On this journey of adoptive parenting, I’ve noticed that the little things become so huge. You celebrate every little tiny triumph, every little sign of attachment. You have to or you get discouraged. The journey of attachment is long, bumpy, and full of regressions. So you have to make sure you notice all the little steps of healing and you have to celebrate them with your partner.
We celebrated when J-Man started facing toward us when we rocked him at night. He did not want to be held intimately for a long time. For a while, he would only let me hold him when I was standing up, but as soon as I sat down, he sensed a level of intimacy he wasn’t comfortable with and he was done. Then he started letting me rock him without having a fit the whole time, but only if he faced away from me. I can’t even explain the feeling I still get when he faces me as I rock him. His body relaxes into mine and that moment is huge for me.
We celebrated the first time J-Man fell asleep on his daddy, which took months. It showed a level of comfort we had not seen up to that point.
We celebrated when J-Man started hanging on to me when I carried him. For a long time, his arms were always up in the air when we carried him, in a sort of relaxed “Y” position. He wasn’t attached to us, and he didn’t really want to be held by us. Finally, he started to rest his hand on my shoulder when I carried him and eventually he started to grab onto my shirt.
I’ve noticed my friends’ children who grab onto their mommies every time they’re carried and I wonder if their mommies even notice this precious little gesture. Do they just take it for granted because their kids have always done it? Do they notice when their babies’ gaze follows them around the room, which is a sign of attachment? Do they feel the significance when their crying child is comforted by Mommy’s hand on his back in the middle of the night?
It’s something I’ve come to love about adoptive parenting. I don’t take anything for granted. Every time my child crawls into my lap on his own or even makes eye contact with me, I celebrate. I am filled with gratitude and amazement at God’s healing power.
So whether you’re an adoptive parent or a biological parent, may you notice all those little things. May you not take any of them for granted.
And if you are an adoptive parent, may you watch for those little signs of attachment and healing. May you allow yourself to be encouraged and to hold onto those moments in the midst of all of your hard work and discouragement.
Laurel and her husband adopted their first son in 2010 from Ethiopia and are currently fostering to adopt their second son. With two 2-year-old boys, they are always hopping! Chris is a pastor and Laurel is a stay-at-home-mom. You can follow their story at God Found Us You.