Sunday, May 31, 2009

A flat tire and a heart pizza

As of Thursday, there has been absolutely no movement for us on the adoption front. Admittedly, I am a little impatient, but we both continue to find strength from success stories, friends and family.

Bill and I are in different towns this weekend because of work, so I am missing him and our pets too. Going into the weekend, I was adament not to let anything get me down. I decided I would go out and look at Real Estate early Saturday morning (this is one of my favorite things to do). I was pumped up! I took a shower and programed in 10 addresses into the GPS, off I went. As I was driving, I kept hearing a noise that sounded like an oil rig digging. I pulled over into a parking lot and the noise stopped, but then as I started driving again - the oil righ started digging again. Oh no! A flat tire!!! Luckily we have AAA and for $12 they can come out and plug the tire on the spot. An older man finally arrived that had a beard longer than Santa. He kept staring at the tire and stroking his beard. Finally he said, sorry - I can't plug it because of the location of the puncture, you need to take it in to get it patched from the inside. He put my skinny little donut on, pausing on occassion to stroke his beard. It was free of charge, and he even tried to give me a candy bar! Okay, so I decided to go back to my room to find a tire store online locally and get it patched. I swear I called 20 places and nobody could get me in...even if I was a walk in! I called Bill and we decided that I would just get it fixed on Monday or Tuesday - fun, fun!!

So instead of going back out to look at Real Estate I thought I would just stay in and take a much deserved nap. When I woke up, I called Bill and was talking on the speaker phone to our dogs (yeah, we are 'that couple'), when Bill said "oh, I have a picture to send you!". When we got off the phone he sent me a picture of the lunch he had made. He made a homeade pepperoni pizza and designed the layout of the pepperoni into a heart shape for me.....ahhhhhhhhhh. Sweet hubby! Makes the flat tire look like a chump :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Some final words on attachment (for now)........

If the word "adoption" was an acronym, the "A" would stand for "attachment”. That's how important it is, it would be the leadoff hitter for the whole adoption acronym. Without a solid leadoff hitter, your team doesn’t go very far (hopefully the owner of the Baltimore Orioles is following our blog). By the time we get our little guy(s) home, we’ll be 18-24 months behind the attachment 8-ball, and we’ll have to make up that time one day at a time. As with every aspect of adoption, nothing happens overnight. For our child to properly attach with us, we anticipate weeks, months, and years of work ahead of us. The time we put in over those first crucial weeks after we have our little guy(s) home can and will be the foundation for our family dynamic for years to come. We will do whatever it takes to be successful in our endeavor.

I think for now we have exhausted the topic of attachment. We’ll definitely revisit the subject closer to bringing our little one(s) home, but for now Michelle and I are ready for a break on the subject ourselves (as I’m sure our readers are).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Adrienne's Post

Adrienne & Jim adopted Owen from Vlad at 18 months of age. She gave us permission to post one of the passages from her blog that speaks volumes about attachment. Thanks Adrienne!

Why Does He Do That?

I can't count the number of times I've been asked this question or read this question in the look on someone's face during the past year. The questions we've heard... Why won't he look at me? Why doesn't he like me? Does he ever sit still? Why won't he just sit and play with me? Why can't I hold him? Why don't you leave him with a babysitter or take him to daycare? Why does he want to look in all the cabinets? Why does he want to see our washing machine? Does he understand English? Why won't he listen to me? Why do you pick him up when he cries? Why do you carry him so much? Why do you still feed him/help him so much when he's eating? Why do you play with him all day long? Why don't you just let him play by himself? Why does he do that?

For a long time, it really bothered hearing questions such as these and watching Owen explore every new place we went and not immediately focusing on an activity or staying with me. Whereas many children stay very close to their parents in new environments and with new people before venturing out, Owen was so eager to leave us and explore each new environment without every turning around to see if we were still there. Upon arriving somewhere he didn't go very often or had never been, he immediately wanted down to walk around and explore where he was, locating any and everything that was familiar to him (things we had at our house such as bathrooms, dishwashers, washers and dryers, outlets, etc). He wanted to open every cabinet to see what was inside and just couldn't settle down until he had inspected every single hidden surface. I remember last Fall when we decided to take Owen to a Gymb0ree birthday party, knowing we could try it and leave if we needed to, Owen couldn't have cared less about the slides and balls and all the fun music and games, going straight to the bathroom and cabinets at the back of the room. It was hard as a mother watching all of the other children participating in the party activities while my little boy just wanted to escape, escape all the noise, all of the people, all of the overstimulation to find a quiet familiar place of refuge. A few months later, we went to a friend's house for a small birthday party, and I found myself chasing Owen around the entire time as he explored the house and then at one point, when I just couldn't hold it in any longer, closing a bedroom door keeping Owen in the room with me as I sat in a rocking chair trying to compose myself as tears poured down my cheeks. I wanted so much for Owen to be able to participate with the other children. I felt like going to the party was a mistake, but I knew the more Owen was able to experience different environments and other people, the better he would be able to function effectively in different places. He used to be the same way at our own house, wandering around looking at everything and not settling down enough to just play, but with time he learned to play all day long as he became used to all of the various stimuli (people, sights, smells, sounds, textures) in our home. I knew this could improve in other places, but it definitely was going to take time.

Before we brought Owen home, we read multiple adoption books, focusing greatly on those discussing attachment and the potential issues that may occur with a child who has been adopted as an older infant or toddler, especially those who have been adopted from an orphanage setting and have never known a consistent caregiver and have no meaning of what a "Mommy" is, who believe "Mommy" is replaceable because that is all they've ever known. When we met Owen at 14 months, we immediately noticed the signs we'd been reading about. Owen had no attachment to anyone at the orphanage, and he didn't have any preference for who held him, arched his back anytime we tried to hold him close, and never made eye contact with us. He was so interested in the toys we brought for him and didn't care a bit if we paid him any attention, ignoring us in the greatest sense of the word. We knew we had our work cut out for us but we couldn't imagine our life without this precious little baby boy.

When we first came home from Russia as a family of 3, Owen was almost 19 months old. We had talked with a friend of ours, Rob, who is an occupational therapist, about the various things Owen could and couldn't do for his age, and he recommended that we wait a year before having Owen evaluated for occupational therapy. He noted that Owen had been so deprived of so much stimulation and sensory input that he knew that we would see huge changes in Owen over the course of a year as he explored more textures and environments, and we did. For the first few months, we watched Owen explore his new toys and objects in his new home, rubbing them with his little fingers, flipping them over to study all sides, shapes, and textures, and literally gagging when he touched anything that wasn't smooth. Touching our hair made him gag, and he immediately pulled his hand/body away anytime his skin made contact with ours. Holding a stuffed animal to Owen was like forcing him to eat brussel sprouts. And as for eating, Owen only ate pureed foods by spoon and drank formula from a bottle. He gagged when any other texture was placed into his mouth. He didn't know how to chew. Anything that wasn't pureed immediately came back out. For so long, Owen's eyes couldn't focus on anything that wasn't right in front of him, and if that thing was a person who was talking, he definitely couldn't focus. He could track objects just fine and was very focused on objects as he played with them, but he was so distracted by all of the sounds in his environment that he could only attend to one or the other (the sound or the object) and sometimes focused one eye on the direction of the sounds in his environment while trying to focus the other eye on the person talking to him. He was good at focusing on the camera's light/flash so it was difficult to see this in many of his pictures, but you can see his arm between us and him in almost all of the ones where we're holding him. Owen was so attuned to sounds in his environment that even with a white noise machine, fan, and bathroom fan on to make white noise for his room, if we walked down the hall outside his room and made a peep, he woke up. This happened for months before we saw improvement and a more sound sleeper emerged. Just last weekend, Owen fell asleep to the sound of not white noise but people talking and dancing to loud wedding reception music sitting in a high chair leaning against my chest. When we picked him up to put him on my lap, he didn't wake up. Wow, progress.

One of the most difficult parts of Owen's attachment difficulties has been earning his trust and being blessed with the joy of his eyes looking into mine. With babies who were born biologically into families, from day one they are held close and fed as they gaze into their mothers' eyes. Over time, they are talked to and googled over as their mothers gaze into their eyes and respond with the same eye contact, smiles, and coos. They are picked up and comforted with touch and soft voices when they cry and receive consistent caregiving from one person (or a group of persons) and learn from these interactions. Children who have lived in orphanage settings do not receive this type of parenting. They do not receive parenting but caregiving. A child may have multiple caregivers within the same room, coming and going throughout the day and night, being transferred from age group to age group and caregiver to caregiver. They may be fed facing away from the caregiver or with limited eye contact as the caregiver does her best to feed multiple babies at once. There is minimal talking and playing with the babies as they are one of many who need to be attended to. Diapers are changed, bottles are given, and babies are left to "play" on their own. These children do not learn to attach to one person as a parent as they have never had one parent but many caregivers who come and go. They see "Mommy" as a replaceable entity, someone who comes and goes who they can't always depend on to be there when they need something.

Despite the large number of young children living there, orphanages are often very quiet. For example, there were approximately 125 children under 4 years old at the baby home Owen lived in for 13 of his 18 months in Russia (he was in a hospital before then due to his extreme prematurity), and the baby home was as quiet as a library. The sounds we heard were not those of babies cooing, laughing, and playing or even crying, but the sounds of caregivers' spoons clanging against their bowls as they finished their lunches, of the caregivers speaking to each other, not to the babies. Owen had 1-2 caregivers in his room he shared with 10-15 other babies. We met different caregivers nearly each day we were there. How can it be so quiet you may ask? When babies are in orphanage settings such as Owen's with many babies and few caregivers, they learn that no one comes when they cry so they stop crying. No one coos back at them when they coo. No one stares back into their eyes when they gaze at them for attention and affection. They learn they cannot depend on people, that they cannot trust the people who take care of them and who may love them most.These children form attachment issues that may make it difficult difficult for them to have meaningful relationships in the future and to know the difference between strangers and people they can trust, which can be very dangerous for the children.

Over the course of the first year at home, we watched as many of Owen's difficulties faded away. Within a short period of time, he learned to play with the toys he had, so intrigued by how each one worked and what he could do with them, and all of the sensory exploration of toys disappeared and functional play emerged. The hours of wandering around new places became reduced to shorter periods of checking things out before playing and participating more fully with other people. He went to a birthday party in early June at a local children's indoor pretend play/playground center, and Owen had the most wonderful time. He fully engaged in all of the activities (with the exception of the puppet show) and led us by the hand to each activity he wanted to do instead of running off by himself and going to familiar things instead of playing functionally. What a victory this day was for us!

The trips to the grocery store that used to cause Owen's eyes to wander in and out the entire time we were gone, unable to focus on anyone or anything as we drove to the store and shopped for groceries as he tried to filter all of the sights, smells, and sounds, have turned into fun little field trips for Owen (that he actually requests to go on). As we enter the store, he recites the grocery list to me as I've read it to him, eagerly searching for each object on the shelves, locating them, and putting them in the cart as we shop, and then saying a loud "Hi!" and showing all of his prized possessions to the sweet Miss Bonnie who is our favorite cashier. For a long time, Miss Bonnie tried to talk to Owen, and he was so overstimulated by all of the sights and sounds, that he couldn't even focus on what she was saying. It was as though she wasn't even talking to him. At first, my talking to him about her didn't seem to make a difference, but with time, I could say "Owen, Miss Bonnie is talking to you. She said "Hi." Can you say "Hi?" He would look toward her but not at her and say "Hi" then, whereas now he initiates the "Hi" and smiling gaze into her eyes. Take a minute and close your eyes and think about all of the things you see, hear, and smell during one trip to the grocery store and then imagine living in a crib for all your life and then being taken into one of these places and trying to focus on what someone is saying to you. When I did this, it made me realize, even if just a little bit, just how hard this was for him. I am so proud of how much he enjoys going to the store and saying "Hi" to Miss Bonnie now. He has come such a long way.

Over time, Owen learned how to chew a variety of textures as well as tolerate touching objects that weren't smooth. He now loves to run his hands through my hair and actually holds onto our hands, arms, and legs when he's held close. He doesn't squeeze us the way most children do when they hug their parents, but he does tolerate and actually seems to enjoy skin-to-skin contact now. When he received an occupational therapy evaluation after being home a full year, he only qualified for consultative services one time per month to help with his self-regulation and to monitor other areas of sensory processing and fine motor skills, and I believe this may not have been recommended if I hadn't wanted a little more help and reassurance that what we were doing at home was all we could do. Owen still loves to stand on his head and play Ring Around the R0sy when he's not engaged in activity and still has difficulty staying with one activity for very long and focusing immediately in new environments, which were our main concerns for seeking an OT eval at all, but every day this gets a little bit better, and we celebrate every little bit of progress!

When we adopted Owen, we were awakened the first night by the sound of him rocking himself back to sleep and also banging his head on the side of the crib. It was so hard to see him do this, and we knew we needed to teach him he didn't have to soothe himself any more. We did this by going to him and picking him up immediately anytime we heard him wake up and start rocking or banging his head, and by doing this he learned we would come to comfort him and that he could depend on us to help him soothe himself to sleep, which was something he had never experienced before. This was the beginning of our attachment process. For so long, even when we tried to comfort him and also when rocking him before bed, Owen turned away from us. He has never looked into our eyes and maintained eye contact as we hold him the way biological babies do at a very young age. He never had this and is still learning to feel comfortable with sustained eye contact in affectionate situations. He has pushed our faces to turn them away from his, has physically moved his body to the furthest most point of our laps away from our bodies as we held him, and anytime we tried to pull him close, he'd push harder against us. Recently, if he wakes up during the night, he cries out, "Where's Mommy?" and asks for me to come to him. He has begun crying actual tears (which are rare for him unless he's hurt) if he thinks I am going to leave his side when he wakes during the night. He begs, "Sleep Mommy's bed. Please!" When I pick him up to comfort him, he relaxes and puts his little head on my chest, seeking that skin-to-skin contact he rejected for so long, and falls back to sleep so peacefully.

When he is sad or hurt, he no longer shakes it off (literally) or takes off running into the other room to deal with the pain or sadness by himself but comes to us with tears and wanting a hug and kiss to make things all better. He still doesn't give outward affection easily. He doesn't hug us with a squeeze but now puts his arms around us and leans in with his face touching ours instead of turning away and putting his arm between us. He gives kisses willingly, often without asking and climbs into our laps to have stories read to him instead of picking up a book and opening it only to jump right back up and put it back on the shelf. He often asks to rock and just sit a while with me when he wakes up from his nap, whereas for so long he wouldn't even look at me when I came in his room to greet him after a nap or in the morning, seeing me as just another caregiver.

Nearly every day we see progress with Owen's bonding, attachment, and sensory processing difficulties. It has been and still is a challenging process on a daily basis. Some days are better than others, and we definitely have more great days than not now. We're so grateful that we haven't had the difficulties other families we know have had with their children hitting, biting, and fighting their parents, and I really feel for those of you who have been through these attachment problems. I can only imagine how much harder it must be to attach to your child and have them attach to you when they are rejecting you not only with their eyes and an arm between you at all times but with such physical rejection. It is difficult to explain to others when they ask, "Why does he do that?" as the explanation cannot be provided in just a simple explanation. Before we came home with Owen and during the process to adopt a child from Russia, we talked with our families and close friends about all of the attachment strategies we would be using with Owen once we were home, how we would be the only ones to touch him, hold him, give him affection, feed him, bathe him, change him, provide for any and all of his needs. We knew Owen would have a long road to building a secure attachment with us and to overcome the effects of such a lack of appropriate stimulation and interaction for such a long time, but we didn't know how long it would take. I remember telling family members that hopefully by his birthday and Christmas (6 months after coming home) they could at least give him a hug or hold him (I was wrong and I know how hard it was and still is for them to hold back their affection and love for Owen). I was told by someone or read somewhere that it can take as long as Owen was without us for him to develop a secure attachment to us as his parents. I remind myself that he lived in a hospital bed for 5 months and then a crib for 13 months. He had very little affection and motherly love. He learned that mothers are replaceable, that he couldn't depend on his "mother" to be there for him as all of his caregivers changed so often. He put up a guard between himself and the rest of the world. So much of his stimulation for so long was purely auditory that he learned to protect himself from trusting others and that he could tune out the rest of the world when he was overstimulated by diverting his eyes or letting them wander in and out and focusing only on what he heard. He is still learning to filter all of the stimulation, especially in new environments, but each day is a new day, a better day for him, as his body and mind learn to live in this noisy, beautiful world of ours.

Because Owen is not completely attached yet, when we see Owen take a step backwards in the progress of his attachment, we stop and take a step backwards ourselves, working a little bit harder again on making him rely on us to help him, holding him more, asking other people not to touch him in an affectionate way or help him for a while, doing more activities that require eye contact and requiring eye contact before doing/getting what he wants and needs, and responding to his needs and any cries for affection from us with more affection and playing with him more than usual. We have been amazed by how well this works for him. When he goes to a new place and wants to get down immediately to explore and take in all the stimuli around him, we require him to stay in our arms until we've been there a little while and have noticed that even though he fights it (verbally saying he wants down over and over again and trying to get down) at first, when he does get down he is calmer and able to focus more on everything and everyone in his environment. It's a learning process, and we are not experts in attachment or sensory processing difficulties, but we are learning over time what works for Owen. With help from wonderful people who are more experienced in these areas and books as resources, and by watching and working with Owen 24/7, we are learning not only what helps him with immediate situations, but also what will help him long-term as he continues to learn the meaning of a family, of having a Mommy and Daddy who will never leave him, who are not replaceable, who will love him no matter how much he may reject us at times, and that he can trust us to be there when he needs us.

Because he must securely attach to us first and depend on us as his parents for his wants and needs before he can be able to learn to trust and depend on other friends and family members, and because his brain is still learning to filter all of the different stimuli in his environment, we know that we will continue to hear the questions... Why does he do that?, Why won't he look at me? Why won't he just sit and play with me? Why can't I hold him? Why don't you leave him with a babysitter or take him to daycare? Why does he want to look in all the cabinets? Why won't he listen to me? Why do you pick him up when he cries? Why do you carry him so much? Why do you still feed him/help him so much when he's eating? Why do you play with him all day long? Why don't you just let him play by himself? WHY DOES HE DO THAT? But, it's okay. There are still days when we want to cry for him, when we look at him and just wonder what his precious little mind is thinking, what all he went through before he came to us. We still feel frustrated at times and want so much for Owen to be "there," the place where we'll know he's fully attached and has overcome his sensory processing difficulties. When this happens, we remind ourselves just how far he has come and continue to focus on all of the progress he's made and the bright, joyful 2 1/2 year old he has become, and have to stop to remember that it will take time for him to be able to function like a child who has been with his family from birth. We love Owen so very much and want nothing more than for him to be able to be all that God created him to be, that he will become fully attached to us as his parents and that he will be able to overcome all of the effects of being deprived of so much his first 18 months of life. We see how far he has come and rejoice in knowing he can do it! We can do it! It will just continue to take time and dedication. Each day with Owen is a gift, and we have promised him we'll make the best of each one of them! Thank you all for your prayers, support, and for understanding (or trying to understand) the complexities of attachment and sensory processing difficulties and for accepting and loving Owen the way he is as he continues to grow more attached to us and better adjusted each day! Why does he do that, you ask? If you didn't know before, now you do! :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

They say you learn something new every day. "Something" as in one thing a day. Not plural! Apparently "they" never adopted a child as we have found that you learn several new things every day. Michelle and I have been learning a lot about attachment lately. While we educate ourselves about attachment, it's just as important that we educate those close to us about the subject as we'll need help to stay on task with this ultra-important phase of our family development.

Here is a little lesson from someone much more knowledgeable than I on this topic.

Stay Home
Stick close to home and avoid the revolving door of visitors until the baby has had time to adjust and learn who his parents are. Remember, you are strangers to this baby. He has not been waiting a long time for you. When the time comes to introduce the baby to family and friends, it is best to limit holding to Mother and Father.

More to come on this topic.....

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Melissa's post

We have been fortunate enough to come into contact with many wonderful adoptive parents. I truly value their experiences and advice and carefully consider their way of seeing things. Kim, Nancy, Adrienne, Carol, Amy, Janette, Melissa, Nicole and many more have all a been wonderful support throughout this process. It's nice to hear what you have done right, and it's even more valuable to know what you have done wrong. Thank you all!

In the theme of setting expectations during the initial bonding stages, we wanted to share some experiences other families have had. Melissa gave me permission to post an entry off her personal blog that spoke to me when researching bonding. She, her husband and their new son Iliya were finally on their way home after their long trip to Russia.

Have I mentioned how we are so excited to come home? I think you all were pretty right when you said that I am getting homesick. I really am enjoying my time with my husband & my son…I’m just ready to be home to sleep in my bed and cook with my dishes and eat my food. I guess what I’ve got could be deemed a form of cabin fever. Anyway, today marks the end of Day 8. Two more days to go, then we do a couple days’ worth of paperwork and then head out to Moscow. I’m not sure if we will have internet access in Moscow (though I will try to post if/when I can), for one reason because it can be very expensive.

So before things get too busy, I wanted to talk for a second about our homecoming.

I know that a pretty large group of people is set to meet us at the airport, and I can’t tell you HOW excited we are to see you! I just want you to be prepared that Iliya may not be quite as excited…he may surprise us, but we totally anticipate him being overwhelmed. When he’s overwhelmed, he is likely to get really shy…and/or…cry. We won’t know what he’ll do, till we are there…so please be prepared for these reactions. The only thing that we ask is that no one tries to take him from either of us. He’s pretty shy with strangers, but then again, he could surprise us and try to go to someone with their hands outstretched. Even if he does this, he’ll have to stay with one of us. We hope that if you know of anyone who is coming…and they are not regular readers…please help us spread this word.

I think this will be the hardest thing about our homecoming. Because if you’ve seen a picture of our little one, you KNOW, he is an irresistible little thing. And by irresistible, I mean that his presence, alone, brings on the desire to kiss him, squeeze him, and pretty much eat him up. And we want everyone to have their time with him, when he is truly ready…BUT for a while after we come home, we will have to be the parents, and we will have to be the ones to hold him, help him, and primarily care for him. If you ask to hold him, and we say 'no,' it's not because we don't think you are's just that he needs to see us as his primary caregivers. The people who love him best and who are supposed to meet all his needs.

I explained it to our niece like this: Little I has not ever had a mommy and a daddy, so when he comes home, he will still be learning that we are his mommy and daddy (and what it actually means to have a mommy and a daddy). Part of this learning process means that we’ll need to do most everything for him when he first comes home. We want to be sure that when he needs something, he learns to come to us for it…and not to just anyone.

This is something that a lot of people (who have children from the time they are born, or at least extremely young) often take for granted. The child grows up and just knows who takes care of them. This is not to say that there are not biological children with unhealthy attachments out there, but as parents of a post-institutionalized child, we do not take attachment for granted. It is something that must be worked on and I think that I speak for most adoptive parents when I say that we hope that our friends and family will understand by allowing us to be the ones that our child attaches to.

So, all that to say that we completely appreciate your support and prayers up to this point…and will appreciate them in the days, weeks, and months ahead of us. We want you to come see us at the airport…we just want you to be prepared for all the possibilities of that night!

I know that I just way oversimplified the whole attachment thing, but it’s the easiest way to explain it. He is doing SO well right now…for that, we are extremely thankful. But such a huge change of scenery may cause some confusion for him (though we hope not) & we want to be able to keep on this good track, even after we come home!

One of the things that has stuck out in my mind about an international adoption parenting seminar we went to is the social worker saying that when friends & family come over, if the child needs anything to let the parents do it. But the example that really sticks in my mind is that she said, "if a grandparent (or whoever) is over, and the child brings a bag over to them and asks them to open it for him...then the grandparent should take him to the mom/dad and get them to do it." Basically, I think she was saying that other adults -- friends/family -- can help model these attachment behaviors for the child.

Monday, May 18, 2009

No holding for 6 weeks - sorry!

As Bill and I research attachment, we will post pertinent information that we find. This topic will be a little touchy, so read with an open mind/heart and know we are trying to do the best we can when we get our little guy(s) home. The first few weeks are imperative! We will post reminders as the time gets closer to coming home.

Who Goes to the Airport?

The day your baby comes home is a joyous occasion and many people have been waiting anxiously right along with you. But it is important to remember that while you have been waiting anxiously for your baby, your baby has not been waiting anxiously for you. Think of all the losses he is experiencing and how scary and confusing this must be for him. It is recommended that you not further overwhelm your baby with lots of faces at the airport. Limit holding to only Mother and Father for as long as possible.

FAQ: 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.

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.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Different Perspective

Immense Loss; Walk a Mile in Baby’s Booties

Imagine for a moment…

You have met the person you've dreamed about all your life. He has every quality that you desire in a spouse. You plan for the wedding, enjoying every free moment with your fiancée. You love his touch, his smell, the way he looks into your eyes. For the first time in your life, you understand what is meant by "soul mate," for this person understands you in a way that no one else does. Your heart beats in rhythm with his. Your emotions are intimately tied to his every joy, his every sorrow.

The wedding comes. It is a happy celebration, but the best part is that you are finally the wife of this wonderful man. You fall asleep that night, exhausted from the day's events, but relaxed and joyful in the knowledge that you are next to the person who loves you more than anyone in the world…the person who will be with you for the rest of your life.

The next morning you wake up, nestled in your partner's arms. You open your eyes and immediately look for his face.

But IT'S NOT HIM! You are in the arms of another man. You recoil in horror. Who is this man? Where is your beloved?

You ask questions of the new man, but it quickly becomes apparent that he doesn't understand you. You search every room in the house, calling and calling for your husband. The new guy follows you around, trying to hug you, pat you on the back,...even trying to stroke your arm, acting like everything is okay.

But you know that nothing is okay. Your beloved is gone. Where is he? Will he return? When? What has happened to him?

Weeks pass. You cry and cry over the loss of your beloved. Sometimes you ache silently, in shock over what has happened. The new guy tries to comfort you. You appreciate his attempts, but he doesn't speak your language-either verbally or emotionally. He doesn't seem to realize the terrible thing that has happened...that your sweetheart is gone.

You find it difficult to sleep. The new guy tries to comfort you at bedtime with soft words and gentle touches, but you avoid him, preferring to sleep alone, away from him and any intimate words or contact.

Months later, you still ache for your beloved, but gradually you are learning to trust this new guy. He's finally learned that you like your coffee black, not doctored up with cream and sugar. Although you still don't understand his bedtime songs, you like the lilt of his voice and take some comfort in it.

More time passes. One morning, you wake up to find a full suitcase sitting next to the front door. You try to ask him about it, but he just takes you by the hand and leads you to the car. You drive and drive and drive. Nothing is familiar. Where are you? Where is he taking you?

You pull up to a large building. He leads you to an elevator and up to a room filled with people. Many are crying. Some are ecstatic with joy. You are confused. And worried.

The man leads you over to the corner. Another man opens his arms and sweeps you up in an embrace. He rubs your back and kisses your cheeks, obviously thrilled to see you.

You are anything but thrilled to see him. Who in the world is he? Where is your beloved? You reach for the man who brought you, but he just smiles (although he seems to be tearing up, which concerns you), pats you on the back, and puts your hand in the hands of the new guy. The new guy picks up your suitcase and leads you to the door. The familiar face starts openly crying, waving and waving as the elevator doors close on you and the new guy.

The new guy drives you to an airport and you follow him, not knowing what else to do. Sometimes you cry, but then the new guy tries to make you smile, so you grin back, wanting to "get along." You board a plane. The flight is long. You sleep a lot, wanting to mentally escape from the situation.

Hours later, the plane touches down. The new guy is very excited and leads you into the airport where dozens of people are there to greet you. Light bulbs flash as your photo is taken again and again. The new guy takes you to another guy who hugs you. Who is this one? You smile at him. Then you are taken to another man who pats your back and kisses your cheek. Then yet another fellow gives you a big hug and messes your hair.

Finally, someone (which guy is this?) pulls you into his arms with the biggest hug you've ever had. He kisses you all over your cheeks and croons to you in some language you've never heard before.

He leads you to a car and drives you to another location. Everything here looks different. The climate is not what you're used to. The smells are strange. Nothing tastes familiar, except for the black coffee. You wonder if someone told him that you like your coffee black.

You find it nearly impossible to sleep. Sometimes you lie in bed for hours, staring into the blackness, furious with your husband for leaving you, yet aching from the loss. The new guy checks on you. He seems concerned and tries to comfort you with soft words and a mug of warm milk. You turn away, pretending to go to asleep.

People come to the house. You can feel the anxiety start to bubble over as you look into the faces of all the new people. You tightly grasp the new guy's hand. He pulls you closer. People smile and nudge one other, marveling at how quickly you've fallen in love. Strangers reach for you, wanting to be a part of the happiness.

Each time a man hugs you, you wonder if he will be the one to take you away. Just in case, you keep your suitcase packed and ready. Although the man at this house is nice and you're hanging on for dear life, you've learned from experience that men come and go, so you just wait in expectation for the next one to come along.

Each morning, the new guy hands you a cup of coffee and looks at you expectantly. A couple of times the pain and anger for your husband is so great that you lash out, sending hot coffee across the room, causing the new guy to yelp in pain. He just looks at you, bewildered. But most of the time you calmly take the cup. You give him a smile. And wait. And wait. And wait.

--Written by Cynthia Hockman-Chupp, analogy courtesy of Dr. Kali Miller

Sunday blues

I took a walk this morning, and came across a lot of families out running around & doing family stuff. Usually, this thrills me to see other happy families doing things together - but today it made me sad. I found that I was feeling sorry for myself for some reason, and that in itself bothers me immensely. I am not a "poor me" type individual. If you ask my husband, he will say that I am way too much of a "suck it up", or "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" type person. Well, today is different. I am being pathetic, feeling unsupported, and just have the Sunday blues!

So to combat these feelings, I have being doing some research and reading a lot of blogs. It has helped my "poor me" attitude and I am thankful for the vast amount of information out there. Tomorrow is a new day, and I am looking forward to taking my mind off how stagnant this process has become.

I will leave you with the cutest face ever - our Puggle Gracie! She is wanting a little brother to follow around!

Friday, May 15, 2009


I have been watching video's on YouTube again! This is an informational video that WACAP did. We do like WACAP a lot, so I don't mind the endorsement on our blog.

We found out today that our Case Worker is traveling during the entire month of June and the Director will be gone for some time prior to this. The Director will be taking a lot of donated supplied to the orphanages during that time. Perhaps she can bring home our little guy since the trip home will be much lighter :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Russians aren't happy afterall

Well, the Russians aren't handing out referrals hand over fist as I had hoped! Perhaps they are tired from their long weekend today, because instead of a referral they gave us a new form to sign and notarize. If I don't laugh, I will cry! Really, the form isn't that big of a deal, its just one of many more to come I am sure.

Our Case Worker reminded us of the power of positive thinking, and she always has comforting words for us. I feel we are lucky to have her, and she does well with my aggressive personality - so its a win for us (may not be for her though!). I just hope one day she has better news!

Although there is no end in sight, I am feeling that July will be a good month for us! Mark this prediction in your calender!

Long Weekends = Happy Russians?

This morning we will send our 'weekly check-in' e-mail to Jessica, our Case Worker. I hope that all the MOE staff in Vlad are so rested from their 3 day weekend that they start matching kids and parents like crazy today! Just a thought? Keep your fingers crossed!!!

Your cousins are waiting for you! We are ready to bring you home!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Reflections on Mothers Day

As we wait for our referral and continue to work hard everyday to prepare to bring our child(ren) home, I seem to have mixed emotions on this Mothers Day. Simply said, I am ready to be a mother. I will be 36 yrs old next month, and have always put my career and traveling (insert about any activity here) first in my life.

Bill and I have been on this journey of becoming a family with children for a few years now, and at first I have to admit, I wondered "is this the right time to put my career and other aspects of my life second". As we have moved forward with this journey, and after we lost our first child that - YES, it is 100% time that we put other things second. For those that know me well, know that this is a big ol' shift of events for me! What I decided about 2 yrs ago is that I don't really have to put anything 'second' other than work. I don't plan to work 12 - 13 hr days anymore after we bring him/them home. I no longer feel the need to work my butt off for a company to succeed. I feel like being the best Mother I can be IS success! As an example, my last company filed bankruptcy, and walked several hundred of us out of the front door one morning a few months ago. It didn't bother me at first, but then I started to feel like a sucker for working so hard for them and putting them first in my life. It was an eye opening experience. What I gained from my last company was insight. Insight of what is important, and what is not important - at least for me.

Bill and I took our 2 dogs to the beach today, and had a lot of fun! Just to take 2 dogs to the beach, it was a lot of preparation (water, refill water, towels, treats, baths afterwards, etc)! Neither one of us can wait until we are lucky enough to put our child(ren) first in our life for these family activities we enjoy. I wish we would have brought our camera, Copper our Retriever mix was jumping in the waves and would get knocked down. Gracie our Puggle would run into the wave, then run her little legs off to try to outrun it.

Happy Mothers Day to all the women out there! It's your deserve it! To our own Mothers, we love you both very much.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Mothers Day Prayer

God our Creator, we pray:
for new mothers, coming to terms with new responsibility ;
for expectant mothers, wondering and waiting;
for those who are tired, stressed or depressed;
for those who struggle to balance the tasks of work and family;
for those who are unable to feed their children due to poverty;
for those whose children have physical, mental or emotional disabilities;
for those who have children they do not want;
for those who raise children on their own;
for those who have lost a child;
for those who care for the children of others;
for those whose children have left home;
and for those whose desire to be a mother has not been fulfilled.
Bless all mothers, that their love may be deep and tender,
and that they may lead their children to know and do what is good,
living not for themselves alone, but for God and for others.

Russian Holiday - Victory Day

Victory Day marks the end of World War II in Europe, specifically the capitulation of Nazi forces to the Allies (the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, the United States and other principal Allied nations) on May 8, 1945. It is celebrated in the successor states to the Soviet Union on May 9, because when the German Instrument of Surrender actually entered into force (May 8, 1945 at 23:01 CET), it was already May 9 in the USSR and Eastern Europe.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

What will our "thing" be?

While getting ready for the Capitals game today a thought came to me.

I think every parent has a "thing" that they do with their kids. It doesn't necessarily define that specific child-parent relationship, but it's definitely something that becomes more than just something to do, it becomes a foundation for so much more. My sister Carolyn and my Brother-in-law Jeff look forward to movie night with Emily every Friday night. My sister Chris and my Brother-in-law Scott look forward to beach trips with their three girls. These activities seem like normal things, but I'd be willing to bet that both parents and children will learn a lot about life through these special interactions.

My "thing" with my Dad was watching the Washington Capitals play hockey. Growing up about an hour away from where the Caps play allowed us to go to two or three games every year which was great, but I remember the games we watched at home in our family room even more than going to the games. I remember those nights because I looked forward to them every week. I loved the Friday night games because I was allowed to stay up to watch the whole game (rather than sneak a radio into my bedroom to listen to the end of the game like I had to do on weeknights)! It was during those games that my Dad and I really bonded. I learned a lot about hockey from him during those Friday nights, but I also learned a lot about the Father-Son relationship. I learned that showing a genuine interest in your child and your child's interests is something that the child will carry with them throughout their life. (note, Mom wasn't too interested in hockey, and I suspect she thought we were barbarians for watching it, but she recognized how important our hockey nights were so she only quietly despised hockey!)

As Michelle and I work towards our adoption, it's these types of things that keep us going. We can't wait to have our own "things" with our child/children. We have no idea what our thing will be with our kids, it could be fishing, sports, going to museums, volunteering, etc. Whatever we find as our "thing" is something that our family will cherish forever.

By the way, Dad, Michelle and I just watched our local hockey team win their second straight championship. He even let me stay up late for the games that weren't on Fridays! Our "thing" continues to show just how important those hockey games we were watching together over 20 years ago really were.