Evangeline has officially spent more time with us than she spent in an orphanage. She spent 9 months and 11 days in the orphanage. She's been with us for 9 months and 12 days today.
One phrase that we often heard from well-meaning adoptive families during the excruciating post-referral wait was "As soon as you hold her in your arms, the wait will all melt away." While that may be true for the adoptive parent, as Dan so aptly put it - the effects of the wait do not melt away that quickly for the child.
The pediatricians at the U of MN adoption clinic say that 100% of children coming from an orphanage environment will have some degree of disrupted attachment. It doesn't take a researcher to figure out that babies were meant to be raised in families, not orphanages.
Our story has been that bonding has required commitment. It's had to be intentional. I know that every adoptive family's story is unique. I've met some adoptive parents who feel that their children bonded quickly and easily. They wanted to snuggle, be held, sleep near the parents immediately. They were easily soothed and easy going. That has not been our story. We've had to work toward these things. We had to work to get Evie comfortable with skin contact. It took weeks (months?) before we could rock her just to rock her. Initially she would only rock during a feeding. She would push us away when we would try to comfort her. There are still days when it feels like nothing or no one can comfort her. These days are less frequent than they were in the beginning months, but they're still here.
Attachment researchers state that the process of secure attachment takes months or years, not weeks or days. Even though Evie has now been with us one day longer than in the orphanage, the effects of her time spent there are still apparent. While she is moving closer to secure attachment, I would not say she is securely attached at this point. Has she made a lot of progress? Absolutely!
We will never know how much of Evie's behavior is related to her adoption and how much is her temperament. Some people have poo-pooed my assertion that some of her behaviors are related to her being adopted. They told me she whines and cries a lot because she's trying to run the show, that I needed to tell her 'no' more and only answer her 'real cries'. My own adoption research did not support this conclusion. More importantly, my experience mothering Evie has taught me that the more I say 'no' without balancing it with 'yes', the more she cries and clings and whines. When I am positive and quick to acknowledge her, even (especially!) when she whines, the more compliant and relaxed she (usually) becomes. This does not mean that she always gets her way. But it does mean that I try to be positive in the way I set limits.
Certain aspects of bonding in our adoption have been challenging. Overall though, I would not say that growing our family through adoption has been more difficult than growing our family through birth. Both come with their own set of unique challenges... and most importantly, joys!