One of the major challenges/successes of our adoption journey has been attaching and bonding with Grace. We spent a lot of time while we were waiting learning about attachment. We read the horror stories, we read the success stories. We read the textbooks about what to do and what not to do. We discussed it during our home study and read through all the materials presented to us.
Let me make it very clear, there are A LOT of resources and opinions about attachment and adoption. However there is no right way or one way to do it. Every family does it differently, every adoption practitioner, psychologist, social worker, person with fancy letters after their name recommends different practices, things to look for, action plan for attachment.
We took a very conservative, hands on approach to attachment. We took all the information we had been given and made the plan that we were most comfortable with. ( let me tell you a lot of prayer went into this plan). We made decisions like; we would be the only ones to hold Grace until we felt like she understood that we were her mom and dad and were not going to leave her, we would not let her cry it out- instead we would pick her up immediately to comfort her and let her know we were always there, Ryan and I would be the only one to provide for her needs- feeding, bathing, changing, sleeping until we felt like she was attaching well, we would not leave her with someone else until we felt she fully understood that we were her mom and dad and if we left we would be coming back. ( this is just a very small list... but I hope it give you an idea).
Our plan was not always understood, and at times I felt like our judgement and decisions were questioned. And to be honest some days I did feel crazy. Grace attached quite easily with us, but we also were very aware that attachment would take a lot of work and would be an ongoing process with new milestones reached over many years. Because she seemed to attach easily it was hard to justify not letting people hold her, or getting up 30 times a night to comfort her, when so many people recommended letting her cry it out etc.
As crazy as I felt some days.. the crazy lady not letting anyone hold her sweet, cute, cuddly baby... I do feel like I tried to make the best decisions for my family. We did compromise with some of our rules, and sometimes that was so frightening because what someone else saw as a small thing, feeding her, changing her, holding her I saw the consequences long term. But we navigated the crazy world of parenting as best we could...
We have seen some great milestones with attachment. Here are some highlights:
- Grace pooped on day 2 ( babies/ children will often not poop due to the changes going on in their lives) Ryan is most proud of this!
- looking for us when we left a room
- making eye contact with us when we talk to her
- not going to someone she did not know when they held out their arms for her ( this mom was so proud... but believe me I get a few looks when I don't make her go to someone when they ask to hold her)
- Expressing her anger when we do something to upset her ( daddy left for a couple of days and she lets him know that is not ok!)
- hiding behind mommy's legs when she is uncomfortable
One of the best benefits of working so hard on attachment has been how much I have attached to Grace. I always knew I loved her, I had a bond with her from the moment we held her, but I had no idea how much I would attach and how awesome that would feel. it is a strange thing to explain but I am attached, I love to be with her, I love to explore with her, to go through the good and the bad of the day. I love watching her interact with the world and the people in it. I like that she looks for me when she discovers something exciting, or runs up to me to tell me stories because she knows I will be there. I am super blessed to be this little girls mommy!
Before I end this long post.... let me express something... attachment works differently for everyone and every child. For us as a family of three this is what worked, but next time we adopt it may work very different and we may choose a very different game plan. Other parents take a much more laid back approach and that works great for them and their child. Whatever works for that family is the best choice for them!
Attachment was not something we did by our strength. By the grace of God, through our imperfections, weakness and struggles God worked to knit us together as a family. God has been our strength, our guide and because of Him we have seen great progress in this area of our life.