GAY COUPLE ADOPTING – ATTACHMENT & BONDING
Shortly after our appearance on the Afternoon Express program, I recall reading a comment on the Afternoon Express page asking how easy it was for us to bond with our son after he was placed with us. To be honest, the bonding process was the furthest thought from my mind. Perhaps I was being naive, but in my heart of hearts no thought about ‘bonding’ or ‘bonding the right way’ crossed my mind and that there could possibly be a challenge as far as this was concerned. I only saw the completion of the paperwork as the ultimate possible challenge for us.
Darren and I were both informed by our social worker that to make the bonding process with our son easier during the first 10 days we should:
- not use cologne or aftershave for the first 10 days to allow the bonding and attachment process with our son to be easier as it would allow him to become accustomed to our scent that much quicker
- when we hold him, try and not wear any clothing so that he becomes familiar with our scent, body vibration and warmth and also so that he is able to connect with our beating hearts
Attachment is important as it’s the child’s way of responding to the feeling of being wanted by the parents. Remember that bonding is an attachment between parents and child is most importantly achieved by spending quality time with your child.
South Africa doesn’t currently have specific leave regulations for parents that adopt. A new Bill has been tabled that should change this, but for now, it’s left to the discretion of the company that you work for to determine if you are entitled to any “special” leave or you will have to take time off using your annual leave. I had 30 days that I was permitted to work from home, so technically no leave from work. Darren at the time worked for a more progressive company who treated the placement of our son with us, similar to a mother that has given birth, so was entitled to 3 months off on paid leave. This time home with our son was invaluable. It allowed Darren and I to form the all-important solid bond with our son that even today grows stronger on the back of a solid grounding process that we are so thankful for.
I firmly believe that the bond between our son and I was formed the minute we saw each other. He was still a baby, but when he was brought to us to see him for the first time the day he was placed, the smile on his face and how he stretched out his hands to be lifted will forever be etched in my heart. From this day forth the bond between our son and I has only grown stronger and deeper. We had our bedtime routine, he would feed on his bottle of milk, I would read and just before he dozed off it would be time for me to sing him a Portuguese lullaby I’d heard millions of times growing up. He loved it. As the initial 30 days passed ever so quickly for me, our bond grew stronger. There was no doubt he knew how much he was loved, but more importantly for me was the bond he and I had developed and continues to be what I’d always dreamt the bond between my son and I would be.
Although our son bonded reasonably quickly with me, it took a little while longer for Darren’s bond with our son to grow in strength. Perhaps my bond with our son was faster because I’d grown up in a large family full of children always running around and from time to time, I’d be helping out with the caring or bottle feeding. Darren, on the other hand, comes from a much smaller family, made up merely of parents and siblings as cousins were always too far away. Children running around was not the norm, but the exception. Needless to say, becoming a parent was never in his immediate schedule or plan. Understandably, I expected him to take a while longer to bond with our son. It did. It took longer than it did for me, but it was formed much sooner than expected. Today, Darren and our son’s bond is strong and healthy.
Parent and child relationships are complex, irrespective of whether they biological or adoptive. There’s no set template for bonding and attachment as it differs between every parent and child. It’s important to appreciate that a healthy and strong relationship between parent and child is a lifelong journey and is not without its ups and downs. While bonding time differs with every situation, every child and every parent, it is possible if you put in the effort. Your child needs love from you as their parent. Your child also needs you to be patient. Some days will be better than others, but it’s so worth the journey with your child in the long run.
Bonding takes time.
Bonding takes courage.
Bonding takes love.
If it all becomes too much for you, reach out to other adoptive families who have already experienced what you’re going through, speak to your social worker or join an adoption support group who may have answers.
“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you as you are to them.”―Desmond Tutu