As Ryan and I prepare to bring A home, we must also prepare you all for a process we call “cocooning” in the adoption world. Cocooning is a lot like it sounds. We will hold up in our house for awhile and not do a whole lot. We won’t have a lot of people over, and if we do have people over, they will be planned and usually after A is already asleep. I will probably go insane some days, just wanting to get out and do something, but it will be worth it in the long run. But why do we need to do this exactly?
In many ways, A will be like the children who have entered your families through birth. We will parent like other Christian families as we bring her up in the instruction and discipline of the Lord. But there will be a few, initial differences. For a little over a year now, we have researched bonding and attachment in children, especially those coming home through adoption from an institutional orphanage setting.
We are confident of this: God’s design is PERFECT. His plan for parents and children is a beautiful and meaningful picture of His love for us. Attachment between a parent and child occurs over time when a baby has a physical or emotional need and communicates that need. The primary caretaker (usually momma) meets the need and soothes the child. This repeats between a parent and child over and over to create trust within the child for that parent; the baby is hungry, cries in distress, so the mom nurses & calms the baby – which teaches him that this person is safe and can be trusted. By God’s very design, an emotional foundation is laid in the tiniest of babies, which will affect their learning, conscience, growth, and future relationships. The security provided by parents will, ultimately, give children a trust for and empathy towards others.
Children who come home through adoption have experienced interruptions in this typical attachment process. The loss of a biological mother at an early age can be a major trauma on their little hearts. The good news is that we can now, as A’s parents and forever family, rebuild attachment and help her heal from these emotional wounds. When A comes home, she will be overwhelmed. She will not automatically understand that we are her parents and trust us. Everything around her will be new and she will need to learn not just about her new environment, but also about love and family. She has not experienced God’s design for a family in an orphanage setting. And even though Hannah’s Hope does a fantastic job loving on the kiddos, it is not equivalent to being in a family of their own. The best way for us to form a parent/child bond is to be the ones to hold, snuggle, instruct, soothe, and feed her. As this repeats between us, she will be able to learn that parents are safe to trust and to love deeply. We are, essentially, recreating the newborn/parent connection. Once A starts to establish this important bond, she will then be able to branch out to other, healthy relationships.
A will have, what may seem like, a lot of structure, boundaries, and close proximity to us. Please know that these decisions are prayerfully and thoughtfully made choices based on immense amounts of research and instruction from trust adoption mentors. We will be doing what we believe is best to help her heal from those interruptions in attachment as effectively as possible. Why are we telling you all of this? Because you will actually play an awesome and vital role in helping our sweetie settle in, heal, and lay a foundation for the future.
There are a few areas in which you can help us:
The first is to set physical boundaries. It will help us immensely if adults limit what is typically considered normal, physical contact with A. This will (for a while) include things like holding, excessive hugging and kissing. Children from orphanage settings are prone to attach too easily to anyone and everyone – which hinders the important, primary relationship with parents. Waving, blowing kisses or high fives are perfectly appropriate and welcomed! A should know that the people with whom she interacts are our trusted friends.
Another area is redirecting A’s desire to have her physical and emotional needs met by anyone (including strangers) to having us meet them. Orphans often have so many caretakers that they, as a survival mechanism, become overly charming toward all adults. A child struggling to learn to attach may exhibit indiscriminate affection with people outside of their family unit. It may appear harmless and as if they are “very friendly” but this is actually quite dangerous for the child. To share this is difficult for us because we have snuggled, cared for, fed and loved so many of your children. Please understand that we want nothing more than to have A hugged, cuddled and cherished by ALL of you (she’s totally irresistible and huggable). But until she has a firm understanding of family and primary attachments, we would be so grateful if you direct her to us if you see that she is seeking out food, affection or comfort.
We are incredibly blessed to have so many loved ones around us. We couldn’t ask for a better extended family & circle of friends for our precious A. Thank you so much for your love and support over the past year. And while we understand this may be hard for many of you, as you have walked with us along this road, please know we are doing what is best for A. If you have any questions please feel free to ask at any time!