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.