It’s my ridiculous and persistent belief (or hope) that everyone is feeling just the way I am. Liking the same movies, digging the same books, feeling the same way about how the planet is going. The partner, of course, has it worst—all these dreams for enjoying everything together. Impossible, but unshakable.

Of course we all have our own experience, and do things in our own way and time. And what could be more individual than the way we react to our kids, and grow to love them? Our therapist tells us it’s common for one partner to bond early, and another to take much longer to feel it. It makes total sense.

But in the context of this intense work of making a family, being in different places in how we’re doing with the kids is throwing in my face something I so often fight: We can love each other like crazy. We can spend so much time together. Every one of us is very likely connected in deep, mystical, fundamental ways. BUT. The experience of being a person on this planet is also full of loneliness, of wondering if we’re on the right path, of fearing we’re going it alone and there won’t be help.

In my experience the help always arrives; there’s a moment of grace that rewards our trust (if we managed to have some) or at least banishes the cloud. But the darkness and fears are intense. And—duh!—being a parent doesn’t change this fundamental fact, and maybe heightens it.

Besides that we’re bonding with the kids in different ways and at a different pace (and that we didn’t completely agree about whether the film Magic Mike totally sucked), I think I’m probably absorbing some of what the kids are going through as well. How incredibly lonely and scary it must be to be put into a new family (however great) and expected to just go with that. To be realizing that you are not going back to that previous life, no matter what you wish for or want or do.

And it’s intense being a kid, even without the complication of adoption. Our two year old is having night terrors, which I’m hearing is common. But it’s wildly, out-of-body terrifying to witness, this shreiking state of panic that cannot be consoled. Touching or calming him, very effective for other upsets, just provokes him more. He’ll thrash and arch away from your touch, writhing like he’s possessed.

Luckily it doesn’t last, and of course that’s the main lesson I seem to be on this planet to learn. Breathe and the terror passes; he’ll go back to sleep. Take five minutes in your room (time out!) to cry or pout or stare at the wall, and things will seem better. Maybe the kids are here to remind me, if I’m teachable, that if I just wait a bit, the unbearable weight will lighten. It might even lift and blow gently away.

That’s what I keep telling myself when it’s really, really hard.