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.