Sunday, August 05, 2007

Attachment

Attachment. What a confusing thing. When our first baby came home we just assumed everything would be fine in that department. After all, she was only 6 months old. Babies don't have attachment problems, right? We didn't do any of the "over the top" things the books tell you to do. We let other people hold her right away. We left her with family members quickly. We adopted another child 10 months after she came home. We left her for 3.5 weeks less than a year after she came home. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!! We learned our lesson when we saw our baby girl show just how unattached she was, beginning at 18 months. [Of course there were huge signs all along the way--we just weren't educated enough or willing enough to recognize them.]

Lots of prayers, hugs, "always" talks, and six years later I can say that we finally have a 95% attached little girl. I feel confident that she will be able to have a marriage relationship when she grow up. I feel confident that she can now attach to her own children when the time comes. And it is beyond rewarding to experience this child as an attached child. We didn't do all of the attachment work for us, but Eric and I certainly benefit from her attachment. I will never take Taevy's love for granted.

Then came Samren. We were wiser! When he came home (at 5 months) we were just beginning to see how messed up Taevy's little heart was. So we did everyting "right." We did all of the caregiving. Nobody held him but Eric and I for the first months. He didn't stay all night, or even go for a visit to someone's house without mommy and daddy there. And we never saw a hint from Samren that he was anything but attached to us. But the question in my mind was, is that just Samren (to be easygoing about it) or is it because we did all of the attachment stuff "right?" We'll never know for sure.

Along comes Bright! A toddler adoption. Scary!!! Everybody knows that toddler adoptions are the hardest when it comes to attachment. At least that's what the books tell you. Nobody can ever know it all about attachment, but I felt pretty confident about our ability to help Bright attach once he came home. I was prepared for battle with his little psyche! After all, I knew his needs hadn't been met as an infant because of his malnourishment (bigtime cause of attachment issues). He was sure to have a bit of a hard time attaching. I was confident about that.

Once again we were given what we weren't prepared for. With Taevy we were prepared for a child that would automatically attach. She didn't. With Samren we were prepared for a child that would NOT automatically attach. He did. With Bright we were prepared for months of intensive attachment parenting. He didn't need it.

I used to really feel sorry for people that would come home and announce that their toddler was attached after only 6 weeks at home. Poor naive people! They will surely have problems when that child is older! Attachment never happens that fast with a toddler. Well...I think it has with Bright.

I'm almost embarressed to announce that because I know that there will be people like me out there who say that is impossible--it just doesn't happen that fast! I don't know whether it was the two trips that helped him to attach? Or having many more weeks in country with him than we had planned? Or if God just made him a kid who is able to attach easily despite the odds? But for all intensive purposes Bright appears to us to be a completely attached little guy.

If there is one thing I have learned through 3 adoptions it's that I can never assume to know how my child is going to respond once home. And I will no longer assume to know how somebody else's child will respond. I apologize to all of those people out there that I assumed were wrong when they said their child attached at lightening speed! Now I know it can happen.

Now having said all of the above, I would still prepare like crazy to do intensive attachment parenting with any child who is adopted at any age. Our family shows that you can't assume a baby will not have attachment problems, or that a toddler will. But the guilt you feel for doing things "wrong" never leaves you. I believe with all of my heart that if we had done attachment parenting from the start with Taevy, her issues would have been resolved YEARS earlier. We cost her years of being able to fully love a person. We cost her years of feeling like she could be abandoned at any moment.

Even though we didn't end up needing to use our attachment parenting skills for long with Bright, I'm so glad we were ready to go if need be. Attachment is a core human skill. It is so deep. It is so essential. We as adoptive parents cannot make assumptions to the positive about our children's attachment. Prepare! Read! Be ready for battle when your child comes home--not battle with your child, but battle with the thing within your child that will keep him/her from becoming a fully functioning individual. Be ready for the worst, and then bask in the glory of it all if it so happens that you don't need to put your parenting skills to the test.

Anita

5 comments:

Barbara C 2:18 AM  

I'm so glad Bright is having no problems! Deirdre, too, is very attached to me, and she's really getting there with Tim. I'm so thankful for all our sakes!

Darren 5:03 AM  

Happy for you too.. and for Bright! also glad to hear that Deirdre is doing well...

Like wise with me Anita, I can understand where your coming from,I think in my case, the fact that I met J three times.. made a huge difference, he knew his name was Justice Kumatse Schneider before he came!! There appears to be no attachment problems with him either !We connected with each other in Ghana.. and I let him do all the first moves when I first met him on Xmas day.. he was choosing me!! He always runs up to me, kisses me.. hugs me and tells me with his arms open.. how much he loves me.. and yes I have been angry with him.. but with every negative moment there is a positve not far behind. I thank my lucky stars though that I do have a little boy like that as well....
Cheers
Darren

Renee 7:06 AM  

What a blessing!!!!

I believe you because we have it experienced it too. :o)

It is so encouraging to read the children from Ghana are doing so well!

Blessings,
Renee

Sue 10:53 AM  

Anita,
That is wonderful that Bright is doing so well! Thanks for sharing your adoption experiences with us.

Sue

Sarah and Tim 10:09 AM  

Thanks for your honesty!