I am sure she is not the only one who thinks we go overboard with the whole bonding issue. But when we adopted the boys 5 years ago we sat through hours of in class training, more hours of online training and read books aloud to each other to learn how to best care for our adopted children. Before the training, Ben and I were absolutely CLUELESS. We just assumed you pick the kids up and start loving on them and treating them as your own. While this is true there are other things we learned we must do to help our children heal from the trauma they have experienced. Because let's get real, adopted children have experienced in some form EVERY kid's nightmare...they have been separated forever from their birth mother. That is HUGE. They might not remember it but it is there in their mind somewhere. Another thing we learned is attachment is something we teach our babies. It is not something they know how to do automatically. The boys had the advantage over Mari as they got time with their birth mother and she LOVED her sons. She taught them to attach and bond and love. They knew how to do this. We just had to teach them that we were their parents not another set of caretakers. But Mari hardly had any time with her birth mom. She was in a orphanage for a year. She had a series of nice ladies take care of her. When I entered her life, I was just another nice lady in her life. Ben was a whole different experience as she had hardly seen men in her first year of being here on earth. We needed her to know we were not nannies, but that we were here forever...to be Mom and Dad. That is why she has stayed with us 24/7. If you see us together you will see she is doing really well. She is obsessed with me and appears very attached to the whole family. But there are times I give her a bottle or she is tired and upset and she will refuse to make eye contact with me. She goes to her other place. I call it "ba ba land". She self soothed herself to sleep with bottles for months and sometimes I still see her go to this place of self soothing. Again I am no expert on attachment, RAD, or adoption. All I am is a Mom who loves her kids and wants to give them the best chance of a happy full life, and that life includes the ability to love and be loved. Maybe we go extreme. But would you be willing to gamble your child's happiness and ignore expert advice because she "looks" normal. Maybe we do spoil Mari a bit. But honestly doesn't she deserve a bit of spoiling after all she has gone through? We are already on month four and we will continue to stay pretty strict on our six month policy. It really isn't that hard to do and if it helps heal her heart. GOOD.
She has now been home with us for four months and she really is doing so well. She has learned to walk, run, dance and most recently walk on tip toes. She is picking up words and signs that we are teaching her but maybe not as fast as we would like. Her preferred method of getting something is to scream and grunt loudly like a buffalo. She loves to be chased, to dance, to touch anything electronic..especially when she shouldn't. She is LOUD and yells at her brothers, for her brothers and misses them when they aren't around. She goes to sleep for Daddy like a dream baby and it gives me tingles to hear him singing her to sleep each night. She loves the beach, eating sand, getting knocked over by waves, and yelling at the boys on their boogie boards. This week was a big mile stone as she has slept through the night 4 times. That is huge as she has only managed to do this about 10 times total since being home so I think we are on a roll. Her normal pattern is to scream out in her sleep in either pain or fear, we don't which one. But we feel we are finally getting somewhere with her sleep. For this sleep loving Mama that is GOOD news.
She imiates everything we do so we have to be careful in front of her. When getting scolded she will make a frown right back at you. When someone laughs, she fake laughs with them. When I spray water into her hair to style it, she grabs a bottle and makes "pfffttt" noises like she is spraying. The boys have taught her to hike a football and yell touch down which is hilarious with her little 18 month old voice. She sounds like Boo from Monster's Inc. Her voice, when she is NOT yelling, but rather talking is the sweetest little sound. The boys love her and are a great help if I need her to be watched for a few minutes. She got very sick last week and both boys were sobbing as they thought she might die. (Yes, besides Ben, we all tend to be a bit dramatic in our house). She often has us all laughing at the things she does or tries to do. She is sweet, funny, full of mischief, stubborn, and a bundle of love.
In short we feel like we are a family. The first few months were precious but challenging. I feel like we are through that adoption hurdle and on to the more peaceful days of bonding and growing together. I know I am more like my old self and through the depressed state of mind I was in for awhile there. The adoption world is so uncertain and right now things in Ethiopia are tough with rumors of all sorts of things and a real slow down in every step of the process, so it makes us extra grateful that our sweet baby girl is home safe in our arms and doing so well.
And for those of you who survived the long wordy update, here is the picture update of Mari and the boys.
Her usual cheeky gin..we see this a lot.
Out toothless sweetie pie.
I love how Nati and I are posed for the camera and she looks bored. She was wandering the house with the elf hat smiling and giggling until we brought out the camera.
Yup life is pretty good in the Leppard house.