Welcome!!! We continue to be excited as we share some incredible adoptions stories with you! This blog series is something that has been growing in my heart for some time! And I believe that the time to start it and share it is now. In this adoption series we will feature the stories adoption workers and families who have adopted. We are hoping to bring you stories that are real and authentic. The heart for me behind this series comes from a couple of different places… first, we have been getting so many questions about adoption and I feel like there are so many ways to answer their questions and our story is just one way… With sharing the stories of others we will be able to cover more options and hopefully inspire more people.
One thing I have learned through our little adventure… is that we CAN NOT do it alone! We have needed the support of our family and friends… we have needed to learn from others who have walked this adoption road and We have been amazed at how just the right people have been placed in our lives. Right after Jared and I got married we moved to Vancouver WA for a short while and that is when I first met my sweet friend Eryn Kesler… We both loved to scrapbook!!! The funny thing about our friendship is that we really became treasured friends a few years after we moved back to CA. We reconnected via good ole facebook and realized we have both started our photography businesses about the same time… Eryn has grown to be one of my dearest friends… I admire her genuine love for her Jesus, her hubby and her sweet family! She is also a very… very… very… talented Wedding Photographer in Vancouver, WA. (www.erynkeslerphotography.com) Through our adoption journey I have felt super spoiled and sometimes very challenged (in a good way 🙂 through this process… She has kinda been like my own personal adoption coach… Sharing with me what worked for them… I am also super thankful for her taking the time to search craigslist for me and find me a couple 4 seater strollers… with double stadium seating for our crazy crew… Needless to say I am excited for her taking the time to share some things to think about when it comes to adoption and bonding. And I couldn’t resist sharing a little snapshot of our kidless adventure to New York City in December… we got to ride in this carriage around Central Park in the pouring rain… It was soooo worth it. I’m also going to share with you one of my favorite tips that she shared with me as we got started in the process… check it out at the very end…
Hi there! I’m Eryn, momma to these little lovelies and friend to Kori! We are a family made of 5 made of My hubby Matt and I, and our 3 kids, Hayden (bio, age 8), Jack (bio, age 6) and Lucy (adopted, age 3). Thanks to my dear dear friend, Kori for having me today! (She is hands down, one of my favorite people on the face of the planet!)
I’d love to share a little about our journey to adoption and then a piece of adoption I’m particularly passionate about: bonding with a brand new family member.
Matt and I knew from early on in our marriage that we felt God had called us to adopt. In our first year of marriage we spent a summer on a mission trip with Royal Servants International, as leaders for middle school and high school kids in Nepal. It was there that we met many little girls who lived on the streets, as well as those who had been rescued from a life of sexual slavery in brothels. We both came home absolutely knowing God had put a calling on us to someday adopt a little girl internationally. We talked about it often…just waiting for the time to come. Fast forward about 8 years, and 2 biological kids later…
We began our process by visiting an open house at an international adoption agency located nearby to get an idea of how this process would go, and we clearly felt God telling us “NOW is the time!”. We began the homestudy process, and all the paperwork for our international Dossier. About 10 months later, in May of 2009 we were finally on the wait list for an infant girl from Ethiopia. On Christmas Day of 2009 we got the gift of a lifetime, when our agency called to tell us we had been matched with a little beauty, 4 months old who needed a family. In May of 2010 Matt and I traveled to Ethiopia to bring home our daughter and our life has not had a dull moment since!
I had MONTHS of waiting for my girl, and I spent so much of it reading books, blogs, websites, articles, and visiting with our social worker/counselor about how to prepare for the huge life change before us. (My hubby might say I was obsessed, I’d say I was dedicated to being prepared!) I learned about bonding and attachment and did my best to prepare for our first months home. As it turns out, all the reading in the world, does not make you an expert on bringing home a child from difficult circumstances! However, I did pick up some great tips that were really beneficial for our family while we tried to figure out which end was up. I have continued learning, and have become pretty passionate about getting the best start possible, and then continuing to help kids from “hard places” heal, and learn how to be a part of a loving family.
Lucy came to us at 9 months old…and we were her 5th set of caregivers. While we knew we loved her from the moment our eyes landed on her photo, our hearts had months, years even, of preparing to love her…she, however, did arrive loving us. She came to us a little bit heart broken, and not trusting that people who love her stick around. Every one who had ever loved her, had disappeared from her life after a couple of months and someone new appeared to care for her. There were lots of circumstances that caused those changes, none of them by choice, but necessity. It took weeks and months of VERY intentional choices on our part to earn her love and trust. Through advice from our social worker/counselor and all my best attempts to understand how to bond with our girl, we came up with a plan that worked well for us. We by no means nailed it perfectly, but it worked for our family. I’d love to share some our “house rules” if you will, for bringing home our infant daughter. While every family has unique circumstances and I am not a counselor or therapist, I believe that adapting these suggestions to your family will be helpful any time you bring a new child into your family through adoption/foster parenting. Generally speaking we lived and died by these “rules” for the first 3 months after bringing our daughter home, and then slowly began to loosen up little by little after that.
1. Plan to spend a good amount of time at home getting to know your new child, and really limiting introducing your child to lots of new faces. Our counselor advised us to take 1-3 months where we distanced ourselves a bit from our “normal” routine. For us, that looked like not introducing Lucy to anyone outside our close family and closest friends for several weeks. Kind friends brought by meals for us when we came home, but I would usually have them come while Lucy was napping. It was just confusing to her…almost like she wondered with each new face, “are you going to take care of me now?”. One of us would stay home from church or social gatherings in order to sort of protect her from being bombarded with new faces. The ‘at home” part, was just to allow her to get to know us, and have family time be the focus without distractions of noise or business.
2. Mom and Dad (and sometimes siblings) need to be the ones to hold baby. The reason for this was pretty simple. She needed to know US. We were strangers to her…and we needed to become the most known people in her world. We needed uninterrupted time to establish that we were not going any where. She needed our voices to be the ones she found comfort in and recognized. That our arms be the ones to sooth and comfort and meet needs. Every time a new person holds them during that time, it just interrupts that process of attachment. Babies arrive in the world already attached to the person who brought them into the it. When that attachment is disrupted for whatever reason, it leaves a baby confused. The voice and heartbeat that has been comforting them for 9 months or more, is no longer there. They need to learn to attach to US as the parents…and our job is to make that as easy as possible for them. In our early weeks the only person we allowed to hold Lucy was family who are a very significant part of our day to day lives. Pretty much, her Grammy and 2 aunties. Those holding sessions were very short and if she so much as made a peep, we immediately scooped her back into our arms. (one side tip: I always put Lucy in our Ergo baby carrier when we finally did venture out to church, school, etc. When they are tucked safely into the carrier, it acts as a natural barrier and no one asks, “can I hold your baby”. She was safely snuggled into me and face to face with me while meeting new people. It sent the message to both Lucy and others, that she is staying with ME.) I would definitely suggest “wearing” your baby when out and about as much as you can stand it. Instead of leaving them in the infant car seat, put them in a baby carrier, like an Ergo. This just gives them exposure to your smells, sounds, voice so they become comforted by them.
3. Mom and Dad need to be the ones to meet the baby’s needs for comfort, food, sleep, injuries. It is so important to earn the trust of our little ones. They need to know that no matter what we will be there to meet their needs. When a baby is separated from the person who, by design, is supposed to be there…it just changes a baby. Even under the best of adoption circumstance, ideal situations, that fact doesn’t change. It’s simply traumatizing for a child to be separated from the woman who gave birth to them. We have to work, and it is WORK, to establish that we are trust worthy and dependable. This was incredibly hard at times. Trying to comfort a child who doesn’t think they want or need to be comforted, but knowing you need to tough it out to show them you are not ever EVER leaving, is possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it is something that just takes time and consistency to develop. For us that meant that if she cried, WE picked her up or responded. If she needed a bottle, only mommy or daddy gave it. If she needed a diaper change, only mom or dad gave it. Only mom or dad put her down or got her up from bed. If she squeeked during the night, we immediately responded, so she would never have the chance to wonder if we were there. (3 years later, we still do this, within reason…she just needs extra assurance that we are always there). Once we finally did feel comfortable leaving Lucy with a sitter (family member) after a few months, we made sure we were still around for feeding times, and bed times…for about the first 6 months.
4. Communicate with your friends and family your “rules” ahead of time! I literally sent an email to anyone and everyone I thought would care and/or pray for us. I didn’t want to have to deal with people asking to hold her and then tell them no, creating an awkward moment for all of us.I told them that they would likely not meet her if they brought a meal by. I found that those who cared for us, truly respected our wishes would never want to interfere with our bonding. The reality is, it just IS different than giving birth to a baby. They do not arrive attached to you. We have to work to create that. Our friends and family had not spent months learning about attachment, and it wasn’t their job to do that…it was ours to help them understand a)why we had gone into hibernation b)how they could support our efforts. We had 100% success and never had to have an awkward conversation. When the time came to share her, our loved ones were all the more excited to meet her and were so respectful of our efforts.
5. Give your spouse grace, and time away. During these first few months, living by these guidelines, you can start to get cabin fever, stir crazy, and just plain starved for contact with the outside world. Giving your spouse permission to get away for some “sanity breaks” is such a gift, while the other stays home with the new kiddo. I can’t tell you how many late nights I spent wandering the aisles of Target, or went for a run, just to get out, get air, and have human contact !
This was an intensely intentional and emotional season of our lives. It was HARD to choose to live by these rules, but a choice we are SO glad we made. After 3 months, we had seen our daughter blossom and grow so much. She has continued to trust us, and still to this day, almost 3 years later, is hitting milestones we didn’t know would ever come. Adoption was by far the most stretching of our character and emotions (and sanity, if I’m completely honest) we have ever encountered, and also the most significantly rewarding experience of our lives. Our daughter amazes us every day, by what a treasure she is, and how blessed WE are to have the privledge of being her family forever. The road ahead is not even close to over, but we are continuing to trust the Lord and hanging on for the wild adventure of adoption!
One of my most cherished resources in learning to understand how a child from “hard places” functions, is Dr. Karyn Purvis, author of The Connected Child. She is a professor at Texas Christian University, and specializes in studying the development of foster and adopted children from all situations, and giving parent the tools to help them succeed. Attending the conference “Empowered to Connect” was a game changer for me. It completely changed my understanding of how the brains of these precious children, has been forever changed due to the life they have experienced. I can’t encourage you enough to pick up a copy of her book, or visit the website/blog at http://www.empoweredtoconnect.org
Ok, so this in our Adoption Binder… And I think one of Eryn’s best ideas!!! (Eryn & I both share a deep passion for office supplies … hehe!) She told me from the beginning when we started filling out paper work to start a binder with sheet protectors to keep us organized…
Brilliant I tell ya!
It has been so great! We kept a binder for our licensing paperwork, and now we have one for each kiddo… Same binder different colors. I kinda like things to be coordinated 🙂 But every time a social worker needs something from us whether is something from the doctor or specialist… we have it all together. And I think social workers see some pretty crazy stuff… so if we can do anything to make life easier on our social workers it’s a win for everyone! I take it with me to all of our appointments and have I mentioned how awesome it is? So, if you are just getting started in this process buy a cute binder or two (for some reason cute binders are way more fun to carry 🙂
Hope what we posted today was helpful for you… and encouraged you in some way!
Thank you … Thank you… Thank you Eryn for sharing your heart on our blog! And thank you so much for your friendship!!! I love you lots!!!