Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"Easing the Transition from Institutional to Family Life"

I have been following another couples blog as they prepare to bring their children home from Russia and I found this great link on there. (you will have to copy and paste this one)
It is from the University of Minnesota, they have a clinic that specializes in IA, Jeff and I planned on using their service to evaluate our referral once we got to Russia if we felt it was necessary but Logan was perfect so there was no need.
It really helps explain the difference of a baby raised in a family compared to an institutional setting, things that one would never think. It is very educational and eye opening, they have a lot of great articles on their site, you should check it out.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Darn Squirrels!!!!!!!!

Nice, all the corn in our garden was eaten by those darn cute squirrels. It looks so funny to see the corn on the stalk, shucked down with not one kernel left on the cob, poor Jeff he was really looking forward to the corn. This was the first year I planted it and obviously it is going to be the last. I did manage to save 2 ears and Jeff said they tasted excellent :)

As far as the adoption goes, no news yet, EERRRRRR. I hope soon, I am not sure how much longer we can hold out.
We miss you Logan and cannot wait to bring you home!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Do's & Don'ts

I found Logans Dr. today, YEAH, this had been becoming a task finding someone with some IA experience. I had interviewed a Dr. and I just wasn't sure about her, she did not have any experience with IA but she was very nice and did some research about Russia, impressive. The Dr. I went to today was great, she new a lot about what we may face, she asked if I have read any books about attachment, I told her yes of course, we talked about attachment issues most because I really do not have any health concerns about Logan. Dr B assured me that I was right on about our plans and told me that it is very important to introduce him to new people, places and things slowly and that we should not allow anyone to hold him until he was securely attached to Jeff and I first. I told her that was our plan for at least 6 weeks and she recommend 3 months, we will just have to take Logans clues after 6 weeks and go from there. 3 months seems awfully long to me but whatever it takes for him is what we will do.

This goes along with my post yesterday about attaching and bonding. It really gives some good advice.

1. Offer household help (running errands, preparing meals that can go right from the freezer to the oven, etc.) so the mother can spend more time holding the child.
2. Trust the mother's instincts. Even a first time mother may notice subtle symptoms that well-meaning family and friends attribute to "normal" behavior.
3. Accept that attachment issues are difficult for anyone outside of the mother to see and understand.
4. Be supportive even if you think everything looks fine to you.
5. Allow the parents to be the center of the baby's world. One grandfather, when greeting his grandson, immediately turns him back to his mom and says positive statements about his good mommy.
6. Tell the baby every time you see him what a good/loving/safe mommy he has.
7. When the parents need someone to care for the baby for a night out, offer to babysit in the child's home. (After the child has been home for a substantial period of time.)
8. As hard as it may be for you, abide by the requests of the parents. Even if the baby looks like he really wants to be with Grandma, for example, he needs to have a strong attachment to his parents first. Something as simple as passing the baby from one person to another or allowing others, even grandparents, to hold a baby who is not "attached" can make the attachment process that much longer and harder. Some parents have had to refrain from seeing certain family members or friends because they did not respect the parents' requests.
9. Accept that parenting children who are at-risk for or who suffer from attachment issues goes against traditional parenting methods and beliefs. Parenting methods that work for many children can be detrimental to a child with attachment issues. 10. Remember that there is often a honeymoon period after the child arrives. Many babies do not show signs of grief, distress, or anxiety until months after they come home. If the parents are taking precautions, they are smart and should be commended and supported!

1. Assume an infant is too young to suffer from emotional issues related to attachment. Babies are not immune.
2. Underestimate a new mother's instincts that something isn't right.
3. Judge the mother's parenting abilities. What looks like spoiling or coddling may be exactly what the child needs to overcome a serious attachment disorder. Parenting methods that work for many children can be detrimental to a child with attachment issues.
4. Make excuses for the child's behaviors or try to make the mother feel better by calling certain behaviors "normal". For example, many children who suffer from attachment issues may be labeled strong-willed by well-meaning family members. While being strong-willed can be seen as a positive personality trait, this type of behavior in an attachment-impaired child may signify problems.
5. Accuse the mother of being overly sensitive or neurotic. She is in a position to see subtle symptoms as no one else can.
6. Take it personally if asked to step back so the parents can help their child heal and form a healthy and secure attachment. You may be asked not to hold the baby for more than a minute. This is not meant to hurt you. It is meant to help prove to the baby who his mommy and daddy are. Up until now the child's experience has been that mommies are replaceable. Allowing people to hold the baby before he has accepted his forever mommy and daddy are can be detrimental to the attachment process.
7. Put your own timeframes on how long attachment should take. One mother was hurt when she was chastised by a relative who couldn't understand...after all, the baby had been home six months. It could take weeks, months, even years. Every child is different.
8. Offer traditional parenting advice. Some well-meaning family members will tell a new mother not to pick the baby up every time he cries because it will spoil him. A child who is at-risk or who suffers from attachment issues must be picked up every single time he cries. He needs consistent reinforcement that this mommy/daddy will always take care of him and always keep him safe.
9. Fall into the appearance trap. Some babies/toddlers with attachment issues can put on a great show to those outside of the mother/father. What you see is not always a true picture of the child. Even babies as young as 6-months-old are capable of “putting on a good face” in public.
10. Lose hope. With the right kind of parenting and therapy, a child with attachment issues can learn to trust and have healthy relationships. But it does take a lot of work and a good understanding of what these children need.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Attachment and Bonding

I have been doing a lot of reading on attachment and bonding. I know some people do not agree with what we will be doing and that is OK, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I do hope you will support us no matter how you feel. I feel unless you have done some research or have adopted a toddler from an orphanage you will have a hard time understanding where we are coming from, that is why I have put this together, to help you. I know some of these things may seem extreme but that is OK if Logan will benefit from it, after all his needs are the most important.

Any ways, I have taken some excerpts from some books, web-sites and articles that I have read on attachment and bonding, 2 of my favorite books are
The Weaver Craft, Toddler adoption and
Attachment in Adoption, by Deborah D Gray
Here is a link to a fabulous web-site (one of many but this one is my favorite)

Here are the Excerpts, I hope you enjoy!

More and more adopted children are arriving home between the ages of one and three, and many of these toddlers have been wrenched from a familiar setting, are grieving the loss of a known caregiver, have experienced neglect or other forms of abuse, and/or have experienced multiple disruptions in their short lives. Toddlers who have resided in orphanages have typically experienced both environmental impoverishment and extremely inadequate care. Yet many professionals and adoptive families continue to believe that with just a little extra love, toddlers will quickly attach to their parents. While most adopted toddlers do eventually become strongly attached to their parents, most toddler adoptions present significant challenges.
First and foremost, keep in mind that while you have spent months, perhaps years, preparing your minds and hearts to welcome this child into your lives and become a family, your child has had little, if any, preparation for this incredibly huge and significant change in his or her life.

Your child was going along with the daily routine when one day, there was an introduction to this person who is to be their new Mom or Dad. Certainly nothing told to them in the way of preparation makes sense to them. Cognitively, most of them are too young to understand that they are getting a new family, and most of them have no reference point for "family." If you have lived all but the first month or two of your life in an orphanage, you have no real understanding of what family means. If your child is older and has memories of a dysfunctional or unstable family life, those memories won't be an accurate reflection of the new relationship ahead with your family.

Assume Your Child Has Attachment Issues:

Attachment issues can be connected to in-utero issues, disruptions in care giving, or multiple placements. Until you know otherwise, treat your child as if they have some level of attachment issues. Read Daniel Hughes' book, Building the Bonds of Attachment, and implement his strategies. In the end, if your child does not have attachment issues, you still will have facilitated a smooth integration into your home, and have secured a tight attachment between the two of you.

Your child may be coming home at 8 months, 18 months, or 28 months, but you will have to teach her/him how to be in a family, how to have social relationships.

Lastly, remember that this is a huge transition for your child. Everything – smells, foods, sounds, textures, language, faces, home and caretakers- is going to be radically different from what they are used to and recognize. Respect that by going slowly in introducing them to new things (people, places, toys, foods, etc.).

Please respect that the new family may require 4 to 6 weeks of alone time for their new schedules to take place. The child has to learn to seek out Mom and Dad for comfort before anyone else and this will take some time, it will not happen over night.

Children who have never had a one-on-one relationship with a single dependable caretaker may have a harder time attaching. Children raised by shift workers in an orphanage for example, have probably never had an attachment experience. Such children and their parents will face some challenges to attaching and those challenges may require special kinds of responses and support from you.

Prepare Family and Friends
When the baby comes home, it is highly recommended that you stick close to home and give the baby time to learn who Mommy and Daddy are before introducing other people. Your baby will need time to adjust to all of the new changes in his life before being overwhelmed by more unfamiliar people and places. Some babies show outward signs of anxiety and distress and others hide their feelings and bottle them up, leaving you to think they are easy-going, which may dramatically change at a later point.

Family and friends often want to help. The best kind of help is for others to run your errands, make dinner, and help with things around the house so that you are free to hold and bond with the baby. Limit holding to only Mother and Father for as long as possible.

Because of separation from birth mother and at least one foster mother, often the baby may be waiting for the next caregiver to come along. Once the baby has had time to adjust to all of the different changes and learn who Mom and Dad are, it is often helpful to not only use family members and friends to run errands, cook meals, help keep house, etc. but to help them to always redirect the baby back to Mommy and Daddy. This will help establish that these two people are the primary caregivers and the most important people in his life.

We taught all of our friends and family members whom we saw often to redirect his attention back to me immediately. Instead of allowing him to reach for Grandma and focus on her, Grandma would instead say "Hello, Johnny. I am your grandma. Where is your mommy? There she is. Mommy takes care of Johnny." And she would physically turn him around to go back to me. Exchanges like this continued for a long time until he knew I was his mommy and I was the one who took care of him. This is something that should be done from day one to help the baby learn and accept who Mommy and Daddy are and that they are forever. The baby cannot have a true relationship with anyone else until he has a healthy attachment with his mother and then father first.

Why can't other people hold my baby? So many people have waited for our child as long as we did. How can I hurt their feelings and not let them hold our baby?
While every child is different, here is our experience. Our son came off the plane happy, smiling, and laughing. He was a beautiful and happy sixth-month-old. We planned on not letting anyone hold the baby until we felt he adjusted. Well, he looked very well-adjusted from the get-go. Everything made him happy, and he took to everything so easily. Carseat, stroller, crib, new bottles, new formula, sleeping through the night…everything was so easy to introduce to him. What a happy, easy baby! And boy did he love people! It even said so in his pre-flight report. He seemed so happy and so willing to go to his grandparents, aunts, and uncles...a lot of people were waiting anxiously for this baby along with us. He seemed to adjust so well that we threw away the no holding policy and let close family members hold him earlier than we expected. He was not passed around nor held for long periods of time, but he was very loving and seemingly unaffected by the exposure to multiple family members.

As time went on our son distanced himself more and more from me, his mother, but still went happily to everyone else. I was his primary caretaker and doing a lot to promote bonding, but he avoided me more and more in ways that seemed innocent but didn't feel right to me. By the time he was home four months, he was not happy when I fed him, changed him, held him, gave him a bottle or anything that required me caring for him. By this time he completely ignored my existence and became a full-time "mommy shopper". He learned lots of interesting tricks to get the attention of other women. This child would have willingly left with a complete stranger from the grocery store and never would have looked back. Meanwhile, everyone else continued to see a baby who was so easy and sweet and good and loving...I did not see that child because when it was just the two of us, he avoided me and pushed me away. It was very painful, and I thought at first it had something to do with me not being a good mother...I know that is not the case now.

We had our son evaluated by an attachment therapist at ten months old. We learned that he was sensitive to the attachment process. Basically, he had the opinion of "been there, done that...mommies are not trustworthy, mommies leave, I will pick my own mommy...I am safe when I control who takes care of me." From that point on no one held our son until he was out of the avoidant stage. We trained family and friends to redirect our son back to me so I was no longer the mean lady taking him away from the loves of his life....any other woman. It took about three months of no one holding him and everyone redirecting him to Mommy, including Daddy. This was very hard on some family members who did not understand, but who would blame them? After all, he always looked happy to them. They didn't see what went on when potential mommies were not around.

Because my son was sensitive to the attachment process, allowing anyone, including the grandmothers who waited as anxiously as we did, to hold him for even a few minutes was confusing because he did not know or accept that I am his mommy and I am the one who will take care of him forever. It was a lot of hard work, really hard work that might not have been so hard had I stuck to the original plan. So even if they look happy and well-adjusted, try to remember, you are a stranger to this child. Not all children will react like my son, but since we don't know for sure--and remember it was a few months before our son began to push me away--I highly recommend that you put the baby's emotional health before the feelings of family members who do not live with you. (a. 6mo, FC)

I am hoping not to offend anyone -- just wanting to share our experiences with no holding. We have three children adopted from Korea. With our first two, we did very little reading about attachment and thought we would just love our children to pieces and all would be well. Our first two arrived at 4 1/2 months of age. My husband is from a large family; they love to pass the baby and believe the child should be content and snuggle with each one. This is what our two sons experienced soon after their arrival - - one struggled and cried and the other seemed indifferent. I felt sad and sick after each visit.

With our third adoption, our daughter was 6 1/2 months at arrival. Before her arrival, we read about and researched attachment. I asked our social worker about no holding for six weeks. She said she had seen wonderful transitions with those who had done this. With the loss and uncertainty our children have experienced before coming to us, not allowing others to hold our child made sense. Before our daughter's arrival, we informed family and friends that we would be the only ones to hold our daughter for six weeks. Because we had allowed our first two to be held, we explained that our daughter was older and we felt we needed to do this to help with her adjustment and attachment. We knew some might not be accepting, yet it wasn't about what other people needed; this was what our child needed.
Our daughter's adjustment has been remarkable in comparison to our sons'. We can't know if this was due to no holding initially, personality, or the other attachment methods we have implemented. Our daughter was never anxious and upset when others visited during those first weeks. Our sons were. My seventy-year-old father was so struck by the difference in adjustment with our third child, he remarked that maybe we shouldn't be so anxious to let others hold our daughter after six weeks! (a. 4.5mo, 4.5mo, 6.5mo, FC)

Friday, August 11, 2006

37 Days!

It's been 37 days since we met that adorable little guy and signed our petition to adopt him. Sometimes I'm not sure if people understand that I think of this boy as my son, not just a boy I hope to adopt. After what Jeff and I have went through I do not have on rose colored glasses and I know anything can happen but I love that baby and my heart aches for him everyday :)

We have been told not to expect our release letter and court date until September, I am holding on to that September is only 21 days away and of course anything can happen and it could come in August, who really knows. I am still hopeful for court the first of September. One good thing about the wait is that air prices have come down going into fall and we will probably save about $1000. Over the next couple of weeks I will be busy TODDLER proofing our house and doing a really good cleaning. I hope I can post a court date soon!