Monday, March 5, 2012

For What It's Worth

If you're in the process of adopting,
and if you're anything like me,
you are probably spending hours on the internet looking for advice
and trying to learn just what it might be like to bring your little one home.

I do believe that adoption is normal, but it just isn't as common as brining home a tiny newborn from the hospital. And while other moms are talking about healing episiotomies, chapped nipples, and size 0 diapers, it's easy for the expectant adoptive mom to hear nothing but crickets.

So, for what it's worth, I'd like to pass along a few things that really, really helped us as we learned how to be a family these past six months. They haven't been a perfectly smooth six months, but these few nuggets of information have really made a difference.

1) Keep your child's world small. Before we brought Briggs home, some friends suggested to us that we keep him home with us for the first two weeks with NO VISITORS. While this proved difficult for our friends and family, it turned out to be the best.advice.ever. If you quit reading this blog post right now, I could already claim to have given you a million dollars worth of advice in just this one tip. Your new child has got to relearn what home means, what safe means, what comfortable means. Let him learn about the most important place (home) and people (his parents) first - without a thousand other distractions, faces, and stimulations. Honestly, if you've got the time to extend this two weeks into three or four, do it. After we incubated for our two weeks, we introduced people to Briggs slowly and on his turf. We hosted all of his admirers (and he has a lot!) in our home so that he could get to know them in a place where he was already comfortable. Your child has his whole life to visit others and explore your town, take it slow.

2) Set expectations for your child as if he was born on the day you arrived home with him. For example would you hold your 1-week-old almost constantly? Would you let him fall asleep - and stay asleep - in your arms? Then for a while, this too should be okay for your newly-home toddler. Would a 4-week-old still sleep in the same room with you? Would he still wake up in the middle of the night to be fed or rocked? Would you spend extended periods of time just gazing at your new baby? Then shower your newly adopted child with these same affections and privileges. I would say that many of Briggs's needs and behaviors were very "infant" up until about three months after we had been home. We indulged many of these requests until he very simply and naturally outgrew them. For example, even though he was 16-months-old, the first time he slept through the night was at 6 weeks home and right at 3 months he began sleeping through the night every night.

3) Take charge from the very beginning. Again, in the spirit of treating your child as you would a very new baby, take charge of doing things for him. For us, it was important that we not let Briggs hold his bottle or feed himself with the spoon. Although he was capable of these things, it was our way of communicating to him that we would take care of his needs. Also, have a plan for discipline. Unlike newborns, even newly-home toddlers are naughty. This really caught me off guard, but it was important that Mark and I set boundaries from the very beginning and that we be on the same page as to what those boundaries were and how they were to be enforced. The book Love and Logic really helped me with this one.

4) And finally, don't force the food issue. I expected to blow Briggs away with all sorts of yummy sweets and fruits and pastas and crackers. Do you know what he wanted? Bananas. Bananas and his bottle and rice cereal. And that was it for about two months. It worried me at first, but then I realized that food is so closely connected to comfort. While everything else around him was so strange, he was finding some kind of comfort and familiarity in these three foods. So we went with it. And you know what, he came around.

We aren't a perfect family and I don't think that Briggs is a perfectly adjusted child, but I do hope that there is an adoptive mommy out there that will pin or print or tuck away these bits of advice and that they will be a little bit helpful one day.


Meme said...

thanks for sharing the real stuff. I had never thought about keeping them at home, but seriously.. i wouldnt take my newborn out for that long or longer! Keepong all of this in my mind as we start our long long journey!maybe by the time it happens you can publish a book for me :-)

Jess said...

We're planning on adopting our next kiddo and I love reading about other helpful adoption stories!

heather said...

perfect list Becky. The "cocooning" phase was so helpful to us too. EXTREMELY hard on everyone else that was along this journey with us, but I believe gave us the best foundation