Adoptive mother tells how she was unable to call her adopted child “my son”
Nothing prepared me for the impact of bringing home an unknown little person and of learning to love him like my son – despite all of the preparation courses and all of the advice from the social workers.
I had to find out by myself and then handle post-adoption depression, the ambivalence of an adoptive mother to her child and especially my child’s trauma, who suddenly found himself in a new place, surrounded by new people, new sounds and new smells. A similar thing happened to my husband from the paternal point of view.
What about the post-adoption support by social services? In my experience, frankly, they were of no use. Would you trust them not to take the child back, or blame you in any way, if you told them that you were struggling? So, unless an adoptive parent has a friend or a close relative who has adopted, they’re alone with their child in a tangle of emotions.
What do you mean ‘my son’? Who?
With time I found practical ways to manage complicated situations and my desire is to share them with other adoptive parents and help them feel like they’re not alone.
When little Everet was first placed with us one of the first dramas I had to deal with was the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to call him “my son”. Everyone asked: “how nice is it to have your new son?”, and: “are you glad that you finally have a son?”, but at the time I just smiled and nodded blankly.
I’d be thinking: “What do you mean ‘my son’? Who? That baby who just arrived who I do not even know”? It seems like an extreme and ungrateful attitude now, but it’s true, it happened to me! I couldn’t relate, my mind did not recognise him as my son and the word “son” to me was empty of meaning - to the point that I could not say it. When I tried to say the words “my son” I sounded like The Fonz from Happy Days when he tries to say sorry. I could only produce a pathetic babble. That got me in tears every single time.
Love is a seedling that grows slowly; bringing home the little one was my way to plant the seed and now I just had to be patient and wait for it to germinate
Why was that happening? Over time I realised a very simple thing: love does not come with a switch to turn it on-and-off when you want it. Love is a seedling that grows slowly; bringing home the little one was my way to plant the seed and now I just had to be patient and wait for it to germinate. But in the meantime, what could I call Everet if not my son?
One day, after much thinking, praying and hoping to find a solution, eureka! I'll call him “my child!” It was such a simple solution and it worked wonders. “My” was true because he was with me, in my house and in my life; “child” was right as well because he was, as a matter of fact, a child. While the words “my son” implied an emotional bond – and one I did not yet feel - the words “my child” reflected a simple fact and for this reason they were acceptable and easy for me to say and accept.