Well, the second home study visit (or Home Invasion as my family likes to call it) went really well. The visit took about 4 hours. By the end of the evening, we were so overwhelmed by all the information our social worker gave us. There are so many things you need to know prior to getting any child (by birth or adoption). I guess since most of our friends and family have biological children, we don't have a lot of experience in how to care for a child that may have been in foster care or an orphanage. Lots of other health and attachment issues you need to be aware of.
Below are a few of the ones we found really interesting.
This entire attachment process is just fascinating to me. Well, when you have a biological child, and you are there with them from day 1, they know who mom and dad are. They understand who was put on this earth to care for their every need. In an orphanage, it may not be that clear. The children in orphanages are cared for by lots of different people (similar to nurses at a hospital…they work in shifts). I have convinced myself that these caregivers love the children (please, don't tell me any different), but because there are so many caregivers and so many children, they don't' really have a chance to create that one on one bond. By not having this chance, these children come to the understanding that all adults are their caregivers. They don't meet a stranger. In WalMart, they may walk up to any adult and begin expressing a need or a want. I never would have thought of this.
We are still learning on how to overcome this problem, but our social worker suggested that for the first few months the child is with us, Jace and I are the only ones who are allowed to meet that child's needs. That means that every time the child needs to be fed, changed, bathed, or entertained, Jace and I are the only ones allowed to do this. She also suggested that we may not want other adults loving on the baby until the child has a chance to make the connection with me and Jace. Ok. So I know what you are thinking…is that really possible? How in the world are Jace and I going to go from having no children, to having a child that no one else is allowed to care for? No breaks for us. Grandma won't be able to help with a midnight feeding, or midday diaper changes. Well, I'm guessing that there are lots of parts about parenting that are difficult, but when you love your child, you will do whatever is necessary to care for and protect that little bundle of joy.
Also, as a note on the comments above…sorry grandparents. I know this is going to be very difficult for you as well. I asked our social worker what she would suggest for the grandparents. She said that top priority is for the baby to know mom and dad. These first few months are very important in the development and training of the baby. If grandparents insist on helping, then they can come do the dishes and laundry, so that Jace and I will have more time to care for the baby. Sorry guys.
Another interesting thing we learned is that all children have this "need cycle" as I'm going to call it. The cycle is as follows: (1) Child has a need, (2) Adult/Caregiver/Parent recognizes the child's need, (3) Need is met, (4) Child is satisfied. In an orphanage, this cycle is broken at times. There may be times when the child cries and an adult does not recognize the need, therefore the need goes unmet. When this happens over and over, the child eventually learns to satisfy himself. "Why is this so important?" you might ask. Well the thing is that if the baby learns that no one will respond to his cry, then he doesn't cry. For new parents this is very scary. Could you imagine bringing home your baby, and the baby never cried? How would you ever know if the baby is hungry, sleepy, wet, etc. You don't. New parents rely on that baby to tell them what to do. Some may think a baby that doesn't cry is a good thing, but in reality it's not so much.
One last thing I want to mention about a child that has spent time in an orphanage. Children that live in orphanages are one month behind developmentally for every three months they stay in the orphanage. This means that if the baby is 12 months old when we go get him, he will behave much like an 8 month old. I'm pointing this out so that you don't make the mistake in saying "at 12 months, so-and-so's kid was walking" or whatever. You cannot compare the development of a child raised by loving parents from day one to a child who has spent time in an orphanage.
Below is the list we got from our social worker on some other suggestions on how to create a healthy relationship with our child…
- Hold your baby. Touch your baby. Use a chest carrier as much as possible. Do not let his feet touch the ground. You cannot spoil this child.
- Respond to your child's cries within 15 seconds, so that he/she knows that you are there for them.
- Make lots of eye contact. Play peek-a-boo.
- Playfully imitate your child. Let him/her know he/she is center of the universe.
- Talk to your child while you perform nurturing actions such as cuddling or feeding.
- Stay with your child and comfort him/her through crying and screaming. This allows the child to express emotions and shows the child that they can trust you in the future to comfort in times of need.
- Learn as much as you can about the child's former routine and follow that as closely as possible…eating, sleeping, bathing, clothing. Once the child gets to know you, you can gradually introduce your ways.
- Initially, Mom and Dad should be the only people meeting the baby's needs. The baby needs to bond with them first.
- Use music, especially lullabies in the child's native language.
- Consider a family bed.
Some of the things on the list are not things we would have done with a biological child, and I'm sure you wouldn't consider doing them with your children…but remember these kids are different and they have different needs. I don't care so much for the chest carriers, but I understand that it is important for the baby to be close to me, but I'm going to eventually have to go grocery shopping or take a walk down the street or whatever. If he/she likes that kind of thing, well then that's what we are going to do. Also, I am not a fan at all of the family bed. I am such a light sleeper, and I know that I am going to be exhausted when the baby arrives. Our social worker stated that most children in orphanages share beds with other babies, so to assume that the baby will be perfectly fine in a bed alone, in a room all alone, is just crazy. You have to transition one thing at a time, I suppose. First get used to being with me and Jace, then we can discuss the family bed issues.
Ok. Well that is a lot of information, but I find it just fascinating. I can't wait to try all these thing out with our little Tator-Tot!