Monday, February 28, 2011

Attachment. Our Path, thus far...

Claudia has asked us all to write this. I've been procrastinating writing it for months now. I'm still not ready. Not just because it's likely to be unpolished, prepositional phrase laden, bullet-ed ramblings of a tired momma, but also because, ... because.... because, it's been long enough now, that I know we are still just getting started. My perspective has changed since that theoretic brass ring of "Six Months Home". Honestly. Six months... was just the beginning.

My thoughts on attachment. Rough. Sharp. Unpolished. Here goes...

  • -I embraced attachment parenting books. It all made sense. It would be hard, as a single mom- but my kid needed it. - I didn't know attachment parenting theory was developed for parenting biokids. Not Adoptive Parenting. Not for traumatized kids.
  • -My child is not "Attachment Disordered". But I wish I had known, that RAD like behaviors can still be exhibited in a child that is still learning to attach. It only makes sense, he had disordered attachment in his life.. pretty much all of it!
  • -I happened across a few RAD mom blogs early in my paper chase. I was shocked such a thing existed. I had sympathy. "Those poor people. That's rough.", I thought- then quickly erased it from my mind. "My child was Ethiopian, and they are happy children and my agency is top notch and these kids are VERY well cared for. These are not Eastern European orphanages!!", I pompously & naively dismissed.  -Even after realizing not all of that was true, I somehow, still glazed over the idea of my Ethiopian child being Institutionalized with hard Trauma (capital I capital T). I, literally, was blind to what was before me in my referral photo among many other things. 
  • - I wish I had been schooled in how to address the manifested behaviors from the beginning.  - Because, by freaking out- which I'm quite skilled & schooled in- only made it worse for him. 

  • -It was six months, before I started seeing signs (hints, really) of secure attachment from him. Until then, everything was based in anxiety.  -Only then did I begin to wonder if some of his anxiety was from 'feeding' off of me. Was he just mirroring me? I don't know the answer. But I know I should have questioned it sooner.
  • -It wasn't until these hints, of secure-ness, began seeping into his heart -and our lives- did all H-E Double hockey sticks begin to show up now and again.  What is worse than Anxiety?   Answer: FEAR.
  • -I wish I'd known that seeing him work through the FEAR of loving, being loved and being lovable- would be as painful as it is.   -Scratch that. I'm glad I didn't know.
  • -I wish I'd known that attacking the 'behaviors' that drove me bonkers was not the way to my childs heart. I wish I'd been able to see that these are simply coping & survival mechanisms.
  • -I wish I'd known that some of the "red flags" we are warned to look for- sometimes don't show up until far far far after being together as a family.
  • -I wish I'd known that big charming smiles for cameras and coyly giggling for new people (yes adoptive parents you are new people) are actually a coping mechanism for institutional living. 
  • -I wish I'd realized what 'control issues' really meant. It isn't just who shuts the light off, who sits where, who chooses the book to read, what food they eat... - it is also how the child, attempts controls the parents behavior- by pushing all the buttons you never knew you had. (And seeing the look of satisfying relief on their face when it works... is painful)
  • -I'm glad I read this post from Stacey. We were in the midst of our first pass through Hell when I read it. It wasn't until then, that I realized a big part of the problem. As easy as he had initially transitioned into school, as much as he was enjoying it- I had no idea that it was actually a BIG part of our problem. 
  • -I'm really grateful that his school is accommodating and assisting with our attachment processes. Knowing what I know now, I'd leave and find another if they weren't.
  • -I'm glad that I found professional help. Because as a single mother- no one else really has your back. No one else can literally SAVE your child when they are drowning (figurative). There are professionals that do this for a living. Find one if you need it. 
  • -I'm glad I finally realized that I can not 'fix' my kid. He doesn't and didn't need fixing. But in the anxiety of trying to respond to each action - trying to figure out 'Where'd it come from' and 'What am I supposed to do to fix that' place...  that was the trap I fell into. Healing comes from only one source.
  • -I'm frustrated and saddened that even though I blog openly so that others will NOT need to make the same mistakes I made- there are people reading this that will, in the back of their head, hear "my baby's an infant/so young, we won't have any attachment issues" or "My child is healthy and so happy. Look at that smile.", "I'm married, so our child will have twice the chance for attachment."

I'm happy to report that my son and I are doing well. Great actually. We are in "secure" mode right now.  I'm sure that looks different, for everyone. With every slight transition, schedule change there is a chance of backslide. We make progress every day. But I've learned what I need to do in order for him to feel safe and not alone.  I'm happy to report that he is beginning to show further signs of feeling secure and permanency in our family. He is a joyous blessing. He truly is. I love love love him. LOVE being given the opportunity to be his mom. It is a love so indescribable. It makes my heart hurt and arms ache to hold him.

I've come to believe that secure attachment between a parent and child is hindered by one major thing- FEAR.  I may be wrong- but in the here and now of our journey, that is what I believe.

If there were advise to be given it'd be: learn what it looks like when your child doesn't feel 'regulated' or 'safe'. Learn what their triggers are/can be. Learn what you can do to avoid triggers or get them to feel safe again.  (this sounds callous, shallow, insensitive and simplistic when viewed through the lens of those parenting children who suffer with RAD- and it is, honestly. I'm not attempting to address that at all!  There is NO comparing between parenting RADish kiddo's and parenting a child that is rapidly healing.  My heart and prayers go to them daily and I continue to learn from them) (Jillian, Christine, Corey, Courtney & Rockstar, Cate, Diana)

Love is hard stuff!! It literally breaks your heart. So for him to be trusting me enough to love him- that is BIG BIG stuff. Big. Heartwarming. Heartmelting fall in love head over heals happy happy joy joy wonderful stuff.

So there you are Claudia. It isn't pretty writing. It likely isn't likely to keep anyone reading to the end. But it's what I have- right now. Tomorrow is another day.

ETA: After re-reading this and reading your comments, I'll need to post a follow up post to this. I'll link it when I do. Thanks everyone!! 

For you long time readers... I've got many posts started that will get us all caught up and posted soon. Hope to provide you with some context for this post.


kn said...

I made it all the way to the end and I appreciate every single word. I really do. And I know you know how much I mean that.

This is the road we will be traveling soon, along with an 8 year old who has a sensory regulation issue. I want to start preparing the 8 year old for what is going to go on. Right now he's thinking it's all going to be sweetness and light. I don't want to scare him or cause him unnecessary anxiety but I also don't want him to be completely blind sided. Any tips for how to keep help keep calm and supportive and just 'being there' will be deeply appreciated.

But then you know that. Right?

dcorey said...

I totally read your post to the end and even decided to come out of my lurking status to post and say "Thank you." (I've been reading for quite a while).

We brought our kiddos home from Ethiopia 2 weeks ago and so far everything seems to be going smoothly, but I very much appreciated your suggestion to look beyond the huge smile and coy giggle. I'll keep paying close attention.

Good work momma! What a lucky boy to have found a mom that will stick with it and truly appreciate the progress made.

Amy said...

Thank you so much for this post. We've been home for 7 months with our 4 year old son. And so many of the things you said I have totally seen ... controlling, pushing buttons, all based on fear, I know. Bt only recently have I realized that there is still very little if any emotional connection from him. it is like it is still a daily battle. I thought he was attaching because he didn't reach out to strangers and would look me in the eye, but now I see we have a long way to go. I'll be checking back to see more of your writing.

The Lost Planetista said...

Yeah. Very well said- all of it. I need to go back and reacquaint myself with RAD behavior.

I like the part about how it's important to learn what your child's triggers are. That's a huge one. I'm still learning them- maybe they change a bit as time goes on- but there are real patterns there.

Christine said...

This was great, I was riveted all the way through! I was wondering what you mean by professional help, you can email me if you like. I love all the links, thanks for that, and for your generosity in sharing so much.

Julie said...

Great post Shannon. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Tammy said...

Shannon - this was a superior post! I read it to the end and was shaking my head "yes" the whole way through. I can relate to most of what you wrote and also learned a few things too.
I really hope many will read through to the end, especially those waiting to meet their toddlers.
We have been home 18+ months and although things are going so much better than they were at 6 months or even 12 months home, we still struggle with attachment. Also, just when we think we are 95% there, we bounce back to 75%.

But knowing we have been to 95% is what gives us hope and keeps us pressing on.

Love to you and your son **** Tammy

S said...

I love your truth in all of this. And I read it til the end without blinking an eye. It helps so many of us still waiting and I'm sure those who are home and struggling. Thank you.

fiddlehead said...

What a wonderful post. I really appreciate your honesty, insights and vulnerability. It is only through allowing ourselves to feel this journey and see our children that we can rise above the traumas. I look forward to following along in your journey!

Anonymous said...

Read your post to the end. The same way I have always read your other posts. I was tempted to jump away at times because you outlines some stuff that reminds me I have work to do. Even as the mother of an apparently well attached son, I should really do some work.
So glad to hear you are in a good spot. Love the pics.

Sunday Koffron Taylor said...

Excellent post I loved “I'm glad I finally realized that I can not 'fix' my kid. He doesn't and didn't need fixing.”

It always makes me cringe a bit when people talk about attachment issues as “disorder”. It is the human brains capacity for self preservation and survival. It is very ordered response to ones environment.

I am glad you guys are working through it.

scooping it up said...

fabulous fabulous fabulous. thank you for sharing.

I started my attachment post and we have some of the same phrases and thoughts, though mine is so far, far less insightful than yours. I love being in sync with you. :)

You guys are awesome. Love you both.

Claudia said...

I commented on this yesterday, I swear! I came back to read what other people had said and mine is GONE! D'oh. And now I think others have said, much better, what I was trying to say. Thank you so much for writing this. I'm pretty sure I said: I wish I had been able to read this BEFORE I became a mother. If I didn't say that yesterday, I'm saying it now, anyway.

Heidi said...

I read all the way to the end and loved every word. I learn from and am comforted by you each and every time you post here or leave a comment on my own blog. It took me months but I now know what it looks like when my children are anxious or fearful. In the beginning it all looked the same. I am still trying to figure out what all the triggers are. I too would be curious to know what type of professional help you have sought. You can email me.

Bridget said...

See how fortunate I am that I am still waiting? ;) I get to LEARN SO MUCH. Thank you, Shannon!

Annie D said...

I love reading your posts. You are so open and honest. Your willingness to recognize what both you and you cutie pie need is what will bond you.

I have walked the path of a 13 year old with RAD. I am glad you are addressing the issues early on.

Kim said...

I'm obviously a bit late to this party, but I wanted to stop lurking and say thank you. I really appreciate your candor in writing this. We will be bringing home 2 boys (ages 7 and 8) in hopefully the next month or so. So far we've seen lots and lots of sweet smiles and giggles. I'm trying so desperately not to be naive in all of this, so thanks.