"What If?"

What if I don’t love this child the same as I love the others? This question is probably every pre-adoptive parent’s most secret worry. Here are the words that reassured me.

plant growing hearts, as parents grow new hearts to bond with each new child

The other day a friend called and asked if I would be willing to meet with a young woman she knows who is thinking about adopting a baby. I said yes, of course. I am always eager to share with and support any person who is interested in adoption.

The young woman and I met at a local coffee shop and, over cappuccino and cake, we chatted; just the basics at first: reputable adoption agencies, the stress of home visits, the never-ending paperwork that is involved, and so on. Then she told me that she has biological children already, as did I before adopting my daughter. She hesitated and looked away and in that moment I saw it: that one question she wanted to ask but was too afraid to say. That one fear that feels too shameful to admit.

“You can ask me anything,” I said. “Really, anything.”

She looked at me, her eyes meeting mine and whispered, “What if….”

What if…
What if I don’t love this child the same as I love the others?

This question is probably every pre-adoptive parent’s most secret worry.

Many years ago I had my first baby and she quickly took over every part of my heart and soul. She became the very essence of my life, so when I found out I was pregnant again, I was terrified.

What if?
What if I couldn’t love another child as much as I loved her?
What if I couldn’t fit any more love into my heart?
What if I felt differently about this child?

At my child’s next doctor’s visit, my pediatrician was tapping my infant daughter’s knees and looking in her ears when he casually asked me how my pregnancy was going. My pediatrician was one of those wise, grandfatherly types and, for some reason, when he asked, instead of responding with the usual, “Great! We are so excited!” I suddenly found myself blurting out all of the terrible “What ifs?” I had been holding inside.

My doctor calmly handed me my baby, smiled, and said, “The human body is truly an amazing thing. I do believe it has been scientifically proven that for each child a mother has, she doesn’t just share her heart, she grows a brand new one.”

Years later when beginning my adoption journey to my youngest child I again found myself consumed with the “What ifs?” I was afraid to share my fears with anyone, and then I remembered those words from so many years before: “For each child a mother has, she grows a new heart.” Words I had seen proven over and over again.

So as I sat there, 10 years after adopting my child, with this young woman who was bravely wrestling with the same worries that so many of us have at the beginning. I nodded, smiled, and told her what I now know to be the absolute truth, “For each child a mother has, no matter how that child enters your life, a new heart will always grow. It is a scientific fact.”

Anne Sawan is psychologist and a writer from Massachusetts. Her writing has been featured on Adoptive Families, Brain-Child, Bluntmoms, The Mid, and Scary Mommy. Her picture book, What Can Your Grandma Do?, won the International Picture Book Contest held by Inclusive Works in 2014. It was recently released in Europe and will be published in the U.S. by Clavis Publishing in May 2017. She is a mother through birth and adoption.

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