Most of the adoption literature focuses heavily on the child's attachment, while giving very little focus, or none at all, on the parents' attachment to the child. So, I am not going to discuss the child's attachment process here, since there are much better writers who have addressed this comprehensively.
I am writing this post as I have had the chance to encourage and pray with others that recently adopted and are stunned by their own feelings, or lack of them.
These are wonderful parents who "completely fell in love" with their children at referral. Then, once home for a week, a few weeks, a couple of months, the adrenaline is wearing off, and the exhaustion is seeping in. Along with it comes an evaluation of their emotions. These families were stunned, surprised, disappointed, despondent, some even despairing over their lack of emotional attachment.
I have been given the opportunity many times now to share with families some of the normal feelings and reactions parents experience. First of all, it is quite rare (although a wonderful blessing)to have instantaneous connection to your older child at placement. That makes complete sense to me. If someone put a child on my lap at the church nursery and said this child was now mine, I certainly wouldn't be completely attached to him. It takes TIME. Second of all, attachment DOES come. Some families shared the fear that they will never feel connected. Yes, they will. The more nurturing things they can do with their children, snuggling, rocking, picking up, carrying, hugging, stroking, tickling (yes, definitely even an older child)... the more those maternal juices flow.
After I returned home and knew I was committed to these kids, but not completely attached to them, I did some searching on this subject. God graciously kept bringing adoptive moms of older kids into my path. Many, many adoptive moms of older kids have stated that it generally takes half the child's age to the child's age at adoption to feel fully attached. If you are adopting a 6 month old, 3-6 months is no time. If you are adopting a 5 yr old, that time is significantly longer at 2-5 years. But remember, it is a continuum of attachment, not from unattached to fully attached in one moment. So, even during the process it IS good. I just thought this might be something to be aware of for those families that are waiting to bring their little ones home. This is TOTALLY not to discourage you, but actually to help you understand what many families experience, and if you are experiencing it, too, that is OK. Then, share your feelings with trusted people. These people can pray for you during the adjustment, and that is powerful and effective. And there are families that do experience the more immediate attachment. Awesome! Just give yourself permission to feel the way you do, without guilt. And bring it to God. But do love. It is an action word, anyway.
Tomorrow I have the privilege to meet with a dear woman who brought home their 4 yr old daughter recently. She is overwhelmed, discouraged, afraid. I am excited to bring her HOPE. This is part of the journey for many, but it wasn't meant to be walked alone. Certainly, God is THE daily strength and hope, and as she was able to be honest and vulnerable with me, I can also be a support, encouragement. I am excited to walk this road with her and celebrate with her when her little one is snuggled beautifully in her heart.