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What if I don't love him?

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A few days ago, I was looking back at the photographs I have of my son before we brought him home, photos of when he was still in China. One of his therapists wants to do a photographic timeline with him, and I was click-click-clicking through the photos on my laptop pretty quickly. There aren’t that many, and I’ve seen them all a thousand times before. I was on auto-pilot, dragging the ones I wanted into a folder.

There’s my little guy after his first surgery, there he is hanging out with a big green ball in the orphanage, there he is in a wacky pink romper with a big hole at the crotch so he could pee easily. Oh China, so innovative. My photos aren’t organized, it’s one of those things that’s been on the to-do list for, ohhhh, eight years. Whatever, I have other gifts.

In the wrong folder, in the middle of photos of a pool party I don’t remember, I stopped. Abruptly. My heart got all beat-y and heavy and soft. Because this one, this picture right here.


This picture might be the most important photograph I own. This picture turned me from “Ok, I guess I’ll be going to China then” into an expectant mother.

I’d already decided to adopt my son before seeing this photograph. We had seen the two photos in his file and reviewed some medical information, and said “Yeah, ok, he looks good.” (But seriously.) I knew I was traveling to China, but I didn’t feel like a mom. I was excited-ish, but mostly, I was hella nervous. They give you more information about a cabbage patch doll than they do about a real child. It’s a little cray cray.

But I committed. I was adopting. Uncertainty and all.

What if he doesn’t love me? What if this is a mistake? What if it ends up being strange that my kid looks nothing like me? What if I make a big mess out of his birth story? What if I regret not having bio-kids? What if he wants to move back to China?

What if I don’t love him?

That’s the big one. I know you get it. Everyone on the precipice of adoption who reaches out to me gets it. Because everyone of you asks this question, just in a nicer, politer form:

“Did you love him right away?”

No, I didn’t.

But right before we traveled, I got this photo and I knew I would. I absolutely knew I would.

Look at him. Sitting with tiny, tiny splayed legs that have no muscle tone. He’s three years old here, but he looks like a baby. He’s wiping tears from his eyes. What does his sweatshirt say? Cheese Blue? I don’t even know.

What I knew was that there was this crying boy in China who didn’t have a family and I was going to go get him. I wouldn’t love him right away because he was a stranger and only silly movie people fall in love with strangers right away, but I knew I would fall in love with him over time. He needed a mom. The little boy in this photo needed a mom and I could do that. I would figure it out and I would be ok. I knew I would fall in love with him.

There is no such thing as other people’s children.

I don’t know who first said that quote. Hillz? Glennon Doyle Melton? Confucius? I don’t care, it’s amazing. Read it again. I mean, really read it. Because YES.

Those of you thinking, considering, making pros and cons lists about adopting – stop already. Just go. Do it. Am I being reckless here? Yes! Utterly and completely reckless, I am. Do it anyway. You will be fine, I promise. You might not have a photo that comes to you and seals the deal like I did, and your child will not have your eyes or your nose or your freckles, but you will fall in love.

You will memorize your child’s face and love its differences, you will kiss cheeks that are lighter or darker than your own, you will watch your child develop skills you never had. You will fall in love with all of it – every single, different piece. Then, one day, your kid will say, “Mom, I am seriously going to lose my mind,” and you will say Ahhhh, there I am. So much of you is me, after all.

It is the ultimate love story.


Adoption is different, but it is not less. It is so NOT less. I don’t want to piss off bio-moms (because you’re all definitely great, too), but it might actually be more. Adoption is proof that love can grow anywhere, that there are real-life happy endings, and that none of us are really strangers.

There is no such thing as other people’s children.


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