Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday Snapshot - SLAP!!

You know, I have spent so much time reading about attachment issues and reading other's posts about attachment and bonding and how it can be, at times, a bit like walking a tight rope.  I have spent countless hours before and after Lizzie came home, reading about adoption related issues, orphanage related issues, abandonment related issues and even "taking your child away from their birth culture" issues!  I wanted to know it all.  I wanted to prepare for it all.  I wanted to know the worst case and hopefully be pleasantly surprised by the best case.  Hubby thought I was crazy and I did drive him crazy at times.  That is just who I am, though.  I like to be in control and when I am not in control, I need to prepare.  I need to feel like I can control what is uncontrollable.  What I didn't know then but am beginning to know now, is that we are never in control and that if we are willing to give up the sense of control we think we have, we are much better off in the long run - and we don't drive our hubby's insane in the process!!  Hehe!  Learning to give things to God has really soothed my soul in a way I never thought possible!  I still prepare (can't help myself) but I don't try to control (as much)!  Told ya, I am still learning!!  Heh!

Anyway, when I was "learning" about all these issues surrounding adoption, I thought I was prepared and when we met Lizzie, I thought, "Wow, she's not crying!  Whew, she is attaching!"

Later, after we were home and maybe even before, I thought, "Whew, she has bonded with us!" 

I mean she didn't cry when we held her for the first time.  She would come to us willingly.  She even played and laughed with her siblings!  Yep, we had this attachment and bonding thing down!  I am goooood!

As we settled in at home, we began to see some of the effects of life in an orphanage, even if only for 2 years.  It had been all she had known and the skills she learned to get attention, to get fed, to get her diaper changed, to survive, were hard to live with in a family and hard, so very hard to "unlearn."  It took time.  It took patience.  It took consistency and it took love, a whole lot of love and while you think that you will just be filled with love for your new child no matter what, there were times (and I am being totally honest here) that it was hard to be filled with love for a child who would throw herself on the floor and scream and cry and kick her legs and would NOT want to be held by you, but did NOT want you to walk away and leave her, crying and screaming and kicking her legs!  Back then, we counted our blessings that she, at least, was not biting and scratching and spitting at us as well!  I had prepared myself for that too - as much as you can prepare yourself for that!  I tried to remind myself that this was how Lizzie survived and this was how Lizzie got her needs met and - it - helped!  I can remember so many nights after the kids were in bed, I would just cry at the thought of all Lizzie had been through and how I had fallen short in my attempts to reach her.  However, I would get up the next day and try again and again and again and pretty soon the tantrums got better and pretty soon Lizzie seemed to be able to be comforted by us and comfortable in her security with us.  She was never a "velcro baby" but she did always want to know where I was and she had a hard time separating from me at times but so did my bio kids, so things got better and I began to relax a bit and with that relaxation, I sometimes forgot about her journey.  

I have always made it a point to talk to Lizzie about China and her birth parents.  Sometimes she wants to listen and talk and sometimes she doesn't.  Sometimes she gets excited about China and then other times, she wants nothing to do with China.  The day we got Lizzie, the nanny gave us a box full of the cameras we had sent over, a toy and a stuffed animal we had sent, some early pictures of her and a blanket from us.  Lizzie sometimes likes to look through her box and one of those times was a night a few weeks ago.  As she was going through her box, she came across the blanket and asked if she could sleep with it that night.  Of course I said she could and she snuggled right down with it.  However, the next morning, she told me that she didn't want to sleep with it anymore.  When I asked her why, she told me that it was stinky.  I asked her what it smelled like and Lizzie told me that it smelled like China!  Sigh!!  Obviously we have some work to do in that regard!  It - is - a - journey!

While resting on my laurels thinking that we had the attachment and bonding stuff down and that Lizzie's behavior was nothing more than the "orphanage effect", I began to understand that attachment and bonding is a process.  You don't just meet your child on that first day and say, "Well, she didn't cry, so she is attached!  Whew!"  It is a process and one that will slap you up side the head if you are not paying close enough attention!  I always felt like, aside from the tantrums and the inability to wait to get her needs met, Lizzie was attached and bonded and for the most part she was and is.  However, I find myself in prayer a lot these days asking for the Lord to fill Lizzie's precious heart with peace and contentment so that she can feel secure in our love and His.  Most of the time both my girls tackle their days like Super Heroes.

I guess having 3 big brothers does that to a girl but in Lizzie's case, in order to survive, she had to be her own Super Hero and what a Super Hero she is!

However, there are times when that Super Hero facade comes crumbling down and the hurt little child emerges.  The child that still has some attaching and bonding left to do and sometimes I see it and sometimes I don't. 

Part of this process has been a work in progress.  Lizzie and I have been working hard on patience and not having to get all of her needs met immediately.  We are working on the fact that it is OK to feel hungry sometimes and that you will get fed.  We are working on the fact that if you feel like you have to go to the bathroom, sometimes you can wait.  We are really working hard on not whining about everything that you don't get right when you want it and that we are here for her to meet her needs (not always immediately) and that we will be here for her always.

Last night, however, I got reminded of this and thanked God later for showing me just what Lizzie needed at that moment in time - a moment of insecurity. 

Lizzie woke up and began to call for me.  When I went up to check on her, she said that she wanted to get up and that she couldn't go back to sleep.  I tucked her back in and got in the bed with Em.  Side note here - Em sleeps in the double bed in their room and Lizzie (by her choice) sleeps in the toddler bed.  I think we laid there for a while and then Lizzie started her usual, "Mommie, I'm hungry."  It then escalates to, "Mommie, I want breakfast - now!"  I tried to get her to go back to sleep for a while promising breakfast soon.  That falls on deaf ears because she is hungry and she cannot wait!  As I try to calm her so that I can sleep a few more minutes, Lizzie starts with, "Mommie, I have to go to the bathroom - now!"  That begins the crying and the whining and that begins my frustration.  I felt like we had been making such progress in this "orphanage behavior" and dern it, here she goes again.  The next thing I heard, however, was the thing that slapped me up side the head.  Lizzie began to cry because she couldn't get her stuffed puppy to work.  This puppy was the one that we sent to her while she was in China, the one that came back with her on the day we got her.  This stuffed puppy has my voice recorded on it, telling Lizzie that we love her and that we can't wait to bring her home.  Lizzie tends to want to listen to this at times when she is feeling a bit insecure, many times she wants to hear it after we have had a talk about China and her time there.

All of a sudden it slapped me up side the head dawned on me that Lizzie needed ME!  She didn't really need food or the bathroom.  She needed to feel my security and my closeness and my love.  She needed me to hold her, not scold her!  So, I went over to her bed, scooped her up, carried her back to Em's bed and just held her and it was the right thing to do!  She calmed down and instead of having a battle on my hands this morning, she was clam and secure and happy and she never did have to listen to my voice on her puppy!  She had ME! 

With our sweet Lizzie, attaching is a journey and bonding is a process and every now and again, I need that slap up side my head to see that the journey is not over and may never be over.  I just hope I get this thing down before my poor head is black and blue!! 

To read more wonderful Sunday Snapshots go here,

Ni Hao Y'all


  1. Great post. We often think the work is done when our children are happy, safe, healthy, etc. But it probably will be different things to work through throughout their growing years as their perspective and in-sight changes as they grow. I wish the "light bulb" moment you had would happen to me more frequently!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Annie. It's very helpful for this waiting mamma!

  3. Beautifully written. It is so nice to see such honesty. Recently, Emerson has become that velcro baby you mentioned and it is hard...very hard. I am glad to have bloggy friends to remind me that our family is not alone on this journey. God Bless you and your family!

  4. Thank you for sharing from the heart, friend. What a beautifully written post. I love your honesty...and your love for your daughter. It's a beautiful thing. Thank you for being such an encouragement to many on the same journey.

    Sending you a huge hug.

  5. I think many know exactly what you mean...the image of you holding Lizzie had me in tears. It definitely has been/is roller coaster ride for our journey too after 2 years. Thanks again for sharing your story!


  6. I agree with one of the above comments...this has been very helpful for this waiting momma too! Thanks for posting!

  7. thanks for stopping by my blog... you have an amazing story & a gorgeous family!

  8. Thank you for posting this. We are going through our own attachment journey. We adopted our daughter in Sept. 2008 and she continues to have her up and down days. It helps to know we are not alone in this journey. She has come a long way, but still has a lot to go. I can really relate to what you are going through. We just keep moving forward one day at a time and love her more and more.

  9. Beautiful post. 2nd daughter was in foster care from the start, was very well taken care of and still had many of the same behaviors you describe (temper tantrums; not letting me leave the room; NEEDING to eat right now)Now that she is 6 she is finally settling down. Now on the other hand the baby who was in an orphanage is the best adjusted even with having had a serious issue with her leg and foot and having had her foot amputated. Go figure! Maybe more to do with temperament that anything else. I don't know!