On the shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel, just a few minutes after meeting Ashley for the first time, I had a little revelation. She was talking about her pregnancy (seriously adorable baby bump!), and I realized what I’m missing with these two new children of mine: Pregnancy.
Hearts and minds need time to prepare.
When I gave birth to Kathryn, I already loved her — but I’d had nine months to get used to the idea of her, to imagine her, to dream of her. My heart and mind and arms were prepared to welcome and love her. That’s not always the case with biological children; I’ve heard several moms talk about feeling guilty for not immediately swooning with love for their babies, but with a difficult pregnancy, a colicky baby, or any sort of post-partum depression, it can take a while for those feelings to develop.
I do not love my step and adopted children any less; it just began differently.
When Brandon became my stepson, I knew he already had a very involved mom, so my expectations were reasonable. In the beginning, I loved him because I loved his dad, but over the years I’ve come to love him because he is a really neat guy.
With Lindsey, I expected affection to take a little time since she was already 14 years old and she didn’t need hands-on mothering: baths, fingernails trimmed, cleaning food off faces… many of the things that seem to help with bonding. Sometimes it’s been hard, but we’ve made good progress.
Beware of expectations.
With these two, I expected to feel maternal affection right away because they were so young and needed so much hands-on mothering. I did love them from the beginning, but they joined our family in the midst of a very stressful time that has made my general functioning a bit more challenging, but what I needed just hadn’t “clicked” for me until Ashley and that belly of hers were in front of me.
Love takes time. And that’s okay.
I need time to experience my “pregnancy” of getting to know these children. At the turn of the new year, I didn’t know they existed. They’ve only lived with me two months now. At first, it felt like a never-ending babysitting job, but little by little, the motherly feelings are growing.
A sweet friend reminded me: Give yourself some grace.
So I am. And I’m working on giving my kids more grace, too. It’s not an easy thing, but our days are far better when I do this. Try it: give yourself (and your kids) a little bit of extra grace today, and see how your day goes.