Not Your Teddy Bear
Adoptive parents must be careful not to fall in love with an illusion. I speak from experience.
I first fell in love with Amelia on some level in November 2008, long before she was even conceived. The love increased as we progressed in the adoption process and bubbled to boiling as we received our first pictures of her beautiful face. I was determined to know Amelia even before I ever met her. I squeezed snippets of information about her from every short term missionary and adoptive parent who passed through her orphanage. In my mind, I created a paper-mache version of her from photos, facts, and 9 second video clips… dab “snuggly” here, “sweet-natured” there, glue together and wait for her to dry. It was a comfort to imagine that I knew my daughter.
And then, on that glorious, hot February day when I finally held our beloved girl, I discovered that she is not paper mache. She is not static. She is complex and alive! On that day, I touched her warm, soft fleshy cheeks and heard her both laugh and cry. She was not a newborn awakening to the world, but a 10 month old who already had personality and preferences. The box I’d put her in just would not do. And so began Amelia’s 6-month journey towards busting the piñata I had made of her. I am glad she succeeded. The real Amelia is better than any version I could have crafted.
The problem comes when OUR “real” meets TRUE reality. When the imaginary version of our child is shoved to the side by the child herself.
Psychologists describe it as the Teddy Bear Syndrome. During the adoption wait, Imaginary-Amelia was my teddy bear. I could see into the future and smile at life with Imaginary-Amelia. Sure, it wouldn’t be perfect. I’d done my homework and learned about attachment issues. But, I’d be the perfect mother for all of Imaginary-Amelia’s needs. I knew the bumps ahead like the back of my hand, and I was prepared for each one.
Fast-forward to the early days at home with REAL Amelia, and you can see the mirage begin to melt away. Amelia would not take a zippy cup; she’d rather starve. And while this battle lasted only 24 hours before it’s quick, happy resolution, it made me crazy for that one day. Imaginary-Amelia never had this particular problem. I’d never thought of this! Imaginary-Amelia would have trouble being away from me, and I’d have to quit work – THAT would be the big problem! I was prepared for that, for no other reason than that I’d thought it through. But, Real Amelia throws curve balls. She is so… REAL! Unpredictable! It is as if – gasp – she’s HUMAN! Amelia has adjusted so quickly and so well. I shudder to think how poorly I would have handled it had she not.
It took me months just to realize that my greatest frustrations did not stem from any “issues” SHE was having, but instead from the issues that did not conform to the version of her that I’d created in my mind.
I’d prepared myself for certain things. There was a prescription I had ready for our new life. What I had not prepared myself for, however, was the fluidity that comes with any human relationship.
Rachel has been married to her husband Brad for 5 years. They have a 3 year old named Caroline and a 1 year old named Amelia, whom they recently brought home from Uganda. God has used Amelia and adoption to show His love and glory to the Goode family. You can follow their story on their blog.