When we adopted Bunny, I was a newbie, I was scared. I wanted a child but I was also terrified of children, they cry and you have to figure out why. You are responsible for everything when it comes to children and if you make a mistake you could mess it all up. That is scary.
Since I wasn't carrying Bunny inside of me, those maternal instincts never kicked it. The baby was always this hypothetical concept, it wasn't real. It was sort of real when we got her picture. I loved her but the picture could have been of anyone's child. The reality that I was going to be a parent, didn't truly kick in until they placed her in my arms. Oh my god, this is my baby.
For all those months we waited for her, my body was not telling my brain that there was a baby coming. There were no hormonal messages being sent saying you better get ready. I mean, objectively I knew a baby was coming but it didn't always feel like it. I knew I had to prepare in some way. But how?
Well I did what any self respecting, anal retentive law talking gal would do. I read books, lots and lots of books. I read books on parenting, on adoption, on anything remotely related to the subject. I thought the books would help. They did. I thought they would provide the answer, the magic bullet if you will. They did not.
I'm glad I read the books. I even referred to a few from time to time. But they didn't really help me become a parent. That I did on my own (with help from Bunny), through trial and error. Most of the time I was successful. Sometimes my efforts were a failure and I learned from them.
In between the time we adopted Bunny and the time we started Turtle's adoption, our state instituted an education requirement for all prospective adoptive parents. In order for the state to approve your homestudy and for your adoption to move forward, you are required to have 16 hours of educational training (10 if you are already a parent). I think this is a great idea. Heck, it should be required for all people before they become parents (but the state can't exactly regulate that).
So I went about fulfilling my educational requirements through on line training and reading books. I had no problem with it, I viewed it as something akin to the continuing education requirements I needed to maintain my law, financial and insurance licenses. In other words, I viewed it just like the geek I am.
But then as I actually started reading the books and completing the courses, I began to completely freak out about parenting. Not about parenting Turtle (well maybe a little, what with the fear of the unknown and all) but about parenting the child I am currently parenting, Bunny.
I know adopted children have grief related to their adoption even if they are too young to remember the event. I know that Bunny may have memories of the way she left her birth family and went in to orphanage care, on some deep fundamental level. I know that she will have questions about what happened and why. I know that I don't really have the answers she is looking for. I know that I will have to help her come to grips with her past in a way that is right for her.
I know all of this intellectually, in this big, over educated brain of mine. I do. But in my heart, the heart that loves my daughter more than anything, more than air itself, this knowledge scares me. It scares the shit out of me. Reading something a long the lines of "grief over the loss suffered during adoption can arise at any time and may not have a triggering event." is not what my mushy, weepy heart needed to hear.
So I obsess and over-analyze everything. Every behavior, every action takes on new meaning. "Did she do that because . . . ? " "Is she angry or upset because she is . . . ?" How do I know? How can I tell? OhMyGodWhatAmIDoingWrong?
When I get like this, I need to step back and take a deep breath. I need to let my brain be in charge. Most, if not all of her behaviors can be explained by one thing, the fact that she is THREE. She is trying to find her place in the world, figure out how far she can push, what she can get away with. Its normal.
I need to trust my instincts. I need to follow the path we decided on, discussing Bunny's adoption as openly as possible in an age appropriate manner. But most of all, I think I need to stop reading these books, they are really messing with me.