Attachment Series: Part I What is Attachment and A Letter to Family & Friends
What is attachment?
First Year Bonding Cycle (www.a4everfamily.org)
During the first year of life, baby's focus is on one goal: getting his needs met. The bonding cycle begins in utero and continues during infancy when the child experiences unpleasant sensations such as hunger, pain, discomfort, or tiredness. He expresses this feeling by whimpering, crying or raging. When his diaper is changed or he is given a bottle, the need is met, leading him to feel satisfied, creating a sense of trust. During the first year of life, this cycle of discomfort-need-gratification-trust, is created over and over again in a dance between mother and baby. Through this process the child understands that he is safe and loved.
The cycle is disrupted by separation from the birth mother. The situation can be compounded by additional disruptions including hospitalization, foster care, or institutionalization. When the child's needs are not met or the caregivers are inconsistent, the child learns that the world is not safe. He believes that in order to survive, he must take care of himself, controlling everyone and everything in his little world.
A Letter to our family & friends
(adapted from www.a4everfamily.org)
Dear Family and Friends,
As we prepare for the arrival of our son, we have learned that while decorating the nursery and stocking up on baby essentials is important, even more important is the emotional health of our baby. In his short life, our son will have gone through more changes and life altering experiences than most adults could handle. Imagine how much harder the changes will be for him. While he may not consciously remember the events, he will still experience immense loss, including feelings of grief and trauma. He's already experienced the loss of a birthmother and will soon experience the loss of familiar and comforting caretakers as well as the sights, smells, and language of his birth country. His world will turn upside down. He will struggle with feeling safe and secure and he may lack the ability to trust that we will meet his needs. Research shows that there is only a short window in a child's life to effectively build a solid attachment relationship. Therefore, this subject is extremely important to Mike and I.
We have prepared to meet his emotional needs so that he does learn that we will always take care of him and we will always keep him safe. We need your support. In order to form a strong and healthy attachment we will allow him to regress so that he has the opportunity to go through all of the emotional stages with us despite his chronological age (I'll explain this more later!). Although it may appear that we are spoiling him, we have been advised that it is best that we meet every need quickly and consistently. Until he has learned that we are his parents, we will need to be his primary caretakers at all times. It is essential that we always hold him, feed him, and do all of the nurturing. You may wonder how long this will take, but the timeline is different for every child. We will follow his lead and trust our instincts as his parents rather than worry about what society expects. Please wait for our cue to hold Moses.
I know we have all been waiting anxiously for Moses to arrive but the truth is, he has not been waiting for us. He has no idea just how drastically his world is going to change in a matter of weeks. He may show his grief and confusion in many ways or he may simply smile and be the happiest baby ever, but this doesn't mean that he is not grieving and we can suddenly pass him around the room. We are prepared to help him through his grief and prove that we are his forever family and this truly is his last stop. If too many people hold him in the first few weeks that he is home Moses will merely see Mike and I as his new caretakers and will start to internally wait for the day that we will leave too. If you think this might be too extreme, find an adult adoptee and ask them if they have any attachment issues, trust issues, or abandoment issues. You might be surprised what you hear.
All Mike and I are doing are trying to give the best to our child and we believe that attachment is fundamental to a child's sense of self and their overall security as they grow up. I know it won't be easy as you have all been waiting so long to meet him, but we hope and pray that you will support us in this next step of our journey. Of course, this doesn't mean that we don't want to see you at all when we come home... it just means that you need to phone first and not expect to hold him right away!
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and for all your support and understanding.
Emily & Mike