The Battle for Bonding

The Battle for Bonding

Risa & Me

What if it’s a battle–this struggle to bond fully with my adoptive children? Two years after bringing them home from Ethiopia, mournful thoughts of pre-five children still attack my mind. A moment of all is well, followed by hot flashes of frustration and questioning.

Bringing adopted children home seems battle enough. The paperwork, the waiting, the returned paperwork with letter attached—“re-do”. And, if all this isn’t painful enough, suddenly rules change mid-way in an already stacked-against-you process.  The courts decrease the number of cases they’ll see. The legitimacy of a child’s orphan status is questioned. Another agency, from another country circumvents the system,  causing all waiting families and children to wait longer.

When we were adopting, these things were seen as obvious battles to fight. Spiritual warfare for the Christian. A call to gird loins and bear arms. We held prayer vigils, quoted Scripture, had virtual breakfast together. We prayed for referral dates, court dates and travel dates, praying against the schemes of the enemy and for God’s will to be done. I was energized. The opposition was obvious. Satan hates unity. He hates outward expressions of God’s adoption of us. Certainly he was in the details of any potential derailment.

However, the other side of adoption, the “forever family” side, seems suspiciously akin to post pregnancy– so much focus on planning, preparing and dreaming of the moment; so little understanding of reality. When you’re pregnant, no one explains in detail hemorrhoids, itchy stitches, rock-hard engorged breasts, cracked nipples and staff infections. No one points out the back fat you failed to notice while your belly was growing in front of you or the 12 month zombie state in which you would perpetually live, once sweet baby emerges from your inners now wreaking havoc on your outers. In adoption world, much ado is made of getting baby (or children) in your arms. Other than your social worker (ours was great, by the way), who does the best she can to prepare you for possible issues, most bonding talk is focused on getting baby (or child) to bond with you—not the other way around. And, in all honesty, if there was much emphasis on the later, would I have heard it?

If the enemy worked so desperately to keep my children separated from our family, what makes me think the war is over once they’re home? In fact, for all the intensity I felt in the pre-travel stages of adoption, I had no idea the sheer unleashing of angry wrath I would encounter on the other side–this bonding side.

What makes this post-adoption battle so insidious? The answer is not easily understood, which is part of its genius (if you’re the enemy). First, not everyone experiences struggle with bonding. In fact, from my perspective, the strugglers are the minority—which, I think, is part of the lie. Are we really in the minority or just too guilty and scared to speak up? Feelings of aloneness pervade. Score for the bad guy.

Second, struggles with bonding strikes at the core of motherhood. Women are gifted with a special ability to nurture, feel and act on compassion. Mothers are relational. They see into the heart of their children straight through to the soul—good and bad. When a mother looks at her child and none of those instinctive mother traits arise, the world turns black. Lights go out. Fear grips tightly. The odds are stacking against her. Score two.

Finally, and maybe most difficult to keep unraveled, is the cunning way Satan twists resources of help into instruments of harm. Everything is turned to a science. Bonding becomes something to be conquered–the quicker the better. Time is of the essence. Chapter after chapter, book after book is written with advice, anecdotes and ultimate stories of complete and total bonding. While these resources are intended for good, somehow the enemy whispers lies (quite easily, I might add); “But, you aren’t that good. You won’t have such luck. Your struggle is not normal—there’s something wrong with you. Their situation was different. Their children were more receptive. See, that woman says she feels the same for both birth and adopted children—too bad for you,” and on it goes.

I’ve spent most days battling the wrong person. Rather than aim arrow at the Evil One, I wage war against myself. Some sad thought pops into my mind, and I entertain it. Then I feel guilt over it. I will myself to think something more positive, but the scab is already scratched open bleeding and oozing infection of self-loathing mingled with self-centered whining.

But, what if I were able to see the true nature of the beast against bonding. In Jon and Stasi Eldredge’s book, Captivating, they explain a special hatred Satan has for woman. “She is the incarnation of the Beauty of God,” they write.  “More than anything else in all creation, she embodies the glory of God. She allures the world to God. He [Satan] hates it with a jealousy we can only imagine.”

So, what if my unique nurture love is more powerful than fathomed and that’s why the battle rages this wickedly? If this is true—which I believe it is—then how do I keep the proper perspective? How do I stay in the fight? I know the Scripture; take up my sword of the Spirit that is the Word of God. I could make it an outward act—memorize, pray the words—spitting them back. Memorizing is good, but not if it stays on the surface. God begs for more and frankly the battle cannot be won from the front only. I must learn to sneak from behind. Open the door to God’s overwhelming love for me, letting His truths drip upon my children. Bask in His total acceptance. Become a clay pot with holes, emitting light-love onto those in my daily presence.

Be filled. Be tipped. Be emptied. And remember the enemy. Not focused on him, but not deceived, either. He’s real, he hates what I have to offer and he’s working overtime to thwart God-transforming love to those God has given me.

And finally, find support. “Where there are two or three in my name, there I am,” says the Lord. “The prayers of the righteous, avails much,” reminds James. I’ve never seen a battle played out one soldier against thousands. How ridiculous. Yet, that’s how I’ve battled these past two years. Mostly alone. An occasional purging with trusted friend—maybe more whining that fighting. But real, authentic, united battle with other like-minded sisters? Hardly.

God bring me strength, perseverance and fellow warriors for the battle. Amen.




8 Replies to “The Battle for Bonding”

  1. Awesome stuff here, Sherri. I commend your transparency and vulnerability. I think people have to do so much convincing of their family and friends that adoption (especially cross-racial) is a good thing, that when it is hard, they’re afraid to admit it. We’ve dealt with that a little, being afraid to say, “hey this has not been easy or fairy-tale-like.” Great writing – thanks for sharing your soul. I hope it benefits other adoptive parents.

    1. Rob,
      Thank you so much for your encouragement. I’m so thankful for your feedback. : ) Also thankful you shared your wife for an afternoon of what what was a crazy busy time for your family. I love spending time with her; wish we lived closer. Grace and Peace.

  2. Amazing thoughts Sherri! Girl, you can count on me to stand beside you. We haven’t talked in a while but know I think of your family often and pray for you all. I agree on how no one talked to you in terms of you bonding to the children. I feel that is soooo left out for families…. it was for us. We talk and talk about how to help the children bond to us, but we forget that the parents have to bond too. Thank you for sharing your heart – it’s so powerful and squashes the enemy dead in his tracks!! Let’s catch up soon!!!

    1. I think of you all the time, too, Kim. I could use a girl pep talk, quite honestly : ) I don’t know that I’ve ever done a prayer warrior group so successfully long distance, but wouldn’t it be great to have a group of women all going through the same thing, who could encourage and pray for one another? I know there are so many who come home dazed and confused and the range and depth of emotions and struggle aren’t something you can just share with anyone. It can be very lonely. Thanks for reading and keeping up with me through my move over to wordpress, too! : ) Yes… catch up soon. Love to you, Friend!

  3. Oh, wow. I truly cannot tell you how deeply this penetrated my heart. I needed to hear it SO BADLY. We have adopted four times from China…and the latest two have been so extremely difficult, not because the kids were a challenge so much…but because the enemy has been on attack in every direction. His relentless whispers about how we were wrong to adopt again has left us feeling so defeated.

    BUT GOD!

    Thank you so much for sharing your heart (my pastor’s wife sent me the link)…I plan to link it to others from my blog, if that’s okay. 🙂

    Thank you.

  4. Lori, Thank you so much for sharing your struggles with me; I’m thankful this post was encouraging to you.

    Yes, please, if you feel this would encourage others, then share it!

    Standing together with you,

  5. Oh my! This was sooooo perfect for me. A friend of mine that new I was struggling emailed your link to me. Thank you for helping me to know that I am not the only one. We brought our daughter home in January and it has been very difficult. I didn’t see this coming at all. Thank you for your honesty!!

    1. You’re welcome, Jennell. These things are hard to write about, but harder to live with being quietly isolated. My love and prayers for you! Stay connected!!

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