joke at a family gathering she just looks at me with a blank stare. She never calls or checks on me. I think at some point you build your own family and move on. Sorry I don't have any good advice but my heart and motherly love goes out to you across the miles.- Anonymous
I just wanted to comment that biological parents feel this way too. We adopted our two oldest daughters and then we had our son biologically. I was exhausted, over-whelmed and running on auto-pilot. After giving birth to my son I seriously told the nursery attendant "Just give me one--they all look alike anyway." It took me 12 months of nursing and attachment parenting to bond to my sweet boy. It was a difficult and embarrassing journey. Thanks for writing this article.- Anonymous
I feel every bit of what you described! We recently brought home a 3.5 year old boy and a 2.5 year old girl, in addition we have a 4 year old biological daughter. I am having a terrible time attaching to my adopted daughter. I did not try to do the regress thing because I have felt that at, now 3 years old she acts too babyish to begin with. Everything she does tries my nerves and I have absolutely no patience with her. I do take hope in reading this article and knowing it can get better.- Anonymous
I am a PAP and I am so glad I read this honest, open, beautiful article. I am convinced that the kind of commitment you have to your daughter and the process of connecting with her is the truest form of love... We (here in America especially) often confuse love with instant feelings. Thank you for being willing to do the hard work of true love. I hope to be as faithful as you are in this when our daughter comes home!- Karen
Thank you for writing this powerful article. I realize now that I have been depressed since an adoption fell through last year.The lightness and joy are still missing too much of the time in my life. I didn't really make the connection until I read this article. Jaana- Anonymous
Any advice to someone in the same situation? That would be me. I'm the adopted daughter with a Mom that has no emotional bond with me and hasn't for the last 25 years. I've been looking for anyone going through the same thing with thier adopted daughters and Mom's. I need advice.....please!- Katie
God bless you for your honesty and your willingness to try to do the best by your daughter. How I wish I could offer you a cup of tea and some of my time face to face. Keep on doing what you are doing, and seek the advice of those professionals whom you trust and respect. I will hold you and yours up to God during this Advent season.- Anonymous
This honest sharing is so healing. Adoption teaches you that you have to be constantly adapting. It is so healthy for parents to tell each other the truth. Just knowing we aren’t alone and that others have struggled as well makes it easier to keep on going and keep trying. Half the burden is the problem and the other half is the guilt we feel. I am always grateful for others who share their struggles and those who listen without judging. This is an invaluable gift as you grow as a parent.- Anonymous
Thanks for speaking out! I feel we become "shell shocked" parents because we do love our children so much and are fighting every day, every minute for their hearts and health! At times I have related my love to my "feelings" about my child, but love isn't just good feelings, love is action. I don't always feel "gooey" about each of my children, but I have realized I AM loving them with my constant commitment to them. It helps to hear I am not alone.- TJ
con't...Ironically, it was our 15 yr old bio son that first bonded with the "new guy". I allowed him to do the cuddling and calming when I couldn't. Now he is as much a part of our family fabric as the other five kids. Give yourself time and keep yourself open to the possibilities that love and parenting are different for every child. Keep up the good work!- Mom of 6
While I cannot completely understand your view, I have three bio and three adopted chidren, and language barriers do make bonding far more difficult. One of our sons came to us at 8 years with severe language barriers due to abuse, neglect and learning disabilities. He also ended up being mildly autistic...talk about attachment issues. - Mom of 6
Just wanted to say GREAT article, and while it can be less obvious since you get the newborn/infant bonding time.... this can happen with biological children as well that some are much harder to attach to or love. - Anonymous
To the Spammer who continues to post (and get deleted) to this topic: You may post ONE time and only if it is not mean, rage-filled, or ranting. And for the record: I am adopted, also. Find another place to spew your hate...you are only going to get deleted on this website.- MarthaO
To the anonymous person who is concerned that adopting an older child will be difficult mostly due to her/him having "a personality of their own". After adopting 7 children, from infants to 8-years-old, and having 3 bio kids...BELIEVE me when I say: They are born with the personality they will always have. You only contribute the love, stability and morality training. The rest is truly just who they are. :) - Anonymous
Dawn, thank you SO much for your honesty. We have had our daughter for 6 days now and I feel like we should be doing or feeling more. She is 5 yrs old so she is not a baby and will also let you know! Many blessings to you and your family!- Anonymous
cont. - Anyway, thanks for being so brave and honest. Hopefully this is much more rare than it appears on this posting list, but it's something to think about for sure. Hopefully I won't be able to relate to you someday when I do adopt - but I definitely feel for you and wish you the best.- Anonymous
I am amazed by how many can relate to this story. I have not adopted, but am hoping to in the future. I am considering an older child adoption, but must admit I'm nervous. It would be so much easier with an infant - an older child's personality will be developed and different than your own -which may be hard. I am glad to hear my concerns aren't just crazy - and it may happen. It's good to be informed, although I don't think there is any way to prepare - because you never know...- Anonymous
Thank-you so very much for this article. I have beat myself up daily for not being the Mom our almost 13 yr. needs. I thought after 1 year it would be better but I realize the road is much longer,harder and lonelier than I ever imagained. Adoption support groups are almost painful to sit through but finding one friend who is supportive is critical. Blessing to you all who are bold enough to speak out, I am so thankful this article was passed on to me. Hanging on but hopeful.- Anonymous
Cont. For every person who immediately bonds with their adopted child there are others who struggle with attatchment. There needs to be much more openness on this topic. I felt so much anger, shame, frustration, and fear with very few avenues to share it. All of the other people we knew who adopted had kids who were "fine". I am very open with our struggles now- with our agency, our adoption support group etc. Even when I felt like her babysitter, I decided to fake it till I made it.- Anonymous
Cont. For every person who immediately bonds with their adopted child there are others who struggle with attatchment. There needs to be much more openness on this topic. I felt so much anger, shame, frustration, and fear with very few avenues to share it. All of the other people we knew who adopted had kids who were "fine". I am very open with our struggles now- with our agency, our adoption support group etc. Even when I felt like her babysitter, I decided to fake it till I made it.- Anonymous
I relate to your story. My daughter adopted at 18 mths. ended up being diagnosed with RAD. After the right therapy, she is doing so well. I still have attachment issues -easily annoyed with her, less forgiving etc. I know it is so unfair. She has done so much changing, yet I have to remind myself to look for her strengths. I expected to bond with her just like my 3 bio kids, but it hasn't been the same at all. This is the "dirty little secret" in the adoption community. Cont.- Anonymous
I relate to your story. My daughter adopted at 18 mths. ended up being diagnosed with RAD. After the right therapy, she is doing so well. I still have attachment issues -easily annoyed with her, less forgiving etc. I know it is so unfair. She has done so much changing, yet I have to remind myself to look for her strengths. I expected to bond with her just like my 3 bio kids, but it hasn't been the same at all. This is the "dirty little secret" in the adoption community. Cont.- Anonymous
Sorry but I couldn't agree with you at all. My 2 children are as much as part of me as the day is long- Anonymous
Thank you! My husband and I are still struggling to attach to our daughter 6 years after bring her home. Every year we make progress but it is so slow and so different from our other 3 children whom we adopted as infants. Thank you for being brave enough to say it out loud!- Anonymous
Hi Dawn--- Just today I thought of how much easier my life would be without my 2nd daughter, who continually challenges me....and I felt terrible guilt and wished I could love her the way I simply adore my first daughter....but I'll keep trying to open to her! - Anonymous
Thank you for writing this and being so honest. I just thought it was me. My first child was very difficult and still can be at times. My second child is the most loveable kid, but I get so frustrated with him. I can completely relate when the author wrote the following. "... and pleading with her, I'M NOT GOING TO DO THIS AGAIN!!! I CAN'T DO THIS AGAIN!!!" I thought maybe my problem was having two kids who are completely opposite of each other, but now I see it may be more then that.- Anonymous
I am a mother to a child who came home after a failed adoption. I realize now that I never grieved the emotional loss and the financial strain it put our family through when the first adoption failed. I think that I completed another adoption from this country to prove that the children there were not to blame for the corruption. I try to open myself to our son. It was not his choice to be brought to our home yet I know that I do not love him as I do the other four. Please pray for us. - Anonymous
At first I thought the author was referring to her own attachment history. Perhaps there are clues in her own background that would explain why she has such difficulty attaching to this child. It is not just children that are affected by their early relationships- adults also have attachment histories that influence their ability to attach and relate with others. Just potential explanation- not suggesting "blame".- Anonymous
This is an unspoken truth for many people, including myself. It has been almost 3 years since we brought her home and I still struggle. I just want her to be "normal" and blend in with all the other kids. How selfish is that? I'm praying everyday that I would give up that unrealistic dream and embrace all of her wonderful gifts. I am personally grateful for your article if for no other reason than to know there are others working this out as well. One step at a time. - Anonymous
I, too, struggle to have warm fuzzy feelings to my oldest adopted daughter. She was also adopted out of birth order. She has been with us for more than 2 years. The disruptive and destructive behavior have been very difficult to deal with. I truly understand what you have been through. Dawn, thank you for your courage and honesty. And Rainbow kids, thank you for printing article. People need to know that not all adoptions have a beautiful fairy tale ending.- T.Y.S.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! I am NOT alone :-)- Anonymous
I a so glad you shared this. I am going through the exact same situation- Anonymous
Wow! Thanks for being so honest, and having the courage to say it. My wife and I are beginning the journey and I have to admit that I have wondered what happens if one does not or cannot bond with their child. - Anonymous
Specialized attachment techniques (regression, holding, etc) should never be imposed on a newly adopted child during a normal adjustment process. Who is recommending this? - Anonymous
Thank you for writing so well what I experienced with one of my adopted children. It took nearly 18 months before I started really loving this child. I can't really explain why though in hindsight, I believe I was suffering from some form of post-traumatic stress resulting from a the lengthy and problematic adoption process. - Anonymous
I loved this article! I started reading and thought, hey, how did she get in my head! We have had this with our 3rd adoptioin of our son. He was an older child adoption, but in birth order. He came to us angry, scared, and ready to run. He was physically mean to us. Things are getting a lot better, but we still find ourselves there. Reading others stories really does help to know we are not alone and attaching for us can happen.- Anonymous
Don't give up ! Keep loving her and nurturing her this little one needs you & believe it or not you need her. Some times we forget that as adults there is always room for growth & understanding. God has allowed you to be able to open your heart and your home to this little one, everything will be alright in time. Be patient and don't give up.- Sylvia B.
Thank you so much for your honesty. I too am having trouble loving my 2nd. The good thing is that she is light of her Dad's eyes. She is so different from our first and it seems she knows how to get the best of me. You give some good ideas and advice. - Anonymous
I experienced this after the adoption of our second child and was taken completely off guard when I did not feel all of the wonderful warm fuzzies toward him that I did with my first adopted child. I felt isolated, helpless, and very ashamed. I am finally starting to emerge on the other side but has been a very long hard road. You have done a great job sharing your personal struggles in order to help other parents. Thanks!- Anonymous
I experienced this after the adoption of our second child and was taken completely off guard when I did not feel all of the wonderful warm fuzzies toward him that I did with my first adopted child. I felt isolated, helpless, and very ashamed. I am finally starting to emerge on the other side but has been a very long hard road. You have done a great job sharing your personal struggles in order to help other parents. Thanks!- Anonymous
As the mother of 5 adopted children(mostly grown now ) I am glad to see the honesty of this person . This does happen and we need to be helpful and not condemning when there is problems attaching .- Anonymous
God bless you for having the courage to share your story with others. I think that our society puts sooo much pressure on us to be "Super Moms" and "Super Dads", that we give ourselves extra guilt trips when the reality does not match our fantasy as to "how it should be". Stay strong and enjoy every precious moment and memory. - Su
I experienced this with our third bio son, it's not a pretty scene. He's the child I would say with tougue in cheek I loved to hate. He was not like our other boys were and most of all he didn't fit my idea of what a good boy looked like, unfournately in my words and actions... you know body lauguage talks.... I know many days I told him without words that he was not apporoved of.He is now 20 and I continue to work daily on loving him, he is worth it and that's all that matters.It is a chioce. - Brenda
Thank you so much for this article. Everyone told me I would love my 2nd child the same as my first (of course you will!), but I don't, and now I read about many other parents who feel the same way. It is a dark and sad place, and I am afraid to tell anyone. I go through the motions with my child, I hug and kiss, compliment, hope, pray, and WAIT. She is a lovely child, a good girl, and I hope I can do right by her.- Katrina
Thank you. After reading your article and the numerous comments I now know I am not alone. I truly loved my son (our 3rd child), but I too did not have those warm fuzzies. He actually was probably the easiest child in many ways. I'm not really sure why those feelings were there. He has been home several years now and my love for him grows deeper each day. Thank you for letting me know I am not alone.- Anonymous
It is scary, sad and lonely when your not sure if there will ever be a connection. Time and learning how to cope has helped. It's hard to love a child that has many issues. Despite it all there is much love in my heart for her. She is so beautiful. I will show her love and wait for her and the person I believe she can be. Thank you for writing and helping me to not feel like a bad mom when I struggle with my feelings. The road is long but I have much hope. Best wishes to all JK- Jamie
I have a house full of kids I've adopted threw disruption. Everyday I struggle with these issues. The fact that I show up each day for the job means so much to the kids .Some days are good some not so good.One of my kids I wasn't sure I could truely committe too untill she came hours to leaving, bags packed, (not by my choice or hers) thats when we both realized we had become mother and daughter. She is still the hardest kids I've raised but we're committed to making it work.- Anonymous
I am an adoptive and birth mom. I think it is important to mention that this can happen with birth children also. My birth son had colic and severe behavioral issues through the toddler years; I felt no bond to him. I still feel guilty about that to this day. Now, he is a bright, silly 6 year old who is the light of my life. I currently find I am most "bonded" to whichever child is not driving me crazy that particular day;) Thanks so much for the article.- Anonymous
Wow. So well done. Bless you for your honesty. More people need to be aware of this, it's not always ladybugs and red threads........- Anonymous
Thank you for writing what I have been feeling. Now I know I am not crazy, alone, or a terrible person.- Anonymous
I could have written that story and feel terrible for saying so. He is a sweet, loving child and I feel zero connection to him like I have with the other. It's very lonely to know you cannot dare admit it without being labeled horrible since afterall, we chose to bring him home. Thankyou for sharring your story.- Anonymous
Thank you Dawn and Thank you Rainbowkids for voicing such issues.- Anonymous
Thank you! You have voiced my concerns I had 2 years ago and was scared to admit to anyone. I was a first time mom and adopted a 6 year old. I didn't know how I was supposed to feel, but didn't have warm fuzzies. I am in the final stages of adopting out of birth order 10 year old and appreciate your insights.- jerri
Thank you...thank you...thank you! I was concentrating on attachment issues with my daughter. I never thought about my own. She did great, me not so well. She has been home 14 months and things are improving, but it has been slow. Thank you so much for this article. - Kim
That was very brave for you to do. I't simportant for everyone to know that it won't be an easy road, and that this is something that can happen to even the most loving parents. Your heart was in the right place, and you spoke your truth honestly. Thanks for sharing your difficulties as it may help others with the same issues to recognize that it can happen and there are ways to address it.- kerry
Thank you. As a mother to a 14 year old adopted earlier this year, it was as if I was writing this article. As hard as I try, I cannot love her the same way as my bio who is younger. We are struggling with attachment and being a teenager, all wrappd up into one.- Anonymous
Thank you for writing this article. I experienced all of the same things with my biological daughter, so you aren't alone (it was just called something different - post partum depression). We are now in the process of trying to adopt and I am hoping I will not go through the same experience again but know that I'm better able to recognize it and know that there are others out there who have gone through the same thing. Thanks again for your candor. - Anonymous
I am so glad you are willing to say these things. - Anonymous
I feel the SAME about my adopted daughter! We just adopted a (younger) son from China and the bonding is immediate and real... everything she does aggravates me, like sandpaper on skin... I am mentally loving her and hope as she gets older I will emotionally connect. It is the hardest thing I've ever been through.- me
I know where you are coming from. I, too, have felt those same feelings. Glad to know it isn't just me.- Anonymous
Dawn, Words cannot begin to tell you how much I have appreciated reading this. To hear another mom voice what many of us have faced before truly is an encouragement! Adoption is almost like a dance.....sometimes it just fits immediately as with our first adoption and sometimes it takes much more effort to find that spot where you both belong together like our second adoption! Bless you!- Anonymous
Hugs for you and your family. I have not been in your shoes, but could be there in the future. I have 6 children and one thing I have found is that guilt has no place in parenting! It and your kids [if they figure it out] will eat you alive if you give it enough power. Your being able to talk about and be honest about where you stand is admirable and healing! Thank you!- kelly
Thanks for this sensitive article! Many adoptive parents suffer in silence and guilt, sure they are the only ones who ever felt like this. Our experience with our 2nd adoption was much like yours. We were so exhausted and stressed but were afraid to tell anyone how discouraged we were. Thankfully a wise friend shared some of these same points with us. I think your article should be required reading for prospective adoptive parents. - Carrie
bravo for writing on such a sensitive subject. I would hazard a guess that a reason you might be having difficulty connecting with this child is that she has attachment disorder that looks different from your first and might be more "under the radar". you can't quite put your finger on it but something isnt right. I have a feeling that it is her not you. just a thought to throw out there.- anon
Dawn, You are so right. You've expressed a dark secret some of us have had in attempting to bond with our adopted children. We made things worse by twinning our bio toddler. Our social worker never prepared us for issues this would cause both for our adoptee and us. I think it was doubly hard because the difficult stages of establishing bonding and attachment were more starkly obvious because there were no such issues with our bio child. Thanks for the thoughtful piece.- Julie
Dawn, you are a hero for writing this article! This is so much more common than people suspect. In some cases, the child is the one who is marked "unattached," when in reality it is the parent(s). Your willingness to acknowledge this publicly speaks volumes about your integrity as a parent. Kudos to you! - Marie Carmenati
I totally understand how you are feeling. I have the same problem with my 3rd adopted daughter whom we adopted at an older age. She fell in between the first and second adoption. I felt like when I was reading your first paragraph that I had written it myself. Those why want to "lynch" you should walk in our shoes first before they judge. There are more people out there like us than are willing to admit. Thanks for the chance to see it's not just me.- Anonymous
You are brave to share this and to also talk about commitment. I think younger parents might be nervous at this story, but shouldn't be. Love really IS a CHOICE.- Anonymous
Excellent article. Thank you.- Anonymous
I have found comfort thank you- Anonymous
Thank you for the article. It came from the heart and is appreciated greatly.- Anonymous
Thank you so much for your candid article. So many parents suffer from attachment disorder & feel shame about it. I hope those who are struggling with this issue will find comfort in knowing that it is not uncommon to have difficult attachting to a child. It doesn't make the parents bad, it just makes them human.- Anonymous
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