Category: Ethiopian Adoption Story
Created on Monday, 17 May 2010 09:58
Thank you my fellow blog friend and adoptive mom, Tania, for sharing with me this 'create a book from your blog' site. I am finishing this chronicle of our adoption journey now...and with this book. We really appreciate all of our new 'blog friends' for sharing their stories, and the yahoo groups for great advice. We have gone from an "adoption idea" thru the adoption process...and have completed the transition with the Certificate of Citizenship Ceremony.
I think that we have all adjusted nicely. Hana attended the same preschool as Ian, and when she's not there...he misses her. Haley is still super excited about having a little sister.
Hana is making strides in her cognitive/academic development. She knows her shapes, and the letters A and B ☻ She is talking more (I think a combination of ECI, preschool, and our *insistence* that she speaks before we give her almost anything...is what's contributing to this progress). I also believe that she realizes that we are her forever family, and is starting to enjoy the love and attention that comes with being a member of our family.
I've done *tons* of reading about cumulative cognitive deficit (CCD) in internationally adopted children and post institutionalization syndrome, etc. Hana, thankfully, doesn't have many features of these diseases. There are a few signs/symptoms of RAD (reactive attachment disorder), but these issues are nearly completely resolved. For instance, a few months ago...when I would 'disappear' into a closet/bedroom/bathroom/where ever, Hana would continue to play and never miss me. Now, she'll stop playing after awhile (maybe 20 minutes, which is still way long) and start walking around the house looking for me. She's even gotten to the point of calling out for me (although very softly).
Other examples: at night, she used to prefer to sleep alone, in the dark, quiet room. Then, as mentioned, she began to enjoy TV at night, and preferred 'background noise.' Later she would cry when you put her into her own room alone, and when left to her own...she'd always go into Haley's room. We gradually started insisting that she sleep with us (which is not normal to 'beg' a kid to sleep in the big bed with Mommy/Daddy). She was obviously uncomfortable in our bed/room...and would twitch and hold her shoulders up high, never quite relaxing. But as of about 4 months ago, she prefers to go in "mommy and daddy's room." She plays around in the bed, and loves to sing, and overall just seems relaxed.
I've been doing a lot of reading about adoption, issues, complications, in light of the recent incident whereby the Russian kid was sent back because the adoptive family here in the U.S. felt unsafe and overwhelmed by him. What interests me most, though, is the issues this kid had...and the outflow of comments from adoptive parents testifying similar disillusionment. What can be done to help prepare these families...and what can be done to help these children once here? Even with ECI...when Hana didn't qualify, I had to basically present all the the research/findings that indicate that she, indeed, was behind in development...and waiting to intervene would likely prove a huge mistake.
I think that, for these children, the experience of lost is profound. By the time they reach our arms, they have been cared for by no less than 4 people...and very likely more. They don't attach/bond...and if they do, it comes with great pain when they are separated (again) from their new care-givers. So, instead of experiencing that hurt...their coping mechanism is to disconnect. No connection, no pain. What they don't realize is...the disconnection causes pain, many adverse life issues and situations, and ultimately is not a solution that yields a positive outcome. And, because they are children, they can't simply be 'talked into' believing anything other than what they feel/experienced.
Maybe there is something that would 'motivate' these kids to seek attachment...because they realize that 'disconnection' is proving detrimental. That the (even immediate pain) of not being connected supercedes the potential long-term (emotional/loss) pain if the relationship with the new parents end. To use that innate coping mechanism to encourage bonding/attachment/obedience/acceptance...by making it so undesirable to do the contrary. That in the end, the natural inclination should be to just reach out rather than push away.
That's what we're trying to do with Hana. To prove to her that not only "are we there for her," but that her allowing us to be there is actually LESS painful (even with the subconscious fear of us leaving/abandoning her) than pushing us away. The fear of us NOT being there/connected is the 'real' fear (this is the fear that is normally felt by birth children. Birth kids are not sitting around in their subconscious minds fearful that their parents will abandon them...rather, they fear absent parents who are disconnected. "Mommy, look at me!! Mommy notice me!! Mommy, LOVE me!! Mommy, *connect*") And really, this is true. The likelihood that we won't connect/bond with her is much higher than us abandoning her. And in our disconnected state...she will suffer immensely - emotionally, psychologically, developmentally - because 'connection' is normal and necessary for development. See, the short term fear/threat of abandonment supersedes the *real* danger associated with non-attachment in a child's mind....unless we are able to do something to help them realize the contrary.
How this is done...I don't know. But...I think it starts avoiding over-romanticizing the idea that "love will conquer all." I think it means discipline, and insisting that the child engage/interact with you, sleep with you, eat with you, and cooperate with you. I believe in showing kids unpleasant (and sometimes painful) consequences of adverse behavior...(in addition to rewards for pleasant behavior). Sometimes parents allow the 'kids to lead the way.' But in this case (especially) it is up to the parents to show the kids the way...because the child's own subconscious will lead them astray...and onto a trajectory yielding a very difficult life (psychologically/emotionally). If we as parents can somehow force that child onto a trajectory which allows 'normal' human interaction...I think there would be less issues.
I think Hana is on the 'happiness' trajectory now. That bonding and attachment is worth the risk of loss. That the consequences of not connecting are more pressing now than the *potential* loss that may be felt if she were abandoned. I think...and hope...because if she were able to see the situation like this, it would serve her well.
After reading tons of blogs/article/comments, I realize that complete attachment and 'connectedness' happens slowly...and takes upwards of year, and likely about 2. Which seems weird, since connection is much, much faster with bio kids. BUT, with bio kids (aside from the fact that parents begin bonding with the baby for almost a year before they even make their debut...they don't typically come with this subconscious abandonment issue to overcome (as adopted kids didn't 'come' with them initially either, but rather developed them after being 'passed around' early in life). Second only to the initial health issues we dealt with...this was the biggest issue. And, I think the bulk of that work is done.
Hana is smiley, engaging, is talking more, demanding more, makes good eye contact, seems happy to see us after an absence, sleeps well, eats well, is medically healthy, follows directions. She is still overly sensitive (which may, or may not be related to her adoption status, or just her temperament). She aims to please. She mimics well. Socially she is above average. Motor development is above average. Cognitively, she is doing better now that she seems to be more willing to fully engage (emotionally, psychologically, physically) in this life...despite her (prior) underlying issues likely stemming from lack of attachment and possibly abandonment.
Our family is very happy with Hana. It has been quite a journey...