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With Louise, we have much less in common. I don't love either of my children more than the other, but the nature of the relationship is poles apart.

More fluid reflections on keeping a solid center.

Unfortunately, Louise did not interpret it in this way as she was growing up. I was ashamed of it before then. But then I started thinking about finding my real mother, which I did, and somehow that journey made me realise that my parents didn't love me less, just differently. Now I speak to my mum every day on the phone. We're so different, it's unbelievable, but we both accept those differences now and we're very close.

With the benefit of hindsight, Louise realises she didn't make it easy for her parents to love her. Nancy Verrier, author of The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child, believes that all children who are separated from their mother suffer a trauma that will affect their bond with their new parents, regardless of the age at which they enter that new family. For many children, this manifests itself in testing-out behaviour, she says. Even if this kind of child is adopted as a baby, they tend to keep a psychological distance.

Because they never quite fold into the new mother when she cuddles them, the phenomenon has become known as the stiff-arm baby. At the other end of the spectrum is what's known as the Velcro baby. These children react to the fear of their new mother leaving by being very clingy. If anyone had told Nancy when she brought home her three-day-old daughter that rearing an adopted child would be different from rearing a biological child, she says she would have laughed at them.

What can a tiny baby know? We are tuned in hormonally to what our natural children want. Psychologically, the mother and child are still at one for some time even when the umbilical cord is cut. Genes continue to play a major part in the relationship throughout life.


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The way you cock an eyebrow, how you stand or walk, gestures you make - all these are things that make children feel as if they belong. But because a lot of people don't expect adoption to be different, they can feel shock, hurt and resentment when their adopted child doesn't react to them in the way they'd like them to. Some parents try to compensate for this loss. Bill Aldridge, who has three adopted and two natural children in their 20s and 30s, says, "There was always a sense for us that our adopted children required additional love to make up for the extra challenges they'd faced.

I wouldn't say we loved them more, but our feelings for them were combined with an overriding desire to make everything all right. I think we were more overt with our love for them than we were with our own kids, certainly while they were growing up.

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Bella Ibik, who grew up in a family of five birth children and four adopted children, says her parents also went out of their way to make the adopted ones feel special. Bella, now 41, says she still feels surprised by how much her mother loves her, and still has a need from time to time to examine the differences in her mother's feelings for all her children. He was one of her blood children and I often wondered whether she'd have preferred it had it not been one of her birth children. We talk about everything, so I asked her and she answered as honestly and diplomatically as she could.

She said that no mother would ever wish death on any of her children, but that when I saw her cradling his head and talking to him when he was in his coffin - a childhood image I will never forget - she was thinking of it having grown inside her and she was thinking of giving birth to him. Bella isn't convinced that whether her siblings were adopted or not is the be-all-and-end-all in the nature of their relationship with their mother, however: "Evie, her youngest, is her absolute golden child who can do no wrong.

I'm sure that's because she came along just after my mother had been very ill and she sees her as her anchor in the storm. My point is that sometimes I think it's impossible to pull out adoption as being the only reason for a parent feeling differently towards her children. There are so many other variables. Because today's adoptions often involve older children who come from backgrounds of neglect or abuse, they require what Jonathan Pearce, the director of Adoption UK, calls therapeutic parenting.

It's a parenting that I think should include ongoing training - just as you have with any other demanding job," he says. Yes, they are. Is the love any different? I just don't know. It will vary from one family to the next. Carol Burniston, a consultant clinical child psychologist, believes that the requirement for adopters to parent therapeutically gives a tiny minority of them a psychological get-out clause, which again affects the nature of their relationship with their children.

With a small number of adopters, there is something going on in the back of their minds that if they can't bear it any longer, they will give these children up. Indeed, an estimated one in five adoptions in the UK breaks down before the adoption order is granted. Her bond with her natural children is fluid and easy; her relationship with her non-biological daughter is more intense and tested.

Angela Maddox believes that the relationship between parents and non-biological children has more chance of being positive if any birth children arrive later. But I think the fact that the boys were already in our family helped them feel more secure than if it was the other way round.

They had us first. Angela says that while her husband relates to Rebecca Walker's philosophy, she doesn't. You can love any child as your own. There was the different feeling around the birth, but that's all.

Baby won't take eyes off mom for even a second

A few parents even believe that giving birth is irrelevant in the bonding process. Unusually, Molly Morris - who has given birth to five children and adopted two - says, "I've never been able to make a distinction between children born to us and those we adopted. It's the nursing and handling, not the giving birth, that has given me the bond with my children.

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