Bonding…for the last two months, this word has been lingering in my mind day and night. As much as I hate to admit it, it hasn’t come super easy for me to bond with my new son. At first, I felt really, really bad about it. I mean, I loved this kid before I knew him. How could I be struggling with something so simple, so fundamental, as bonding?

But, in the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking with a much clearer mind (thank goodness!) and what I have discovered is that with my three biological children, bonding came naturally. It was never something I had to think about.   I remember nursing them in the wee hours of the morning and looking into those tiny little eyes, just staring into the darkness of those sweet newborn pupils. I remember getting lost in awe. I would touch their fingers and toes and rub their tiny hands and bald heads. Even when I was really tired and could barely stand to keep my eyes open, I could still feel their warmth and every little move they made.   As they got older, I would occasionally lay down with them for a nap and I would just hold their little hands and rub their fingers until they finally fell asleep. As they grew and became toddlers, I caught them when they toddled their first steps and collapsed into my arms. I stared into their eyes and tried to hold up my end of the conversation while they were telling me long stories in jibberish that I didn’t even come close to understanding. It never once dawned on me that what I was doing was so important. I just was being Mom. Now that I am in the midst of a completely different experience, I am so thankful that I did those things through the exhaustion, through the “I’ve got so much else I need to be doing” because I’m seeing firsthand how important it was (and still is!).

I don’t have that history with James. And boy does that hurt sometimes. It’s hard to know that those years are gone, never to return. So when he came home, though I don’t think I expected him to immediately bond to me, I know that I was shocked when it didn’t just magically happen over the first week.   It took me several weeks to realize that building a family is a marathon, not a sprint. Time is the only thing that will heal the hurts that he has had in his short 7 years.   And I’ve also realized that bonding is not actually something that just happens like I used to think. It is the direct result of a loving parent purposely lavishing love and affection and making connections. So, guess what? I have started holding his hand and rubbing his little fingers. I’ve started staring into his eyes while he tells me all about the video games going on in his mind, even though he might as well be speaking a different language. I’ve gone back to those early years, and begun to see those exhausting years in a whole new light.

You know, with this post, I wanted to do two things…first, I wanted to fill you all in on how we are doing and give you an update. Those have been pretty spotty lately and I apologize. This process is complicated and involves so many feelings and emotions that it’s difficult to put them into words. I have a lot more that I want to tell you about, but it’s just not time yet…so I’ll trust God’s timing and allow Him to lead the sharing of our story.

The second thing I wanted to do was to encourage the moms (and dads) who are in those early years, when you don’t think you’re doing much. I am seeing the fruit of my efforts from those early days with my biological children and the absence of those early bonding moments with my newest son. What you are doing matters. The weariness and tired…it’s all worth it. Trust me. Hold their hands, stare into their eyes, listen intently to their jibberish. And you know what? Then, when all that is done, get on Facebook, pick up your yarn, turn on the television to HGTV and let your mind rest when you can. This is hard work, parenting…and I’ve learned that reading the advice of all the experts can make you feel like you are either an A+ parent or a really sorry parent. And it can change daily-ok, hourly. I’m sick of all the articles saying what we should and shouldn’t do. In the last two months, I can sum up parenting in a few words: Follow God. Pray, pray, pray. Trust God. Love abundantly. Rest often.  

I’ve been really working on bonding the last two weeks. And two nights ago, after I had been up all night with yet another round of stomach bug with Hannah, I was sending the boys off to church without me, and as James was walking out the door, he turned around and said, “Love you, Mom.” Then, he looked back at me again and smiled really big, totally aware of what he had just said and the weight of those words. I still tear up when I think of that sweet moment. The Upward jersey he was wearing, and that great big grin on his face. I’ll never forget that moment. That was an amazing moment and it made the past two months SO worth it.

A New Chapter: A Family of 6

james is home

So it’s been five days since we officially welcomed James* as a permanent member of our family, and I know that so many of you who have been praying so faithfully for us are wondering how we are doing. So here is an update: We are adjusting…just as with any adjustment, there are smooth days and rough spots, but we are marveling at the work we are seeing within our family. In the last five days, we have said “no” to several things and that has really been because we are still in a period of adjustment, so we are being a little careful not to do too much out of the ordinary while we are still learning each other.

Tim and I have been amazed at this process. My mind always goes to the worst-possible scenario, so when we began thinking adoption, I think I envisioned every possible terrible event, and pondered whether or not I’d be up to the challenge. I’m not going to say that this has been a totally seamless transition, because that doesn’t happen when broken hearts are involved, but what has happened is that God has been faithful to us. God has been with us every single step. And the child that we have been missing for seven years is with us. He is here, sitting in our living room, calling us “Mom and Dad” happily playing Legos with Isaac. When I look at him, I see God at work.

When we first started this journey, I worried about my biological children…would they be ok, are we ruining their lives? But the last couple of weeks have blown me away. They have shown me that we are all in this together, and they have shown me that they are strong and courageous. Because every time I see them accepting James as one of them without a second thought, I see God at work.

Our transition has been miraculous at best. I have heard all three of our biological children call me Mom for the first time when prompted by me but it is an entirely new experience to hear someone chose to call you that. I can’t express how amazing this experience has been. It is like a piece has been missing from our family that James just stepped right in and filled without breaking stride. It’s incredibly difficult trying to verbalize or write about what our family is going through right now….and this comes from a person whose words tend to flow better from her fingers rather than her mouth. The struggle between redemption and heartbreak playing out in your home is not something easily put into words. I don’t want to give a false impression that this has been super easy. What I want to be sure to say however is that there is no doubt that this was God’s plan for our family, that this little boy is a blessing to us all, and that our family is so much more complete with him in it. We continue to ask for your prayers, and we want you to know how much we have felt the prayers sent up on our behalf. Never before have I experienced the power of prayer more than in these last few months, and I thank you, friends and intercessors. Your ministry for the Lord is mighty in our lives right now.

*This is not his birth name, it is his adoptive name