Sunday, November 25, 2007

Making Changes

I have made the decision to close down my personal web site. There is no way I have time to devote to both and quite frankly I had stopped updating that anyway, long ago. Much of what I had there, I will transfer over here. However, the transition will go slowly, as I have time.

Sleeping Arrangements

Courtesy of Rumor Queen
Friday, April 07, 2006

I mentioned the family bed last time. That worked best for us, but it's not for everyone.

The important thing to remember is that it is very unlikely that your baby is going to sleep in the nursery by herself. It is possible, but it isn't likely.

I think the thing I have seen the most is people putting a twin bed in the nursery and then the parents taking turns sleeping on the twin bed while the baby is in the crib. The idea being that eventually the kid will be used to sleeping in there and they won't need to be in there anymore. I know of one family that has done this for almost a year. I know of dozens of families who did this for several weeks and finally just brought the kid to bed with them.

I also see a lot of people just moving the crib into the master bedroom. Apparently there are some small half sized cribs that some use for this.

Just remember that you are working on attachment. You want to teach the child that you will always be there. Always. She has to learn that it is okay to trust you to take care of her needs. So, don't start out on the twin bed and then go to your own room when the child goes to sleep. You don't want to teach the child you'll be there until they go to sleep and then you won't be there anymore.

My opinion on this is that as long as you aren't leaving the child alone when they don't want to be alone, and as long as you are there to help them get to sleep in a secure way... and as long as everyone (adults included) are getting somewhere close to having enough sleep... then I'm not sure that how you go about it really matters. Just do whatever works best so you can all get sleep and the kid is being nurtured by you and not being taught that you can't be depended on to take care of her at night.

We plan to do the family bed again - but if we have a child who flips and flops so that no one can sleep then we'll do the thing with the crib in the room. If I'm kept awake all night by a child who bashes into me every couple of minutes then I'm going to be pretty irritable the next day and that's not good either.

The one thing I see the most when people give reasons for not doing the family bed is that you won't be able to have sex. That is hilarious. No one with a new child has much sex unless they take off work and sneak home to do it in the middle of the day while someone else is watching the child. And yes, my husband and I are guilty of this. We both took off work two hours early and it was so worth it. We've done it several times, actually. I highly recommend it.

How much sex do you think the people who are taking turns on the twin bed in the nursery are getting? They aren't even getting the intimacy of sleeping together.

And, if the baby is screaming in the other room because she's alone and terrified, I certainly hope you aren't having sex while this is happening. And after she's done this for two or more hours and finally gone to sleep, I can assure you that sex is the last thing you'll be thinking about.

And then there is the noise factor. Even if you can manage to not yell, there is the noise of the bed moving around. You'd be surprised what will wake a kid up even when they are sleeping across the hall.

So, trust me on this. Don't make decisions on sleeping arrangements based on thoughts about having sex with your spouse.

Make decisions based on what your child needs.

(Note from Kimberly: Jeff and I have yet to decide exactly how we are going to do this. The family bed is not something that we are contemplating, for our own reasons. However, we are seriously looking into a co-sleeper bed idea, for at least the first few months. This bed is a 3/4 bed, no wall on one side. that attaches to our bed. The baby is within reaching distance, can see us and know we are there, but is not *right* in our bed. Everyone has their own "space". We will see how it goes. No one knows what is best, until they experience it. While we do want her to learn to sleep in her own room, we will follow her lead, depending on her needs, to see when this transition happens. It could also be that she is more comfortable in her own bed, in her own room. There again, we will see what she needs and go in that direction. We do, however, look forward to sleepy weekend mornings with all of us (including Max!) snuggling, chatting and sharing in our bed. What better way to spend a morning could there possibly be? ~May 5, 2007)

(Note from Kimberly: As it happens, at the moment, Emi is sleeping in her crib in her room. We did try to put her in the pack-n-play in our room but it seems that our night movements and noises disturb her. While she is not perfectly happy in her room, so far it seems to be the best fit we have been able to come up with. That said, if it needs to change we will change it. As always, following her lead. ~November 2007)

(Note from Kimberly: Well, sleeping in her room by herself wasn't the answer either. We decided to purchase a co-sleeper and have set it up on my side of the bed. Wonders of wonders, it's working! We may never get her out of our room, but right now we are all sleeping. And I have to admit to loving her right next to me. She loves waking up in the morning and seeing me/us {depending on the day}. She gets so excited. I am just sad that we wasted six weeks of sadness and battles that didn't need to be. I wish I had listened to myself earlier. ~January 1, 2008)

"Saving" Children

Courtesy of Rumor Queen
Monday, April 17, 2006

Don't do it. If you are adopting to "save a poor little orphan" then please send money to Half the Sky or Love Without Boundaries instead. You will be able to help a lot more kids with a lot less money. And you won't be toying with the life of a child in the process.
(Note from Kimberly: Both of these organizations are very near and dear to us, and we support both.)

Adoption should be about growing your family. It should be about wanting a child so bad you can't bear the weight of your soul without that child in your life. It should be about having so much love to give that you simply must put a child (or another child) into your life.

It should never be because you want to save a child. Ever.

Because at some point the child will figure it out. And that is just too much to put on any child's shoulders. They will never be able to be grateful enough. Ever.

I am the lucky one. I get to be my daughter's mother. Hopefully I will get to be a mother to another daughter.

I am the lucky one.

Safety Issues

Courtesy of Rumor Queen
Monday, May 15, 2006

When I was in High School I had a jacket with my name on it. While at an away game someone almost lured me outside of the game area because he knew my name. He almost convinced me that we knew each other, and at the last minute I realized that he knew my name because it was on my jacket. I have no idea what his intentions were and I'd just as soon not contemplate that. The point is that I was very confused by the fact that he knew my name. I still remember being positive that I'd never met him before and I remember that he was creeping me out, but then there was the fact that he knew my name and seemed to know a few other things about me (that I now realize were probably pretty easy to guess).

Because of this I am adamant that my child not have anything with her name on it. My mother thinks I'm being silly. She was in the process of making my daughter a book bag with her name on it when I interceded. I've talked about my mother's control issues on this blog before, she tried to point out to me that I'd said no clothes with her name on it, and this wasn't clothes. I didn't really care. The bookbag now says "My Bookbag".

I have to wonder - is there something else this simple out there that I should be doing that I'm not? Without my experience in high school my mom would have probably put my daughter's name on a dozen or so things by now and I'd have never thought twice about it. Is there something else that I'm doing (or allowing) that is putting her at risk?

I don't know. I just have to watch out for her safety as best I can and hope I'm doing everything I should be doing.

(Note from Kimberly: I had heard this before, but it didn't really sink in until I read this on RQ's site. It changed the way I looked at things I wanted to purchase for the baby. Safety first, and if I am accused of being over-protective, so be it.)

The Not-So-Rosy Part

Courtesy of Rumor Queen
November 14th, 2006

There are still no rumors, so I'd like to take this opportunity to talk a little about expectations.
I've read blogs of people who are home and who are miserable.

I've read about recent disruptions.

And I've read posts from people on various groups and blogs that talk about their new child as if they really think the child hates them, and some of them sound like they are starting to hate their child.

So I feel I need to talk a little bit about what happens when you finally get this screaming little baby placed in your arms.

This is not a newborn. It's a child who already has a personality, one that you get to try to figure out. It's a child who has been ripped from all she knows: the people who have cared for her and kept her alive, and the language she has been able to understand even if she couldn't speak it. The food she is used to. The other kids. Her schedule. Her crib. Her crib-mate.

It's all gone, and she's with these people she's never seen before and she can't understand what is being said and the food is different. Scared and grieving does not even begin to describe things. Some babies just completely shut down and appear to be autistic, but after three or four days they start coming around and you begin to see the real child. It can take weeks (or months) for the grieving to stop, but after several days you should begin to see little pieces of their personality. Some children have different survival mechanisms and you'll immediately see a little bubbly personality, this does not mean there is no grief, it could just mean that their survival instincts are telling them to be cute and lovable.

We all know this transition to a family is for the best in the long run, but all the child knows is how they feel right now, and they are scared and mad and grieving. Some move through it faster than others. Some seem to move through it in China and then backtrack once they are home. Some show their bubbly personality in China and then show the grief in America (or whatever country they are going to).

When you are in China they still hear Chinese in the restaurants and out on the street. And they still get some Chinese food. And the unique smells of China are still there.

But once you are home everything familiar to them is gone. By then you've probably switched them to American formula, they likely aren't getting congee every morning now that it's not on a buffet anymore, you probably can't make steamed eggs exactly like they were in China. The smells are different, and no one is speaking Chinese anymore.

They might be able to keep their minds off of that during the day, when they are active and there is much to keep them occupied. But when their mind starts quieting down to go to sleep it all comes back, and there is still grief. So some babies just don't go to sleep. Combine this with jet lag and it's really not fun.

There will also be control issues that come up. Even with a 9 or 10 month old baby, they will try to gain control of something, anything, so they don't feel so out of control. Maybe you can let them have it in some instances, but in others you'll need to make sure you remain in control. Follow your instincts on this one - they need boundaries in order to feel safe, but letting them have some little piece of control may also help them. How do you know when it's best to give in and when it's best to be the parent? You just fly by the seat of your pants and hope you get it right.

My point here is that you have been waiting for this child for a really long time. But she knows nothing about you. She is scared and will act in ways you cannot currently imagine that a little 15 or 20 pound baby could possibly act.

I can remember getting so upset with my big girl when she was a toddler and into everything. I'd just pick her up and take her outside and put her in her swing and push her in it for a really long time. Before long we were both laughing and having fun. It worked for us.

Sometimes, when she was into everything, I'd load her up and take her to the park with a few toys and put a blanket down on the ground and then let her play that way. She only had the handful of toys I brought, and all I had to do was make sure she didn't put rocks or bugs or anything in her mouth (because of her sensory issues she wouldn't touch such things with her hands, but she had no problems picking them up in her mouth). She never wanted to wander far from me when we were in public, so this worked out well since I didn't have to worry about her running off.

So many times I just realized we were into a pattern of her doing something and me correcting her, and I just needed to do something to break the pattern.

I also put her in her highchair with finger foods and rolled the highchair into the bathroom and took a shower. We put a clear shower curtain up so she could see me and so I could keep an eye on her.

My big girl was terrified of being alone. Even today, unless she is asleep she is rarely in a room by herself. But when we were first home with her, before I went back to work, this meant she and I were together 24 hours a day, every single day (she slept in our room, too, back then). Once my husband was home she expected us to all stay in the same room together, and for those first months, she ran the show when it came to things like that.

I see people who are talking about how happy their child is going to be to finally get a family. And that just isn't the way it works. I see a lot of people setting themselves up for problems by having expectations that just aren't very likely to happen.

Please, take this time to read about attachment. Not just attachment issues, but attachment in general - how attachment happens, red flags that attachment may not be happening, and ideas for how to foster attachment.

Also read about sensory issues and other things that may pop up in post-institutionalized babies and children. Please understand that if you have the “What to expect the first year” book that your 10 month old baby may not be doing what your book says a four month old baby should be doing. This is completely normal, and most children catch up at an amazing speed. The rule of thumb I've always heard is that babies develop one month for every three months they are institutionalized - so a nine month old baby will have the developmental skills of a three month old, an 18 month old baby may only have the developmental skills of a 6 month old. If they are in foster care or a HTS orphanage then they will likely be farther along.

Understand that your child may have been strapped into a potty chair for hours a day, and laid in the crib for most of the rest of the day. Of course they are not going to have the developmental skills appropriate for their age.

Understand that your baby may have been gravity fed and may have never learned how to suck. She may not be capable of drinking from a normal bottle. You may spend months just getting her to the point that she can suck from a bottle - and those sucking muscles are important before she can learn to talk, it's all related.

And please understand that this is why Half the Sky is my favorite charity. If your child is from a Half the Sky orphanage then the odds are that they will be very close to being on target developmentally, and that they will not have sensory issues. There are still a lot of other things that can pop up, but these two things should be on target.

I'm not saying the first couple of months are going to be all bad. There will be wonderful moments, too. But I am hoping to get the point across that you need to be prepared for some difficult times. No matter how frustrated you are, at least you know what is going on. It's your job to comfort this child when she is scared and grieving and screaming her little head off from 11:00 at night until 4:00 in the morning almost non stop. It's your job to make her (or him) feel safe and loved. And that is not always an easy thing to do.

~~> Another gal posted in this response section - really sums it up: One more note for new parents: You will get through the adjustment period. Just keep thinking about all of us parents going back for baby #2.

(11-14-2006: Note from Kimberly: I read RQ daily, if not more. She is often spot-on on things adoption-related. There is rarely a day that goes by that I don't learn something new, either from her blog posting or something on the message board that she so kindly (and generously!) hosts for adoptive parents. Her site has been a real source of support for me during our wait. I hope that everyone takes a few moments and reads this post (especially this one, but really, all of them!). For those family and friends that are part of our daily life, this information will be indispensable. kms)

Explaining Attachment to Family Members

Courtesy of Rumor Queen
Wednesday, April 05, 2006

We did a lot of educating of family members while we were waiting last time. It was a long wait back then, too, so we had plenty of time.

I pointed out that family members may not understand some of the things we would need to do. That they would see us treating a one year old like an infant and this would seem wrong to them. I pointed out that they needed to understand that she may never have been treated the way an infant should be treated, and that she needed that stage with us, as her parents, so she could learn to trust us.

I told them that they would not be able to hold her for a while. Maybe two months, maybe six months - it would depend on how well we felt the attachment process was going. They were not pleased with this, and some of them needed to be pointed to web sites before they grudgingly said okay.

As it turned out, we started letting them hold her for short periods at about 6 weeks. She knew we were her parents by that point, and she wouldn't stay with them for long before she wanted to come back to us. Preparing them for two to six months made that six weeks a lot easier to get through.

We had some family members who were violently opposed to the family bed. I told them they were welcome to raise their family as they saw fit, and that their opinions were duly noted and they should not feel the need to repeat them. I was nice about it, but I got my point across.

Some who were opposed to the family bed "got it" when I said "she's been in an orphanage, it's likely that the last time that she was alone was when she was abandoned. Once arriving at the orphanage she slept in a room with twelve babies in it, there is no way we can put her in a room alone and expect her to just deal with it".

This time I am reminding them of some of what we taught them last time: No one will feed the new baby except us. No one will be holding her for a while.

And I'm going to make a possibly rude request this time as well. I don't expect anyone to bring anything for the new baby. But last time many people did bring a little outfit or toy when they came to see her for the first time. So, my request is that if someone wants to bring something for the new baby, that they not bring something for the new baby unless they also bring something for the big girl. I don't care if it's a coloring book from the dollar store - just something that is age appropriate.

Last time we did a lot of preparation so the dog would be okay with a new baby. He's now very used to his big girl (they are the best of friends), but I'm thinking we need to start thinking about moving food and water dishes now so he's used to it and doesn't associate the change with the new baby.

Do's & Don’ts for Family & Friends

Courtesy of
Do's & Don'ts
(This list has been much discussed in the adoption community. I found that some of the info I already knew, but there were some points made that I was not aware of and wanted to pass this list on. ~ kms)

1. Offer household help (running errands, preparing meals that can go right from the freezer to the oven, etc.) so the mother can spend more time holding the child.

2. Trust the mother's instincts. Even a first time mother may notice subtle symptoms that well-meaning family and friends attribute to "normal" behavior.

3. Accept that attachment issues are difficult for anyone outside of the mother to see and understand.

4. Be supportive even if you think everything looks fine to you.

5. Allow the parents to be the center of the baby's world. One grandfather, when greeting his grandson, immediately turns him back to his mom and says positive statements about his good mommy.

6. Tell the baby every time you see him what a good/loving/safe mommy he has.

7. When the parents need someone to care for the baby for a night out, offer to babysit in the child's home. (After the child has been home for a substantial period of time.)

8. As hard as it may be for you, abide by the requests of the parents. Even if the baby looks like he really wants to be with Grandma, for example, he needs to have a strong attachment to his parents first. Something as simple as passing the baby from one person to another or allowing others, even grandparents, to hold a baby who is not "attached" can make the attachment process that much longer and harder. Some parents have had to refrain from seeing certain family members or friends because they did not respect the parents' requests.

9. Accept that parenting children who are at-risk for or who suffer from attachment issues goes against traditional parenting methods and beliefs. Parenting methods that work for many children can be detrimental to a child with attachment issues.

10. Remember that there is often a honeymoon period after the child arrives. Many babies do not show signs of grief, distress, or anxiety until months after they come home. If the parents are taking precautions, they are smart and should be commended and supported!

1. Assume an infant is too young to suffer from emotional issues related to attachment. Babies are not immune.

2. Underestimate a new mother's instincts that something isn't right.

3. Judge the mother's parenting abilities. What looks like spoiling or coddling may be exactly what the child needs to overcome a serious attachment disorder. Parenting methods that work for many children can be detrimental to a child with attachment issues.

4. Make excuses for the child's behaviors or try to make the mother feel better by calling certain behaviors "normal". For example, many children who suffer from attachment issues may be labeled strong-willed by well-meaning family members. While being strong-willed can be seen as a positive personality trait, this type of behavior in an attachment-impaired child may signify problems.

5. Accuse the mother of being overly sensitive or neurotic. She is in a position to see subtle symptoms as no one else can.

6. Take it personally if asked to step back so the parents can help their child heal and form a healthy and secure attachment. You may be asked not to hold the baby for more than a minute. This is not meant to hurt you. It is meant to help prove to the baby who his mommy and daddy are. Up until now the child's experience has been that mommies are replaceable. Allowing people to hold the baby before he has accepted his forever mommy and daddy are can be detrimental to the attachment process.

7. Put your own time frames on how long attachment should take. One mother was hurt when she was chastised by a relative who couldn't understand...after all, the baby had been home six months. It could take weeks, months, even years. Every child is different.

8. Offer traditional parenting advice. Some well-meaning family members will tell a new mother not to pick the baby up every time he cries because it will spoil him. A child who is at-risk or who suffers from attachment issues must be picked up every single time he cries. He needs consistent reinforcement that this mommy/daddy will always take care of him and always keep him safe.

9. Fall into the appearance trap. Some babies/toddlers with attachment issues can put on a great show to those outside of the mother/father. What you see is not always a true picture of the child. Even babies as young as 6-months-old are capable of “putting on a good face” in public.

10. Lose hope. With the right kind of parenting and therapy, a child with attachment issues can learn to trust and have healthy relationships. But it does take a lot of work and a good understanding of what these children need.


This will be an ongoing project. As I find links of interest I will add them here.


Deborah Gray's Attachment Info

China Doll

Recently, I was asked why I am so against the label "China Doll" (and yes, it IS a label). While there are many many good responses (and let's hope that I gave at least one good one to this person that made sense), someone posted a great response on RQ's site. Says it all.

"Chinadoll" has been discussed before on this forum and it has been determined that it is a derogatory term. Though we may intend to use it with the best intentions, it is highly offensive to Asian women (the term has been sexualized, used in porn, indicates forced submissiveness,etc) and thus highly offensive to those who are adopting Asian daughters.