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Like many other women in their early 30s I have experienced the emotional pain, envy and agony of being unable to conceive. Our only means of adopting was through the county and all I had heard were horror stories. I was terrified to go this route but my husband wanted to be a “daddy”. He came from a large, close-knit family and adored his father and this was the only way us to have a family. I couldn’t bear the thought of denying him, so with much fear, I took a giant leap of faith forward.

We went to the county adoptions orientation meeting and were told the basics, horrified by the questionnaire: 1) Are you willing to adopt a child that is the product of a son and his mother? Father and daughter? Brother and Sister? I had read the book “When Love is Not Enough” about kids with reactive nonattachment disorder and how some of them killed the family pet, or threatened the good intentioned parents with knives and homicide. I didn’t feel equipped to deal with any of it so I answered truthfully as I could and we set down to wait for what was supposed to be a year’s wait to be “matched”.

The next month we got a call asking if we were willing to be foster/adopt parents. A little 3-1/2 year old girl was available. She had been pre-adoptively placed with another family which hadn’t worked out and they had subsequently given her “back” to the county. Now they wanted to find another family for her before Christmas; preferably a family with no other kids where one parent was Hispanic like us.

We agreed to meet and see her file and the next thing I knew I was in Orangewood, meeting a tiny little thing with dimples weighing all of 25lbs. She came out crying in the main room as if to say “Now what am I going to be put through?” My husband didn’t know what to do so I got down on the floor and put her on my lap and we got to know each other a little. From the moment we met her we were committed. We shuttled back and forth for the next week, taking her out on day excursions to see Santa Claus, getting her some clothes and finally for her first sleepover. Christmas Eve she came home with us for good. She came to our home with very little belongings. No toys, hardly any clothes, just a little quilt that she has to this day.

Two weeks later we introduced her as THE surprise at our family Christmas get together. By this time I had already noticed things that seemed odd: she wouldn’t cuddle, wasn’t excited to get new things and didn’t hardly cry at all; thereby depriving me of any opportunity to comfort her.

For the first month, our daughter called me by my first name (I didn’t feel like I had earned the mommy title) but she immediately addressed my husband as daddy. He was in seventh heaven and had “fallen in love” instantly with his new daughter. When I came to pick her up from grandma’s after work she would hide from me. When I dropped her off at preschool she didn’t care or cling. I was still a stranger to her. After nine months and a home study we officially adopted her at age 4.

As she got older and went on sleep-overs she would tell us how she wished she hadn’t had to return.I ceased hoping for any kind of greeting, hug or affection. Instead I would find myself steeling my heart against rejection. There were many times my daughter would monopolize my husband’s attention when the three of us were alone together and I would see her looking over her shoulder at me with a smirk of triumph as she steered him away from me.

Motherhood was not what I expected at all. Instead of feeling wanted and needed I increasingly found myself feeling hurt and unneeded. Her overall rejection of me as her mother was a very sensitive trigger; dredging up all my old buried feelings of rejection from my own childhood. She told me that she liked making me angry… and she was good at it.
The more I got blamed for our lousy relationship the more I emotionally retreated. My husband was always the good guy and I was the mean disciplinarian. Finally I just learned to completely back off just to keep peace in our home and my marriage together.

Our daughter is now 18 years old now and despite all my fears has graduated high school and is attending a community college and working part-time. She has grown up to be basically a good girl but we don’t have what I would consider an emotional relationship. Because of her nonattachment disorder I worry about her not being able to have deep, emotionally intimate relationships with others (especially a future husband). I hope and pray that one day her heart will heal at feeling abandoned by her birth parents and she will be able to have healthy emotional relationships…perhaps even with me.

Marlayne Giron is a Messianic Jew, wife and mother living in Orange County, California. She has been married to her husband Michael since 1986 and is the mom of a lovely daughter.