Sunday, 30 October 2011

Love is a very simple thing......

One thing that seems to put people off the idea of adoption is whether you can love a child that isn't biologically yours.  When we were first going through the adoption process someone very close to me said that she couldn't adopt because she couldn't love an adopted child because she had had a biological child and would know the difference.  My response was "How do you know that?, You haven't had that experience so you can't actually know"I know that I couldn't love a child anymore than I love Katie but I haven't had a biological child so I also can't say whether there is any difference.  I frequently hear of women wanting to adopt but their male partners feeling more reluctant because of the love and biology issue. I am sure this situation may be reversed with some people but I've not personally heard of anyone telling me this.  I would love to hear from anyone who has experienced this.  i do know of plenty of couples who have used donor sperm however and that is pretty much the same thing.  Mike and I discussed this when we were going through the process and he said he was initially anxious about it.  I absolutely knew that I could love a child that wasn't biologically mine because there were several children in my life that I knew I loved.  Having said that, since meeting Katie I have experienced an even deeper love for a child than I ever knew before.  I did have anxieties but my anxieties lay around the linking/matching process and wondering how I would know if the match was right.

Love is something that is written about endlessly.  This is mostly romantic love but I think all love is pretty much the same.  You meet someone and you have a connection and strong feelings for them and those feelings grow and deepen with time.  This can happen in romantic love or friendship, with your family and with a child.  Does biology really make such a huge difference?  We are genetically programmed to reproduce and it can be devastating if you are unable to reproduce. Being unable to reproduce doesn't mean remaining childless though and it certainly doesn't mean that you cannot love an adopted child with all of your heart; all of your being in fact.  It's worth noting that being able to reproduce doesn't necessarily guarantee that you will love that child or even get along well.  I know lots of biological parents who clash with their children and have turbulent relationships.

When you are pregnant with a child there is 9 months of bonding; dreaming; wondering who the child will look like and take after.  This process is very introverting and pulls the mother inward towards her child and the bond that is forming and often away from the father-to-be.  Adoption can't mirror that process in the physical sense but it does have an emotional parallel process that bonds you to the child that you have been matched with. In some ways adoption is a more joint process because the adoptive father is in exactly the same position as the adoptive mother.  This can be very bonding for the parents-to-be because you can both simultaneously experience the same thing. 

Katie resembles myself and Mike enormously.  More so than many of my friends with biological children.  I wonder how many fathers in the world love a child that they think is biologically theirs but actually is biologically someone elses?  Does that love change if they find out that the child isn't biologically theirs?

I remember clearly the moment I fell in love with Katie.  It wasn't when we read her background story and when were initially shown a photograph of her.  I was so worried because, although I felt connected to this little person, my feelings were unclear and very confused.  I felt quite numb right up until the day of our Linking Panel.  I was anxious because I didn't know how I felt and wondered if this was right.  Mike, on the other hand, knew that it was right.  He had no doubts at that point so I clung to his feelings.  Prior to our Linking Panel I had asked Katie's Social Worker to bring along a photograph of her to add to the little book we had made for her to introduce ourselves.  The picture was beautiful (it has pride of place in our house now) and I looked at that little girl and I fell in love.  Totally and unequivocally, it happened, and it continues to happen 18 months on.  Every day I look at her and fall a little bit more in love with her.  She is wonderful.  Everything I could want in a daughter.  Mike loves and adores her and it matters not a jot that we didn't give birth to her ourselves.  Of course there are complications in that Katie has a birth family that we try to maintain contact with so that Katie can have a full picture of her story when she is older.  Some people may find that hard to handle.  It is a reminder of the genetic side of things.  We don't know how that bond will effect Katie during her life.  It is an unknown.  Having said that parenting generally is an unknown.  We don't know what life will throw at our children and how we, as parents, can help them with the experiences they have and their emotional responses to those experiences.

We live in an age of nuclear families.  Families split up and new families blend and they make it work.  Celebrities are raising the profile of adoption, which is great.  It is no longer a secret, something to be hidden in the closet.  Children are told from the outset that they are adopted and (I hope) don't have a surprise on their 18th birthday.  Adoption is something to be proud about.  What a wonderful wonderful gift to give a child, and it's been a wonderful gift for me as well.

One thing that I think doesn't help the process though, and also puts many people off adoption, is that during the early stages of the adoption process the children are often presented very negatively by Social Workers.  Adopters are told about all the scary stuff; the unacceptable behaviour; and it's natural to feel anxious and question whether you can cope with all this scary stuff.  I do think this information needs to be presented a more balanced way.  Please don't scare off would-be adopters.  Yes we need to know what might be but we need to know all the wonderful bits too to get a really clear picture of what lies ahead.

If you ask me "Can you love a child that isn't biologically yours?" then I will reply, without hesitation "YES, you can!"  You have to be open to it though.  It's like romantic love, you have to allow it to happen.  As they say, "you have to be in it to win it".  If you tell yourself that you won't be able to love a child that isn't biologically yours then you are blocking that possibility.  Genetics really isn't everything, it is merely the building block of our species.  It has a huge impact on our thinking and emotions though.  I freely admit that adoption wasn't my first choice to becoming a parent.  Adoption wasn't even something on my radar but now I wouldn't change anything for the world and consider myself the luckiest mum on the planet.

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