Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Need some serious help, Moms. Attachment parenting confusion and dilemna.

I need some advice from the adoptive parenting community:

Charlie cries whenever I set her down for a second. This is not good for our lifestyle, although I can manage it for awhile longer, but not forever.

Let me describe the behavior a bit more. For example, I will have just changed her and fed her, so I know she is physically comfortable. I get up from where I was sitting (10 inches from her highchair while feeding her) to get a paper towel, and she starts wailing.

Or, we are lying in bed and I have to get up to switch off the light which is 5 steps away. She starts wailing.

Etc. This behavior seems to be getting worse over time, not better. There are a few improvements, like she will let my mother and father hold her while I'm in the room (but swivels her head to see where I am all the time) for a little while, but soon reaches out her arms for me to take her. If I leave the room, she wails.

This behavior at first seemed to be completely attachment related. Recently I'm starting to notice that it seems she has learned that crying will get her what she wants. For example, I tell her "no" very gently and remove her hand from the table cloth which she was pulling off the table... she starts crying. I had been then trying to distract her with a toy or something else, but I really want her to learn to accept "no" in her life. It's an important lesson. I certainly don't want a child who cannot tolerate being told "no" or having limits set.

Here's where the confusion sets in. Since she is adopted, and has had three large losses in her life (birth mother after 15 days, nanny after 9 months, and the Ethiopian culture she lived in for 9 months), should I give in to her?? Should I pick her up, distract her, each and every time she starts crying when I stand up for a second? So far I have been and the behavior seems to be getting worse.

My parents are of the mindset that I'm going to "spoil" her (I hate that expression! She's not a piece of fruit!) by picking her up whenever she cries. This morning, she cried non-stop when I went to take a shower and my parents decided to see what would happen if they ignored her (while sitting very close to keep an eye on her). They thought she would stop crying. Well, she didn't. She cried the whole time I was gone, and by the time I got back, it was a full on shriek-fest. She was drenched in sweat. I picked her up and she stopped immediately. I felt really guilty. My poor baby!

My dad mentioned that "she won" by getting me to pick her up. He fully recognizes and thinks the bonding and cuddling are necessary, esp. for newly adopted babies, but thinks it is better done when the babies are being sweet and happy, rather than in response to tantrums (if that's what they are).

I don't see this as a game or contest to be won or lost, but I do understand that I basically reinforced in her mind that 20 minutes of crying gets her what she wants.

Everything I've read about adoption though, says to pick them up whenever they want you, at least for the first month or two, and then once they are firmly attached you can start setting boundaries. My parents think that will be too late, or much more difficult to change behaviors then, and I tend to agree with that notion (that a habit is harder to break once it's been firmly reinforced). So I'm very confused. Also, I have tried to let her cry but after about 5 minutes I start thinking I'm a terrible person, she's so little and vulnerable, she's already been abandoned twice, etc, etc, etc... and I go pick her up to stop those thoughts and reassure her (and myself) that I'm there for her and will never leave her.

One last bit of information to help you give advice: She seems attached to me ever since the first day. I've been with her 9 days today. The attachment seems more "desperate" to me than a secure attachment (like any of my nieces or nephews had. They could all tolerate their mothers leaving the area for a minute, knowing she would be back.)

Ok, parents, here's the question.... How would you handle this behavior? I getting worried that I'm doing the wrong thing, causing the behavior to get worse instead of better, and damaging her somehow.


Julie said...

I would continue to meet her needs. She just met you. She needs to feel safe. You will not spoil her, not the time for 'no'. (IMHO!) Good luck! and Hugs! Can't be easy.

Sarah (and Mark) parents2b on forum said...

Your daughter is clearly, and understandably insecure right now having just lost EVERYTHING that was familiar to her. It is quite normal for her to be anxiously attached to you right now. She doesn't trust you yet, thus when you're gone she shrieks because she really doesn't know if you're coming back. When you leave her to turn off the light, she fears you might not be coming back. When you were in the shower, she thought you were gone. It will take time, sweet time, for her to learn that you will always come back. It may take months. Your habitual response of being there and always comforting her is what will change this anxious behavior. Ignoring her or letting her cry it out will not. It may eventually stop her behavior, but it will not promote attachment. For example, kids in institutions often do not cry because they know they it does not generate a response. That obviously is not healthy behavior. Infants cry because they need something. They cannot talk--it is their only way to communicate. This is not to say that you shouldn't shower, or turn off the lights, but thinking that she might be spoiled by you repeatedly loving on her and not leaving her is unfounded. You truly cannot spoil a newly adopted child (or infant for that matter).

In terms of her behavior: Distraction, distraction, distraction for their first 2 years of life is critical. They cannot reason the way we can about what is right or wrong. They are programmed to do "what they want" and only when they are in their 2s can they really start comprehending 'why' they shouldn't do something, which is critical for them to change or stop poor behaviors.

Mama, you are doing an awesome job. Parenthood is such a journey and I can only imagine how exhausted you are as a single mama. Hang in there. The more you stay close to her, the faster she'll come around and let you step away. Baby steps!

Anonymous said...

I think Charlie is too young to be told 'no' and expected to understand and accept that. I would continue to offer her acceptable alternatives and/or distract her when she is doing something you want her to stop. She will still be learning how to behave, but you will be teaching her this in a much more compassionate way. I wouldn't expect her to be able to accept 'no' without an alternative until she is around 3 years old.

I would also continue to pick her up when she needs you or cries. She has only known you for a few days. Full-fledged secure attachment will take months, if not longer. She is only insecurely attached to you now, which is one of the reasons she is crying if you leave. She is afraid you will not be back. You need to keep teaching her that you will always be there for her. It is not spoiling her at all. My daughter has been home almost four years and I still don't let her just sit and cry. She can be in trouble for misbehaving and I will still comfort her -- doesn't mean she still won't lose a privilege or TV time for naughty behavior, but I am still there to comfort her.

Good luck.
Cindy, mom of Maya

Jill Geselle said...

Hmmm...tricky one Mika! I think if you asked 20 people you'd probably get 20 different answers. But I will give you my shot at it.

I have 4 kids...a 4 year old gil, twins (boy/girl) that are 2 (nearly 3), and my baby (4 months) in Ethiopia. I brought my twins home at 11 months old. My girl (of the twin set) was very much like your Charlie and would cry easily and whenever I set her down or she didn't get her way. She was extremely stubborn about everything...including food. It was hard because I had 3 kids under 2.5 at the time and didn't always know what end was up.

So, this is what I did. I loved on her a lot. I held her a lot. I strapped her to my back with a sling...A LOT. But not ALL the time...more on that later.

But I also told her "no". And here's why. She needed to know that there were limits to what she could do or not do, but that I loved her no matter what. Saying "no" to her about something like pulling off a table cloth and trying to distract her sounds like the right thing to do. She is acting very devolpmentally appropriate for her age. It is very common for babies around 9-10 months to start getting bossy with their parents and there are a lot of parents who have had their kids since birth that have NO IDEA what to do with them when they start expressing opinions!

I am going to tell you something...ALL 3 of my kids presently home are EXTREMELY stubborn. I mean EXTREMELY and I have heard this as a fairly common theme with Ethiopian kids. They are lovely, smart, delightful...but stubborn. It could very well be that you Charlie is too. And she will need limits. Telling her no (while showing her you love her) is not going to hurt her. It is OK for her to cry a little.

Now on to the holding thing. Like I mentioned, my daughter was like that. And I too believe that she attached to me very strongly in Ethiopia. But she was obviously used to a lot of attention (she got TONS in the orphanage) and was already quite stubborn.

One day (maybe 10 days after we were home)we were sitting on the floor and she got mad about something. I reached my arms out to her and said, "come here" and she looked at me crying, but would not move. She had done that before and I would always go pick her up. Now something in me (maybe Mommy instinct) said, "No...make her come to you". She was literally a foot from me, but she would not come to me. I held my ground. I kept saying in soothing tones how I loved her, how I wanted her to come to me...I held my arms out. She held out crying for 30 minutes...maybe more. Then all of a sudden she came to me and I held her and rocked her and loved her.

From that moment on she was WAY less needy. Something broke in her and in our relationship and she stopped manipulating me (because she WAS) and started coming to me when she needed me. And I gave her lots and lots of love and praise!

Now, there may be people who disagreed with me, but for us it worked. And the moral of this story is that you may be a new mom, but you have instincts. And probably a lot of the answers to your dilemma are right within your own heart and head. Try to give yourself the space (and ask for it from others) to make mistakes and to learn as you parent Charlie. You will figure it out. And it will be OK.

Blessings on you...Jill Geselle

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with the other comments. Pick her up, reassure her, use distraction when possible. There is no way for her to be securely attached to you at this point-it will take months. My parents also tell us we hold our babies too much and spoil them (we are foster and adoptive parents) and I just tell them it's not possible to spoil a baby....especially one that has been through grief and trauma from losing a caregiver or even being separated from their mother at birth. And in your situation, Charlie has not only lost that but she's lost EVERYTHING familiar to her including the sights, smells, language, etc. of her birth country. It can be draining for you but Charlie needs your undivided attention. Do you have a sling or wrap that you can wear her and have your hands free? Good luck!

Angela said...

I think you should continue to reinforce you're not going to leave her. Poor little kiddo. Everything is soo new for her,the language, the locale, no familiar baby friends. She's also at the stage where babies experience stranger anxiety, which is perfect timing for everyone.

At the same time, I'm sure all the crying has to be nerve-wrecking. I'm sure with time she'll realize you're a keeper. Just hang in there if you can.

You have a very intelligent and observant little one.

Angela said...

Mika, I know it's hard, but try cocooning her for a few weeks. It may help with her fear of being left with someone new right now. Babies are really smart at her age. She can't figure out how to process everything right now.

Cathy said...

First off, HUGS! This parenting thing is tough and I can't even imagine doing it as a single parent, my hats off to you.

I have to agree with Meghan. 8 days isn't enough time to attach. She is looking for someone to be there all the time and that is what you need to do. I don't think you can pay enough attention to her at this early stage. I know that is tough to do but our kids need that reassurance that someone is there all the time and will love them and care for them. They haven't had that and are desperate for it.

I had this issue with my family. I warned them all that we will be parenting our daughter differently than they parented us. They make think we are spoiling her but she deserves it and needs it. She has experienced more loss in her little life than I can comprehend.

We really had to focus on attachment as we were told by the nannies that our daughter wasn't held a lot as she was a very content baby so they left her alone alot. That was evident and just now we are feeling this is starting to change. She likes to be held but still has her limits. We are constantly working on this. When I was able to hold her in the Ergo for 8 innings plus of major league baseball and she fell asleep, I nearly cried. 2 months ago this would not have happend.

Charlie is definitely letting you know that she needs her Mama. Be with her. She needs to learn to trust that you will come back and that will take time for her.

Hang in there and definitely ask your parents to help with the household stuff so you can spend time bonding and parenting Charlie and gently ask them to trust you as the Mama.

HUGS--I will post this on your blog as well. You are doing great. One day at a time and you will find a rythm that works for you and Charlie.

Jennifer M said...

I brought home an infant daughter who had attachment related issues 2 years ago, so I have some experience. However, I'm not an expert. I believe Jean is though??

My disclaimers: First of all, all children are different. Secondly, there is a lot of great material on Rainbow Kids as relates to attachment. Right now this is ALL about attachment. Third, I'm not an expert. :-)

My first response is to encourage you to hold your daughter as much as you humanly can! This sweet baby girl hasn't been home for more than a week. The process of attachment takes months, even when things are going well. As for disciplining her, obviously you have to do what your gut says is right, but my advice is to not worry about it right now. That's not to say don't help her understand boundaries- definitely do that. But know that she is overwhelmed with EVERYTHING right now and she is desperately clinging to you not out of love (I know that sounds harsh), but because you are the only constant. You're her only lifeline at the moment, and her instincts are to not let go of you for anything otherwise her world will tilt again. She's learning her new life- new scents, new scenery, new language, new boundaries, new sleeping patterns, new textures, new flavors. She's grieving for all that she's lost- the comforting smells, touches, sounds. She's probably confused as to where all her crib mates are, and why she's all alone. And if it's going to get worse.

She is clinging to you out of confusion, hurt, pain, fear... and yes... curiosity, hopefulness, and affection too. Her little mind is processing so much, yet her mind isn't mature enough to grasp all the complexities and changes.

You asked for my advice, and having lived through this once, here it is: "spoil" her as much as you can. Gain that trust from her. When she is able to stop clinging to you, that means she is starting to trust you and trust that her world isn't going to tilt. Gaining that trust is CRUCIAL, absolutely crucial to your relationship. I can't stress that enough! Once you gain that trust, then you can start transitioning to age appropriate discipline. Right now, and I dare say for a long while to come, absolutely no good will come from letting her cry it out.

Gaining trust isn't always a fast process. Some kids do trust quickly and easily, but some don't. There is NOTHING wrong in either case. It's all about a child's personality- they are each unique beings with their own timeline and that's ok. Go slow with Charlie. Do attachment exercises- they are fun for both mom and baby even if you're not concerned about attachment. YOU know she's safe and loved, but she has no clue, and won't for awhile to come. Do everything you can with your sole goal to be to show her that she is safe, loved, and that she can trust you. I know it's incredibly hard sometimes- frustrating, sad, scary, overwhelming- but from someone who has been there, I wouldn't change a thing. My "velcro baby" is now a strong and independent toddler who loves cuddles, but can also play by herself (still no more than 10 minutes at a time, but it's progress!), and our relationship is incredibly deep. I won't lie though- I had to fight for her trust, and fight I did- hard!

(... to be continued)

Jennifer M said...

(...continued from above)

Here is one of favorite articles (including a small snippet below):

"Attachment is not instant. Bonding takes time…a long time. And even if your child is pleasant and calm with you from day one, plays with you and hugs you, lets you hold her and seems to get along with everyone, it is simply a matter of common sense that what the child is experiencing in those early months is not and cannot possibly be attachment to you. Even if the child has the opposite reaction and cries every time you leave the room, it is still not defined as true attachment. When we were in China picking up our second daughter, she cried the first time I tried to hold her but by the next day she screamed if I was not in her sight. This was not because she somehow miraculously attached to me overnight (though that would have been nice to believe!). She simply had figured out a major change was about to happen in her life and that I somehow was the next person in line to provide her some tiny amount of security so she was going to latch on and not let go! This does not mean she suddenly loved me, trusted me, or even liked me for that matter. It was a matter of survival. Her instincts kicked in and she knew that her safety and future depended on clinging to me."

Feel free to talk to me any time online or offline. It's a huge journey, and amazingly rewarding, but so challenging at times. It's a hard journey to walk alone. And ironically, being around people who don't "get it" makes it even more lonely.


Mama Sweet Pea said...

She needs your undivided love and attention! As hard as it may seem to answer all her cries, it is so important. My little sunshine seemed very attached in ET, but a few days home, when it all started to sink in that she was far away from anything she had ever known, she cried more. Wear her if you can...in a sling, in a carrier. Just keep her close. Realize she has lost more in the last few months than most adults lose in a life time. Give her time to settle, time to grieve, and time to learn to trust again. You will be rewarded 100 times over!!

Anonymous said...

You guys have just gotten home and even though she's young she's grieving and going through some major changes and for a baby, that's a lot to process. I'd take the advice of the people who suggested cocooning with her for a couple of weeks and that means even from grandparents, etc. You can have people over but not more than 1 or 2 at a time and nobody else holds her - at least for a little while. When Milo first came home we assumed that because he was under 6 months it wouldn't be a big deal to take him places, etc. and discovered that he got extremely overwhelmed in crowds and would just shut down completely. It helped to camp out at home for a couple weeks and just let him get used to his house, then we started to branch out in where we took him.

As for "spoiling" her. At this age, telling her no and then distracting her is setting very appropriate limits for her. You are basically telling her (in a way she can understand) that "you can't do this, but you can do this instead". If you tell a child that young that they can't do something, you HAVE to give them a positive alternative of what they can do.

And the picking her up when she cries? Pick her up. Love on her. Cuddle with her. Do what she needs right now. My guess is she is testing out this new situation to see if you are someone she can trust or if you are someone she may lose. You've got an ergo, right? Stick her in it, put her on your back, and go about your day.

Good luck - you know where to find us if you need more help.

Anonymous said...

Every child has different needs, but one thing I remember from our social worker was when we come home no matter what the child's age treat them like a newborn. And parents meet the every need of a newborn. Comfort, feed, change, hold, hug, carry, are for the child just like you would if they were a day old because in your family ahe is only days old.

Everything is new and her world is turned upside down from people, but also to sounds, smells, touch, etc. Imagine from her perspective if you were taken from everyone and everything you knew and flown ascross the world and placed into a new home. It would be scarey and you would cling to the one person that gave you comfort and love, also. When I think about it that way she is doing wonderful!

Jennifer from the forum

Shannon- said...

I left you a long pm. but I had one thing to add. It isn't about 'winning' the battle at this stage. She isn't a 3 year old at the developmental level of testing boundaries. She has no "object permenance" at this stage, once out of sight... gone.

She is a scared, feeling alone, baby who has lost EVERY one EVERY thing, been displaced a number of times already clutching to the one person giving her comfort and love. Keep it up momma. You are on the right track.

(ps- if you know she'll cry when you shut the light off... she knows this routine too, pick her up(before she crys)for a night or to when you shut it off.. see if it changes the dynamic a bit)

Shannon- said...

Also... BIG GIANT {{{HUGGS!}}}

Queen Diva said...


I would continue to meet her needs. She has been removed from her "comfort zone" and you are her security right now. My daughter was two years old when I picked her up from the orphanage and she did the exact same thing. She never wanted me to put her down.

As parents, we need to have courage and knowledge to tell people in our circle of family and friends what we know to be best for our child. Family and friends will protest because they will give you opinions based on their experience with their “own” children that attached to them in a normal healthy way, which is totally different from a child who spent the early part of their life in an orphanage.

Your baby needs to be held right now because you don’t know what she might have missed. I would definitely continue to meet her demands right now.


Jennifer, single mom to Saro said...

Hold her, hold her, hold her! And soon she will realize that you are not going to disappear. You are doing great! I can tell you as a single mom I know this is a lot of work. Her crying is not bad behavior, it is her only means of getting her needs met and she wins and you win if you respond to her. Our parent's generation had very different ideas about holding a crying baby, so I imagine it is hard for them to let go of old assumptions. She will start to know that you and her grand ma and grandpa are there for her and that is so good.

Carey said...

Hold her Hold her Hold her! I've adopted older children, my youngest being adopted at 16 months, so I can't fully relate to an infant, but I can to attachment. She's gone through so very very much and it's only been 9 days.

This is NOT indicative of the future. This is the little sweetie being scared out of her mind underneath it all and needing you there to reassure her. It is awesome that she has attached herself to you already in such a way. But there's LOTS of attachment left to go. It will be worth it in the end! And really, at 9 months old and 9 days with you and only a few days in America...she doesn't need to learn "no" yet, unless she's walking/crawling and in danger.

It's so hard, I know! You're exhausted emotionally and physically!! Your going against the usual, which is all your parents know. You're standing on your own.

Try to only focus on today. You know that for today, it's ok if you hold her almost every minute. If you're thinking about when you have to go back to work, etc, you'll drive yourself nuts. Do what you need to do for the both of you for today. In three weeks, she could be showing an independent streak and you'll wonder where your little clingly girl went! One day at a time.

Praying you can relax and enjoy your precious girl. She's so beautiful!! Hang in there!

Rae said...

First, I know how hard this is, I have been there very recently, with two new ones (I'm also single). My daughter, 26 months at homecoming, was instantly and very insecurely attached to me. She weighed 30 lbs, and I literally wore her for 3 weeks. By the end of this period, I could pull my pants down to use the bathroom without setting her down. My son (4 and 40lbs) wanted to be held as much as possible, as well, although his need was not the frantic, desperate need that my daughter had. My whole body hurt from the extra strain on my joints. Now, 2 months home, she is very normal 2 year old. Clingy sometimes, fiercely independent at other times. Today people are astounded at how attached and confident she is after only 8 weeks. That first month home was the hardest of my life. I have never felt completely invaded... but I think that temporary 'loss of self' really paid off. KNOW this is temporary and necessary. I kept asking myself, 'if she/he were a newborn exhibiting this behavior how would I react?" Charlie needs to go through the stages of development, attachment and trust that she missed. While this is happening , get as MUCH help in taking care of you as possible. Cleaning, cooking, laundry, running errands, let it all go... call in the support system and in a few weeks you will find that you barely need them anymore.

J-momma said...

No no no no no! You will not spoil her for giving in after nine days. just nine days! her attachment to you right now is a very anxious one. not secure at all. there is nothing wrong with setting boundaries but there is also plenty of time for teaching and disciplining. trust me. a few months to adjust and accommodate is not going to ruin or spoil your child. she NEEDS you. i know it's a pain. i went through the same thing with my son. i even had to hold him while i was going to the bathroom. but it's so vital. you know that already. just do the best you can. yes, sometimes you'll have to put her down. sometimes she'll cry. but as much as possible, hold her, love her, don't let her cry more than you have to. that's my advice. now i'm going to read what everyone else said.

J-momma said...

one more thing. time, time, time. it takes lots of time. i know you're probably impatient to get on with the relationship, but remember, it took mateo almost a full year to fully attach to us. not saying that's the norm or anything, but 9 days is nothing. one month is nothing. just be patient. it takes time. lots of time.

erkmomma said...

I am late in joining in; I am also a mom by adoption. My daughter is now nine, but had similar separation anxiety. So to join the chorus of the other posts --you will not spoil her by holding her; you have 9 months of bonding to catch on. Right now, she needs to feel secure and you provide that. Giving her a secure base to grow from is such an important gift to give Charlie.

And as for comments from the grandparents (my daughter's Oma and Opa) -- I endured the same type of editorializing. Tune this out -- your parents experience is nothing like your experience as a new parent to Charlie. Bonding is not training, it is about creating security and love. Charlie can't win because this in not a competion. Do what your instincts tell you. Also, remember that she is still little, and the world is a big place. Mama's arms are the best place to be!
Sending you all the best wishes!

Anonymous said...

I understand the temptation to start setting limits--I, too, am a firm believer in the power of "no"! But at just eight days home, your daughter is not "testing" you. She is TERRIFIED. Now is the time to focus on establishing a secure attachment (which takes months, not days or weeks). You can set limits later.

I know you may be worried about establishing a bad precedent, i.e., if you let her "get her way" all the time, it will be too difficult to set limits later. But think about this: how will your daughter ever respect the limits you want to set if she never learns to think of you as her mother? ATTACHMENT FIRST, THEN LIMITS.

Moreover, when your parents say, "she's getting her way," do they even understand what it is that she wants? She doesn't just want you to pick her up for the convenience of it. She wants you to prove that you are going to be there--FOREVER. It's not a game. It's a serious and necessary part of her psychological development as an adopted child. She SHOULD get what she wants right now, because all she wants is a secure and stable family.

On a practical level, if you haven't already gotten some sort of baby carrier, go out and get one TODAY. She needs to be strapped to you at all times unless she is eating or sleeping. It will make this process much easier for both of you.

Finally, try to take a long view of this. She's not going to be like this forever--it's just a phase. My son spent the first four months home pretty much strapped to me at all times. One day, he just started asking to get down. And little by little, he moved further and further away from me. Now, I can hardly get him to cuddle with me at all because he's so busy exploring his world! I actually miss the days when all he wanted to do was be held. We had a lot of sweet moments then.

Best of luck to you as you work through this process. It's difficult, but you will both make it. And someday, you may even look back on this time and wish she still wanted to cuddle all the time. Because it goes away, believe me!



Anonymous said...

When I first saw your question posted, I thought you'd get a lot of comments, and then looked and WHOA! 23! What I didn't expect was the unanimity of them. Well, everyone who wrote sounds very knowledgeable not only about kids but also about adopted kids, so I would totally do what they said. Here's my perspective as a non-adoptive parent. As people said, 9 months is peak separation anxiety time. Though you think your nieces and nephews weren't clingy, that is just because you and I don't live close to each other. Zoe screamed when anyone but I held her (that includes my husband) for a long time. Her experience was the opposite of Charlie's (I stayed home with her for a year and held her most of the time), and she STILL clung to me like glue. I too learned to do everything onehanded, including going to the bathroom. And now...well, I'd like to say she's independent but she's still clingy. But she's great. And pretty independent. So I totally agree with everyone that you can't spoil a baby (which she still is) and it's not about battles at this age. A simple no and redirect is great. And I know your parents are great and just trying to help you not get caught in a bad routine, but hopefully they'll be reassured by all these great emails. And though I wasn't a single mom, I was alone most of the day when Zoe was that age, and it is tiring but do-able.
And great rewards. One person whose perspective I really liked was the baby whisperer. Check out her website. It's mostly geared for stay at homes, but her philosophy is nice and might be helpful. Danicuz

Anonymous said...

8 days is nothing, really. LeLe was home at 5 months and we totally focused on the bonding that would lead to healthy and strong attachment. For months we worked on bonding with him; the glue for emotional attachment we knew was key for a healthy boy. We continue to do so today (although it looks different than it first did). Even though you feel good about 8 days of her looking for you to comfort her, sweet Charlie isn't bonded or attached - there hasn't been enough time. I'd really really center your attention 100% on her, forget the 'no' parenting (I say focus on 'yes' parenting even now!) and thank your parents for their help but request that they allow you to work on your mothering of Charlie and follow your instructions instead of 'testing' their theories on a little sweetie who has had more trauma than we can possibly understand. Let them help you with the tasks of daily life (laundry, cooking...), but you are the one establishing yourself as Charlie's mommy. There isn't any room of "spoiling" right now - she needs all that you can give her.
I hope this doesn't sound harsh - it's the real deal. She sounds darling and you are doing a good job thinking through these things. I'm a total advocate for suspending all expectations and just really tuning into Charlie and discovering what it is she needs. It's different for each of our children - but it seems to me that she is giving you some really obvious and STRONG signals that she needs you to stay close and be super duper attentive to her.
Good luck...and really, the time you spend now pays back in bucketloads in the future. And, what you do right now really does set the tone of more than you can imagine down the road.

Anonymous said...

When we were first home we went through the same thing. Having other people tell me that I was spoiling my child when she was clearly experiencing some serious trauma and change in her life brought so much stress. They mean well. Even now, six months home, I baby my baby like nobody's business and I'm not going to stop. I never let her cry it out. I don't believe that you can ever spoil a child with too much love or attention. Your girl, as you know, needs you, and as time goes by she will feel more secure and become independent.

Big hugs. I love your blog. Your daughter is GORGEOUS!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the other responses.
Your parents sound well-meaning, but, frankly, way off base. I never bought into the idea you could "spoil" a baby by picking him/her up and holding,cuddling and loving, even with my bio child. But for all the reasons others gave, that idea makes absolutely no sense for a newly adopted one.
Eight days is nothing. Your new daughter barely knows you. All she does know is that you seem great -- but she fears you could soon leave, so of course she's anxious and then some.
I'd pick up that baby whenever she wants you to, and I would not let her cry out of some notion that she needs to learn boundaries, or about "no" or being spoiled. None of that is relevant right now (and again, I don't really think it's true, but not the point, I realize).
What your daughter needs to learn now is that you are her mother and you will truly meet her needs (and as Danielle said, the need to be held is a need right now). Crying is her only way to let you know she's unhappy. Only when she is really confident about you will she feel safe to let you separate, will she be happy even if you do go off and take a shower.
I know this is hard, especially when people who love you (and your daughter) are offering such advice. But what is suggested here is truly what most adoption "experts" recommend. So tell your parents that and hold (and love) that baby. I think you'll be amazed at the good it does both of you.

Anonymous said...

Your baby needs you to be there for her, more than anything! Your parents may mean well, but they may not he well-versed in the grief and loss issues that your new daughter is dealing with. We have adopted several children, brought home at different ages. There is a common thread in all of them, that being THEY NEEDED US DESPERATELY. There will come a time to teach her to be more independent of you, but that won't be for a very long time. She needs to know that you are here to stay, and since she hasn't experienced that in her life before, it will take time. Her whole world has been turned upside down...it's up to you to "right" it for her. My experience has taught me that the MORE you hold etc., the sooner she will need you less. Hugs to you and your little one!

Adopting1Soon said...

First I wanted to say that I've enjoyed your blog and your daughter is beautiful! Congratulations and welcome home!

Although your parents are well intentioned, I will tell you, with all due respect, that they are wrong. All the advice you have gotten on the forum so far is right on. I am saying this as therapist who specializes in infant/toddler mental health and attachment.

You will NOT spoil her at this stage or create any bad habits that cannot be broken. Attachment and bonding take time and are all about meeting your child's needs on their schedule, not on anyone else's. A child who has spent any time in an orphanage has very different attachment needs and often well meaning relatives do not fully understand this.

At Charlie's age and developmental level (due to orphanage placement) she has not yet developed object permanence or constancy. Meaning if an object (or you) are out of her sight, in her mind it (or you) cease to exist. This can be very scary for a little one! Take for example the toddler game of dropping an item from the highchair and the parent replaces it only to have it dropped again. This is not about the child trying the parent's patience (although it may feel that way) but rather the child is learning through play that things return. That just because an object is out of their sight, it can still exist. This is why for children with attachment issues you don't play "full on" peak-a-boo (like completely covering your head with a blanket) but rather use one or two hands, fingers spread wide open in front of your face so your child can still see you. VERY SLOWLY (over days, weeks or months depending on the child) work up to covering more of yourself while playing peek-a-boo.

Okay, sorry for rambling now but I love what I do and believe in attachment theory and the importance of specialized attention to attachment building parenting for adopted children.


Jenny and Matt said...

I agree with most everyone else here - hold her. A lot.
and know that it gets easier in time.

Anonymous said...

It sounds as if most of the parents who are writing are fans of attachment parenting, which involves (I think) holding the baby a lot, co-sleeping,having physical contact with the baby as often as possible, and not letting the baby cry it out. We did a modified version of that with Zoe. Where I think you might get confused as you read parenting books and such is the relationship between attachment parenting (which might mean something else for adopted children), crying it out (usually associated with "sleep training") and discipline. In other words, someone who believes in attachment parenting may be "right for you" when it comes to holding Charlie and using gentle discipline and such. But maybe you aren't 100% on board for all that it involves? So maybe attachment parenting suggests, for instance, sleeping with your child for longer than you want to or she technically needs you to. I guess what I'm trying to say in a long-winded way is that the advice many people are giving may be coming from a certain philosophy of parenting and you may not be aware of its source. It's probably the favored philosophy for adoptees, but there may be some modifications to it that will suit your life better, too. Does that make sense?
(I liken it to realizing, very late in my college career, that there were "camps" in my major department, each of whom had a specific belief that there was only one way to approach literature: some said take the author's life setting into account; others said to ignore it; some said the gender of the author was paramount; others said that was idiotic and insulting. As you gain time as a parent, you'll see such camps in the advice business, too. It's good that people don't always agree: lets you pick and choose what works for you.)

D.K. said...

I haven't read all the comments so sorry if this is a repeat. You cannot spoil a baby. I would continue to pick her up as much as you can handle. We went through this with a bio child and it was hard. We put him in the carrier for most of the day. A mei tai is a great and comfortable one that can cheaply be made and worn front and back. As far as the baby winning - it isn't a contest, it is bonding and trust. BTW our baby is now 2 and the most delightful child on the face of the planet! You will get through it. I had to disregard most of my parents advice.

Sarah said...

There is no such thing as spoiling an infant, darling, studies have shown that infants who's cries are responded to quickly and consistently are more likely to be independent and secure later in life, not dependent.

The only way I've been able to get over Celly's clingy days and still get anything done is with a sling carrier.

Missed you (I've been away) and was glad to come back to a bunch of Charlie posts!

Bryan said...

Don't think badly about your parents when you disagree with their advice - child rearing notions have changed radically over time, and what was progressive in the 70s is not the style today in many things. Ask your parents about how old you were when you were toilet trained - I'm sure it was very early - and then compare that to today, when many children are three years old before being toilet trained. Or take solid food - you were probably given cereal within a few weeks of birth. Now many children have only milk or formula for more than a year.

All best, old girl.

Ana said...

Mika, our child (Ricky) is not adopted and had to be held all the time. He cried otherwise. We held him. He has not become spoiled. We set some limits (we did not let him destroy things, etc) but we still always picked him up if he cried.

When I showered, I brought him into the bathroom in his bouncy seat and he cried like he had been abandoned. My parents disagreed just like yours, and still think of us as too lenient.

The crying will pass after a few months. I know it's hard! Hang in there. Hugs!

Malia'sMama said...

Mal was only 4 months, yet grieved like crazy! HOLD her. She NEEDS you, period, Get a sling- I used a ring sling, but anything that holds her close to your heart and warmth will do. You won't regret it, mama. She will soon be happy and feel safe even when NOT on you. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I haven't yet brought my little ones home from Ethiopia, but I have raised a very happy nine-year-old and I have my Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology. I just wanted to offer a perspective to well-meaning individuals who are worried about spoiling a child in your daughter's situation. For a young child or newly adopted child, their wants and needs are essentially the same thing. So when your daughter cries and you go to her, you ARE teaching her that she can get your attention and this is GOOD at this point. She's learning, "when I cry, Mommy responds." This is the foundation for the trust that builds attachment. She does win, in the sense that she gains something. And so do you--a healthy daughter.

Anonymous said...

Some advice form a child development specialist... take away your table cloth and anything you don't want Charlie to touch for five years. It will make your time at home much more pleasant and full of yesses.