Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bonding and Attachment in Adoption

These 2 adoption words seemed fuzzy and ambiguous to me not too long ago... prior to bringing Sarah home. I think I thought it was a nice way of saying "loving your adopted child". Only after "the dream" became reality did these 2 words come sharply into focus for me.

Bonding and attachment are words that have as much meaning for the adoptive family as trying to describe the meaning of "grace" in a believer's life. Possibly because they both involve "trust and security".

I never even considered "bonding and attachment" to be an issue in our adoption... afterall, we were only adopting a baby. We brought Sarah home 6 weeks shy of her 1st birthday. She would quickly forget the orphanage and adjust to our home and probably never know any different.

After bringing Sarah home, we went through weeks and then months of Sarah adjusting and accepting us as Mommy and Daddy. I did expect that : ) We had several nights a week of what I would call "night-terrors"(screaming, pushing us away, fighting us, crying) for hours during the middle of the night. It was hard but I was ok... she just was scared. Those nights quickly became less and less frequent with occasional relapses.

In fact, we started doing so well, I really relaxed as it seemed Sarah was officially "adjusted". Wrong. It wasn't until I did some travelling this summer while David was in Romania that God started revealing to me the meaning behind the words "bonding and attachment". We had a set back on our trip that upset me more than I wanted to admit.

Since that set back(a sleepless night of screaming/crying comparable to her 1st weeks home), her sleeping issues have gone from bad to worse. Screaming as if "possessed" at every nap and bedtime and waking up every night with the same fits. The only part that has been better is that she does stop when we go and get her. However, she starts right back up if we leave. Thus a couple of very tired and exhausted parents.

A few nights ago, I was listening to one of her fits, paralyzed by what the right thing to do was and almost giving in to a meltdown myself. Something had to be done. Some have offered "it's just her personality" and some have suggested "it's just a phase". But none of those opinions have made sense to me or given me peace. I suppose because a mama just knows when something's not right with her baby.

As the Lord would have it, I received a phone call from a dear friend, who also is an adoptive mom. She heard my expressed concerns through different ears and suggested it was a bonding/attachment issue. Tears pricked my eyes as she continued talking and I felt confirmation that a piece of my Sarah's heart indeed is broken. This was comforting... the truth always is. It is comforting because when you understand something is broken, then you can start working on how to fix it.

There are so many kinds of "history" a child can have pre-adoption that affects him/her. And as unique as their history is, their own genetic make-up also determines how they will respond to that history. Each of my bio kids have individual personalities that we have to approach differently in parenting but with Sarah we have to approach her personality and how that personality responded to living in an orphanage with no sole provider for the 1st year of her life.

Seeing Sarah's broken heart is helping me have compassion when I didn't know I needed it. Seeing her heart is helping me be intentional about spending special Sarah time.... which is hard to do when there's another little needy toddler(Emily) trying to crawl up my leg. God is teaching me the importance of this trust and security in her life and how He wants to heal her through me. That I would love her like Christ so that she may one day be able to put that trust and security in the Savior of the World.

God has continued to reveal how my other 3 need that intentional showering of specific love too. But most of all, He's shown me how important my bonding and attachment to HIM is the only way I will be successful as a mom to ALL my children.

And would you believe after implementing these thoughts into action, we have had 2 FULL nights of sleep the last 2 days..... PRAISE the LORD!!!


Pineapple Princess said...

This line made me cry... "God is teaching me the importance of this trust and security in her life and how He wants to heal her through me." I am going through the exact same thing with my daughter.
Your words are comforting and confirmation.
Thank you. :)

Neil and Courtney said...

We love you guys, and you are doing such a wonderful and important work with all of your children. We are all broken and need a mom and dad we can trust to hold us when we hurt. Thanks for doing the gospel. Neil.

Boothbloggers said...

aww Marianne, bless your heart and little Sarahs. you are so wise and she is lucky to have such awesome parents. I will pray she(and you) will continue to have sleep-filled nights!

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