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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

.Planning for Attachment, Bonding, & Cocooning Part 3.

The end of our adoption journey is in sight! We could (not likely) be leaving as early as next weekend to go back to Ethiopia and Jamesy. It's really happening. We have been preparing for this for the past ten months. I like to prepare and plan and make lists and research and review what I have learned, and that is exactly what I have done. However, I understand that there is not a magic formula that will ensure that after all of this preparation and planning that Jamesy will attach to us. I know this, and I am okay with this. Jamesy owes us nothing, and we are trying to walk into this with no expectations. This is what God has called our family to, and He will equip us for whatever lies ahead. I am just excited and anxious to get started, to get Jamesy home, and to start living life with all three children!

We know that to our church family, family, and friends some of what we are going to implement will be hard to understand, because you have prayed, encouraged, supported (with prayers and finances) our family all of the way to this point. Many feel connected to Jamesy already and are longing to see the brown-eyed boy who has drawn people a world away to the throne together. And we want that for you. But first we want to allow his broken, hurt heart to begin to heal inside of the safe cocoon of his family. If our family is able to bond with Jamesy during this time and begin attachment with him, then he will be much more successful in bonding with all of our family and friends in the future. It is absolutely critical that we allow him to gain an understanding of our family first - Dad, Mom, sister and brother. This is a very foreign concept for him.

What we plan to do is not reasonable for every adopting family. Again, please understand that this is our plan. It is not necessarily the best plan, but we do feel it is the best plan for our family. We are dedicated to taking extreme measures during the first critical weeks of introducing Jamesy into our family. The first six weeks at home will be spent in a cocoon. Our plan is subject to change as we get to know Jamesy on a deeper level and as we feel out how our family is melding together. But we have a starting point, a plan to start with, as we come home exhausted with a brand new son.

Our Attachment Plan (Much of this has been borrowed and tweaked from others):
  • For the first six weeks that we are home with Jamesy, our home will be our cocoon. We will not be welcoming any visitors into our home at this time - family or otherwise - and we will not be going out. An exception will be made for doctor appointments as these are very important for Jamesy to attend. Our cocoon has the potential to extend to eight weeks if need be.
  • Jim will resume going to work as soon as he needs to, but will try to stay home at least the first few days. After Jim has gone back to work and I am home with the children, I will be very conscientious to not take phone calls during the day. We will do everything we can to make our home quiet and calm and structured with little stimulation - such as TV, loud noises, excessive toys, etc. We have learned that structure and routine bring comfort to children from hard places (Actually I really believe all children benefit from this!). All of my attention will be devoted to the children during the day. We will resume schooling with Cadi as soon as possible, understanding it may look and be different during this time.
  • Jamesy will be worn in a front pack or a sling for the first three months that he is home, as much as possible. Physical contact is one of the best ways to bond, and it will help Jamesy begin to develop trust in us. Wearing Jamesy will help him to know our smell, our heartbeat, our language, and familiarize him with his two primary care givers - Mom and Dad.
  • Jamesy will nap in a carrier or in our arms for at least the first six weeks. We will slowly start introducing independence at nap time after the initial six weeks, but we will come very quickly when he cries. He will never be left to cry it out. We want him to understand that he has a voice that is now being heard, and that he can trust us to meet his needs.
  • Jim and I will be the only people to hold Jamesy during the initial 6-8 weeks. We want him to understand our role in his life and how it is different than anybody else that he encounters.
  • We will initiate bonding activities daily such as massaging him with lotion and playing bonding type games.
  • After the initial 6 weeks (or 8 depending on how he is doing) we will slowly start to shed our cocoon. We will go out of the house to places with little stimuli at first and gradually introduce him to more and more of our world and the people who love him.
  • For the first 6 months Jim and I will be the only people to give Jamesy a bottle (keeping him on our lap and focusing on eye contact and physical touch), spoon feed him, and change his diaper. I learned that infants typically get about 4 hours a day of eye contact over the course of 12 feedings (From Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child). Jamesy has missed a lot of this in having his bottle propped for many, many of his feedings. This is a gift that we can give to him.
  • Jamesy will be given a bottle and be bottle fed on our laps until he is two years old.
  • For the first 6-8 weeks we will not use the word no or limit set with him. After that we will gradually introduce no and healthy boundaries. We do not know what discipline will look like for him in his toddler years, as we do not yet know what his needs will be. But we are willing to do whatever it takes to discipline him in the best way that fits him. We are not looking for cookie cutter discipline here.
  • For the first 3 months Jamesy will only be separated from Tiffany for 30 minute intervals as needed.
  • Jamesy will not spend the night away from Tiffany for the first year that he is home.
  • Jamesy will never be left in our church nursery. This is simply because of the similarities it has to an institution and his inability to differentiate between the two at his age. He will sit in the service with us until he is two years old and we can evaluate his needs from there.

That is our attachment plan. I am sure it seems overwhelming and excessive to some. For sure this will be exhausting and taxing. We cannot do it without the grace of God. We have never heard of a family that has cocooned and followed an attachment plan and regretted doing it, but we have heard of several who have regretted not doing it.

These first critical weeks are a gift, and they cannot be relived. This is how we are choosing to open our gift.



Abigail said...

Thanks for sharing! I, personally, think it is AWESOME that you have thought this out so thoroughly and thoughtfully. I especially loved what you said about keeping the home quiet, with few distractions...this may sound ridiculous, but that is not something I would ever think of! Will be praying a peace-filled transition.

Anonymous said...

That's super intense but I think it will be invaluable to bonding with Jamesy. I will be praying for you and your family during this time!

Kristi said...

I'm praying that the bonding and attachment stage exceeds your expectations and that your whole family adjusts well. Have you decided if you'll be blogging during this time? I loved the part about allowing him to realize he has a voice that is now being heard. How true...praise God! I know you know that this brings me to tears. I don't think your plan seems outrageous at all. Praying for you guys.

Theresa said...

I am so proud of you and Jim for placing these boundaries out of the love of your son. God is going to bless it- I am sure of it! ♥

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for sharing this and I think the most important part of the plan lay in some of your first words "He will equip us for whatever lies ahead" That promise will hold true! I know many will be praying you through.

I still need to educate myself on this concerning an older child. We are looking to adopt a child around the age of 4, so the bonding there is quite a bit different.

So excited that soon and very soon you will have your baby home!

rameelin said...

Thanks for sharing so many details Tiffany! It's so insightful to see the life changes that are going to take place in your home and family. It excites me! Oh how I adore this wonderful story of yours...

Tammy ~ Country Girl at Home ~ said...


We had implemented many of the things you mentioned, and Luke was older than even Jamesy, when we brought him home. He still sleeps with us and he never stays away from me even now unless with my mother. He doesn't stay in the toddler nursery unless Joy stays with him and he knows he has the option of coming out when he wants. It doesn't make life easy sometimes and yes, you will have folks that won't understand, but that's okay! I believe, for us, it has really paid off.

I will praying for you guys and can't wait to see Jamesy at home where he belongs! :)


Heather said...

I think your attachment plan sounds wonderful! Jamesy is a blessed little boy and you are blessed by him I'm sure. :) So happy for you all! I hope your cocoon stage goes well and that Jamesy gets attached to all of you when you are finally able to bring him home.

mosey said...

beautiful! I am excited for you all (I do hope you post us some pictures in the midst of your time)

I think it is going to be a hard, yet rich rewarding time for you all! Praying that your friends and family will be supportive and place meals on your doorstep and run!!

Grace~ful Family said...

This is such GREAT news and I think your plan is great and I am hoping that Jamesy gets all teh benefits from it all. You've definitely thought of his best interest and long term effects the transition will be like on him.

Tiffany said...

As far as blogging during our cocoon. I am not sure. I want to say yes, because writing is so good for me. In a very real way I need to write, and I want to continue to share every part of this journey. I will just have to see how it goes, and whether or not I can figure out how to put it in. I am sure I will still do facebook updates. My computer is in the kitchen, and it is very easy to walk by type out an update without even sitting and continue on with what I am doing. I do that all day long - ha!

Cyndee said...

Hi Tiffany. My daughter linked to your blog and encouraged me to read your plan after we talked about it last night. Two things I am wondering about: You said that Jamesy will nap in your arms for those first 6-8 weeks. What about bedtime? Will he sleep with you or in his crib? Also, where do grandparents fit in? When will your mom and dad be able to hold him and spend time with him? Thanks!

Tiffany said...

Cyndee~ Thanks for your questions. Let me just restate that this plan probably will not work for every family. Having said that.... at bedtime we are playing it by ear. Jamesy will be rocked to sleep for at least the first 6-8 weeks at bedtime. Then we will put him in a pack n' play right next to our bed or we will co-sleep with him depending on his needs and comfort level. (That will be a first for us!)The grandparents fit in the same as everyone else. We shared our plan with them months ago, and they are prepared to see him at the airport and then are expected to wait until after our cocoon the same as everyone. Again, I know that this is extreme, and some families would not find this at all acceptable. We are so thankful to that our families seem very respectful of our desires. After meeting our son, and seeing first hand the fear and trauma built up in his heart we feel as if this is what we need to do to promote healing, bonding, and attachment. Once he has bonded and attached with us, it will be much easier for him to form a lasting connection with his grandparents.

Jackie said...

I just wanted to echo what everyone else is saying here. It is so wonderful that you are making such an in depth plan for Jamesy's homecoming. I really think that the Lord will reward your diligence and sacrifice, and it will make a world of difference in your son's life and heart! I can't wait to see pictures of him at home!

vaunswanama said...

I've just come across your blog and I wanted to say thank you for sharing! Your plan for attachment doesn't sound too far off regular attachment parenting and I think it's wonderful that you are going to such measures to ensure not only the attachment, but his psychological health. You sound like absolute wonderful parents and and hope you have all been attaching and adapting well.

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