Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What Happens After the Welcome Home

Ok, so I've read some really great blogs about this but I wanted to write one myself to make it more personal and so my friends and family who haven't gone to all the adoption conferences and read all the books and blogs about attachment that I have will understand what I'm doing and hopefully won't just think I'm a crazy off-my-rocker new mom that's being paranoid and weird. ha ha

Seriously though, a lot of what adoptive parents do, especially in the first few months, will sound very contrary to the first few months with a biological child. With a bio kid, everyone and their brother comes to the hospital or to your house and everyone takes turns holding the baby. It's just natural - people want to hold precious little ones. I get that. And with a biological child, that's great. But what I've come to understand is that with adopted kids, pretty much everything that seems natural and normal is out the window.

To really understand why, you almost have to put yourself in the shoes of the child. So let's do so by looking at the glorious trip home with mommy from my child's perspective.
My sweet precious 3 year old is about to have his very own mommy and while he seemed to love and attach well to mommy when I saw him several months ago, the reality is: I'm about to go take him out of his comfort zone and turn his whole entire world upside down. I'm about to take him away from all the caregivers he's used to and is probably pretty attached to, away from all the kids he sees and plays with daily, away from all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and really every single thing he knows. We're going to get on an airplane for 17 hours surrounded by strangers. We're going to a totally different country where nothing at all all is familiar or reassuring. Add to that the fact that this new mommy is going to be speaking a language he does not understand and he will soon be surrounded by a whole slew of people he does not understand. This child does not know that any part of this is a good thing or the beginning of a beautiful story. All he knows is that this new world is unfamiliar and scary. On top of that, take into account the loss he's already experienced in his young life to have even been adoptable in the first place. At the age of 3, my sweet boy has been through unfathomable hurt and loss.

All of this is why the first few months with mommy are going to be crucial. Especially in the area of attachment. Attachment is tricky and thank God there are great resources nowadays on it (thank you Karyn Purvis for writing The Connected Child). Children from orphanages have had many caregivers, so when multiple adults try to hold them and give them physical affection or act in a caregiver type role in their new environment, they can easily become confused about who to bond with. This is why I'm asking that you don't try to hold, hug, kiss or give physical affection to him for a few months. It is not personal or mean. It may seem extreme but there is a lot of research about this and trust me when I say - this is crucial to create an attachment between Mihretu and I. And once we have a healthy attachment, it will make it easier for him to have healthy relationships with other people. This no affection thing is not forever but please, please, please honor this for the first few months. It really is best for Mihretu.

For the first few weeks, we probably won't be going much of anywhere and most likely won't be having people over and if we do - it'll likely be brief visits. A lot of it will depend on Mihretu. During these few weeks, we will be establishing a calm, stable environment. We need time to adjust to one another and for Mihretu to adjust to his new surroundings and begin to understand that I'm his mommy and I'm here to meet his needs. With the language barrier alone, we're going to need time to learn how to communicate with one another. Dr. Karyn Purvis talks often about giving children a voice. So many kids from hard places have not had a voice. They've cried and no one came. They've had needs and oftentimes, those needs weren't met. The first few months especially will be about teaching Mihretu that I will be there, that I will meet his needs. So when he cries - I'm going to come running. When he needs me, I'll be there. I need to be the one who gives him a bath, tucks him in to bed, rocks him, feeds him, holds him. It's so key to this whole process that he recognize me as his caregiver. Because he didn't have this kind of care or attachment up to this point, there may be a lot of things that resemble caring for a newborn. These are all things that are highly encouraged by experts on adoption. For instance, I will be holding him alot, rocking him to sleep, most likely carrying him in my Ergo baby carrier (Lord help my back), they even recommend giving toddlers drinks out of a bottle type container that you can give them while they are laying in the usual position a baby would be in your arms while taking a bottle. Doing so helps with eye contact, nurturing and bonding. He may end up sleeping in the same room or same bed as me. All of these things I've mentioned help create attachment and bonding and establish to Mihretu that I'm his caregiver. I don't know how healthy the relationship with him and past caregivers has been so in being there immediately whenever he needs me, I will be establishing that regardless of his previous caregiver history - mommy is reliable and constant and will meet his needs. This is huge!!! This is where major healing can begin to happen for my sweet boy.

I am so thankful for the community of support I've had thus far. I have seen what the body of Christ should look like. I have experienced an outpouring of love, prayers, support and generosity during this whole process unlike anything I've ever experienced before. It has truly been humbling and awe inspiring. You have all already done so much to help me get my son home. And in the way you've supported me - I have experienced God in a whole new way. It really has felt like it's taken a village to get my son home and I know it'll take a village to raise him up as well. I am thankful for my village of people:). This whole process of adoption has been hard but at the same time - pretty awesome really. Someone I met the other day that had adopted in the past and found out I was doing it as a single said "it must be hard to do it alone" and I didn't even hesitate with my answer. I said "honestly, I don't feel alone AT ALL!" I am so thankful for that. So thankful for my village. And that's why having you understand all this attachment stuff is so important to me and so crucial in these next few weeks and months. The more understanding and support I can have from those around me - the better for me and for my precious child. I really appreciate you even taking the time to read this blog so that you can understand the things that will best help Mihretu adjust and attach. 

For other ways you can help support me in this journey, I highly recommend reading this blog by Jen Hatmaker. http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2011/11/02/how-to-be-the-village Scroll down to the part where it says "Supporting Families After The Airport" - I couldn't have said it better myself so I didn't try:)

Mihretu is 3 and a half and there's a lot that I have missed in his life. But if I focus on the beauty of adoption and the fact that God has adopted us into his family and that he is a God who restores and redeems - I have so much hope and excitement for things to come. Instead of focusing on what I've missed, I choose to focus on the time I get to have with my sweet boy. I choose to focus on what God wants to do in me and in my son. I look forward to learning who God created Mihretu to be, what his little personality is like, what he likes and doesn't like, what makes him come alive. I'm honored that God would choose me to be this little guys mom. I pray that He will equip me everyday to live and care for this precious child in a manner that is worthy of this calling.

"And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten…." 

(Joel 2:25 AV).


If you have any question about any of this attachment stuff - I highly recommend The Connected Child book or checking out the Empowered to Connect website and watching some of their great videos. Some of the video links I recommend that address these things I've talked about specifically are here: http://empoweredtoconnect.org/should-i-parent-my-adopted-child-differently-than-birth-children/

and a series of 8 videos about What Every Adoptive Parent Should know is found here: http://empoweredtoconnect.org/what-every-adoptive-parent-should-know/

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