The title of this post makes me cringe. If you decided to read this you must be curious, horrified or empathetic. Just typing the words “I haven’t loved my daughter the same,” makes my stomach turn with shame. This post isn’t about how I don’t love my daughter though: it’s about how I do.
If you are ready for a very sincere look at post adoption life, this is it.
I believe in writing for the benefit of those who read and when I first created this blog, that was my goal, even if it meant laying my heart bare for the world to see. If it benefits others, so be it.
This post started as thoughts and conversation. One was with my husband. We were lying in bed and I should’ve been trying to get sleep but instead I kept admitting to him disappointments about our adoption transition.
I want to make it very clear that I am NOT disappointed with the actual adoption. I believe it was God ordained and that our daughter is a precious gift. The transition has been rough and while it’s only been three months, it feels longer. Often though, I’m disappointed by myself.
I admitted my grief over the Christmas season. It felt so much like I’d been drowning with kids. I hadn’t been able to do things I loved to do like making cookies for neighbors or decorating with the greenery my husband had brought home.
“Do you think she’s cute?” I asked Bodie from my side of the bed. “Yes,” was his quick reply, “I think she’s very sweet and cute.” My stomach turned as I shared that I struggled to see her cuteness.” I know she’s cute but I just don’t see it because I’m so overwhelmed by her.” I sadly replied.
I went on about my guilty feelings. “Why do I have more patience for my biological kids? I feel like I give them way more grace and don’t get angry at all. When she does something wrong I feel this volcano wanting to erupt inside of me even while I act calm?”
Clearly I hadn’t loved my daughter the same.
True Love for My Daughter
Early on I learned that “Love is a verb” and “Love is a choice” but I’m here to say that these are only partly true.
Our feelings are influenced by our heart and when our heart isn’t in it, our feelings prove it. I think those Greeks were onto something by giving different names to different loves.
“Agape” is the name for the ultimate love. Unconditional love. A love given freely and sincerely without the expectation of return.
I’d been giving this girl my version of “Agape” by trying to make her my own. I’d hoped that it would be love at first sight. I didn’t realize how much my heart hadn’t been in it. Or maybe it was just the fact that I was TIRED. Tired of giving constant attention to someone who’d never been given the love she needed.
Building Love over time
During my discouragement I found some other Greek terms for love. “Storge” is the love between family members. Pragma is an endearing love built over time.
Greekcitytimes.org describes Pragma in this way:
It is a love that has aged, matured and about making compromises to help the relationship work over time, also showing patience and tolerance.
This LOVE cannot be built without relationship and that takes time.
But you know what? I was still brought back to “Agape.” Yes, love may grow over time, but I need love to give this precious girl right now.
Where to Find Love
One night I’d been praying for “HELP” once again. I felt as though I should go back to a day in my devotional I’d missed.
The title was “Because He first Loved Us.” Here’s a bit of it…
From the moment a baby enters the world, she is fed, clothed and protected. She is given a name and becomes part of a family. She knows love from the moment she’s welcomed into her mother’s arms. Her sense of security and trust begin with her relationship with her parents.Foundations by Ruth Chou Simons and Troy Simons
You can imagine how my attention was held as I thought how this wasn’t anything that my daughter experienced after coming into this world. I read on…
In the same way that a baby is helpless to give love apart from first being shown love,we would be unable to love God at all if he hadn’t loved us first. And just as a child knows the love of her parent by spending time with her mom or dad, we grow in our love for others when we grow in our love for the Lord.Foundations By Ruth Chou Simons and Troy Simons
Had I forgotten the one who’d first loved me?
My mind thought back to the time at 13 I fell to my knees with a new understanding of his love for me. I thought back to when I’d had my third son and things were enjoyable, not because of my own doing, but because of believing that HE WOULD TAKE CARE OFF ME THROUGH IT.
Embrace the Pain
Nights before this I laid on the floor waiting for our daughter to fall asleep. I cried out to God that I didn’t want to live like this. I wanted this year to be over. This was too hard! The answer I received was “embrace the pain.”
One thing I heard a lot running high school long distance were those words. Lean into the pain when it gets to be too much. You’ll either crumble or decide to run with it. If you can accept the pain, then you can run faster.
I am amazed at how much pain God went through to adopt us, his kids, even when our relational love was not there.
He jumped in.
He had no guarantees of us responding.
How does a family incorporate a chosen and precious adopted child into their family? We remember God’s love for us.
“We love because he first loved us.”1 John 4:19
Do you know how much he actually loves you? He truly loves you more than just someone going through the motions. He had the sacrifice of both giving his life for us to live AND seeking relationship with us as father and friend. That’s the love I want to have for my children.
Find the Lies
When I got a break long enough to wash my face and brush my teeth this morning I realized how much my anxiety comes from my inability to believe I will be cared for.
It came with my first child. I felt like I’d NEVER get a break. But I did and I survived. Even now with four kids, I hear the faint whisper of God asking me if I trust he will “provide” my needs, my breaks. I don’t need to struggle loving my daughter the same even when overwhelmed.
Could it be that my imperfect “agape” love could be related to not believing that I too will be taken care of?
Today, was a much better day. I enjoyed the kids for the first time in a long time. Yes, even my girl. I saw her cuteness and I had more patience.
I knew I was perfectly cared for by my father.
This parent has known her daughter but three months and is seeing lots of whining, whimpering and cries for attention and this parent loves her girl. At the same time, this parent gets annoyed and extremely overwhelmed. It’s a process.
If you are struggling to love someone I can’t tell you HOW to do it but I will tell you to:
- sit with your father God and ask him to remind you how much HE LOVES YOU.
- Ask him to point out the lies you are believing in your own ability to love.
Finally, I’ve learned it doesn’t happen with a snap of a finger. There is a process to walk through and it is for good. You will learn so much more by “leaning into the pain” and asking God to show his love in it rather than skipping to the next chapter.
Oh. And get a break.
If Jesus had skipped to the next chapter we wouldn’t know “Agape” love.
Though the love I have for my adopted daughter may have differed from my other kids, I can’t wait to see how this love will grow. I know it will because I have the assurance of my Father God’s love for me.
From one mamma “leaning into the pain” to the next, thanks for following this beautiful journey.
From the Hilltop-even when in the valley,
P.S. If you are involved in adoption and would or would’ve benefited from a course helping you to transition well-let me know. I’ve been considering collaborating with other adoptive families to help other families navigating adoption.
Check out our adoption journey here!