One of the scariest aspects of adoption unknowns is “the bond”. So I want to share my experiences with bonding with Nova here today.
I knew on paper what I needed to be prepared for… rejection, trauma and a mile long list of scary things. But I wasn’t scared. My heart was already Nova’s before I even met her. I felt so much love, but I wondered if someday when I looked back at my pre-Nova self if I would still think the love was real.
I know there was an awful lot of projection going on too- and that before we met I was living in my own fantasy of what being a mother was going to feel like or going to be like. But it was real love, and it was the beginning of our bond. I believe that all my stored up longing to be a mom helped me stay hopeful and patient during our early slow bonding phase.
When we first met it was everything it was supposed to be, but it didn’t go how I had imagined. My friend Ashley had texted me the day we were going to meet Nova saying, “Go in without any expectations”. Easier said than done, of course.
It was so strange in our first few days together to feel so much love for her, but also to feel so guilty and honestly, just weird. Because the way China adoptions work is so abrupt. It isn’t and doesn’t feel consensual. You know in your brain that this is all a normal and healthy part of grieving for your child, but it feels awful to cause them so much pain. Especially having first met. It’s true when everyone says, “just survive”.
It wasn’t a time to think and analyze her bond with me… and it wouldn’t be for a while. In those days we tried to focus on progress, even very small steps.
These photos were taken just a month after we met. Just one month. Can you believe that?
The bond was there. But it was also just beginning. These photos tell a part of our story, but not the whole story.
It was the greatest feeling in the world to begin earning Nova’s love and trust. But it felt very fragile and the growth wasn’t linear. It was a roller coaster. Some weeks we made big strides and it felt like it was all happening so quickly. Other weeks there were setbacks that terrified me because I never want to go back to the way things were in the first few weeks. But it never did. We kept moving forward and each challenge brought us closer and closer.
Now that we are more removed from it Jeremy can be more honest with me. In our first weeks with Nova he didn’t want to hurt me by pointing out how different she acted when I was around. But it didn’t matter- I knew. We didn’t need to over-talk it in that phase. We just needed to keep looking forward.
Now he says that he sees a bond in us that is different from his- because his came so quickly and I had to (for lack of a better term, forgive me) “earn it”.
To this day, our bond is something I am conscious of at all times. I am always mentally tracking our progress and setbacks even though I probably do not need to be analyzing each scenario so closely. But the special thing about it is that since it’s not something we have always had since day one, it’s something I value and take so much pride in. It’s something, the first thing, we built together. Nova + Mama.
Looking back. I think every stage was so important for our growth. Me crying in my car wishing to be a mom helped form me into someone who could patiently wait for a little two year old heart to open up. And practicing patience so early on made me far more grateful for each new phase we have entered together.
Every whisper, every kiss and hug, every time she calls out for me- it’s like little miracles that I get to experience. I will never take our bond for granted.
*Photos by Amber Ulmer (taken for our den tour back in January, but it was her first time to meet Nova and she maybe took 100 or so photos of her too, which I recently discovered in our dropbox and immediately teared up).