Today’s adoption post is brought to you by Kim Van Brunt. Enjoy!
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“When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”
It was only 20 minutes after setting foot in Africa for the first time that I felt it. We had purchased our visas, gathered our suitcases and were rolling them smooth toward the clear glass partition, hearts beating wild, knees buckling. I hadn’t seen you yet. Somewhere in that mass of beautiful dark faces was one that already belonged to us. Our son was waiting.
I wanted to run away.
Fear screamed at me to get out of there, to return home to safe, familiar, known. Anxiety tugged at my jacket sleeve, saying I could just close my eyes and turn around, make it all go away. It was my last chance.
It can’t be even a second later and you’re in my arms, a little thing for 8 months old, such a solemn expression. Your life’s experience is showing on your face. You’re confused, wary, quiet.
I look into your eyes and you look into mine. Finally.
I say hello, but to a stranger.
You feel like someone else’s child.
You don’t know me, and I don’t love you.
Now my heart is pounding again, unbridled fear has come roaring back and threatens to pull me completely under this time. This is supposed to be your child, Shame sneers. Where is the miracle? Where is the love?
I turn my heart upside down trying to find the right emotion, desperate to feel what I thought I was supposed to feel, and all the time I’m hoping it doesn’t show on my face. I’m in the moment but outside it, I can’t believe it’s happening like this, I don’t know what we’ve done anymore, or why.
The photos of the moment show me beaming, couldn’t-be-happier, and if you squint a little, you can even believe it’s love at first sight. They look every bit like the “gotcha day” photos and videos I watched over and over before it was our turn. They represent everything I believed to be true and wasn’t. Not for me.
And though at the time I felt like a fraud and a failure, now I see I was doing it exactly right.
Over the next days and months when I was learning to love our son, I acted as if I already did.
When he cried and screamed and pushed me away in grief, I acted like I felt patient and kind.
Though it felt like he was someone else’s child, I acted as if he was mine.
Now I know that it wasn’t dishonest. It was faith. Believing in what I could not see, trusting in what I did not feel. I was living in the hope that my heart would grow into a love I couldn’t conceive.
Months later, I had had already repeated the actions of love maybe a thousand times when it happened, right in the middle of the most mundane moment.
I was tucking my son’s blanket around him at bedtime, just the way he likes it. I straightened up beside his crib and for no reason, my heart spoke the truth I’d been seeking: I love this boy. He is my son, and I can feel it now, finally, all the way down to my bones.
Faith had become sight. That was the true miracle, and I had been practicing it all along.
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Kim Van Brunt is a writer, mother, wife and world-changer. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and three children and is working on her first book, which will be about adoption and the hidden emotions adoptive parents experience. Find her on Twitter @kimvanbrunt or Facebook at facebook.com/kimvanbrunt. She blogs about faith, family and adoption at kimvanbrunt.com.
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Prior adoption and foster care posts include: