April 19, 2010

Attachment

What does a secure attachment look like, in terms of parenting an adopted child? We have read books, participated in online forums, sought out advice from experts and experienced adoptive parents and prayed for a secure attachment with Marley. Attachment is not something that just happens over night, well for the adopted child anyway. We, as adoptive parents, can be attached to our child and feel fully bonded before he or she even comes home. We build a bond with an idea of a child, not knowing who she is or if she is even born yet. The picture comes and we study every detail, trying to put that deep love we have for this child with the picture. Trying to bond with the face of a child we have never seen. Months go by and the love that we have for her grows and grows to a profound level. Only adoptive parents really understand this. We see her for the first time she is placed in our arms and we melt, it's a secure attachment, for us anyways.
For the adoptive child, of various ages, it's a tramatic experience. She was with her birth family for however long, abandoned or taken to an orphanage. Then picked up by an agency and assigned to a family. That family knows who she is, but she doesn't know who they are. She lays in a box or sleeps with 20 other children two or three to a bed. She has nannies coming and going. They hold her or they don't. They prop up a bottle with a pillow and move on to the next crying baby. She doesn't know that their is a family for her, just her. That loves her unconditionally, regardless of her past, color, illness or age. They are attached to her.
For the adoptive child, when they are placed in our arms, they may feel confused and be afraid. Who are these people that don't look like or talk like me? They may push you away, or cling to you in shock. They are not bonded or securely attached. As much as we like to convince ourselves that our story was different, it's not. Adoptive children need to bond and attach to their parents.
Marley was all smiles when she was placed in our arms. She talked and laughed at us. It was amazing! But she wouldn't let us comfort her. She would push herself away when we held her to our chest. It was unfamiliar to her. I don't believe she was really held or formed a bond with any person. A smiling baby is what most people saw when we brought her home. I saw a child that was craving attention and a baby that didn't want to attach to me. I loved this little baby with an unexplainable about of love. I was so securely attached to her, how could she not be to me?
For months, I held her...when she didn't want to be held. I rocked her to sleep. I ran to her at every little cry. I carried her in the sling all day long. I never left her. She started forming an attachment. I could see it! I would let close friends and family hold her and she'd look back to me for reassurance. What a milestone! Then she started crying when I would hand her to someone. Oh what a sweet sound! I believe attachment is a process, that happens over time. There are days that I feel that she is securely attached and am ready to blog about it. Then there are days that I feel that I have done something wrong and have to go back to square one.
This past weekend we were at church. Marley was in her sling, like she always is. We lead a greeting team at church and I slipped away, letting Brandon take the lead, to hear the worship music. I sang loudly, because no one could hear me. I swayed back and forth with my babe on my chest. I could feel the vibrations of her singing on my chest and on my hand covering her cheek. She was singing with me. I sang four songs, rocking back and forth. I felt her singing stop and looked down and sweet Marley had fallen asleep on my chest, gripping my hand. That is attachment for us!
She loves us. While there are days that I feel so confident that this little girl is so secure in her attachment to us, there are also days that I feel that she just sees us at the people who feed her. Those are the days that I put her in that sling and sing, sing loud and sway back and forth.

13 comments:

Gretchen Magruder said...

This is so beautiful, Elisa...Thanks for sharing it with us!

Jill said...

Beautiful Elisa! Most people don't understand that a happy, gregarious baby does not mean that things are perfect. No one understood that I meant no more to Mari than they did. It's a continuous process. Now, I get so excited when Mari snubs strangers - sounds bad, but before she would go out of her way to get any attention she could from ANYone. Now it's nice that it's MY attention she craves. So glad things are going well with Marley.

WukNea said...

Beautifully written, Elisa, and such an important sentiment. You're such a wonderful mother.

Missy said...

That was awesome!!! And SO true!!

Breann said...

Perfectly Put.

andrea adkins said...

I am nearly sobbing! So beautiful thank you for sharing!

Justine said...

It's amazing watching their little hearts open up. Love doesn't fix everything but I believe it can and does do so much more than we will ever know. You are a wonderful mama and little Marley knows it. Can't wait to meet this sweet little girl someday (and you too of course)!!

Julie said...

That was beautiful. I had to fight with Amelia to let me rock her to sleep at bed time. I could tell she would have been perfectly happy for me to just put her in the crib. I'm so glad I persevered in that area. After three months home she definitely knows who her mommy is and seeks me out over anyone else.

Thanks for sharing!
Julie

Latisha said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing this, brings tears to my eyes. I needed to see this. You inspire me!

Ressie said...

Love you guys. Very much so an inspirational experience.

Erin Sager said...

YOu are a beautiful mama, great post!!!

Alida said...

Oh Elisa, u're such a good Momma .... In just a year or two Marley will tell u in her own words 'I love you' and u will melt with tears of joy!

Shawn said...

I totally relate to this Eliza. Our little Morgan is 9 months now, and I have also experienced similar things! You think the attachment will be automatic, but it's really hard. The first few months were super hard! Morgan seems alot like Marley. Our attachment is growing these days as well, and I LOVE it. It feels like she is loving me back if you know what I mean! I guess time does it! Glad to see you guys doing so well!!