Tuesday, March 17, 2009

experiences and thoughts

Most of the adoption literature focuses heavily on the child's attachment, while giving very little focus, or none at all, on the parents' attachment to the child. So, I am not going to discuss the child's attachment process here, since there are much better writers who have addressed this comprehensively.

I am writing this post as I have had the chance to encourage and pray with others that recently adopted and are stunned by their own feelings, or lack of them.

These are wonderful parents who "completely fell in love" with their children at referral. Then, once home for a week, a few weeks, a couple of months, the adrenaline is wearing off, and the exhaustion is seeping in. Along with it comes an evaluation of their emotions. These families were stunned, surprised, disappointed, despondent, some even despairing over their lack of emotional attachment.

I have been given the opportunity many times now to share with families some of the normal feelings and reactions parents experience. First of all, it is quite rare (although a wonderful blessing)to have instantaneous connection to your older child at placement. That makes complete sense to me. If someone put a child on my lap at the church nursery and said this child was now mine, I certainly wouldn't be completely attached to him. It takes TIME. Second of all, attachment DOES come. Some families shared the fear that they will never feel connected. Yes, they will. The more nurturing things they can do with their children, snuggling, rocking, picking up, carrying, hugging, stroking, tickling (yes, definitely even an older child)... the more those maternal juices flow.

After I returned home and knew I was committed to these kids, but not completely attached to them, I did some searching on this subject. God graciously kept bringing adoptive moms of older kids into my path. Many, many adoptive moms of older kids have stated that it generally takes half the child's age to the child's age at adoption to feel fully attached. If you are adopting a 6 month old, 3-6 months is no time. If you are adopting a 5 yr old, that time is significantly longer at 2-5 years. But remember, it is a continuum of attachment, not from unattached to fully attached in one moment. So, even during the process it IS good. I just thought this might be something to be aware of for those families that are waiting to bring their little ones home. This is TOTALLY not to discourage you, but actually to help you understand what many families experience, and if you are experiencing it, too, that is OK. Then, share your feelings with trusted people. These people can pray for you during the adjustment, and that is powerful and effective. And there are families that do experience the more immediate attachment. Awesome! Just give yourself permission to feel the way you do, without guilt. And bring it to God. But do love. It is an action word, anyway.

Tomorrow I have the privilege to meet with a dear woman who brought home their 4 yr old daughter recently. She is overwhelmed, discouraged, afraid. I am excited to bring her HOPE. This is part of the journey for many, but it wasn't meant to be walked alone. Certainly, God is THE daily strength and hope, and as she was able to be honest and vulnerable with me, I can also be a support, encouragement. I am excited to walk this road with her and celebrate with her when her little one is snuggled beautifully in her heart.

32 comments:

Robin said...

Thank you so much for this post.....I never thought about it from the adoptive parent's perspective comparing referral to placement attachment. Since we are adopting a 3 and 5 year old, this post really is helpful!

Mary said...

Thank you Sharon! For this and for comments you've offered. You are blessed with the ability to give reassurance and hope. God is using you greatly!

emily said...

Such a wonderful post! So glad you shared this with us. :)

Anonymous said...

I am so thankful to have found your blog. My husband and I just began the adoption process. We have been married 20 years and have 2 boys 19 and 17. I appreciate your insight on bonding and greatful for your honesty. Please continue to share:)

All's grace,
susan burkhalter
burkhalter@wwest.net

Gayla said...

beautiful insight! thanks so much for your honesty and encouragement!!!

coffeemom said...

This is so true and so important to put out there. Bonding and attaching is a 2 way street and it takes TIME, sometimes longer than you expect. That is a fearful thing and one I get hung up on too....but it's one of the things we can help each other with and remind each other about. Critical support, good for you, once again, for being there! Love M

The Albertsons said...

You need to write this book, lady! you said it perfectly. I haven't experienced this as a parent yet, but I watched MY parents experience this and countless clients. You are SO RIGHT about it all...
I know that you writing this will encourage so many hearts...
becca

Jennifer M said...

Yes, yes, yes!!

And not being able to clarify the feelings to myself in those early stages, led to feelings of frustration and failure as a mother, person, and woman. As a first time mom, I was educationally prepared for my daughter's attachment learning curve, but in hindsight, I naively believed that I would experience the fairy tale in return.

The best analogy that I have heard is that adoption is much like marriage. Two, independent people (even infants) are coming together- both with their own personalities, experiences, routines, and expectations. It takes time, commitment, and love.

Thank you for writing such a beautiful and succinct post.

Rebecca said...

Excellent post.

Andrea said...

Well written! I too try to share with people that it's ok not to feel completely attached and in love immediately. For me it took rocking him to sleep nightly crying and praying for God's heart and love for this child. He was 2 when we brought him home. He's now 4 1/2.
Prayers for those who are beginning the process and feel lost.

Laurel said...

This was a wonderful post! Thank you!

We brought our children home a year ago (ages 6, 9, 12 at the time). While things have gone smoother than many older adoptions that I have heard of ... it has not been an easy year.

I found it very interesting the part you wrote about it often taking 1/2 their age in years, to really attach. So, having adopted a 12 year old, we may not even be attached when he is 18. One thing that makes the attachment even more difficult with this age ... I'm not going to pull a teen boy onto my lap to cuddle. :)

I think I'll write a post about this, and link back to yours. Thanks!

Laurel
mama of 13

Beth said...

Thank you for this post! I think it is so good for adoptive parents to know that attachment does go both ways and that it takes time. It will happen, but it will take time. Even though this is frustrating at times, it is reassuring too.

Paula said...

What a great post, thank you for writing it. We are STILL waiting for our twins, our "new" court date is March 23. They will be just shy of 5 years old at the earliest when we bring them home. I can't wait to have them with us, but I'm scared and nervous too. I usually express this thought as "what if they don't love us?" but of course what I'm worried about is attachment... between all of us. I know in my heart that this is what God wants us to do, but sometimes it is already overwhelming.

Good to see your dossier made it to Addis, by the way.

Jen said...

I still remember talking to you about this on the phone-my first really substantive talk about adoption. You were great then and are even better now. I am so enjoying the "falling in love" feeling (noun), knowing that the loving and attaching (verb) to B may take work, time, and prayer (especially if she isn't so excited about me:). Great post.

Holly said...

Yes, it takes lots of time sometimes. I am so thankful to the person I've leaned on (and still lean on) as we continue to attach to Bereket and deal with her attachment issues (which in turn make our attachement to her more difficult...by leaps and bounds). And I know that I will be able to pass along the favor to others.

Postma Family said...

Thank you for being honest and allowing others to be so honest. We just got our dossier paperwork sent to our agency, so there is one hurdle down. We'll pray your court date come soon!

Chris and Jess said...

Thank you for this post! We are almost done our dossier, I think it will be done by May. We're going back to Ethiopia for an older child, a girl aged 7-10. I'm in the stage right now where I'm reading everything I can about older child adoption, which can be scary. The books seem to highlight all the things that can go wrong, and it makes you feel a little nervous. I like how you said attachment is a continuum- I won't forget this piece of sage advice.

Lori S said...

I am so glad you shared this! I remember getting an email from you about this very topic and have thought about it many times since bringing my daughters home! It has been very helpful for me--I don't beat myself up because I know that this is normal! I also know that it WILL happen--it just takes time!
Thank you! Moms and Dads need to hear this!

Denise said...

A great post! I wondered why we were not prepared for our feelings? It seems that goes hand in hand with learning about your child's attachment. I felt that I was totally odd in what I went through because I hadn't heard about it.

I can agree that it DOES happen and time is pretty much what does it. We've been home with Sarah for 14 months already and we're pretty much there. Unfortunately, there's a bit of undoing of bad habits (like our strong reactions to her misbehaving) to do, but I feel like we've turned a corner and it's a wonderful feeling!

Thanks for the post. :)

The Roberts Family said...

I SO appreciate this post!!! Very encouraged to hear how God is using you, my friend! Blessings, Shelly

The Ellens Family said...

Thank you so much for posting this!
It was hard when we came home. I read all the books and thought the attachment would be instant. I felt alone and guilty, now I know it was all normal. Thank you for sharing and encouraging other adoptive families so they don't feel alone.

Amber said...

Great post!

Nate and Brenda said...

I wish more people would share this info. Great post!!! Thanks for being bold and stepping out when so many people do not get it!!! :)

LoveNotes4CocoPrincess said...

I want to thank you for giving me this wisdom---it's a Godsend!

Wolfemom said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing it.

Nicole said...

This is fabulous! With I had read it back in May 2007 when we brought our son Luke home from China! I had pretty instant attachment with our first two adopted children and expected "fairy dust and chirping birds" with Luke as well. Nope. And it was very had to understand. There were extenuating circumstances... he was grossly delayed, sick, etc after the orphanange gave us updates that he was on-target, etc. He came home at 19 months of age and I didn't feel attached to him until 16 months LATER. We brought Logan home in October 2008 from China and this time I didn't expect INSTANT attachment. Thanks for this post!
Blessings,
-Nicole
www.bakerssweets.blogspot.com

Annie said...

i love the honesty of your post...thanks for the insights.

Jen said...

Keep checking in on you to see about court dates... heard a quote the other day that made me think of you. Don't be afraid to go out on a limb. That is where the fruit is. - H. Jackson Browne After a week of feeling impatient, I am again at peace waiting and getting ready for our little one. I will always thank you for the role that you played in giving me the nudge I needed to go older. I would have missed out on this sweet child that God had in mind:) Can't wait until your little one is home.

Kimberly Baggett said...

thank you so much for being honest and brave enough to post about this! we, too, felt like so much has been written about the attachment of the child, but not much for the attachment of the parent TO the child.....this post will serve to encourage so many people who feel fear and discouragement in not "feeling" the attachment with their adopted child/children at times! you are so correct...love is an action, a choice, a commitment....it can be difficult, but oozes blessings beyond blessings! thank you again!

jillybean1023 said...

You are so right ;)

erika's funny farm said...

Thank you for this post. I read it several days ago, and I was so overwhelmed I couldn't comment then. Thank you for your honesty. God certainly used this post in our house, and in my heart. You blog has been a blessing many times.

Lisa H. said...

Excellent post...Definitely a keeper!

Lisa H.