Attachment Update

So…how’s she doing? 

Good. {pause}  Great. {big smile} She’s doing very well.

I give the same canned answer every time.  The answer that I, probably like most adoptive parents, feel is the only one I can give.  That is what everyone expects, right?  The glass slipper fit and they lived happily ever after.

When people ask I really don’t elaborate.  I keep it short and sweet.  She’s doing great.  Truth is, she is.  It’s just my personality to give the facts and move on.

Odette is doing awesome.  She is doing better than I ever imagined.  She is pretty much a fairytale story of adoption.

The little girl who, most expectedly, looked terrified as we carried her out of the orphanage has blossomed.  The little girl who pushed away every hug and snuggle, now asks for hugs from us and snuggled in my arms for her entire nap today.  The little girl who turned her face when we tried to give her a kiss, now grabs our cheeks and plants one on us (and fire hydrants).  The little girl who hadn’t seen many white people before, now knows our faces and looks for us in a crowd.  The little girl who sat frozen during her blood draw in her first days home, now comes to us for comfort when she is in pain.  The little girl who wouldn’t respond when we said we loved her in Lingala, now will walk across the room to whisper “I love you” randomly throughout the day.  The little girl who wouldn’t accept help and wanted to do everything herself now…well still does that.  Haha.

She is bonding.  She is attaching.  She has a lot of love to give.  She loves to be loved.

It took patience to get where we are today.  It took time.  It took understanding.  And, it took prayer.  It wasn’t easy to be rejected by her.  It hurt.  It worried me.  I fought a long, hard battle (ok, in retrospect our process was easy, but hey) to get her home.  She was gonna love me!  There is a saying in the adoption world, “Fake it until you make it.”  We did that.  We showed her love from the very beginning.  We showed it before she wanted it.  We showed it before we felt it.  No one ever read her a book about attachment.  She wasn’t taught to fake it.  Thankfully now she doesn’t have to.

I think that our attachment has gone so well because of her personality, our education/preparation, and because of our determination.  As I’ve mentioned before, we broke out of our cocoon early, however we were very careful about Odette’s interaction with others.  We took it very slowly and cautiously.  In the beginning we held her whenever she was meeting someone new.  The proximity to us showed her that our relationship was different.  At first it was short conversations and visits.  We didn’t let anyone hold her, feed her, comfort her, or really care for her in any way.  Slowly it progressed to playing, goofing around, and learning about friendships.  It was about a month before she saw any extended family (outside of the airport greeting).  That was an easy rule for us to keep because all of our family lives at least 2 hours away.  We didn’t have to push Auntie Bernice out of the house after bringing by casseroles 4 nights in a row.  (Sorry to any Auntie Bernices out there.  I was trying to avoid any names of relatives and think I managed to do so.)  We had time to just learn about each other and how to be a family without any confusion from others.

I was nervous about the first visit from our family.  I wasn’t sure how Odette would do.  She is so fun and crazy and wild and fun.  Have I mentioned she is fun?   I wanted to show her off.  Well, show her off I did.  It was “See ya momma!  Have you met these awesome people?  They do whatever I want and always laugh at my silliness.  Nice knowin ya lady.”  Huh?  What just happened?  Yes, she had such a blast that she wanted nothing to do with me, unless she needed to go potty.  Nice.  Good to know she kept me around for that. It was a hard weekend for me.  The emotions from the early days came flooding back.  I was worried.  I was hurt.  I wanted MY little girl back.  Thankfully when we stood at the door and said our goodbyes I held her in my arms and she returned to me.

Attachment is a tricky tricky thing.  It is easy to be overly protective of our bonding and it is easy to be discouraged.  Our attachment journey isn’t over.  It is really just beginning.  Adoption researchers encourage adoptive parents to consider family age over chronological age.  If Odette was a six-week old infant would we think our job of teaching her the unfailing, unconditional love of a parent was over?  No way.  We’ve got a lot of making up to do.  Is Odette as bonded with us as a three-year old born to their parents?  No.  But considering the loss that all adoptions stem from I would say that her Once upon a time is far from over.

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2 thoughts on “Attachment Update

  1. this is such a poignant post. hearing how you worked to foster attachment in your early days with odette is such a lesson…

  2. Sarah, I think Odette is doing remarkably well in her attachment in the short time you have been home. Don’t feel bad about the meeting the family time; my daughter ALWAYS treats me differently when she is with her Nana. But in the end, she always wants to go home with me. ;-) She knows who her Mama is. That’s just how family is sometimes.

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