Our attachment story is still a cause for wonder to me. Like everyone, I read the books, watched the educational videos our agency required and prepared (as much as is possible- which, let's face it... isn't much) before we traveled to meet our daughter- just 2 weeks shy of a year ago now. All of our agency reports about her had told us that she was VERY reserved and quite shy. She is not smiling in ONE of the photos we saw of her before we travelled. In fact, she had tears in her eyes in some of her referral photos. We discussed with each other and with our boys how we were going to handle adopting a very reserved and possibly very scared and sad little girl.
|one of her referral photos|
*boys would break the ice and maybe make her feel a bit more comfortable
And that was what I expected at BEST. What I expected at WORST was:
*sheer and utter terror
*desire to go back to the orphanage rather than stay w/ us at our guest house
Here is what I expected from her upon arrival in America:
*need to "cocoon" - not go out or let anyone come over for several months
*looooooong adjustment time
*picking the boys up from school in the "circle drive" rather than on the playground (keep her in the car)
*lots of rocking and comforting
*food issues (either rejection of American food or hoarding or both)
Here is what ACTUALLY happened upon our first meeting:
*She backed into me immediately and let me hold her like that for the first couple of hours.
*She didn't cry at all.
*She didn't make much noise for the first 15-20 minutes or so, but after that became quite chatty. (No idea what she was saying... but it didn't seem to be a cause for concern.)
*She laughed at the boys.
*She let me carry her.
*She wasn't crazy about Mick at first, but was not rejecting him. Just slow to warm to him.
*She was bossing the boys around in Amharic within a few hours.
*She called me "Mommy" from that first day.
|First Day- on the way to our Embassy Appt.|
I couldn't believe she was that easy.
But I thought things would change when we took her away from everything she has ever known and planted her in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar food and unfamiliar language and customs.
Here is what ACTUALLY happened upon her arrival in America:
*She ate a "Five Guys" hamburger in the airport.
*She ate pizza when we got to our house.
*She slept through the night the first night home... and every night since except for 2.
*She never hoarded food.
*She bonded with Mick.
*She played with the boys as if she had been doing it every day of her life.
*She followed me around- not in a fearful or needy way, just in a delightful little girl loving her mommy way.
*She went to church 10 days after arriving home. We didn't put her in the child care- kept her with us the whole time, but she did GREAT. It was Easter and she stood in the middle of the hallway showing off her dress and tights and shoes to every one who would listen to her jabber on in Amharic about how cute she thought she was! It was adorable.
*We started picking Jack and Ben up on the playground after about 2 or 3 weeks. She wanted me nearby, but would play with other children and climb on the monkey bars or want to be pushed on the swings.
|Easter Sunday 2010|
Now, all of that is from HER perspective- at least, her perspective from OUR perspective. Know what I mean? Bottom line- she has done really well. She is remarkable.
But it's a two way street, isn't it?
I would say that my boys attached to her as quickly as she attached to them. It was great, but not perfect. More on the struggles they have experienced here.
|First Day of School '10-'11|
|at the park|
At first it really worried me. I knew that I really thought she was great, but I didn't feel that "heart in your throat" kind of thing that I felt for my boys. I knew that was probably normal, but still it worried me. But it came. It really came. One day I looked at her in my rearview window and my heart leapt and I thought, "OH! There it is..."
But there have been and continue to be times when I know in my heart that I'm not responding to her the same way I would respond to my boys. I guess really I felt less attached. Not that I didn't love her and think she was wonderful. Just that she could irritate me more quickly than I knew my boys would have at the same age and in similar circumstances. (but truly... that may not just be a bio vs. adoption thing. it's also probably a bit of a girl vs. boy thing. they are SO different!) There were definitely days when it felt like "going through the motions" more than "joyously spending time with my daughter." But luckily those times were always accompanied by her delightful self- so full of laughter and silliness and fun... and LOVE. She expressed love for US so clearly and consistently so early on. So even when I wasn't "feeling" it for her, it was still easy to LIKE her and ENJOY her.
|fun with photo booth|
I think there is probably a broad spectrum of "normal" in attachment and bonding w/ your adopted child. It's a two way street, that's for sure. But it wasn't anything like I expected. Because here is the truth: overall... it's been really easy for us. And the more time passes the deeper my love for her grows- and I believe the same is true for her
The truth is: it has NOTHING to do with Mick nor I nor our boys nor any of the books we read nor videos we watched. It has EVERYTHING to do with Avé and who she is as a person.
|THIS is who she is!|
We were getting all snuggly-buggly on the couch the other day and I said to her, "You know what? I just think I love you more and more every day. I'm so glad you are my girl!!!" And she looked up with those amazing eyes of hers and said, "Mommy, me too."