Do I Feel the Same About Joni as I Did My Bio Babies?

I’ve been putting off this post long enough. I will try to be authentic and clear, but I have a feeling that only those who have both bio and adopted children will truly be able to understand my sentiments. So, if you don’t fall into this category, please extend me some grace.

The honest first part of my answer is no. From the moment I saw Joni’s picture, I prayed that she would be the one for us. When they placed her in my arms, I thought she was the bravest, cutest, loveliest, most fascinating creature I had ever laid eyes on (sorry, Oakley and Colston, but it’s true). My heart swelled with compassion, curiosity, tenderness, and protectiveness. Those days spent in China were amazing as we watched a petrified, catatonic little baby slowly open up and begin to accept our love and care…then, we got home.

The truth was, she was a stranger to us, and we were strangers to her. She had strange orphanage behaviors and deep emotional needs. This was different from my biological babies who from the moment they came out felt familiar and seemed to automatically know who we were. We didn’t have to work on bonding; it came naturally and was already there to some degree. They were blank slates ready and willing to trust us to care for all their needs. There IS something to the biological connection. I believe it was created by God and meant to assist us through the sleepless nights and projectile vomiting. Even at my worst newborn-moments, my heart had an inexhaustible reservoir of love and compassion for my babies. I didn’t have this automatically with Joni; and so, the tough moments were difficult. The fun, happy times were incredible, beyond my dreams (I can’t get or give enough kisses from that child). But, if she was excessively fussy or clingly or mean to my other children, I really struggled in my feelings towards her. This deficit often made me feel guilty because even if I still acted appropriately loving toward her (and I have to confess that sometimes I didn’t; thankfully, most times I did), I knew my heart wasn’t matching that action. I mean, what kind of monster was I? I knew to expect these behaviors. And, actually, in my “professional” opinion, Joni was doing at least average in her transition period. But, this wasn’t something I could just grit my teeth and change or read books about and fix. So, I prayed that God would give me a true mother’s heart for Joni so that I could love her just as much as her biological mother would have if she had kept her…even more.

So before you call CPS, let me give you the second part of my answer: “No, not yet. But, each day, my mother’s love grows more and more.” God is in the process of answering my prayers, and this journey of bonding continues in a positive direction. It’s been under 3 months since we’ve had Joni, and I’m relieved and grateful that what didn’t come “naturally” is coming “supernaturally.” I can see that shortly, even when things are tough, Joni will stir up the same feelings and emotions that my other two children do. In fact, most days she does. The moments I find myself struggling, I now handle better with more hope and less judgment.


Lynne Prinzing

Lynne has been working in the field of international adoption for 11 years but now enjoys her main role as “Manager of Domestic Affairs.” She lives on a camp property operated by the Christian outreach ministry Young Life where her husband works as the Guest Services Coordinator. Her three children (Oakley 6, Colston 2, and Joni 1) are a great source of joy and growth in her life. Joni joined their family through adoption from China this past February, and everyone is busy learning and stretching as they adjust to a family of five.

9 Responses to Do I Feel the Same About Joni as I Did My Bio Babies?

  • Lindsay says:

    Thank you for this. We’ve been home only 3 weeks with our daughter from China, and I can TOTALLY relate. I so want to love her like I do my boys, but there is a very distinct difference. You’ve described your feelings so well, and I too have those feelings many days. It’s reassuring to know I’m not alone. And that while this love is different, it CAN grow to be just as enormous.

  • Lynda says:

    Your honesty is admirable, too many people can be nasty if you don’t profess an instant all consuming love for this new child. Yet even when I married 28 years ago though it was a joint effort and with open full hearts on the part of my husband and I. It still took time for two independent adults with quite different life backgrounds to mesh into a harmonious household. So having a time of transition and learning to fully love and bond with a child who doesn’t know you, who’s life has shifted so radically and without their consent of course there will be challenges. Your honesty with yourself with allow for and ease the transition and as time and mutually shared experiences become the norm for everyone that love will be a natural outgrowth and a blessing to your whole family. We are also experiencing the challenges of our Lauren’s 6 years of orphanage experience with behaviors that may have served her well there, but are a challenge in a family environment. Progress is being made, but it is trying and that is just a reality that tests each member of the family. We are seeing major improvements in the 5 months since she arrived and know we have to just keep plugging along. In time her full personality will be able to blossom. Her place in our family will feel more secure to her and we will share an ability to love her more completely, because we actually KNOW her! But, as you acknowledged this is a process and our families history shows it is one that is worth the effort. God bless you and your family.

  • Lori Lynn says:

    While I never had bio children, I can partially relate to what you wrote. For some of us it takes time. Sometimes different personalities affect our relationships and the depths of our feelings. I have two daughters from China and I love them both dearly, but not in the same ways. The first was adopted as a baby and the first 6 months of bonding were difficult, partly due to my inexperience and the rest just due to our circumstances. She is now 7 years old and I cannot imagine loving anyone deeper. It’s just not possible. It doesn’t matter one bit that she was not born in my tummy. My world revolves around her. We adopted my other daughter as a 3 year old. Even three years in an orphanage can do enough damage to affect a child for life. This little girl is super smart, sweet, enthusiastic and she will probably be very successful in life. I love her dearly, but it’s a different kind of love. I would give anything to have the same depth of feeling for her as my other girl, but we are all different and I don’t think her personality clicks well with mine, at least during this stage in our lives. I know things can change as we get older. She has a lot of behavioral issues that I believe stem from life in an orphanage. Understanding right and wrong for her is a challenge. Everything is OK if Mom and Dad are not in the room. Nevertheless, I will do everything in my power to show her that she is loved and I make every effort to treat my girls the same wherever possible.

    You are still in the “infancy” stage with your new one. Our feelings constantly change. I bet there will be a time when your feelings for your newest are as deep as they are for your others.

  • v says:

    ditto that experience! We have been home 3 months as well, and it shocked me how I didnt have the same patience reserves as I did when my bio children where this age. Everyone I know with both bio and adopted says it takes 1 whole year for your heart to be in line with your actions!!

  • LauraT says:

    You’ve beautifully stated what so many of us feel. I’ve often said that I loved our youngest (adopted from Vietnam in May 2007) from the time we first started collecting the paperwork to bring her home – 14 months before she was even born! But it took a long time to develop the affection for her that came so naturally with our two biological children. It was many months before my heart leapt with the scent of her the way it always has when I’ve kissed my other babies’ necks in their sleep. A year or more passed before I really knew, understood and appreciated the little personality God has given her, quirks and all. Now, four years down the road, Reagan is undoubtedly ours and undoubtedly loved with our whole hearts, no holds barred. You’ll get there too! Thanks for being so transparent.

  • Lisa Arndt says:

    Very honest and beautiful in all that honesty. I think all too often we don’t think about the bonding process WE go through at the same time our children are bonding. Perhaps this is why–these feelings we go through as we bond with our children is so un-expected. I wrote about this same issue in my post, “A Stranger called Mommy.” ( )–we were only home 6 months when I wrote this post. I do not have any bio children–so your perspective is particularly interesting and important.

    It’s always comforting to know others recognize the process we go through emotionally as WE ATTACH to our children. And I think it’s talked about all too little–in the days of waiting and preparing for our children. Thank you for sharing these feelings.

  • Joanna says:

    We have no biological children, but I can totally relate to your post. Thank you for being so honest and forth-coming!

  • Peggy Bouchard says:

    I thank you for this blog, we spend so much time feeling guilty for our feelings and trying to be the perfect parent.I too have adopted and had bio-children.There is a difference in the feelings you have for the children you carry, but have no shame!! God gives us more than enough love to go around and he chose you to be the mother of all your children! My adopted daught is 23 now and struggles with mental health issues due to fetal alchol and trauma, life is not often easy for her or us but, we are so blessed to have her call us Mom and Dad! God has given us the strengh needed and the love for her that passes all understanding! Because God loves us, we can reach out in love for others! Proud of you both! Peg.

  • Carrie says:

    Thanks for your honesty. I think more adoptive families need to feel the freedom to struggle through this stuff. You are right that it takes time and prayer and more prayer. God knows the hearts of our little ones and He will be the one who will ultimately heal them and bring our families together.

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