What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Laura Belanger. 

What I want you to know about loving your adopted baby is that sometimes, it is not love at first sight. Sometimes, it happens slowly over time, and that is OK. It does not make it any less real, or make your child any less yours.

My husband and I suffered from secondary infertility. When our son was about a year old we began trying for a second child and were eventually told our best option was IVF. We talked about it one evening and decided that IVF wasn’t for us, but maybe foster/adoption was. Eight days later our youngest son was born and we brought him home from the hospital. Yes, I know adoption almost never happens like that. Yes, I know that we are very lucky (for many many reasons!).

But in those first weeks and months, I would stare at my baby and wonder if we had made a terrible mistake. I would wonder if I would ever be able to love him the way I loved our older son. Because, in those first weeks and months, I felt like more like a babysitter than a mother. I knew I was giving our baby good care, I just didn’t connect with him the way I had with our first. So many people asked me during that time if it was love at first sight, if it was just like giving birth. If I knew he was MY son the minute I saw him. And the truth is it was none of those things.

But as the months passed, I began to recognize that fierce fire of love and protection that I identify with being a mother. And I cut myself some slack. I realized that I had nine moths to fall in love with our older son before I ever met him. And that often during the long and excruciating wait for an adopted baby, parents are going through a similar process of falling in love with their baby to be. I needed more than the 8 days we had before the arrival of our baby, and that was OK.

Because now that baby is an incredible 2 ½ year old who I love every bit as much as his older brother. I have to remind myself more often than you would think that I didn’t actually give birth to him. And I know, with every ounce of my being, that he was always supposed to be with us.