The Plan

This post is more than a post. It’s our baby plan for the first few months, maybe more. And it will affect a lot of you who are close to us, because we’ll be doing things that you don’t normally do with a biological baby.

The primary plan is to go underground for awhile, so some of you may only see our little girl virtually during this time.

But let me step back. For those of you who have not spent the last year talking to social workers and reading the latest research on bonding and attachment in adopted children, I’ll try to sketch out the psychology.

There is a process of bonding that occurs with babies and their parents when they are still in the fetus. They connect with their mother and father, and as they are born and go through stages of development, they build this bond as a foundation of trust that their needs will be provided for. This allows them to explore new things and create new relationships.

They also experience attachement, which is more of a series of shared experiences that bring people close to each other. Think of the hundreds of interactions that happen between a baby and its parent throughout the day.

When a baby or child is bounced around between caregivers, they don’t get a chance to build that bond and attachment, and so they don’t have a foundation to build other relationships of trust. They are stuck in a defensive or reactive mode, with the brain wired to respond to an uncertain world.

In adopted babies, the best way to build that bond is to spend lots of time together to create attachments – to be there constantly, providing for the baby’s needs, which facilitates bonding. That means being the caregiver, promptly responding to cries, lots of holding, eye contact, touch, smiling. It also means toning down the stimuli, creating predictable patterns and schedules, and just being around all the time as the sole focus of the baby’s attention.

This is massivley simplified, but you get the idea. Here are a few good articles if you want to learn more:

Bonding and Attachment: When it Goes Right (Adoption.com)

Your Baby Yourself (AdoptiveFamilies.com)

Top Ten Tips for the First Year of Placement (Deborah Gray)

Working with our agency social worker, we have laid out some plans and parameters to facilitate the bonding and attachment with our little girl. While there may be some flexiblity in the timeframes, we believe it is extremely important to make these investments now so we can give our girl the foundation of strong relationships for the future.

So here is the plan:

1. We’ll be on lockdown for the first 2-3 weeks. We won’t be inviting people to come over to see the baby (although we plan to post lots of pictures here and on Facebook), and family visits will be short. We will probably whisk the baby away to the bedroom soon after introducing her to her new extended family.

2. In an effort to maintain routines, we won’t be as quick to answer the phone (or the door) for awhile. That may be a good habit to break anyway. We’ll need to focus not only on the baby, but on our other kids. I’ll be trying to be at home as much as possible, while juggling work schedules.

3. We won’t be going out much, especially to events with lots of people, noise and stimuli,  for 2-3 months. This means birthday parties, church, the mall and school functions are out for baby. It doesn’t necessarily mean indoors all the time, but we have to pick and choose our outings carefully. Again, predictability and comfort are important here. We’ll ease back into the craziness soon enough.

4. We will need to be the only people holding her for the first 3 months. This might be the hardest one, as it’s typically the most natural way to bring family and friends into the life of your child. However, this is also one of the most critical aspects of bonding and it is important not to confuse that process. So bear with us because she will have a lifetime of loving for you.

5. Finally, we will be working with our social worker to evaluate the bonding and attachment process, so we may need to extend these times if we are not hitting certain milestones of development.

For some of you, these steps seem natural and understandable. For others, it feels like you are being shut out from someone you have been supporting, praying for and looking forward to meeting. Please trust us in this process and know that all of you are very important parts of the village that will raise our child, just like you have been with our other kids.

And please pray for us. This will be a beautiful, wonderful time, but it will be inconvenient and awkward and stressful too.

Can’t wait. Can’t wait. Can’t wait to get started.

— Jesse

7 Comments

  1. As someone who used to work with babies who were adopted from overseas as a physical therapist you are very wise. It is so, so important. And I could see the effects of people who did this well in how well their child thrived. Can’t wait until you come out of hiding and we can meet her.

  2. Let me start by saying…so proud of you. Such a great plan. It is sooooooooooo important. Good for you to share with your support team (close friends and family). I hope and pray they can understand and help you do what is best for your baby.

    And as a mom going on 2 months of hiding out…stick to it. Even when you have the urge to head to church. Enjoy the family time.

  3. As a family who has been on the other side (when attachment has not happened as it should), we applaud your foresight and commitment! I did use a sling and baby carriers for Daniel and Emma and noticed that it helped clarify the relationship for them. Obviously, we’ll continue to unravel Joslynn’s attachment issues and walk that “trust road” with her for the rest of our lives. We’ll be praying for you on this journey.

  4. What a wise way to prepare and to prepare others. We’re only on the waitlist, and it is encouraging to see a ‘plan of action’ in place by you and something to learn from. Honestly, I hadn’t really thought of writing out our plan. We’ve talked about it – but not seen it on paper – great words of wisdom. Thank you.

  5. Great post on the importance of bonding. We sent a very detailed email, similar to this, to our family and friends before both our girls came home. Having a plan and sticking to it is critical! And every baby is different, but this is pretty much what we did with both girls, give or take a few things.

  6. Totally support and agree this is the best for Abby! Praying its not too rough on you all and that she attaches and thrives as a Hertstein!
    Congrats!
    Susan Simpson

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