This post is going to be a difficult one to explain. Geoff and I have been having deep discussions on Lexi's adjustment a lot lately. I've also been consulting with a lot of adoptive moms to see advice and learn from their experience. Before anyone even thinks it, I KNOW that all children are different and that all experiences are not the same but there are many commonalities and much to be learned from others. I preface this post with this just as food for thought as I make a very difficult post.
We have been having some adjustment issues with Lexi for the last few weeks. Perhaps it has been from the begining but only since we returned home and really began to focus on routines and adjusting as a family have we really noticed that there are many issues to tackle. We've realized (in hind sight) that we most likely did many things wrong. We read (or to be quite honest, mostly I read) about attachment and bonding with the adoptive child during our wait. I read about other people's experiences and did recognize many simularities. Our fault came from thinking that our adjustment would be easy. (you know it is kind of like the feeling that many feel about many things... the it won't happen to US mentality) We saw our happy little Lexi who was eagar to take to others as a sign that she was a "go with the flow" kind of girl. People see me out and tell me all the time how happy she is and how bonded she is with us. What people don't see is the behind the scenes reality. They don't see the screaming, over stimulated, grieving baby who doesn't understand what is happening around her.
I do believe that Lexi is beginning to bond with us BUT something is going on with her and parenting her has been difficult. One thing we have not done consistently that is a recommendation of experienced adoption professionals is the need to implement specific parenting approaches to help encourage a strong, attached, emotionally healthy daughter. Lexi needs to learn that we are her parents. She needs to feel nurtured and safe. She will not be used to having a mom and dad to love and care for her.
As strange as it may seem, adopted children who act very outgoing and affectionate with strangers is not a healthy thing. It is called "indiscriminate affection" and can mean that they haven't really attached to anyone. It would not be a good sign that our baby has attached to us if during her first months home she will let just anyone take her and hold her without searching for us. Geoff and I have seen Lexi do this at an alarming rate. She will go to practically anyone. In one of the books we are reading it states that when parents see their child seeking attention indiscriminately, they need to intervene quickly, firmly, and kindly. This behavior is pure and simple her using survival skills. From our observations, Lexi is acting mostly out of pure survival. She craves attention and most likely is fearful of being abandoned or having her life change YET again. We have NO real IDEA what she has endured during her short life. But we do know what how we interact with her and what we allow others to do will impact her future and hopefully she will blossom into a healthy child both emotionally and physically.
In the book we are reading now it tells you how to establish relationships. Lexi needs to learn and must be taught who her parents are and who will ultimately be the one she can rely on. It suggests the following interactions:
Parents and Siblings ~ hugging, kissing, sitting on lap
Extended Family ~ Blowing kisses, sitting close but not on lap
Friends ~ Shaking hands, sitting nearby
Acquaintances ~ Waving, but not touching
Strangers ~ Nodding, keeping near parents, no touching
We have been very consistent with us only being the one to feed her, pick her up from her crib when she wakes up, and changing and bathing. But we have not been consistent with letting others hold her. We plan to change this.
I anticipate that many people (those not familiar with attaching in adoption) will think we are being over protective. But honestly at this point, we can only operate on our feelings and advice from professionals who have studied adoption at length. Some people believe that all she needs is love and she will prosper. It is not that easy. Geoff and I fully accept that we have done many things wrong. We probably still will but just know we ARE going to work harder at it and are trying even more to educate ourselves even more. Lexi is what is important and if we happen to step on anyone's feelings in the process, I am sorry you feel that way. We must do what we need to for our daughter and not try to please everyone else. No one else lives with us and experiences the daily ups and downs. The past few weeks have been mentally and physically draining on me especially since I'm the primary caregiver for now. I dread leaving her to go back to work with her needing so much at this time but I do feel better leaving her in the care of my mom here at our house. I'm actually hoping that Lexi seeing me leave and come back every day will reinforce to her that her Mommy will never leave her.
So there you have it... the naked truth of how things are really going. Yes she is a beauitful happy little girl at times but there is more to the story and because we love her so much we will do everything we can to help her.