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!
well said!!!!!!! i have never commented on your blog, but i've been reading it since before we brought our son home from ethiopia in may 2010. . . we have had very VERY similar experiences with attachment. in fact, it sounds like we are having the EXACT same experience. anyway, i just wanted to let you know that i LOVE your blog and really enjoy checking in. we have had the same reaction from family and friends about how we are dealing with our son's attachment. they think we are spoiling him and that his behavior is just plain 'normal' toddler behavior. but there is nothing normal about a toddler who spent almost a year in an orphanage. . . thanks for blogging! cheers, aliciaReplyDelete
I remember with certain clarity when we had each of our children with us for as long or longer as they spent in their birthlands.ReplyDelete
I can hardly believe its been a bit over 9 months since this precious baby girl graced your lives.
You always manage to capture the very essence of loving parenting in a child focused and centered way; there is no more a profound gift than that, for each child, regardless of their birth circumstances.
I could not agree more that attachement is a continuim and contigent on many factors such as personality, time spent in an orphanage or other placement, age at adoption and many more facets.
That you both see her needs as unique,with history and intuit that a differing style of parenting might be best for her is beautiful to me.
Sometimes its hard to trust your instincts when others mean to help......but to me, peeking in from the outside....well, I just think you are both doing an amazing job!
And she's just gorgeous too!!! :)
EXCELLENT! You are a wise mommy : ) I tam pretty sure God gave us our other children to grow us, mature us, and humble us, so that when HE brought us our adopted children, we would be discerning and ready. YOu are doing a fabulous job with her and seriously...she has been home with you almost a year? Wow! ((HUGS))ReplyDelete
Rachel, congratulations on such an important milestone! For us, things calmed down a bit starting around this milestone, and even more once M had been with us more than half his life. Non-adoptive parents who try to give you advice mean well, but our kids did experience loss and inconsistency at an early age that will likely result in little quirks (at the least) throughout the rest of their lives, even if they "were just babies when you got them". If I had a dollar for every time I heard that... I have been criticized by N-A parents for attending to my son if he wakes and calls for me in the middle of the night (happens 2-3 times a week), staying in the room with him (even though I don't make eye contact) for "time-outs", having "time-ins", and feeding him (he can feed himself, but sometimes he's asks me or Daddy to do it for comfort). Keep doing what you're doing. You know your daughter better than anyone else. You're a great mommy!ReplyDelete
Such an important milestone. I need to calculate that for Claire.ReplyDelete
You are a wise mom. You know your child best, and it sounds as though the leadings of your heart/mind are leading you toward bonding and attachment.
We too find that people in our life don't want to hear/acknowledge conversation about the effects of grouping up in an orphanage.
You are wonderful parents, working hard on this parenting journey.
Hey- I'm catching up on blogs FINALLY and I started here! :) LOVE the new look, and I LOVE this post! I'm totally forwarding the attachment stuff to my parents! They need to hear it.ReplyDelete
Love the new look Evie's sporting with her hair! Well done! :) She looks so much older with it styled too! :)
Poor Jude! I'm so glad he's doing better, but it had to have been hard. I can relate Jude- being sick SUCKS! :) Hopefully he's on the mend and will be 100% soon!
Thanks for all your prayers and support while we were in China, and during the AFTERMATH of China! I'm thankful for good friends who held us all up in prayer over these last few weeks!