Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bonding and Attachment and Stuff

I want to give you all a little "warning" about what life will look like when we get home.  (I know.  I haven't even left yet and I'm already thinking about being home.)  I want to get this written now in case I don't have time in country or good internet or the energy to think it through.  I also want to give those closest to us the chance to process this and ask questions if they want.

Attachment and bonding are a huge concern in adoption--especially with older children.  It's hard to believe that Sara is considered an "older" child but she is.  The first two years of development are crucial.  After that time, adoptions can encounter some additional challenges.

I have no idea how this change is going to affect Sara.  As far as I know and can tell, she has been well cared for.  She has not suffered the neglect and/or abuse that a lot of kids in Eastern Europe have.  Based on the Skype date, it seems that she has staff that care for her and interact with her.  Even with those "advantages," she has not experienced a family or a mother. She doesn't know what that looks like or what her role in a family is.

I have no intention of getting into Sara's history here.  Few people know it and I probably wouldn't share it if you asked me.  I just don't feel like it will benefit her in any way to have everyone know.  I will tell you, though, that she has moved a lot in her short life.  She has had lots of "placements" but no family.  No mother.

Sara is going to have to learn what it is to be in a family.  She needs to learn that her wants and needs will be provided for by her mother.  She has most likely had multiple caregivers in her short life.  They probably change with the shift, with vacations, with new employees, with transfers.  She has probably learned that she can get her needs met by any number of adults or by her own means.  Neither of these theories are healthy for a four year old.  She will have to learn that not all adults are equal in her life.  She needs to learn to trust her mother to meet her physical, emotional, medical, social, and spiritual needs.

In short, we need to bond.  We need time to learn to be a family together.  After all, I will be learning what it means right along with her.

I like the way Colombia's program is set up.  We will be together for at least a month before we return to the US.  We will have some time to start working on our relationship before we "complicate" it with friends and family.

There are a lot of people that will tell you that you need to "cocoon" your family for a long time upon returning to the US.  Like months!  In all honesty, I can't imagine doing that completely.  First, I will have to go back to work at the beginning of April so that just isn't possible.  Secondly, my biggest fear with the travel is loneliness.  I think I'm going to really need all of you when I get back!

At this point, I am planning to do a modified version of cocooning and we'll see how it goes.  Here are some general guidelines that I'm planning to follow after researching and talking to other APs.  (I reserve the right to change the rules at any time depending on Sara's adjustment.)

*Please call, text, message, face time us.  Ask how we are doing.  Invite us to play or eat.  I may say no depending on Sara's mood or mine.  Don't be offended.  It will mean the world that you asked.

*Bring your children over to play.  Sara will be more comfortable here than at your house.  It will be less overwhelming for her.  I want her around other children.  That's what she's used to!  (And she needs to learn some English.)

*Speak to her in English.  I will continue to speak to her in Spanish but you can feel free to talk to her and interact with her as you are comfortable.  Just remind me to speak to you in English when my brain is too tired to switch back and forth on it's own.  

*Don't be surprised if I don't take you up on your offers to babysit right away.  For a while, if Sara can't go, I won't be going.  I don't know how often we'll be at church or small group in the beginning.  Her adjustment is paramount.

*Please don't pick her up, feed her or ask to hug her.  I know that sounds harsh but it's important.  I've never been a huge fan of forcing kids to hug people.  I think it unintentionally erodes important personal boundaries.  If she needs to be picked up and comforted, I will do that.  If she chooses to hug you, that's different.  It's very possible that she will have food issues related to orphanage life.  Please do get down on the floor and talk to her and play with her.  If she needs something, please direct her to me so she learns that her mother meets her needs.

I know that some of you probably think I've completely lost my mind and I'm turning into one of those parents.  I'm really not.  If you want some research and blogs, I can point you in the right direction.  These things might seem either little to you or very extreme but I assure you, they are important.  Sara is about to undergo a HUGE life change and I want it to be as healthy and smooth for her as possible.

Please, if you have questions, leave me a comment or send me a message.  I hope I'm explaining myself well but I'd love to clarify things if I'm not.  Also, fellow adoptive parents, let me know what things I'm missing on my list!

Oh, and please don't think this means you can't welcome us back to the US.  I know you are all dying to meet her.  I will keep local friends updated with flight information and a plan for our return.  Just know that I will be the only one holding and hugging her.  You will all just have to settle for hugging me instead.  


  1. Such a wise move to post this before you leave! Sounds like you have definitely done your research (which is no surprise) and few of us understand the ins and outs of adoption (especially with older children), so these are good things to get out there! Sara is so blessed to have you! :)

  2. It makes perfect sense. I'm amazed and in awe of how prepared you have made yourself. You will definitely have the support and prayers of many! I don't have kids but would still love to come over & hang with you & Sara sometime. :)

  3. Sounds like you have definitely researched & studied this. I can totally understand each of the things you have said. I hope no one is offended - it's all for Sara's best adjustment.
    That said, I think you need to tell me what you expect me to do & not do while I'm there in Colombia with you two!!!
    Love, Mom/Nana

  4. Great post, and it seems very wise to me! We can't wait to meet her, and I'd love to bring my kids over to your house to provide the noise she's probably used to :) We'll have to learn some Spanish phrases so we really impress Sara.

  5. Hi. My husband and I are adopting from India and would love to know of your resources you liked into so we can plan as we can.