When I started this blog the possibility that we’d actually become parents seemed remote, hence the title being the estimated chance that we’d actually get there. But here we are – what 98%? Approved and a bit hungover. So assuming introductions aren’t a car crash we’re within a gnats crotchet of achieving our dreams.
In the intervening period I’ve spent a considerable amount of time reading about parenting, adoption, trauma and all that terrifying stuff. I am a fully-qualified textbook parent. Literally. However in a lot of the reading around adoption something has been nagging at me, and it’s question of the role of love. It’s in the reaction of experienced adoptive parenting who laugh when someone says to them “Lots of love will fix it”, the sad smile and somewhat understandable dismissal of the ‘love is all you need’ sentiment of the well-meaning. Not perhaps a dismissal of the idea, but the interpretation of the idea.
So it took me sitting last week on a retreat in Devon and staring at an ornament that stated on it “Love is all you need” to ask myself the question – is it really not enough? Perhaps this is what all these books and courses had been saying all along. Just in a much more expensive and structured way.
But not the love of My Little Pony, Chocolates and Valentines Day, or the love of cuddles, Clintons or Cartland, or metric tonnes of Christmas gifts and Easter Chocolate. It’s so much wider and infinitely deeper.
Firstly, this love is built upon a solid foundation of self-love. It understands that building love in others cannot be built without love for oneself. This love encompasses compassion for our weaknesses and the ability to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we will surely make as we parent. A love that values self-care and seeks help when needed, seeing this as the strength it is. It also starts here because this may, at first, be the only love available to build upon as the love slowly builds between the parent and the child.
It’s a love that understands that the loved must be protected from the world, but also from themselves. It sees clear boundaries, principles and guidelines as the structures that cocoon children with the certainty that can create the space for trust and healing to begin. It also knows that being loved and being popular are not at all the same.
It’s the love that honours all feelings, the beautiful and the ugly, and that actively creates the conditions for their expression – even when that ugly expression may be directed at the lover. Because this love understands that unexpressed feelings poison the body and the heart, and that the wound you may receive at it’s expression is nothing to the hurt that drove it’s creation.
For the same reason it knows that behaviour is often the communication of an unconscious mind, and so accepts that some behaviours must be understood and forgiven, and forgiven again, and again and again until what is unsaid becomes heard and the healing can start.
It is a love that is not earned, nor deserved. We are not entitled to it, because we have chosen this path of adoption. True love radiates out. With work and time, sometimes it radiates back at you. But not always. And that may have to be OK too.
This is the love of hard work, sleeplessness, fear and loneliness. The love of the rainy day and wild weather. Of listening and not fine words. A love without conditions, or strings or money-back guarantees. The love of the open-heart – available and exposed.
So, you must forgive this proto-parent if this seems like the beliefs of a hopeless romantic, or the warm meanderings of the newly approved. I know tissues, gin and chocolate play a big role too, and a myriad other things, it’s just a heartfelt response to some of the language around love I have seen. I doubt it’s even what that language intends to say, but is what is sometimes heard.
So I’d like to conclude this love letter with one last request: please, next time you see me weeping in a doctors waiting room or in the checkout at Tesco’s please try to resist the urge to say “So how’s that love thing working for you eh?” 😉