Nesting. Hibernating. Cocooning. Shrinking your world. Stripping your calendar.
If you’ve been around the adoption community for any length of time, you’ve heard terms like these and likely have some working familiarity with the general gist of what they mean. Even if you are brand new to the adoption world and all these terms seem like a foreign language when applied to parenting techniques, your basic grasp of the English language gives you at least a working definition to go by. But one thing I’ve discovered over and over in my interactions is that many folks don’t really know WHY adoptive parent ought to consider cocooning. To be sure, there are quite a few philosophies out there that sufficiently cover the ranges of how strictly one ought to consider pulling back from their normal routine and pace of life. But in my studying, the WHY of each philosophy has one common thread that runs through them.
Adoption comes out of tremendous loss for our children.
It’s a hard truth. A truth that brings me to my figurative knees quite often. A truth that puts the responsibility for bringing the healing and hope of Jesus Christ to that loss squarely on the shoulders of my husband and me. A truth that pushes me to seek resources, support and training that will increase my ability to be used by The Father to see wholeness come to my daughters. That loss is the common thread that drives many families to consider some form of cocooning with their newly adopted child.
In the early days home with both of our girls, I confess that I was far more excited about sharing our beautiful new daughters with the wonderful community that we had built around us. This dyed-in-the-wool extrovert wanted everyone to coo over chubby cheeks and marvel over sweet smiles and sassy personalities with me. “Shrinking our world” felt like serious potential for the kind of cabin-fever about which nightmares are made! But choosing to spend our early days and weeks attending to their adjustment and transition from “orphan” to “daughter,” was my way of honoring the truth of the tremendous losses they were experiencing. In the beautiful but messy process that is adoption, we gained two beautiful daughters. But in that same beautiful messiness, our daughters lost everything familiar to them in their daily lives.
Our home smelled different than their foster homes. We looked different than the ayiis. Our food tasted strange. The language in our home, even our faltering attempts at pre-school level Mandarin, was odd and dissonant to their ears. Every single sense that my daughters have was assaulted with difference for days and weeks on end. Bigger than that, and long before we came and took them into our family, they lost their first family. Certainly, the exuberant love and joy of welcoming them to our home was evident even in our awareness of their losses. Our hearts were filled with great joy and pride in our older kids’ understanding of this process and their abilities to attach to their new sisters. And yes, the attachments my husband and I formed with each daughter had good strong roots already going deep thanks to wonderful isolated travel-time together in China. But the differences they experienced, the loss these girls had suffered in those early days cannot be minimized.
So, in light of this truth, WHY cocoon? One of my favorite adoption experts, Dawn Davenport of Creating A Family puts it very succinctly:
The idea of “nesting” is to simplify life, settle into a routine, and limit the care of the child to the mom and dad. This is especially important when adopting a child past the newborn stage – in other words, when adopting from foster care or internationally. With adoption, the baby/child’s life has been turned topsy-turvy. The idea of cocooning is to allow life to settle down for the child and parents and to firmly cement in the child’s mind who are mom and dad.
The general gist is to hang close to home for a while: [simplify] life, reduce the number of toys and trips away from home, set up a predictable routine. Generally allow time and space to get to know each other, and to allow the child to learn to trust and rely on her parents. It is the first step in establishing attachment.” Taken from Dawn’s blog.
As Christians, the WHY of cocooning felt a bit weightier even than nesting to simplify. We found that the loss our daughters had experienced was also about the loss of the deep care and nurture that The Creator intends for all the precious lives that He crafts. It was also about the loss of the original plan that He made for them when He looked at them in their mothers’ wombs. His redemptive plan to bring them to our home carried great joy for us but also required great responsibility to serve their little hearts. Hearts that He was entrusting to us for healing and restoration of hope.
The weight of this charge pushed me past the natural tendency I would have had to share my joy with the whole world around me. I put myself on a bit of a leash, if you will, and moved toward focusing on and prioritizing their needs for unconditional love, constancy, structure, and learning that Mommy and Daddy are Forever. That their place in our home is permanent – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. That this family is theirs to rely upon and will be the example of Christ’s healing and hope that their little hearts needed.
Our efforts to cocoon with our girls looked different between our two adoption journeys. How could they not? The adoptions were five years apart. A lot of learning and growing occurred in The Gang’s home in those five years. NOT the least of which was our expanded understanding of the trauma that this loss brings to a little heart and mind. While our methods were very different, the intentions were the same. At first, when bringing home our youngest daughter, our cocooning looked and felt so very different than before. This difference was stressing to me. I was out-of-sorts over trying to make this time resemble the cocooning of five years ago. But after praying about it and finding ways to negotiate our expectations better with our older kids, we found our groove again. A new groove! I found that once the older kids better understood (by both example and years of hearing Mom talk about what she was learning!) the “WHY?” behind cocooning, the easier those negotiations became. It was such a remarkable lesson to me about my heart and its intentions: keeping my motivation for cocooning was paramount. The change in how we implemented it was different but still a healthy out-flow of both that motivation AND our family’s season of life.
So whatever you choose to call it, I strongly urge you to consider some kind of cocooning with your newly adopted child. If you’ve been home for a while now and feel like your attachment to your child could use some re-anchoring, give some thought to temporarily stripping down your family calendar and get intentional about relationship-building time. It’s never too late to adjust your course and hone in on some things that need your time and attention. That’s the gift of parenting, isn’t it? The time and care you put into bringing healing and hope to any of your children is never wasted. His grace and mercy offer us daily do-overs! My favorite Scripture in recent days has been Lamentations 3:22-24:
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
Below are some of my favorite resources that I have shared with friends over the years with regards to cocooning. Enjoy exploring the ideas presented!
“Finding Balance with “Cocooning” Newly Adopted Kids” – http://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/finding-balance-cocooning-newly-adopted-kids/
“Should Grandparents Be Allowed to Care for a Newly Adopted Child” – http://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/grandparents-allowed-care-newly-adopted-child/
“Creating Attachment with Your Adopted Child In the First Year” – http://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/creating-attachement-with-your-adopted-child-in-the-1st-year/
“How to Be The Village” – http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2011/11/02/how-to-be-the-village
“After The Airport” – http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2011/09/06/after-the-airport
And from my own blog:
“Speaking of Attachment, Part 3” (with links embedded for other parts of the series) – http://whitneygang.blogspot.com/2009/12/speaking-of-attachment-part-3.html
“Wow, I’m REALLY Glad That Is Over” (with part two following) – http://whitneygang.blogspot.com/2012/07/wow-im-really-glad-that-is-over.html
“To CSmith” – http://whitneygang.blogspot.com/2013/04/to-csmith.html
Tracy, aka The Gang’s Momma, has been married to Todd, aka The Boss, for almost 25 years. Together they parent 6 kids (ages almost 21, 19, 16, 13, almost 8, & almost 4). She is passionate about post-adoptive care and family support. In her downtime, she loves to read, write, cry over weekly episodes of Call The Midwife, and share a good cup of coffee with a friend. A confirmed extrovert, Tracy has met her match in their youngest daughter for both strength of will and love of socializing. Parenting her two youngest who came home through China’s special needs program is definitely the most challenging thing she’s ever done (between attachment issues & some complicated medical needs), but she’s trusting the Lord to use it all to make her a stronger, better mommy. (At least that’s what she tells herself over her 2nd or 3rd giant Tigger mug full of coffee almost every day!) You can find the (very!) occasional musings of the momma at www.whitneygang.blogspot.com.
We’re building the nest this month!
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