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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

.Planning for Attachment, Bonding, & Cocooning Part 1.


I have been kind of dreading these posts. The issues surrounding attachment, bonding, and cocooning can be sensitive and controversial. I expected them to be controversial in the non-adoption world, but am finding them to be this way even in the adoption world. So in writing these next few posts, I want to be very clear that this is how our family is doing things, and that we have landed here after many hours of research, training, prayer and searching the Scriptures. Our views could change. These standards that we are planning to follow are not our Bible. However, at the moment, this is where we land, and we feel confident, at this time, in the conclusions we have come to. In saying all that, please understand that if you are an adopting family that has done things differently in the past or plan to do things differently in the future, this post is not condemning your family. If you are a family that is not involved in adoption, please understand the carefulness that went into all of this and know that yes it will most likely look very, very differently from how you do things with your birth children. I also want to clearly state that because we are doing things special with Jamesy does not make him more special than Cadi or Scotty. We seek to meet our children at the place that they individually are, wholistically and uniquely at times, even from their siblings. And is that not how God deals with His children? Please read this with grace, and I will do my best to write it with the same.

Knowing that this could stir up debate why am I writing this? I am writing this because I have been asked to, and I am writing this as a reference and resource for other adopting families looking for guidance in this area. Adopting Mommy bloggers were one of the first people I turned to for help in this process, and I was surprised to find relatively little written about preparation for attachment, bonding, and cocooning. A lot of what I found was the hard truth of problems that can (does not always) happen when a child is adopted into a family who did not establish an attachment plan. Much of the information and our plan that I will share is not original to us. I am not an expert. I have never lived through this with an adopted child. So, I will not pretend to know it all about any of this. We gathered information from a few blogs, books, seminars, our social worker, adopting friends, etc. I had bookmarked all of the blog posts that I had gotten ideas from to give them credit in this post (this post has been a loooong time in the making!). However, our computer crashed this winter, and I lost all of my bookmarks. So, please know that some of our plan came from others.

Jamesy comes from a hard place. He has had a very difficult first 14 months of life - no matter how you look at it. According to Dr. Karyn Purvis any child that is eligible for adoption or foster care comes from a hard place. Yes, even that newborn infant adopted the day of his or her birth, comes from a hard place. A child coming from a hard place may have experienced some or many of the following (our Jamesy experienced many):

In-utero stress (drug or alcohol related, a stressful environment, a traumatic experience that the birth mother went through - even stress while deciding whether or not she should place her child for adoption, etc.) Traumatic Birth
Separation from birth mother
Foster Care
Orphanage Care
Separation from primary caregiver
Shifting between foster family and birth family
Move to a new country
Move to a new institution
Unresolved medical issues

Parenting a child who has been adopted is not the same as parenting a birth child. Adoption is a means to bring a child into a home and make him or her a son or a daughter and become a source of healing for that child. Every foster and adopted child needs to to be given the tools to heal. Obviously every child is different, and depending on the child and the family, this can be a very difficult process. However, it is not an impossible process or a process without hope. We feel that it is a process that we must prepare and plan for, so that we are equipped to pass on the tools that Jamesy will need to heal from his traumatic experiences. I also strongly believe, that when families are adequately trained and are equipped with the knowledge and tools they need to help their new children heal, that people will start noticing this and stop feeling so fearful about foster care and adoption. Then maybe we will start seeing our churches explode with children who are being loved and nurtured in church families because of the beautiful ministry of foster care and adoption. That is my prayer and hope anyway. I've said it before, I believe orphans are at the heart of God, so in believing this, I also believe our churches should be mirroring this heart. I pray everyday to that end - specifically for my own local church, but also for the Church in general. Adoption and foster care and healing is not something that we as believers should be fearful of. If God has called you to this ministry, He will go with you, and He will equip you perfectly for it. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. I John 4:18

Jamesy has been in AWAA's Transition Home (TH) since July, when he turned 7 months. The TH is wonderful. It is clean (yes small and very simple when compared to American standard's) and the children are nurtured, cared for, and I even dare say loved by the wonderful nannies. Yes, the nannies are overworked, yes there are about 5-7 babies per nanny, but for being an institution in a developing country, Jamesy is getting phenomenal care. Jamesy has bonded with his nannies, especially with one special nanny. When we swoop in for our gotcha day we will be introducing trauma once again into our son's life. Even though he is only fourteen months old, and he will not specifically remember any of this, he will grieve the loss of this special place and precious people who met his needs for the past 7 months of his life. Jamesy will be handling some very major transitions from new foods, clothes (think snow gear!), smells, people, language, experiences (think car seat!), environment, climate etc. All of these transitions will happen very rapidly, and they will all cause him more pain, more confusion, more healing that will need to take place. As Jamesy's parents, we want to be sensitive to all that will be taking place in his heart, all of the pain that he will be enduring. We want to be equipped and ready to help him begin the healing process. We feel this is our role as his parents. It is our obligation with each of the children God chooses to bless us with. Because of this we are taking a rather intense approach, and we plan to cocoon him for six weeks. I will share our specific plan in another post.

Here is an analogy that I read on adoption. This gives just a taste of the pain and trauma that adopted (and foster) children face during their transition. I know this is extreme, but at the same time, it really softened my heart and opened my eyes to the truth of the hurt and insecurities that undoubtedly will be in Jamesy's heart.

Imagine for a moment…

You have met the person you've dreamed about all your life. He has every quality that you desire in a spouse. You plan for the wedding, enjoying every free moment with your fiancée. You love his touch, his smell, the way he looks into your eyes. For the first time in your life, you understand what is meant by "soul mate," for this person understands you in a way that no one else does. Your heart beats in rhythm with his. Your emotions are intimately tied to his every joy, his every sorrow.

The wedding comes. It is a happy celebration, but the best part is that you are finally the wife of this wonderful man. You fall asleep that night, exhausted from the day's events, but relaxed and joyful in the knowledge that you are next to the person who loves you more than anyone in the world…the person who will be with you for the rest of your life.

The next morning you wake up, nestled in your partner's arms. You open your eyes and immediately look for his face.

But IT'S NOT HIM! You are in the arms of another man. You recoil in horror. Who is this man? Where is your beloved?

You ask questions of the new man, but it quickly becomes apparent that he doesn't understand you. You search every room in the house, calling and calling for your husband. The new guy follows you around, trying to hug you, pat you on the back,...even trying to stroke your arm, acting like everything is okay.But you know that nothing is okay.

Your beloved is gone. Where is he? Will he return? When? What has happened to him?

Weeks pass. You cry and cry over the loss of your beloved. Sometimes you ache silently, in shock over what has happened. The new guy tries to comfort you. You appreciate his attempts, but he doesn't speak your language-either verbally or emotionally. He doesn't seem to realize the terrible thing that has happened...that your sweetheart is gone.

You find it difficult to sleep. The new guy tries to comfort you at bedtime with soft words and gentle touches, but you avoid him, preferring to sleep alone, away from him and any intimate words or contact.

Months later, you still ache for your beloved, but gradually you are learning to trust this new guy. He's finally learned that you like your coffee black, not doctored up with cream and sugar. Although you still don't understand his bedtime songs, you like the lilt of his voice and take some comfort in it.

More time passes. One morning, you wake up to find a full suitcase sitting next to the front door. You try to ask him about it, but he just takes you by the hand and leads you to the car. You drive and drive and drive. Nothing is familiar. Where are you? Where is he taking you?

You pull up to a large building. He leads you to an elevator and up to a room filled with people. Many are crying. Some are ecstatic with joy. You are confused. And worried.

The man leads you over to the corner. Another man opens his arms and sweeps you up in an embrace. He rubs your back and kisses your cheeks, obviously thrilled to see you.

You are anything but thrilled to see him. Who in the world is he? Where is your beloved? You reach for the man who brought you, but he just smiles (although he seems to be tearing up, which concerns you), pats you on the back, and puts your hand in the hands of the new guy.

The new guy picks up your suitcase and leads you to the door. The familiar face starts openly crying, waving and waving as the elevator doors close on you and the new guy.The new guy drives you to an airport and you follow him, not knowing what else to do. Sometimes you cry, but then the new guy tries to make you smile, so you grin back, wanting to "get along." You board a plane. The flight is long. You sleep a lot, wanting to mentally escape from the situation.

Hours later, the plane touches down. The new guy is very excited and leads you into the airport where dozens of people are there to greet you. Light bulbs flash as your photo is taken again and again. The new guy takes you to another guy who hugs you. Who is this one? You smile at him. Then you are taken to another man who pats your back and kisses your cheek. Then yet another fellow gives you a big hug and messes your hair.

Finally, someone (which guy is this?) pulls you into his arms with the biggest hug you've ever had. He kisses you all over your cheeks and croons to you in some language you've never heard before.

He leads you to a car and drives you to another location. Everything here looks different. The climate is not what you're used to. The smells are strange. Nothing tastes familiar, except for the black coffee. You wonder if someone told him that you like your coffee black.

You find it nearly impossible to sleep. Sometimes you lie in bed for hours, staring into the blackness, furious with your husband for leaving you, yet aching from the loss. The new guy checks on you. He seems concerned and tries to comfort you with soft words and a mug of warm milk. You turn away, pretending to go to sleep.

People come to the house. You can feel the anxiety start to bubble over as you look into the faces of all the new people. You tightly grasp the new guy's hand. He pulls you closer. People smile and nudge one other, marveling at how quickly you've fallen in love. Strangers reach for you, wanting to be a part of the happiness.

Each time a man hugs you, you wonder if he will be the one to take you away. Just in case, you keep your suitcase packed and ready. Although the man at this house is nice and you're hanging on for dear life, you've learned from experience that men come and go, so you just wait in expectation for the next one to come along.

Each morning, the new guy hands you a cup of coffee and looks at you expectantly. A couple of times the pain and anger for your husband is so great that you lash out, sending hot coffee across the room, causing the new guy to yelp in pain. He just looks at you, bewildered. But most of the time you calmly take the cup. You give him a smile. And wait. And wait. And wait.--Written by Cynthia Hockman-Chupp

This can leave one feeling hopeless, but I just want to reiterate that we are not without hope. Yes, we want to understand and be prepared for the hurt, the pain, the trauma that our brown-eyed boy has encountered and will endure, BUT THERE IS HOPE. We are trusting God that by investing in Jamesy's life and diving into the middle of his hurt immediately is going to produce long-term positive outcomes in the healing of his heart. We are not promised an easy, pain-free road. If we were looking for that, we never would have pursued adoption - we probably never would have had any children! Not every day will be beautiful and calm. This could be a messy, long process, but so was our adoption in Christ. Nothing about that was easy.

Our family is not capable of doing this on our own. We cannot walk this in a vacuum. We need help, we need to know we are being supported, even if you think our plans are way too excessive and crazy. Even if everything I wrote here seems like jarble and nonsense, but if you love us then please respect us and support us and get involved! This is a vital time in our life when our family must be surrounded by only those people who are willing to walk this long, hard road with us. We need encouragement, love, and we need prayers. We need lots and lots of prayer. This is where our church, our families, our friends - those specifically that do not feel the call of adoption on their lives at this time - can step up and take a huge part in carrying out James 1:27. Although, Jamesy is no longer an orphan, Jamesy's heart is still orphaned, and he needs the love, prayers, and support of many people. He needs for his church family to understand where he has come from, and that he may not act the same as children in our church who have grown up in birth families. We are praying that our investment up front will pay off in the end, and that God will bless Jamesy and our family and heal the broken heart of our beautiful brown-eyed boy. We are praying that God draws Jamesy's heart to Himself and one day Jamesy experiences full healing in accepting Jesus Christ as his Savior. We pray that ultimately, no matter the outcome, that God is honored with our story, and that He receives all of the glory, all of the praise, and all of the fame. For it is ONLY He that deserves any of it.


Shannon said...

I can't wait to hear more! This is definitely an area I feel unprepared for right now and I want to be VERY prepared. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I'll be praying for you and your family, Tiffany, as you walk this part of your journey. I think it's awesome that you'll be writing about this process, especially since you've mentioned there's little material out about it now.

jkseevers said...

a-mazing analogy! Thanks for sharing it.

Soo glad to be in this community of other adoptive families as we grow together and learn from each other.

Of course the best part is that we know Jesus. The glue that holds us all together.

Blessings on your journey.


Ordinary Dad said...

Of course! This makes perfect sense! I hope the first six weeks are a wonderful time for your family!

Laura said...

Oh Tiffany!! You are such a great writer!! I love that you are so prepared and excited to really bond with your son! Can't wait to hear it all!! Praying for you tomorrow!! ~laura

City Sister said...

That is a great analogy ...I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like. At least you have a plan to over come some of these issues!

mosey said...

That analogy was INCREDIBLE... Thank you for sharing.

I wish I knew you in person, I would do everything I could to support you physically, even bring you meals after you bring him home.
However, from afar, You, your husband and your THREE children are daily in my prayers. Thank you for sharing your heart on your blog, sparking I pray more people to LOVE adoption. I know I do and it is a blessing to see someone who pours their heart out about it like you do.

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