The adoption of my first daughter was a fairytale of instant love that lulled me into a false sense of security about motherhood, because the adoption of my second daughter was another story altogether.
First came the diarrhoea, then the projectile vomit. She woke ten times a night screaming. She was sick, grumpy, and very hard to love. Who wants to cuddle a baby that smells like curdled milk and acrid poo? I didn’t want to, but I did. I didn’t enjoy it, but I pressured myself to fulfill my motherly obligations. Even three straight nights sharing a bed with her in hospital didn’t buy me any bonding chips.
It didn’t help that the green-eyed monster possessed my eldest daughter. She would get her new sister in a headlock at any given chance. She was also keen on throwing hard objects at her head and pushing her over with the vengeance of a rugby player. Fearing a domestic homicide, I would separate them with the children’s safety gate in our playroom while I prepared breakfast.
The diarrhoea continued. So did the vomit, and the screaming ten times a night.
“I do not condone it, but I can understand how a mother shakes her baby,” I said to my husband after one night of sleep deprivation. He looked at me like I should be the one separated from my child with the playroom security gate.
Whatever hurdles my youngest daughter threw my way, I knew that she was mine, and that it was my duty to keep leaping over those barriers until I reached the finish line.
I did reach the finish line, even if it took several months. As my daughter overcame her sickness, she began to smile for the first time, and I fell in love with her smile. She started pulling funny faces and I would laugh. I caressed my cheek with her soft hair (while ignoring its similarity to Kim Jong Il). I soaked in the honey tone of her husky voice. And I realised I could genuinely say to her, “you didn’t grow in my tummy, you grew in my heart”. Some seeds just take longer to shoot.
However a parent bonds with their child – biological, fostered, or adopted – love and attachment grow in different ways and at different speeds.