That  maternal 'moment': When parents first bond with adopted child

Nov. 5, 2013 at 4:12 PM ET

When you have a child biologically, there are many moments early on where you may feel that first maternal bond to the baby. Perhaps it’s the first time you hear the baby’s heartbeat. Or when you see your little one in utero in an ultrasound. Or the first time the baby kicks in your belly.

For adoptive parents, that feeling of familial connection often comes later. But many TODAY Moms Facebook readers who have adopted children will tell you: There is definitely a moment.

Love at first sight, even in dreams, pictures, emails

Tracy O'Mara Whitney has adopted two children and says with both of them, she and her husband “knew the moment I opened the e-file containing her pictures and her referral information.” Whitney says a previous failed adoption made her doubt whether she’d fall in love instantly. “But I knew without a doubt when I looked at her chubby little baby face,” Whitney says about her first daughter.

With the second adoption, Whitney and her husband looked at the referral picture, and she says: “Her big brown eyes confirmed it, even in an old, outdated picture from across the world!”

For Rachelle Dixon, the moment came in a dream, the night before she was to meet her baby for the first time. “When we did see her, she looked just like the baby in my dreams. That is when I knew she was the one. “

When Michelle Birch Ritter saw her daughter for the first time, all she could think was that this was the “most beautiful child I had ever seen.” And when Ritter “found out she shared a birthday with my paternal grandmother, that sealed the deal. She is our dream come true.”

Susan Macdonald holds her son Michael
Courtesy of Susan Macdonald
The first time Susan Macdonald held her son Michael, at 4 days old.

Of Jenna Pekarcik Heberle’s four kids, three were adopted internationally, one from Russia and two from China. Says Heberle: “I speak for all three of my adopted children when I say that the first time I knew they were a member of our family was when I saw their photo from the adoption agency. Before we met, before they called me mom, before the up-all-night adjustment periods....before all of that. The very first time I saw their face - I was their mom.”

The phone call

When Susan Macdonald’s phone rang on Dec. 10, 1998, it was a phone call she’d never forget. The woman on the other end said, “We chose you to raise our baby,” and Macdonald had tears streaming down her face. The call was from her son Michael’s birth mother and Macdonald says, “He became my son at that very moment.”

For Joleen Hottel, the moment came with a random phone call on her birthday, four weeks before a baby girl was to be born in Florida. She and her husband flew from California and two days after being born, their daughter was coming home with them. Hottel says she is forever thankful to her daughter’s birth family and says “We know it was a miracle beyond our control.”  

That first cuddle

Kari Bechtold was in the delivery room when both of her adopted daughters were born and describes the first moment she held them as “such a rush.”

“I will always treasure these moments their birth mom gave us,” she says.

Shelly Goodmanson says that while she felt the connection with her son while holding him 20 minutes after he was born, she also felt it the moment when she met the birth mom before the baby was born. Goodmanson says of the birth mother: “She is celebrated and rejoiced for her act of love and courage. I could never have been a mom without her strength.”

Bechtold sisters: Adelynn, 3, and Lillian, 2
Kari Bechtold
Both Bechtold sisters were adopted: Adelynn, 3, and Lillian, 2

For Sara Johnson Carpenter, an “instant connection” was felt the first time she held her son, at 2 weeks old. “I couldn't take my eyes off of him and something very powerful kicked in. A mother's love is just that, it doesn't matter if it's by birth or not,” Carpenter says.

Tracy Callahan Duncan also felt a connection from the moment she held her daughter in her arms. She writes on Facebook: “The love I have for her is immense. I can't imagine loving her any more if she were biologically my own. What's even more amazing is that I'm told frequently how much she looks like me, even from strangers. I thank God every day for this miracle!”

Duncan’s comment on Facebook received a response from her daughter’s birth mother, Cynthia Remminger. She writes to Duncan: “We are so blessed that Maeve found you and Allen; and she does look like you Tracy Callahan Duncan, it is amazing but true. And, I am so grateful for all the love you give her and the life she has.”

The first soothing

Kiersten Lockie Traina says her maternal moment with daughter Nicolina came while watching the opening ceremonies for the Olympics with some friends. When the baby started fussing, Traina took her in her arms to soothe her. “The minute she was in my arms, she put her head down on my chest, stopped fussing and went to sleep. It was this surreal moment of realizing that after 40 years, I was a mom and this amazing child was absolutely and wholly my daughter.”

For Taylor Casteen Barbour, 15 years of infertility finally came to an end when they adopted a baby boy. Barbour describes the moment she felt the connection: “I would have to say it was the first time I picked up my crying baby and he immediately stopped crying and began to smile at me.”

Time is on our side

While many adoptive parents can easily describe that first moment of connection, Natalie Stobie Moser is a voice for all those adoptive parents who don’t immediately feel a bond with their child.

Moser admits she “wasn't one of those people who fell in love with my children upon first sight.” She writes: “It wasn't one of those 'running in the field toward each other in slow motion' kind of things. My love for my children has grown over time.”

Share your adoption 'moment' on the TODAY Moms Faceboook page, or tweet about it with the hashtag #AdoptionTODAY 

Video: NBC’s chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman shares the journey of her adopted daughter, Kate, who decided to seek out her biological mother, and talks about how she felt along the way and how Kate handled the process.