There’s something magical about the 9-month mark with a biological child. You’ve probably seen the 9 months in/9 months out photos circulating from new mothers. It’s a time when personalities are starting to emerge, tangible preferences arise, first words are imitated, foods are explored, and babies are no longer content to sit still in one area of the room when there’s a whole world out there to discover.
I think there’s something magical about 9-months home too.
Attachment feels so much less fragile now. It feels like he might actually love us. Like really, truly love us.
And Lord knows, we are head over heels for him.
There’s less “special” adoption treatment, now that we know we aren’t pushing him away with every unfamiliar move. There’s space for a true timeout instead of quiet time in mommy’s lap. I can leave his room at night before he falls asleep and know that he will babble to his favorite blanket until he nods off. There are arguments with brothers over sharing favorite toys. There are no more Oreos just for being cute; now you actually have to eat your dinner.
It was absolutely necessary to tread lightly and accommodate his grief and anxieties in this first 6 months. Our attachment happened quickly, but his took longer. At first, he tolerated us during the day and resented us at night (and understandably so. I hold no bitterness or blame for his anger. It isn’t fair or his fault that he was put in a position where international adoption was the best plan for his life. There are so many factors, so many things that could have happened differently, but absolutely NONE of them were in his control. If your adopted child is angry, they have good reason. It’s important we don’t forget that as adoptive parents.)
Slowly he began to like us, not all at once, but one family member at a time.
And now? Now this is his home, and we are his family. He accepts us. He prefers us. He runs to us. He glares at the girl giving him a haircut instead of grinning and giggling in hopes he will be loved. Does that sound like progress? Maybe not to an average parent. But for an adopted toddler, YES! HE GLARES AT STRANGERS! That is a beautiful, wonderful sign of attachment. He doesn’t need to win you over, because he has confidence in our love for him. He doesn’t need to mommy shop because he has a mommy already. Bless. Thank the Lord.
Listen, friends. We want him to like you. We just need him to like us more.
I don’t know if it’s helpful to tell you a timeline for all of it, the last 9 months of this life together. Because truly, every family is different. And here is an example:
I saw pictures of toddlers kissing their new parents in the Seoul airport, calling parents Mom and Dad in the first two weeks home, picking up English in the first month.
I have waited 9 months to be meaningfully called Mama, but it happened this week. I waited 9 months to get a real unprovoked, intentional, properly executed kiss from my son. It happened this week. We have had a major communication barrier for 9 months, but my son now tells me, “Hi Mama” and “Wawa” (water), and “ma-ah” (more) and “hi dada” and “bah bah” (bye bye) and “ni ni” (Night night) and eye (yes, his actual eye. He pokes it and says EYE), and tonight for the first time he tried singing along with his sweet little babbling voice while I sang him his bedtime song. None of the words or sounds or tune were right, but it was one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard all the same.
Once upon a time, I found out my oldest son had a speech condition called apraxia, and I thought the world was falling apart. I stayed up so many nights scared I would never know his precious thoughts, or someone would hurt him and he wouldn’t be able to tell me, or he would be bullied or excluded for being different. I waited years, actual YEARS, with my son before I heard him call me mama or say I love you. And it was hard, so very hard. But I am so THANKFUL now. All of that prepared me for this. Because it took 9 months while it took so many children weeks, and it was okay. I knew there are far more important ways to know your child than to hear words out of their mouth. Words are one form of communication. Love doesn’t need words. It doesn’t need a shared language. It doesn’t need medical certainties or developmental milestones.
For 9 months, we have worked on making sure Sam knows he is loved, above all else. The rest is secondary. It would happen when it happened.
And now in this magical season of 9 months home, it is indeed happening.
God makes beauty from ashes. Never forget that.