“It’s amazing how a tiny hand wrapped around your finger in an empty hospital room and a face that holds no gene of yours– looking up at you for the first time–can just go ahead and sign you up for always and forever.
When I walked into that hospital room and lay eyes on these perfect little strangers, I knew in my bones they belonged to me. It was an unexplainable love at first sight that I thought was only reserved for mothers who gave birth to their children. And now, a decade later, science is proving what I’ve always known in my heart.
In the first episode of the Babies documentary on Netflix, scientists did a study on what happens in parents’ brains when we fall in love with our babies. They compared the bonding hormones that are released in the body when you have a baby biologically to the hormones released in adoptive couples.
They showed the amygdala; that primitive, mama bear part of our brain that lets us know we are responsible for another life and makes us hypervigilant in protecting, loving, and nurturing our child, is opened during pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing and remains active for the rest of your life.
But the most surprising discovery to these scientists was what they found when they studied this same part of the brain in adoptive couples who became parents to a child with different biology.
Their amygdala was open and activated to the same extent as a biological mother.
The bonding hormones in both types of parents were identical.
Likewise, the more parents engaged with their baby, the more oxytocin, a bonding hormone, was released in both the baby’s and the parent’s brains.
Their research confirmed what I already knew: becoming a parent had nothing to do with biology or having a baby, and everything to do with simply choosing to love and care for a child for the rest of your life.
As a woman who spent years wondering if I’d ever be a mother, I knew, within seconds of feeling the weight of my babies against my chest for the first time, my heart was made to love them.
Those beautiful, heart-wrenching moments—are the ones I always go back to when I don’t feel qualified to be the one to raise them.
When I’m tempted to just say ‘hold on’ or ‘not right now’ to the boys hollering ‘mom’ for the one-hundredth time that minute, I go back to the moments I spent on my knees pleading just to be able to hear someone call me mom.
And during those challenging days when I feel completely inadequate and don’t have the answers, I find perspective hidden in those raw and vulnerable first days spent bonding with them.
And on the nights I’m wishing they would just go to bed already because the day is shot and not one minute of it looks like the life I prayed for– I remember someone out there just saw the negative on her pregnancy test again and would give anything to be holding her baby right now. I remember I was that someone once.
So, whether you are an adoptive, foster, step-parent, or even a grandparent raising your grandkids, it’s the choice to parent that makes you one. Let’s remember when we see a family made up of different genes, their love for each other is as strong and as real as anything biological.
It’s as simple and as beautiful as that.
As someone who never thought I’d get the chance to be a mother, there isn’t a discovery out there that feels more important than this one.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kortni M of Utah. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more from Kortni:
‘One minute ago you were glued to my side, now there’s enough space between us to fill the Universe. Be patient with me as I learn to let you go.’: Mom pens touching letter to her tweenager, ‘I hope my love will always bring you back for more’
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