Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Understanding Attachment~Part II~How Our Children May Feel and Moving Forward

If you have not read "The Story of Attachment-Part I", I recommend you start there."Understanding Attachment~Part I~How it May Start"
Life for our little one has not always been easy. A matter a fact you could say it's been traumatic. She has suffered a great loss. Soon she will be handed, with no transition time, to complete strangers who smell different, don't speak her language, and don't look exactly like her. She may have not been spoken to about us or seen the pictures we've sent.

You might even be surprised to discover our sweet (and very attached) Max, Bekah, and the twins had to go through an attachment process too. They had to learn to trust that we would be around forever. Who wouldn't after being handed to someone you didn't know?

I heard it described somewhat like this. Picture a normal life with your family. Your kids running around. Your husband/wife at the Barbecue. A stranger comes in and you are told to go with them. They take you to a house with a ton of other people your age who may or may not completely ignore you. After months of grief some strangers come in. They are smiling and so happy. You are told this is your new wife/husband. You are expected to just accept it.

I recently read an even better description of how it might be on the blog
"Journey to Baby Boz".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 sleep.

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
I think that kind of puts into perspective what our children face. We know that God has shown us our children and we're just bringing them home, but they have suffered such loss until this point that they most likely will not feel that way. It's pretty certain. We may intend love, and they may just be angry.

Transitioning into a family takes time. Attachment takes time. Sensory issues take time. This is why our family chooses to do attachment work. It's almost beyond a choice. We see it as mandatory.

Think of it, even with a child that seems completely attached, as an extra check to create a healthy bond and family.

For four months (less or more time if necessary) we are the only ones to hold, diaper (if necessary), bathe, and feed our little girl. She must begin to understand that we will provide for all her needs. Often we are repeating stages she should have gotten already, but didn't. Such as bottle feeding (if she will permit), while looking at her in the eyes and holding her, etc. It sounds crazy, but her foundation is filled with fissures that we need to fill however we can...with lots of prayer, guidance from our Heavenly Father, and information from some very smart people. Picture a child that has a bottle propped in her mouth with no physical contact...a fissure.

Our goal is that she understand that we love her and she is safe...with us, not everyone. She may not choose to attach, and it's our responsibility to insure she does. It often is not easy...we have had it both ways.

The attachment dance is NOT an easy thing to do. How easy is it to say to a cherished friend or family member, "I'm sorry, I know they want to go to you, but we need to foster attachment." Sometimes people are offended or hurt. Sometimes they don't understand. There is a common thought process that is, "They will see you everyday and know you're taking care of them. They will attach and you're just being over protective."

If you've seen a child that is unattached, you will know that attachment is not necessarily automatic. Attachment doesn't always come with time. We've known those that after years still struggled with attachment. It's not just with teens and older children, but with babies and toddlers as well. It is often a long distance race instead of a sprint.

So this is our family plan and the reason we are writing this current series on attachment.

We will do attachment work.

This means that we are the primary caregivers until WE feel secure that SHE is securely attached. We do have experience with this and did HAVE to do this previously. Even if we don't always share the stories. Trust us, we have them.

This is what attachment work will mean for our family and friends.

*Only we hold, feed, change, and bathe Jael EVEN if she wants to climb onto someone else's lap or holds out her arms to you. We can't allow it, temporarily, to help her attach. This may be a battle of the wills, but a necessary one.
*This does NOT mean that you can not stop by the house to meet her...though still, no one else holds her. We will be exhausted and will most likely limit the time of visiting. This is not to offend anyone, but to focus Jael's heart on attachment to us. Actually there are times where we will need you (see
"What Can I do to Help?"). Attachment parenting can be very lonely at times.
*This means that for at least a month or two that only one of us will be at Church with the other children. Jael needs to understand that we are "forever" for her and not "shop" for new parents because she doesn't trust us to stick around. Though we hope this doesn't happen, we have seen it happen. Even after the first month, one of us may come in late to the cry room and leave early (depending what is needed). Large crowds may overwhelm her or make her feel like she is in a orphanage situation again. Still, only we hold her.
*This will most likely mean that for the first year of her life she will not be in a Bible class/nursery type situation (at least without one of us). This mimics TOO much of an orphanage life and can bring a lot of regression (we have personal experience with this, it's NOT good or pleasant).
*This will mean, though we love and cherish you, we have to do what is best for our daughter, no matter how much we love you. We have to fight for our child, knowing in the long run the battle (no matter how hard) is very worth it.

Hopefully attachment will be quick and easy, but there are no guarantees. We have to go into this prepared the best we can be.

Please understand, the attachment work we will do is not to hinder any love or attachment, but to create the ability to love and attach that God has placed within her.

That said, thank you for your patience with us as we are on the verge of the wonderful (and often difficult) journey of attachment.

Attachment Prayer Request
Please pray that God prepares Jael's hearts, gives her dreams of us...our faces, scents, voices....and helps her to feel secure in our arms and with our love very quickly.

Please check the last post, as we've had a "hiccup" and could use some prayers.
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Romans 8:18Sensory Resourse #1"The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz"

Other posts in this series..."Understanding Attachment~Part I~How it May Start"
"Understanding Attachment~Part III~Helping Others Understand"
"Understanding Attachment~Part IV~Misunderstanding/Our Stories"
"Understanding Attachment~Part V~When Parents Find a Hard Time Attaching/Choosing Love"
"Understanding Attachment~Part VI~Putting the Pieces Together"
"Understanding Attachment~Part VII~To Those Who Will Be There"
"Understanding Attachment~Part VIII~Spiritual Warfare"

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