Monday, June 30, 2008

RLC Blog Buzz #3: Transitioning home

First time holding my new sons in Ethiopia, at Layla House
February 2006

This week's question asks about tips/suggestions/advice about traveling to pick up your child, adjustment at home, etc.
I think we really tried to go into our trip to Africa, our adoption, all of it with no expectations. They say the biggest deciding factor in your satisfaction is how the outcome lives up to your expectations. We prepared ourselves for the kids to be sick, we knew they'd lived in a variety of institutions during the most formative time of their lives, and knew that it was likely that we could experience some attachment problems, that might not show up until later.

Kevin and I with our boys at dinner in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
February 2006
Having my sons handed to me is something I'll never forget. A feeling of love, protectiveness, and awe came over me. It was magical. Of course the trip and early days home weren't all magic. Both of our sons had a parasite and lice (two boys with diarrhea + 30-hour flight = bummer), Biniam had a double ear infection, Yosef had horrible dreams in the middle of the night where he'd wake up mournfully crying. Biniam would have a severe emotional reaction anytime he saw food --if I opened the fridge or pantry, etc., he'd become instantly inconsolable. And it didn't matter if he'd just had a huge meal.
There were days in those early weeks at home where I felt like we were holding on for dear life. Where I'd be counting down the minutes until Kevin got home. Where I'd blast Bob Marley and we'd dance and smile and feel, if even for a few moments, like things really were going to be okay.

Some first moments together as siblings
February 2006

And we kept waiting for the proverbial attachment shoe to drop. There were all sorts of ways that we tried to encourage bonding and attachment. We tried to cuddle as much as possible. We continued giving the boys milk from a bottle and cradling them like a baby to give it to them. When we'd go out somewhere we'd wear the boys in a front carrier. I think being home a lot also helped. We waited a long time before putting them in the church nursery. And after awhile they began to see that they belonged with us, that we were mom and dad. They adjusted really well and truly, that shoe has still not dropped. They are affectionate kids who look to us to meet their needs. I still find myself worrying sometimes but ultimately I know that the Lord is in control anyway.

We're sleepy, but we're happy--first days home
February 2006

After about six months at home Biniam stopped crying at the sight of food. Yosef's bad dreams went away within about a month. The stool samples and medication three times a day were brutal, but the boys' giardia (and Biniam's ear infections) was cured after only one go-round of the meds. I also at some point found myself able to take a deep breath--and just in time, because four months after bringing our sons home, I became pregnant with Kaitlyn!

First trip to church as a new family
February 2006

I guess my "advice" is, do everything you can to promote attachment. Be home with your kids, find things to do around the house. Engage in activities that include touch and lots of eye contact. Fight the urge to romanticize the situation and try to keep from having lots of grand expectations. If you can, co-sleep. Read, read, read about childhood trauma, attachment, and potential issues. I really think knowledge is power and if you go into it prepared, you'll be much better able to handle your child's behavior. Pray lots (even if you don't believe in God, pray anyway!) and get people to pray for you. And remember that "love is always enough" is a MYTH--sometimes it might be, but not always. So get help if you need it, and remember that things WILL get easier, there IS a light at the end of the tunnel, and it's okay to feel whatever it is that you're feeling. I think adoption, like so much of parenting, is more of a marathon, and less of a sprint. And if you can find other adoptive parents to talk to (whether online or in real life), do that. It really helps!

First family picture, before church on Sunday
March 2006

I'm including this link to a wonderful article by Melissa Fay Greene, about her own personal post-adoption experience. It is so wise and definitely worth the read!

Post-Adoption Panic


darci said...

thanks for this! what an excellent post to read. i am reading reading reading anything i can get my hands on. we are just waiting for our referral for two from ethiopia. :)

Tamara said...

How has their language development come? I imagine they didn't understand much, if any English when they came home, did you use any sign language?

joy said...

what sweet pics! i hadn't seen them before. thanks for sharing. i miss your kids! (and you, of course :)

The MSILF said...

Thanks. This is the first time I remember you posting about those kinds of difficulties. So many sites make them seem unconquerable. I'm glad to see a story where they existed, but were overcome.

Brianna Heldt said...

tamara, their language is excellent! they are both pretty verbal and articulate. when we first got them they weren't saying any words, at least none that we could recognize. it was a long time before they really started talking, but once they did, they never stopped. :)

msilf, i really do think it's so important to be realistic and honest about the struggles. ours was an extremely smooth transition with no attachment issues, but that doesn't mean it was easy going from one to three toddlers, or having three kids under the age of three. i think the people who talk more about hopeless situations are probably dealing with severe attachment problems, that ARE quite difficult to overcome. we were blessed in that our boys bonded very well with us right off the bat!

Angela said...

thank you, brianna for helping prepare us for what lies ahead... and for being someone i can call and cry to, when i feel what i may be feeling in a few months...
i'm blessed to call you my real life friend! ;)

Hauswife said...

So well said! Thanks, Brianna! I echo your thoughts and found myself nodding in agreement as I read. Thanks for your transparency.

Brandi said...

I also found myself nodding along! Great job!

Thanks for the sweet post and all the great pictures included too!



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