February 5, 2013

Post adoption expectations: Part 2 - coming home

A QUICK UPDATE:

Well, no Travel Approval yesterday. Or today. It's a little disappointing, but not surprising. We have two more days. Now, we found out that it needs to be ISSUED on one of those two days, then mailed, so if it is issued, we may not find out until next Monday at the latest. It's good to know the last possible date, but I was hoping to know for sure this week!

WHAT'S IT LIKE COMING FROM AN ORPHANGE?

In the adoption world, there is a lot of talk about "attachment." It's something that we take for granted with our biological kids because it develops naturally when babies are hugged, cuddled, cared for, fed and loved - on a consistent basis. Children in orphanages often do not have this simple luxury. Granted, a few do. Those in good orphanages or foster homes may have experienced a decent level of care. But by and large, that's not the case in most of China.

We have seen pictures and video and have spoken with people who have visited Meili's orphanage. From what I can tell, it's not a good place. However, I was told the people working there generally seemed to really care for the children. But no matter how much you care, if there's only one or two caretakers and fifteen or twenty babies....*sigh*

Sometime I will post about the video. Watching it was not a pleasant experience for us. Just so you can have an idea of what I'm talking about - there was at least one child tied to a crib.

That is NOT what you want to see in an orphanage video. Sterile environments, lack of care, minimal sensory and social interaction, propped bottle feedings, etc...that's the reality of an orphanage. When babies cry and no one comes, time after time after time, the baby learns not to cry. These babies are bonded to no one.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THEY'RE ADOPTED?

Children who learn that they can't count on anyone to meet their needs learn to trust no one but themselves. It's very possible than when they hand Meili to us, she won't even cry. She may not be attached to enough to any of her caretakers to even care (if she does cry and reach for them, that's actually a GOOD thing, and can indicate at least some capacity to attach).

This plays out in many ways once that child is home. They may randomly walk up to strangers and happily go wherever a stranger would take them. Or, they may be terrified of anyone who gets too close because the last person who picked them up took them away from their former life (however bad it was) forever.

HOW WE PLAN TO DEAL ONCE WE'RE HOME:

While we are keeping our plans flexible, we plan to follow some general guidelines set up by the experts. We will be taking our cues from Meili, but for now, we have a rough idea of our plan.

We can expect (based on other parents experiences) that the first two weeks home will be quite horrible. A new child in a new home, two exhausted parents and a 14 hour time difference jet-lag to recover from is quite a lot to deal with.

1. For (at least) the first MONTH: we will be staying close to home and concentrating on attaching with Meili. This means that ONLY Jon and I will be allowed to meet her needs. Feeding, changing, bathing, rocking, etc., must ALL come from one of us. She needs to learn that WE will provide for her and she can TRUST us. We expect this to be exhausting, but it's the best way to begin making up for the orphanage deficiencies. When we feel she's ready we will slowly add her brother and sisters and her grandparents.

2. We will be restricting visitors. Not because we WANT to....trust me! But because it's best for Meili to adapt to her new environment. She needs to feel SAFE in our home and with our family before we can introduce new people.

3. We will still be "out and about": Meili will be used to going places with us - she'll be going everywhere with us in China. We still need groceries and have errands to do. We'll be minimizing those trips, but you may still see us "around." We'll keep everyone updated on how she's doing, but we'll ask that people respect her space if they see us. We don't know how she'll react in certain situations. She's never been in a grocery store, or a post office or Wal-Mart and those places might be very overwhelming to her.

PLEASE PRAY FOR US DURING THIS TRANSITION TIME! We are expecting it to be very difficult for all of us, including our biological children. Attachment is not an easy thing to learn, but it is so, so important.

She may surprise us and it may go amazingly well. Or it may be a nightmare. Another commonly heard phrase in the adoption world is : Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We covet your prayers as we work to do exactly that!








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