During the wait. Adoption usually involves waiting. Some wait for months. Some wait for years. Some wait for decades. During all that time spent waiting, it is only natural that your brain begins to imagine this fantasy child, what he or she will look like, what being a parent will feel like, what this child will be like. Before long, no matter how hard you try not to create a fantasy child in your brain, no matter how hard you try not to get too excited, human nature has taken over and you have an image of who this child is.
Preconception. And then the day comes when this maybe child becomes a probably child. For some, that day is the day they are chosen by a prospective birth mother. For others, that day is the day that an official referral arrives for an actual child, one with an actual picture. Suddenly, this child isn’t just a figment of your imagination. By holding their picture in your hand or watching their movement on an ultrasound screen, this child goes from a hope you barely dare whisper to a person you love instantly. You begin to have preconceptions based on what they look like, what their expression is, even what they are wearing, as to what their personality will be.
Falling in love. You spend hours dreaming about your child. Even though you know you should try not to have expectations about what they will be like, what their personality is or how they will relate to you, it’s next to impossible not to have preconceived notions. After all those years of anticipation, you can’t help but fall completely in love with this child who you already feel as if you know.
Reality hits. In rare cases, the flesh and bone child may live up to your fantasy child, but most of the time, there is a disconnect between the two. The child you imagined would surely love you back right away (even if you know logically that this is not likely) and doesn’t pull away from you, spit at you, cry all night, or reject you. Not all cases of reality are as shocking as raging or attachment issues. Perhaps the child you pictured was quiet and the child you have turns out to be extremely outgoing and active. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is an adjustment from what you had prepared for.
Grieving the child that wasn’t. The discrepancy between the fantasy child or fantasy adoption and the reality can be one of the contributing factor of post adoption depression. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to acknowledge the loss of this imagined child or imagined life and grieve for that fantasy.
Accepting what is. Dreaming about adopting is very different from the reality of adopting. It is only after grieving for the child that wasn’t that you can truly begin to attach to the child that is.