Attachment and adoptive parent needs

 My brother got married this weekend! As is evidenced by the photo, great fun was had by all.  My husband officiated the service and my sister and I emceed the reception.  We got to publicly tell some of the funniest stories about my brother, including one where he puked in a bagel bag and another where he was caught fighting with my sister on the Jumbotron at a major league baseball game.

If that's not a recipe for fun, I don't know what is.

After the high of meeting our little man followed by the high of my brother's wedding this weekend, I am suffering from some major writer's block.  It's not that I don't have ideas, it's that I don't know if any of my ideas are worth writing about!

Thankfully facebook exists and is the perfect inspiration source for a blogger with a mind blank.  Grateful for the ladies who responded to my SOS call! (To catch my blog posts and sharp, witty comments [along with future SOS pleas] find my FB page here.)

All the replies were helpful and I will be filing them away in my brain for future use. My good friend Steph, however, always has a creative idea up her sleeve and right away responded with a list of good topics.  (Side note: I think her creativity was exemplified this weekend when I visited her and met her goldfish Sausage and Dip.  She tried to blame her girls - ages 2 and 3 - for their names, but she can't fool me.  If those aren't the best darn fish names you've ever heard, I don't know what to say.  Except please share the better ones you've heard.)

Steph suggested I write about adoption and attachment and needs of adoptive parents that people might not know about.  So here I go.

Adoption and attachment.  A google search of these terms will show you that there is no limit of information about this topic.  In our home study homework, John and I also spend a few hours learning about attachment.  In the past few months I've been distilling all the information I've read and have started to come up with a plan for developing an attachment- or bond- with out little man.

The "needs of adoptive parents" come in here too; probably one of the most important things for friends and family of adoptive parents to know has to do with attachment.  And that is: when our little man first comes home we are going to be the only ones to hold him and meet his needs.

I'll be honest- this sucks.  I mean, all we want to do as new parents is show off our kid and have our friends and family snuggle with him and love on him and give him cake and just generally celebrate him.

However, attachment doesn't work like that.  To form a secure attachment with our little man, John and I are going to be the only ones to hold him, the only ones to pick him up when he falls, to offer him food and drink, to put him to bed, and to care for him.  You can think of it as taking a few steps back in time, treating him a bit like an infant- basically "babying him."

After having different caregivers come and go, he has to learn for the first time what it means to have a mom and a dad.  He has to learn to trust us to meet his needs, both physically and emotionally.  He has to learn that we're not going anywhere.

Along those lines, five points in our bonding plan:

1. John and I will be the only ones to hold our little man and to meet his needs.  I've read that the minimum time frame for this kind of parenting should be one month for every year the child was not with you.  That means two months for us, but we are planning on four months to start and then re-evaluating.

2. We are hoping to co-sleep for a while. We are flexible on this because we don't know how he will respond to someone else in his our bed after having his own space in the orphanage, but we will give it a shot!

3. Fussing over him.  Scooping him up when he falls down, even if he doesn't cry, making a big deal about any little milestone, rubbing his back if he can't fall asleep- just generally nurturing the heck out of him like you would a new baby.

4. "Baby"-wearing (?)  I am currently researching the best carriers for toddlers because we are going to make an effort to wear our little man when we can.  Like the co-sleeping thing, we will be flexible on this, but I would love to see it happen.  I have a bad back so I only see myself doing some carrying but hope John will get a lot of use out of our carrier and have some quality bonding time.

5.  Playing games that emphasize eye contact, touch, and laughter.  These three things are the cornerstones of bonding. Our house will be silliness central as we love on our little man, blow his belly, kiss his cheeks and rub our noses together.

Which brings me to the second part of the post: adoptive parent needs.  If there is one thing we are anticipating when our little man comes home, it is exhaustion.  We are going to be deeply in love, but also deeply tired, sleepless, touched out, and probably a little sick of kid-stuff.  Here are the top 5 needs we anticipate:

1. Patience and understanding.  Our parenting is going to look different than typical toddler parenting.  We'll be doing that on purpose.  Trust us, trust our choices, and encourage us in them.  Don't be offended when we ask you not to pick up our little men.  Instead, give his hand a squeeze or give him a warm pat on the back.  When he's established a secure attachment with us things will start looking more typical in our family.  And please ask questions when you have them!  I think I speak for all adoptive parents when I say this.

2. Bring us food.  Yes we would love to eat your meal.  Thank you!  :-)

3. Wait to come over but don't wait to celebrate.  Because of the whole attachment process, we won't be having many guests over at our place, but that doesn't mean we don't want to celebrate his arrival!  Emails, texts, cards, voice mail- we will want it all.  And I think we will need the encouragement as we adjust to life as a family of three! We will offer invitations for company when we think our little man is ready.

4.  Pray.  There is no greater support you can offer than prayer.  Pray for our health, for our sleep, for our energy levels, for our emotional well being.  Pray that we would not just survive those first few weeks as a new family, but that we would find moments to cherish and time to build meaningful memories.

5. Offer to help.  I'm not going to lie- I probably won't want anyone coming in and cleaning my house or doing my laundry but if it snows a lot in those first few weeks you are MORE THAN WELCOME to bring your snow blower over and clear out our driveway.  Just sayin'.

Though we are still a few months away from bringing our little man home, I am per-emptively grateful for all the excitement, grace, and hospitality we will be shown by our amazing community.  I hope you find this list helpful as you prepare to show Christ-like warmth to a newly adoptive family in your life!

And thanks for the questions Steph!



  1. I found your blog on Pinterest and delight in reading about your adoption journey. It sounds like you guys will do wonderfully as parents!

    But since you mentioned carriers... (babywearers are a passionate lot, which can be good and bad;). I LOVE the Ergo. I still use it for my 30 pound 2 year old. It's very simple to put on after about 3 practices. I like that I can get her in and out of it quickly (b/c she changes her mind a lot;). Also, it's not a ton of material and is easy to toss in our car just in case we need it. My daughter sits on my back, like a piggyback ride. My husband and I use it for everything from hiking to shopping, even cleaning around the house. And you can use it on the front and hold your child in the hug position, although over 25 lbs is murder on your back. But I'll still use this if my daughter isn't feeling well and needs to sleep but where I'd still like to be able to get up once and a while and use my hands. Most of the time she sleeps on my back just fine, but I'm a sucker for cuddling if she isn't feeling well. It costs $90-$115. Amazon had hundreds of (great) reviews. But probably the best idea is to wait until your son is home and then just borrow a bunch of carriers to find out what works for your lifestyle. :)

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing in our story! I have heard great things about the Ergo and for me it is coming down to the Ergo and the Boba. I am leaning toward the Boba b/c I've heard it is better for toddlers and I can use it longer, but I will probably get an Ergo too if we ever have an infant in our home! Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Anonymous8/20/2012

    I also LOVE the Ergo. My daughter is 16 months and we use it often! I love that it has the option for THREE carry's (Front, Hip, and Back). For me, the Ergo is more comfortable.

    That said, we also have a Boba (it's my husbands carrier, he's tall and skinny, I'm short and stout, so it's easier to have two different ones- clearly we baby wear a lot!) With the Boba, it is taller, it's made so that you can use it with an infant without an infant insert (the belt folds up a notch making it shorter, allowing you to frog babies legs). Either way, you honestly can't go wrong, they are BOTH great carriers. The Boba only does the Front and Back carry- so if Hip carry intrigues you (with a bad back) I'd urge you to consider the Ergo.

    With my daughter baby wearing facilitated bonding instantly. Another way that we initiated skin on skin contact was bathing together. I don't know if that sounds...weird, but it was a great bonding experience for us. In fact, sometimes my daughter still asks me to get in. My husband always wears a bathing suit with her... because well it was just a weird thought to me. So while I know it may sound odd- it was great for skin to skin contact- and some good old fashion FUN with bath toys, bubbles, and bath paint!

  3. We have a Boba (after a ton of research!) and I LOVE it. I have a 35lb almost 3 year old daughter and a 20-25lb 8 month old son. Short trips I can handle my son in the front carry, but he's mostly on my back now. My daughter fits well too, it still comes up pretty high on her back, making me feel more secure. I tried an Ergo and it didn't even come to my son's shoulders, so it would come barely above her waist. I'm not a huge fan of the hip carry (I do have two slings that live in the car for wearing emergencies!), so losing that wasn't important to me. I love that you're planning on toddler wearing to facilitate attachment!!

  4. Melissa8/21/2012

    Love your blog but reading this post I hope to post some quick helpful tips/ideas, look into & knowing his schedule and diet. Having comfort foods, treats and snacks so that you are not "rejected" over simple task like meals. Toddles are picky eaters to begin with so having the proper diet and researching foods that your sons likes or needs may be key in advanced. Researching into that now may also kill some time too while you are in the waiting phase! Not sure if you have a Whole Foods in your area or you would need to order special foods online? You may also be able to pack food when you go on your 2nd trip. I am thinking you would not want to deal with a silly reaction or allergy with new American foods as soon as you get your little man!
    Time change and day light savings:
    Read up on or talk about with your husband about time changes. I know you will be traveling internationally and have probably thought of this issue but also keep in mind "our" day light savings! Whether you have a newborn or toddler November 2012/ March 2012 your schedule could be altered again.
    You would not want to get your little guy on American time and then get a speed bump with day light savings too ; ) Unfortunately all Moms go thru it each year.
    Not stress him out about times or dates get a cheap digital watch from Target or Walmart and set a little quite beep to keep you on feeding schedules or naps but nothing that he may really notice. Try not to verbally speak of times or dates as he may think your time is "up" or coming to an end. (just an idea nothing facts here...)
    We had a "family bed" with both my children but when we brought our 2nd baby home we didn't have too much room the 1st month with a newborn in the bed. If co-sleeping is over whelming or you are not getting the respond you feel is positive....try setting up a nappy mat, sleeping bag or camp out area in your room/ floor. You can soften the area with pillows & stuffed animals. Having your little boy in another room may be too far away so having a transion phase in your room may be prefect till you all are sleeping together!
    Just little ideas to help!
    Thinking of you and your family often!
    Northern VA

  5. Anonymous8/23/2012

    Hey, Jillian! We also have an ErgoBaby carrier; two thumbs up from us! I have also read good things about KinderPack pre-school sized carriers (http://www.kindercarry.com/) for older toddlers. Apparently, it's better than the Ergo for the kids' spine... Since your son is two, you could look into that. You can also try renting a few different carriers to try them out and see what works best for you guys once your son is home. :)

  6. Boba all the way!!! But to be fair, I never tried the Ergo. I've see it, looks pretty similar. We keep a Boba in each car, we love it that much.
    Don't bother with a stoller, our son was so terrified of the airport the Boba was the only place he felt safe. Ps. home six months now. he's 29 months and around 26# and we're still very comfortably doing the front carry, he prefers it. BTW- he will ONLY ride in a parent facing stroller, so think about that when you buy one.

    I love that the Boba adjusts super simply. I'm 120# and my hubs is 250 and we could switch in seconds.
    LMK if you need any other post court advice! Happy to pay it forward for all the mamas that helped us out!


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