I think this is a really good question. I also think it is something that people are sometimes afraid to ask or talk about.
The short answer is: Yes, we are totally in love with these kiddos and we also still really love S too. Was it instant? Yes and no.
God began shaping our hearts to these kids before they came into our home. When we were in the “waiting stage” of foster care, I often thought about and even missed our kids. I loved them and I didn’t know who they were. So, on the day that S arrived and when M & T arrived, I already loved them because God gave us love for them. It was just there; I can’t explain it.
On one particular night, when S was being very inquisitive (and stalling bedtime), he asked me why we didn’t just have a baby. Although he never called us mom or dad, he had put the pieces together about the roles in our house. I told him that maybe someday we would have a baby, but that we had prayed for him and that we wanted to take care of him because we loved him even before we knew who he was. This kind of boggled his mind and he brought it up a few times. Honestly, I think it was sort of comforting to him to know that we wanted him around even though he really did want to go home to his parents.
There is really nothing I can compare to the first few days or weeks of a placement with kids. I’m going to talk about M & T’s case specifically here. Having a two year old and a newborn suddenly in your home cannot be anything but chaotic. You go into survival mode. You just do what needs to be done and I don’t think you are really processing or thinking about your feelings at that point. M came into our home incredibly frustrated and scared (and rightly so). She screamed for two hours the first night she was with us; there was nothing you could do to comfort her. We were just focusing on making her feel safe and comfortable (which is what we did for T as well). Within two weeks, she was a happier kid and she continues to be happier and more at ease with each day.
Our experience was that after those first couple of weeks life began to feel normal. Our house was calmer and we could begin to think about how we felt toward these two little ones. And we loved them. We continue to spend time focusing on attachment and helping M & T feel secure and comfortable. As we did things to enable their attachment to us, we attached to them and we loved them. I’m unsure of how someone could provide such constant and intentional care without falling in love. As we head toward reunification, I can tell you my feelings for them have not changed a bit. I feel even more determined to demonstrate to them what a family should be like. I want them to be able to recognize security, comfort and love as they go forward in life. My prayer is that their mom will continue to provide these things for them and that they will know what they are because they have lived it out in our home.
Some people are of the mindset that they could never love a “non-biological” child as much as they love their “own.” In my opinion, that is more of a choice that someone makes in their own mind and heart rather than a universal truth. I’m deeply saddened when I hear people say these (or, even worse, when I hear adoptive parents say this). In my experience, they are missing out on a great deal of joy and love that God has graciously poured into our lives in the last five months. I have no doubt that there is enough love for every kiddo that comes into our home, no matter how they arrive or how long they stay. I’m sure there are cases where attachment and bonding are much more difficult and situations are more challenging. We may find ourselves in that situation one day and I’m trusting God to enable us to deal with those challenges. He brought us here and I’m learning more each day that there is joy in obedience.
P.S. T & W did a great episode on this topic a while ago.