Thursday, March 1, 2012

Speaking of Attachment

I remember the moment I met her, just 9 months ago. She was the tiniest 3-year-old I had ever seen. When I held her, I even thought she might break. I silently wondered, “What happened to the healthy toddler from the referral picture?”

Less than 5 minutes later, our facilitator shrieked, “Look, another one!” which meant, “Here’s your second daughter!” And as I reached for my new 1-year-old, I was completely unaware that my emotional ‘detachment’ with my tiny toddler was set into motion.

My sister-in-law and my teenage daughter accompanied me on this trip, and I had made it abundantly clear to them that I had to be the one meeting the needs of my new Treasures, all in the name of attachment. I had to figure out how to feed them both, bathe them both, change one’s diaper and take the other to the toilet. While I was wearing my game face and keeping up with the girls, Kenzie and Sheri did a fantastic job of taking care of me J

Our first night together I decided to bathe the girls separately to give them some one-on-one mommy time. I was stunned when I gently placed my tiny 3-year-old into the bath and she began bathing herself like someone who had been independent for years! I immediately took the wash cloth from her, and explained that Mommy would help her from now on. But my heart was broken.

She fell into her crib, exhausted from the events of the traumatic day, but 30 minutes later she was frantically trying to get out. She’d had an accident in her sleep, likely from an unfamiliar food she’d eaten that day which upset her fragile digestive system. Once I got her next to the tub, she shocked me again by trying to clean her soiled clothes under the running water. I again explained that this was Mommy’s job from now on. Again, my heart was broken.

My 3-year-old daughter had been caring for herself in ways she shouldn’t have to. And because she hadn’t needed anybody, she was reluctant to bond with me. And unfortunately, I rolled with that. Oh, I still mechanically cared for her, but my heart wasn’t in it. We sort of had this mutual detachment going on. Except I’m the mommy, and I know better. I pleaded with the Lord to soften my heart and prove to my child that her future is much different from her past, that she will be treasured, nurtured and surrounded by a family who loves her.

And there was something else. Because of her cleft palate, my daughter couldn’t communicate easily. I didn’t realize how frustrating it is trying to bond with someone who can’t talk. Or maybe I was just excusing myself.

Once we were home I began to worry that my daughter would be confused about who her mama was if I didn’t step up to the plate. I was ashamed. And then, the Lord knew exactly what we both needed! We’d been home a few days and she reached for me. It seems like a small thing, but it was huge!

And then she found ways to get my attention. And I began to give it. And as we began to seek the medical care she needed, I had opportunities to comfort her. We began to make eye contact. She wanted to snuggle with me rather than pull away. Instead of happily letting her go to other people in church, I began to cuddle her myself.

And now, 9 months later, there is trust. And there is love. Mutual love, between a mama and her precious daughter. Thank You, Jesus!

Today she trusts and loves...and is very loved!


Rachel said...

tears...thank you for sharing. love her sweet face!

lizzielou said...

This is beautiful Connie, your honesty is so your Mama's heart....God is so good. xoxxo

Jennifer P said...

I hope this makes it to Grafted In. Sometimes attachment needs to go at God's pace. You wrote that script beautifully.

Difference2This1 said...

So, so sweet to read this today :) We're adopted the younger one...the older one...but I have to say, my heart feels especially called to bring home those who fall in between. Blessings, Jennifer

thesleepyknitter said...

Beautifully written and so direct! Thank you for posting.

Jolene said...

I think its difficult for us mothers sometimes to wrap our heads and hearts around the fact that two things can and do happen quite frequently in adoption.

One, that we mothers/fathers can have a hard time bonding with our children. Either because we are reeling from the rejection or we're shocked by the state of child or some other reason...

And, two, after the adoption we can depressed..sad! It is real and it can be difficult to break through.

But each are real and need time to heal so we can properly bond with our children.

Praising the Lord God for the healing with BOTH your hearts!

dhm78 said...

thank you for your honesty, connie. you are helping many people feel normal and that things will get better. love and hugs to you and your sweet family.

Jean said...

Thank you Jesus!

Sometimes bonding is so quick and easy and other times it just takes time and the right circumstance!

It is so joyful when it happens!!

Praise the Lord!

Dorothy said...

Oh Connie.....I could have written pretty much this same post after our 2nd adoption (the one where we met you in China). Our attachment was different than our first adoption and I guess I wasn't prepared for that.
I felt so bad the worst mother for not having feelings for our new daughter like I thought I should. I loved her, but hadn't fallen in love with her (if that makes any sense).
It didn't take long after we got home for this little ladybug to capture my heart and for us to bond completely.

God bless you for sharing your heart and your experience with us!

Love Them Like Jesus,

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