What you need to know about Post-adoption life...
As we are quickly approaching our much anticipated trip to China there are a few things that I would like to help our family and friends understand. Adoption is NOT the same as giving birth to your biological child, as much as I would love to paint a rosy picture for you that it is just like bringing home a newborn baby, it is not the same. This is not to say that it is bad, just that it is different.
The needs of an adopted child and the family of an adopted child are VASTLY different from those of a child born to loving parents who have properly nurtured and cared for their child. I am not going to go into all the nuances and even differences between a newborn adoption and birth of a child because that obviously doesn't apply to our situation, however, an adopted newborn still experiences grief and loss as well. Anyone who ignores this fact does their child a grave disservice.
*Please take the time to read and understand these important issues regarding post-adoption bonding and support us as we make this journey.
#1 - We will be traveling FAR - We will likely leave on a Wednesday and not even arrive in China until FRIDAY! China is 14 hours ahead of us, so they wake up hours before we go to bed, and we go to bed as they are starting their day. Talk about JET LAG! #royaljetlag
We will be touring The Great Wall, Tianneman square and the Forbidden City the day after we get there, then we will fly 5 hours to Little M's orphanage province to pick her up. We then fly to Guanzhou which is another 6 hour flight or so. We will spend many days in government offices, medical offices, U.S. consulate etc..... then just as we are adapting to the time change we will spend another LENGTHY ride on an airplane with a blind little girl who has never been on a plane, let alone for 12 hours! We will be exhausted! Please be understanding of this and that we need time to rest and recouperate before we start having parties, get togethers and visitors.
#2 Please do not tell our daughter that she is "Lucky"
She will not feel lucky at all and in reality she is NOT lucky. We do not believe in luck in any way, shape or form, we believe in the power, grace, and mercy of God. This sweet little girl is going to feel more like she was kidnapped in the beginning, she will be leaving everything she has ever known, everything that is comfortable and familiar to her. She will be leaving friends at the orphanage, and nannies that she has learned to love and adore. Amongst the difficult situation of adoption she faces new people, new things, new language all without being able to see who we are. I reiterate that this is not going to feel "lucky" to her. She will, in time learn to love us, come to feel happy, comfortable, loved...but initially it will be very hard for her.
She will go through a period of grief, loss, fear and a range of emotions. This is very normal with all adoptions no matter the circumstances, location, age etc.. This is one of the aspects of adoption that I am not looking forward to, my heart aches to know that she will be afraid and we are praying that God will assist her in this difficult transition. Please be sensitive and understanding of this rather than try to make it seem as if she should feel lucky as this is not how she will feel, nor how she should feel.
God has a plan for each of His children and we will never understand His plan for each child, why one child has a loving family, another is born into an abusive home, or another is abandoned, one is adopted and another is not. We do not know all of the answers, but it is never that one child is 'lucky' and another is not....or one child is blessed and another is not. All children are loved by God, and honestly if there were more families willing to adopt or help those who are willing to adopt be able to do so, God would be able to provide homes for more orphans. God cannot provide homes for orphans if we are unwilling to open our homes. We cannot judge God's plan when we ourselves are not willing to be His hands in opening our hearts, homes, and lives to be a family to an orphan. #Godlovesallhischildren #wemustbehishands
#3 Trauma, Grief, Loss and Fear are expressed differently by different children
I know so many of you are very excited for us and are very excited to meet Little M for the first time! We are so grateful for your support and we are also very excited to meet her and bring her home. However, we would like you all to understand a few things about adopted children and the initial stages post-adoption.
- Do not expect her to 'Love' you or treat you like she knows you.
You are a stranger to her, just as we are also strangers to her. Please respect her space! If she is hesitant to hug you, talk to you, smile, or interact with you...PLEASE respect her and how she feels. Give her the space she needs and time to get to know you and warm up to you. Do not force affection or anything else that she is not comfortable with.
Trust me, I wish that she would instantly just love us all as family, friends, relatives etc..... but it is a process. She must feel secure, get to know you, and learn to love you, so give it time and be patient with her.
- She may act hyper, withdrawn, angry, refuse to speak, rock back and forth for comfort, act out......among a host of other emotions. It is okay, this is her expression of how she feels. No matter what her experience and expression of emotions is, we will love and support her through it but understand that this is NOT 'who she is.' These emotions of grief and loss do not define her or who she is. We will support her through her emotions and let her feel what she feels without expectation. We hope that you will be understanding and help us support her and love her in the way that she needs to help her best. It will not stay this way and soon you will see her true self emerge as she begins to feel comfortable, loved and secure.
#4 Priority number 1 is attachment, this is NOT the time for discipline
Obviously you do not discipline a newborn baby when you first bring them home...well adoption is actually similar in that regard. No matter whether you bring home a 1 month old or a 15 year old...attachment comes first. The child may act out and your first reaction is...you should discipline that child! Well...that is where parenting a bio child differs from a child who has just come from institutionalized living.
Structure is important, redirecting behavior is important, but discipline will take a back burner to bonding and attachment. Every child is different and parenting an adopted child will be different if you are dealing with attachment issues, attachment disorder, or reactive attachment disorder but for the average adopted child they need to be able to trust you, know you will ALWAYS be there for them, that you will NEVER abandon them and that they are LOVED unconditionally and this will be our #1 priority. So as you watch us parent her, please realize that this is 100% different than your parenting experience because your child did not come from abandonment and institutionalized living.
#5 Affection, Snuggles, Loves, Hugs & Kisses
Okay, granny, grammy, grandma, auntie.......all you who just want to love on her and hug and kiss her sweet little face......I ask you to please refrain. I know it will be hard and how could I say such a thing. You have been waiting for this little girl to come home for 9 months and so have we. You have seen videos, pictures, read updates and heard us talk about this sweet little girl for 9 months and you just want to love on her. I know, I know but please see it from her perspective.
She does not know you, she has not seen pictures of you, she has not seen videos of you, she does not know your name....for all she knows you are a stranger on the street! Please be respectful of her boundaries!
We have been told that she is shy and takes time to warm up to new people and so we ask that you be respectful of how she feels and if she acts hesitant please respect her space. Give her time, talk to her, help her get to know you, play games with her, read her stories and eventually she will warm up and you can give her all the love, kisses, and hugs you want.....when SHE is ready!
#6 Cocooning - What is it?
Cocooning is a VERY popular word in the adoption community but not very well known outside of the adoption community. It is an extremely important part of the adoption process and we plead with you to understand this and respect this family time!
If you think of it from the child's perspective, this child was abandoned by her parents on the streets at the age of 3 years old! She was taken to an orphanage where she received very little individual attention and then moved to another orphanage six months later. She has no memory of family, no knowledge of what it is to have a mother, father, siblings.....she knows living with nannies and in a school setting all day long.
When you adopt a child from this situation, bonding is completely different than that of a Bio child born into your family! Bonding is something you have to create and foster between you and your child and so cocooning is the way in which we foster bonding.
We will be limiting visitors - We know you are all so excited to meet her and we love that you are so supportive. However, please be understanding and respectful of the fact that we are trying to foster bonding with our daughter and help her learn who mom & dad are, that we love her and provide care for her. She will need time to adapt to new surroundings, sounds, a new language, routines etc...
If you would like to visit, please call us and we will let you know if we feel she is up for visitors and if so, please be aware that we would like to keep it to a couple visitors at a time.
We will become hermits for awhile - Little M will need to adjust, even more than a typical adopted child. Because she cannot see she will need to spend a lot of time at home with help finding the bathroom, the kitchen, the family room, learning the layout of her new home, getting used to her own room, where her toys are, a new routine and learning what it is to be in a family. Because of this 100% of my time will be devoted to this little girl. My life will revolve around her, teaching her, helping her, loving her. I may sit up until 1 am rocking her to sleep, comforting her, helping her navigate the stairs in our home....attending to all her needs.
Please understand that we may not attend extended family functions all the time, we won't be able to serve the way we once did in church, our lives will change and turn inward for awhile.
#7 Mommy & Daddy need to be #1 care providers
A key part of bonding, even with a newborn, is that mom provides care for the newborn. Mom feeds the baby, changes the baby, rocks the baby.....this MUST happen for an adopted child no matter how old the child is. It is a very essential aspect of bonding! It may seem strange to you, but we ask that for the first few months mommy and daddy are the only ones to feed or comfort Little M.
As much as you might want to run to help her if she falls etc... please respect that we need to be the ones to comfort her and provide for her needs so that we can form a healthy bond with our daughter. It may seem weird to you, but realize you have no experience with International adoption and therefore have no frame of reference in which to understand.
#8 - Bonding & Attachment may seem strange to you at times
Children who have been abandoned and who have grown up in institutions have often missed out on KEY important stages of bonding and development and in order to raise a healthy, well rounded child we will have to regress as far back as she needs to to fill in these development and attachment stages.
We may rock her to sleep like you would a baby
We may play with infant toys
We may spoon feed her......
There are times even adopted teenagers have enjoyed being rocked to sleep during the initial stages of being home. These are important, comforting developmental stages that are missed and by regressing and going through these missed experiences you form stronger attachment and better emotional stability in an adopted child. Please understand that we are not 'Babying her' this child has suffered grief and loss of a magnitude you could never possibly understand and we are doing everything we can to help her heal and lead a healthy, emotionally stable life and what you may know as normal goes out the window when you are dealing with a child who has suffered so greatly. We ask for your understanding and support, rather than judging something you may not fully understand.
#9 She may be emotionally, physically or intellectually behind
It is very normal for Internationally adopted children to be behind in a myriad of ways....this is okay! She may catch up quickly when she arrives home or she may struggle with the shock of all the changes and she may be behind for years to come. It is all okay, each child reaches milestones according to their own timetable. We are not worried about when she reads braille, how fast she learns English....we are worried about bonding and creating a supportive environment where she will thrive and she can learn at her own pace.
Our journey is unique, our journey to adoption looks different than any other couples journey to adoption, our lives are different and Little M is also unique and will have her own experience of the adoption process. We have prepared ourselves for every possibility we can imagine and have prayed to know how to meet her needs and we are so grateful for the love and support from everyone around us and as we prepare to travel in the next 6 weeks or so we pray for your support and love as we return home and strive to integrate this sweet little girl into our family.