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Bonding… The 2nd Time Around

I am going to share a secret… you have to promise not to judge me! Promise?

Ava&Hannah3

Ok… here goes…..

Since Hannah’s placement, I’ve been assaulted by constant guilt. Oh boy… this is really hard for me to admit…. and it’s only through chatting with other mom friends who have more than one child, that I have begun to realize that my feelings are normal, so here goes.

I’ve felt guilty because I have not bonded with Hannah in the same way that I did with Ava. I don’t feel the same way about her…. yet!

Ava&Hannah1

Bonding with Ava was almost instant. I think there were a number of factors at play. Firstly because I got to spend a little time with her birth mother prior to her birth, which already started the bonding process. Witnessing her birth was also, for me, part of the bonding process.  I remember waking up the morning, the day after she was born, getting out of bed and looking at her sleeping. I was completely overcome by the strongest emotions I had ever experienced. I knew in that instant that I would die for her, jump in front of a fired gun, throw myself in front of a speeding train, that I would die to save her, I loved her that much. I became a lioness in an instant and there was no enemy or danger too great that I wasn’t willing to fight off to save her.

And I thought it would happen the same way with Hannah. But it hasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love her, I adore her, I cannot imagine my life, or our family, without her. But the intensity of those feelings has not been as strong (yet) or as instant as it was with Ava.

Ava&Hannah2

I’ve felt really guilty about this, after all, she is just a precious little girl, who never asked for any of this and its been really tough to admit it but in admitting it, I’ve been able to talk to other mom’s about how I’m feeling and have come to find that my experience is not unique and doesn’t seem to be linked to adoption in anyway, it would seem that this reaction is really normal among biological mothers too.

Call me crazy, because I know there is NO logic in this, but I think part of my struggle with bonding is because Hannah and Ava are like chalk and cheese! As parents, I think we build up this idea in our heads of who and what our second child will be, which is totally illogical, given that my children are adopted and biologically unrelated, so they were NEVER going to be the same anyway. But because Ava is the only child I had known as my own, I imagined that my second child would be just like her. Then Hannah came along….. and they are so very very different. They look different, they have different body types, Ava was a long, skinny baby, Hannah is a short, fat baby. They have different personalities, while Ava is the determined one, Hannah has a SERIOUS temper on her that is making me scared for when she’s a teen. They are just different in every way possible. And so Hannah is in no way like the image I had built in my head of who or what my second child would be and I do believe that that has impacted on our bonding process. Which is really ridiculous because she is a FAR easier baby than Ava ever was and I have fallen into mothering a small baby with great ease the second time around.

Ava&Hannah

I’ve really struggled with this. I have really hated on myself since Hannah’s placement. I look at her sweet, innocent little face and I want to cry I feel so bad. When I walk in a room, she swings her head around looking for me. When she hears my voice she reacts to me. She has bonded to me 100% and I have hated on myself for not feeling the same way.

I know that logically it will come. I know I have a huge capacity for love and that I love this little girl. But it has been really hard to own up to this. After all, like every other mom out there, I just want to be perfect.

 

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32 Comments

  • Reply Natasha Clark

    Such a beautiful and brave post. A lot of mothers go through this even with their own babies they’ve given birth to. I bonded a lot faster with Ben than I did with Noah. It’s bizarre, but it comes and you’re wonderful x

    June 6, 2013 at 9:41 am
  • Reply Tanya

    The worst part about this is that you’re feeling guilt and self-hatred. I hope you’re kinder to yourself soon. I’m pretty sure the rest will come in time.

    June 6, 2013 at 9:47 am
  • Reply Stacey Vee

    I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t a first baby thing? It seems in the majority of cases we’re struggling to connect with baby number two. (Give me three weeks and I’ll let you know how it happens with baby number three.) Funny, with Travis, I always though the reason we bonded instantly is because he and I look alike. Like my genes recognised his genes, and because of that nature pumped us full of the chemicals that help mom and baby bond. Ryan came out looking NOTHING like me. He still looks nothing like me. And I’ve imagined that’s why he and his dad are bonded so closely. But now look at your unique situation. Genetics are not in play here. This tells me my struggle to bond with Ryan might be a mental thing, which I hadn’t considered. Very interesting conversation you’ve ignited here, Sharon.

    June 6, 2013 at 9:48 am
  • Reply Cazpi

    Much love my friend. This does happen, and like I said, took yonks to bond with Bear. But it happened. Don’t get into the cycle of guilt – it doesn’t help at all hehe. Just enjoy her, and one day, it will hit you how much you have bonded with her.

    June 6, 2013 at 9:50 am
  • Reply Nikki

    Honesty and truth can never be judged. My biological children are chalk and cheese. My son is the tall skinny one, soft gentle and caring. My daughter is more “muscular”. She is strong, willed, defiant and hysterical. She is a teenager now and it’s hard; but all teenagers are hard. (Worse than babies) I still remember the day my son was born. He was a forceps delivery, 2,5 kgs and 51cm ; he looked like a Parktown Prawn. I thought he was the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen. My daughter was 3kg and 49 cm; I thought she was the ugliest baby I’d ever seen! The bonding was different, but it happened slowly and naturally as I grew to love each of them in their own special way.

    June 6, 2013 at 9:53 am
  • Reply Robyn

    I felt exactly the same with Hannah, I always thought it was because she wasn’t planned and I almost resented having her when we really didn’t need or want or could afford another baby. But it changes, they worm themselves in so deep that you cannot help but fall hopelessly, endlessly and TOTALLY into and under their spell 🙂 I know exactly how you feel, and I can assure you that what you’re feeling now, won’t last forever xxx

    June 6, 2013 at 9:56 am
  • Reply Georgina Guedes

    Sharon, I went through a very similar thing with my son before he was born. As much as I knew logically that I could love another child, it was inconceivable to me that I could feel the same emotions again. Also, when Angel was born and they put her on my chest, I went insane with the instant bond. I’ve never felt anything like it in my life, it was like falling through eternity – I think like what you’re describing with Ava sleeping.
    Anyway, then Henry was born, and I was emotional and happy to see him, but having him didn’t shift my universe like having Angel did. And one of the reasons for me was that having Angel was also about me becoming a mother. When Henry came along, that space was already created in my heart. He didn’t change everything, he just snuggled in.
    Fortunately – probably because I’d done most of my angsting about this while I was pregnant – this lack of awestruck passion didn’t worry me. And although I never “fell” for him in the same way, a short while later, I knew I loved him just as much.
    And then, actually, because Angel adapted so badly, and because he was so sweet and little, I went through a patch where Angel fell out of favour and got on my nerves terribly, and I felt dreadful about that – robbing her of her maternal devotion.
    But then it all worked out, and now there’s two of them. I love them completely and could never choose between them, but I still love them very differently. Angel is going to battle in this world, and I have a bruise on my heart that aches for her, and a need to protect her, whereas I feel that Henry will roll with things a lot easier so loving him is less painful, but also sometimes less intense.
    Another thing, we fall in love with our first-borns, and then we really get to know them. Babies are lovely and sweet (I love babies), but you do get so much more back from bigger kids. You know what they’re thinking, what makes them tick, you can have a conversation with them – and I think that second children spend a few years playing catch up to this more grownup relationship that you have with your older child.
    But I definitely find that it swings one way and then another – sometimes over the course of a day, and sometimes over weeks.

    June 6, 2013 at 9:58 am
  • Reply Kim

    Question? Has Walter experienced same? I would imagine it may perhaps take a little longer to get to the same intensity given Hannah was older and you did not have the same lead up as you did with Ava. I also imagine in the not too distance future something will happen that will trigger the lioness in you again re Miss H and you will wonder why you stressed Much love xxx

    June 6, 2013 at 9:58 am
  • Reply Robyn

    Wow – youv’e really made me think about my own situation. I have been trying so hard just to cope with 2 children under 2! Now that I think about it, I know I haven’t bonded with my second as strongly as I bonded with my first. It’s definately there, and growing. but not instant. When I look at pictures of us together I can feel my heart tugging, hopefully this is a sign of things to come. xxx

    June 6, 2013 at 10:02 am
  • Reply jenny

    As you know I went through the same thing with Evan. Funnily enough she did look like me when she was born and I think I didn’t like that – found it a bit weird. She also came along at an inopportune time in my life and all of those things played a role but I think it really comes down to the thing you said. We know our first child and so we base our expectations of our second child on that – when we come to realise that they are their own person and different to anybody else, we start to adore them equally but in their own right.

    June 6, 2013 at 10:16 am
  • Reply Lise

    A consideration is perhaps that with the first one, you don’t know what to expect or how the bonding feels, so you arent stressing about it. Second time you know how you should feel but you aren’t there yet, so you are stressing and possibly making it harder for yourself.

    You will get there in time but your bond with Hannah could be different to the one with Ava. I am thinking that would be quite normal as they are different people. I can’t imagine that there are any hard and fast answers.

    On a different note, Ava looks SO proud of her sister (and no doubt her own “big sister” status)!!

    June 6, 2013 at 10:19 am
  • Reply acidicice

    For me out was the other way round. I struggled to bond with my first child, bonded easily and furiously with my second. I also feel bad about it, almost like I’ve robbed my first born of something. Mom guilt. It’s relentless.

    June 6, 2013 at 10:32 am
    • Reply Georgina Guedes

      I know someone who said the same – with her second, her love muscle was working. The first time around, it was too new and overwhelming and full of concern for her to just fall in love. So it goes both ways.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:39 am
  • Reply Cindy

    It’s insane how parenting can be so different, but yet fundamentally we all face exactly the same things. I had the same type of feelings, but more towards my first than my second or third. My husband bonded easily with the first but then has struggled with the second and third. I think it comes down to personality types bonding with other personality types but also time to really get to know and love one another for who they are.

    It does get better, eventually.

    June 6, 2013 at 10:43 am
  • Reply Lisa-Marie

    I felt pretty much the same when Isabella was born – and she was our first (and only), as you know. I also took a while to bond with her and it ate me up inside. In fact, now still, there are times when I wonder whether we have, in fact, bonded 100% – or if there is still more to come.
    I can totally understand the guilt that you are battling with, but at the same time I do also think that it is pretty normal. It will come! It will smack you between the eyes when you least expect it.
    And as you say, it is possibly because her placement has been so very different to Ava’s – considering all you had been through in those first 60 days; this time ’round it has been “smoother”. There are alot of different things at play here to have made it all so very different this time ’round.
    You will get there – I know it.

    June 6, 2013 at 10:46 am
  • Reply Lise

    Sharon, I just read this and thought the bonding bit apt for this conversation:

    http://www.adoption.org.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=82:story10&catid=12:adoptive-parents-&Itemid=83

    June 6, 2013 at 10:59 am
  • Reply Pandora

    My sister really battled to bond with her first baby, mainly due to the circumstances. So many are factors involved. Still, always hard not to feel guilty but at least you know this is experienced by moms in general.

    June 6, 2013 at 11:04 am
  • Reply Liz

    Sharon, this is a wonderful post. THANK YOU for writing it. I loved Georgina’s comment about “when Henry came along, that space was already created in my heart. He didn’t change everything, he just snuggled in.” – it sounds like that’s exactly what Hannah did, she snuggled into the space that you had created when Ava arrived, and is comfy and cosy and easy-going in that space.

    What you’ve written also touches on one of my big fears at the moment – two months away from baby number 1 and I HONESTLY have no idea how I will possibly love a child like I love my husband. I’m almost resentful that’s it not just going to be two of us anymore – and then I feel RIDICULOUSLY guilty over this because this is a baby we’ve tried SO hard for. x

    June 6, 2013 at 11:48 am
    • Reply Kim

      “Sharon, this is a wonderful post. THANK YOU for writing it. I loved Georgina’s comment about “when Henry came along, that space was already created in my heart. He didn’t change everything, he just snuggled in.” – it sounds like that’s exactly what Hannah did, she snuggled into the space that you had created when Ava arrived, and is comfy and cosy and easy-going in that space.”

      🙂

      June 6, 2013 at 1:04 pm
  • Reply Tracy

    Sjoe! I could have written so much of this post myself. I was just never brave enough to admit it out loud – so hats off to you! My children are also like chalk and cheese. The older one was also instant bonding but the younger one took much longer and the circumstances of their placements were also very different. Now I love them both fiercely and marvel at how unique each one is. I don’t love one more than the other but I certainly relate to them differently because each one is completely himself with his personal foibles and idiosyncrasies. You’ll get there – don’t beat yourself up, you courageous, loving mum!

    June 6, 2013 at 1:21 pm
  • Reply Daryl Faure

    What a brave post Sharon. I know it will come too because you are an amazing person with an incredible family, and a great capacity for love.

    June 6, 2013 at 1:46 pm
  • Reply Reluctant Mom

    I struggled to bond with Georgia. I thought she was going to be a boy, and I had a picture of a Calum in my head – who looked like Connor.

    She clearly was not what I had pictured, and I struggled to bond with her. I went through all the routines, and I just did not “connect” with her. It probably did not help that Kennith and I were at the lowest point of our relationship, and I was struggling with yet another bout of depression.

    It did change ….. I am not sure when, but at some point I saw her — and my heart recognised her. It did take a long time ….. I also felt that I had somehow failed as my heart did not recognise her immediately.

    June 6, 2013 at 1:57 pm
  • Reply Tiina

    Thanks for the post. I have been also wondering how the bonding will be second time around, especially when I carried the first one. Leo was in hospital for 6 weeks so I wasn’t able to bond with him properly in the beginning, only when he came home. When we get our second one, she/he will be around 2 months as well so I am guessing I will know how it feels not to be able to be with him/her right after birth. I love Leo so much that I sometimes wonder if its possible to love another child as much, although this has nothing to do with adoption, I am sure the same goes with biological children. I guess the first child is always more special in the way that she taught you everything you know about being a parent, you kind of grew with her. So what I am trying to say is with second time around, there are no “firsts” anymore so the bonding takes longer, that would make sense to me.

    June 6, 2013 at 2:40 pm
  • Reply panjels

    Sharon, You are honest and that can be a really powerful tool to help others to be the same… to remove veneers & take down masks and show what’s happening on the inside. I really feel like I know that I know, that… 🙂 …I will comment on a future Sharon post about how your bonding with Hannah has been made full and complete. Bonding has an ~ING at the end for a reason 🙂
    What is also amazing & liberating to remember, is that LOVE is so much more than a feeling based on emotions (which for all of us can fluctuate wildly at times:) It’s bigger and God’s reserve is never-ending, both for us to keep and give-away. That’s a pretty amazing & safe place to rest!

    June 6, 2013 at 4:23 pm
  • Reply Tertia

    Wonderful, honest post that resonates with many.

    With my first borns, my twins, I was too overwhehelmed, too full of PTSD to bond properly. Took me a while

    With my third and last I fell instantly and totally in love. Like I never thought possible. One baby at a time! At term! Life was beautiful.

    It still is today. I am so blessed to have all three. I love them all equally, but there s something special between my little bonus free-bie baby. Love that child to bits.

    June 6, 2013 at 9:04 pm
  • Reply Kristi Fraser

    I can sympathise with you so much, although I had my own children, with the second pregnancy I actually had a slight hate towards my then unborn baby, part because he wasn’t planned and I didn’t want to be pregnant yet, part because the pregnancy made me terribly ill for way more than the first 3 months, I felt guilty because I knew I was sending these signals and emotions to the baby, When we had sonar’s done I wasn’t bothered to even look, I didn’t bother with much preparation, I even told my husband that when he was born he must take him away from me and bring me my first born son, I told him that he should just take care of the new baby cause I cant feel the same about him and its not fair on the baby, so he should love him, and yes I hated on myself for feeling this way, and it didn’t disappear straight after he was born, it did lessen, however as time passed he grew on me, and I forced myself to sit and watch him sleeping, to just sit with him and look at his little hands and feet and the connection grew, he is 2 now and yes I would dive in front of a bus to save him, I adore him to bits. Its very difficult to admit these things but its a step in addressing it and finding support to help us. lots of love.

    June 7, 2013 at 1:30 am
  • Reply Beth

    Please stop being so hard on yourself. As a Mom of 3 I can honestly tell you the bonding experience is different but it comes,now don’t you worry. Just enjoy your girls and all the crazy things they get up to. Mine are 24 & 26 and @ the age where they are taking me to the spa,for cocktails and spoiling me….your time for that will come in a blink of an

    June 7, 2013 at 3:04 am
  • Reply Pamela

    Hi, as you said I don’t think this is related to adoption in any way. If it is any consolation I know that my mom battled with my brother too, (also 2nd child) she refused to take him out as she thought he was the ugliest child and was scared that anyone would look in the pram. That soon passed and my sister and I know that he is now her “favourite” although she denies it vehmenatly…
    My daughter is my first and only child, and I can honestly say that I am not sure I bonded with her, not instantly for sure. I loved her yes but that bond, jump in front of the train feeling, no. That took a lot longer

    June 7, 2013 at 9:27 am
  • Reply Laura

    I had it the other way around – I battled with my first born! It is one of those misconceptions that are out there that you get the baby and automatically you just “bond” – doesn’t always work like that!

    June 7, 2013 at 9:29 am
  • Reply Margot

    Hey, Sharon, everybody has already commented but clearly your post has touched a nerve and I feel the need to spill my own guts too, so here goes: I had the instant love connection with Felix, and with Richie, well, I loved him, but my God he was an ugly baby. Like: UG-LY! He looked like Wayne Rooney if Wayne Rooney had varicose veins on his face. Of course, it doesn’t help when he first words you hear as your baby is born are, “Are his legs moving? What’s that on his back?” For the first few days we were completely overwhelmed and underinformed about spina bifida, what and how severe it might be, and while I didn’t think he would die, I think in some way I feared losing him and it really pulled my emotions back.
    Richie has had to work harder to cast his spell over me and he has, but he remains so different from his brother – so much more independent. Needs me less even though he’s younger. So I think the relationship is always going to be different.
    However, ask me today if I have a favourite and I honestly can tell you I’d die for either of them and there would be no choosing between them. I love them differently, but the same amount, if that makes sense.
    If I’m honest I waited until after Richie survived his operation at 7 months to really open the love gates. There, wrote it down. Whew.

    June 7, 2013 at 10:36 am
  • Reply Sarah

    Hi Sharon,

    Thanks so much for this post. I “know” you from fertilicare – I was the resident SMC for awhile. I am adopting tran-racially and I think my child is coming home tomorrow. Everyone is saying “isn’t that soooo exciting” and I wish the answer was an unreserved “yes” …. the truth is that I am so so so terrified that I will not love her as much as my bio son ….I found out last week Wednesday and I have been literally shaking since then ….

    Wishing us both lots of love for our special children xxx

    June 11, 2013 at 8:24 am
  • Reply Tania

    I think you are doing well. Both my children are my biological children. Both I did not bond with in the traditional way. In my case all the external influences, including my upbringing, had plenty to do with it. My first born, son, turning 12 next month, I only really started bonding with him at age 10. My second, a daughter, 5 1/2 now, I am still struggling to find a real connection with her. Perhaps I am a better teen parent than a baby and child parent? I will have to see.

    June 19, 2013 at 10:28 am
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