Thursday, April 7, 2011

"Oh how lucky...Babies are easy" (on bonding/attachment)

Foster2Forever is having a month of awareness in honor of April's National Child Abuse Prevention month.  Penelope is having a blog hop and I'm going to participate by writing about Tigger's first few months with me.  Please hop on over to Foster2Forever and read blog posts from different people involved in adoption through foster care.

When I received the call for Tigger, I was a little apprehensive because I felt I was better with the over 2 year old crowd, however, I also decided to lower my age bracket because after all children grow and whether or not we admit it, the younger a child is the more time there is to work on attachment which is really important.

Of course, I received congratulations from my friends, family, and co-workers.  I also received some congratulations on not having to deal with issues because of Tigger's age (4 1/2 months old).  I don't know where people get their information, but I will never ever say that 'babies are easier' or that you 'don't have to work hard at attachment' if they are young.

Enter Tigger.  Enter 3+ hours of crying and screaming at times.  Enter a fierce resistance to rocking, to being comforted, and her self soothing method of sucking her index finger.  If you see the first pictures of Tigger, she had that look of shock, scowl, seriousness...not one of happiness.  She came home during the Christmas season.  Christmas day was too much stimulation and my mom and I dealt with 4+ hours of non-stop crying and screaming...Tigger would get wound up, not tired!  It was a rough start.

Can you blame her though?  Tigger came into this world...went home to an emergency foster home that was not equipped for babies, did not do well there, and had to be moved to another emergency foster home.  By the time she was 4 months old and in my house that was already a 3rd home.  She had no chance to attach 100%.  Her 2nd foster home was wonderful.  I made mention of that home here.  I believe if it were not for that home, our journey to attachment would have been even more rough.  So here I was with an infant who was hyper vigilant, scared, and wasn't comforted easily.

The next few months this is what helped us attach:

Rocking:  I have a very squeaky rocking chair now...or glider more accurately.  Many, many, many hours have been logged in there rocking Tigger every day.  She resisted and would arch her back when she first came home...but soon accepted it, and now loves it....will not go to sleep unless we cuddle and rock and I either sing to her or play a homemade burned CD of "our songs".  Now the rocking is more for me, as she is getting big and I know I will miss rocking her when she's older....right now though it's still in the routine....before I received resistance, now I receive hugs.

Wearing:  Yes I wore the Tigger....even if we were in the house, wore her while her head was peaking out.  I believe it helps an infant know their mother's scent and heartbeat.

Co-Sleeping:  To be honest, foster care regulations are that foster children do NOT sleep in their parent's bed...this is for good reason, however, up to age 2, they can sleep in the same room in a bed.  So that's what I did.  Tigger slept in my room for a year.  No regrets and I'd do it again....after it was ok, she could sleep in my bed if she needed to.  I believe hearing me sleep *ahem maybe snore* helped her to not be as afraid and to know that I would get up and tend to her needs at night at any whim.  At this time, I deal with a 20 month old that is a good sleeper and sleeps with mama occasionally.

Nowadays, if routine is broken, I see my baby girl get insecure at times.  This week has been hard on us as I haven't been able to lift her (see previous post about my surgery) and she cries when mama can't attend to her.  I'm glad grandma has been able to attend to her and she has learned now that mami has an owie but she is still around.  Tigger still needs to suck her index finger and will do so when anxious or tired.  It's not something I'm worried about.

I decided to write this post because people need to know that when we receive children from foster care either for fostering or possible adoption...ALL need work with bonding and attachment.  Babies don't come into your home automatically issue free and older children don't come into your home ready to be sociopaths either.  Both have their pros and cons, and ALL have attachment insecurities.  The best thing we can do for our children that we love is to be aware and to be prepared to parent our children in the way that they need to be parented.  That will look a bit different for every family.

A huge thank you to Penelope at Foster2Forever for bringing people from all over to share their experiences with others.


Mie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mie said...

If you look, I recently said in response to a comment "I've been lucky..." because I've only had younger kiddos. It does make it easier in some ways, primarily because you're not also dealing with their knowledge of their history. In other words, with my older child I get to listen to and talk about how he's had 3 moms and how he misses his parents and how his dad is better than his new dad (two seconds before he told me that his stepdad hit him in the head with a gun). That being said, sometimes its easier to be able to talk to them about what they are feeling and help them work through it - can't just talk to a baby and get them to feel loved. So, though certain aspects might be easier with a baby - attachment isn't one of them.

DannieA said...

Hi Mei....I just have seen your blog...will have to go and read. Thanks for the comment! I appreciate that perspective! Looking forward to reading your blog!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dannie

This is a really helpful and affirming post for me. I'm just about to begin the training and assessment process for adopting from foster care (as a SMC!) and the way it works in my part of Australia is that most of these placements don't happen until a child is at least 2 years old. It's easy to think that it would be a breeze if I was placed with a baby in regards to attachment, but I know two women who have raised their adopted daughters from a very young age and still had to work hard on attachment. Your post on Tigger just reinforces this further and that, as you say, there's pros and cons to an age.


Cheers, Jess