Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cocooning and Attachment: What I'm Learning

Bradley has been home almost six weeks now. {PRAISE HANDS!} For almost all of that time we have been in serious cocooning mode. In the adoption world, cocooning is the time period right after a child comes homes and the family really hunkers down in the house and focuses on bonding with their newest addition. Just this week, we have starting making some outings beyond the walls of our home. {MORE PRAISE HANDS!} Today, for example, B and I went on a walk with my friend Rachel and her son. The boys were in strollers, and I am fairly certain I totally dominated the conversation because I was JUST SO HAPPY to be talking to a grown up. Sorry, Rachel.

Still, most of our day is spent in the house, really sticking to a routine while Bradley adjusts to his family. This time of bonding and attachment is so critical to the healthy development of the child, and I wanted to take a moment to talk a little bit about what our experience has been like and what I am learning.

1. It will be harder than you think. You know how when you get sick and are stuck at home for three days, you start to go a little stir crazy? Stretch that out to a month, add a little jet lag and a child who has no clue what just happened. Boom. Seriously though. Give yourself grace to be wholly and completely overwhelmed by what is happening. Our first week home... I mostly felt like I was drowning. The jet lag is insane, and your sweet baby has it, too. Not to mention all of the loss that accompanies him leaving his home country. I felt so over-prepared walking into this. Our agency does a FANTASTIC job educating its families, and I truly felt like I had all of the information. But having the information and putting into practice are two COMPLETELY different things. Cocooning is HARD. You are on all the time, and you are on in a very confined space. So much of attachment rests on immediately responding to your child's needs. It's like being a firefighter. The alarm goes off and you better move fast.

2. Hang in there because it is SO worth it. Yes, you will be exhausted beyond reason. Yes, you will likely feel like you are so far out of your depth. Yes, you will be tempted to give up and say that surely this attachment thing can't be that important. DON'T DO IT. Hang in there. When we we first met Bradley, he would go to anyone who would hold him. He showed no preference whatsoever. But now, after seven weeks (six here + one in Ethiopia) of intense attachment parenting and us meeting all his needs, he turns away from anyone who is not Adam or me. He knows that we are his safe people. Maybe it sounds awful, but the surge of satisfaction I got the first time someone reached for him and he pulled away?? Well, that made everything worth it. Because I know that he knows I am his mom. I am the safest person on the planet. I am the one who feeds him and rocks him to sleep. He did not come to us knowing that. We had to show him. And it took TIME and a lot of hard, hard work. Believe me, I cried a LOT during those first weeks, but I am so glad we stuck with it.

3. Food is a big deal. HUGE. We are now at the point where we are allowing family to interact with Bradley if he initiates it, but we are still the only ones to feed him. Our plan is to keep it this way for a long time. As in months. It will be the very last thing we let go of, and that is a long way off. My advice would be to not let anyone else feed your child anything at all. Food is a huge source of comfort, and that needs to come from mom and dad.

4. Ask for help from your spouse. If you are like me, then perhaps you sauntered into motherhood believing that you could do it all. I was in for a rude awakening. I have visions of myself being instantly awesome. Suffice it to say, that was not the case. Ha! Motherhood has kicked my behind! And I have been working on allowing myself to really lean on Adam. When B is awake all night, we take hour long shifts till he's back down. If Adam comes home from work and it has been a really rough day, I say, "Tag!" I am lucky enough to be married to a fellow who loves being a dad and all that accompanies it, and I do not know what I would do without him. Scratch that. I do know. I would hide in the shower and cry. So allow yourself to share the weight of it all.

5. Let your friends help. Our precious, precious friends set up a meal schedule for us when we got home with Bradley. I don't think I cooked dinner for a month. Seriously. It was one of the most wonderful things anyone could have done for us. I could throw myself at their feet for all of the deliciousness that paraded through this house for WEEKS after we got home. It was such an enormous relief to not have to think about juggling a very needy baby with cooking. And along these lines, please eat off of paper plates for a while so you don't have to fool with dishes. It took us about a week o make the change. It was revolutionary.

6. Celebrate the victories. There will be many. Some big and some teeny tiny. Acknowledge them all. Baby took a nap? Hooray! Baby ate lunch? Hooray! Baby only cried for two hours last night instead of three? Hooray! Baby is all of a sudden pulling to stand? HOORAY! Baby reaches for you when he's upset? Hooray! You get what I'm saying. Those first weeks home are tough, but you will watch your child change so fast right in front of you. He will put on weight, smile more, reach for you, start playing, catch up on milestones. All so quickly. Soak it up and know that he is making these strides because he is in a loving family. Your family.

7. Parent through Christ. This is by FAR the most important piece. All the trainings. All the books. All the online courses and seminars. All the conferences. Without the grace of Jesus Christ on a day by day and minute by minute basis, all of it would be for naught. There have been many days and countless moments when Jesus was the only thing that kept me on my feet. Trust that He called you to this, that He has a beautiful story for you and your precious babe. Press in and press on, and always lean (or if you're like me, throw yourself) on Him.

There is a lot more I could say on this, and I hope to have time soon for a Part II. But for now, the babe is asleep, so I am going to head that way, too.

With love,

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