I have to start by saying how incredibly blessed we are to have such supportive community around us along this adoption journey. We are grateful for each friend and stranger who has already played such a huge role in our story.
Before our daughter is even in our arms, you, friends, church, community, strangers, you have loved us and her well. Genuinely, we thank you. I want that gratitude to be clear before I share what I need to share, so there’s no confusion about how we feel about you. We love y’all. And we do need you very much.
So, I know you’re heart is gold, but one thing that we do not need is for you to hold or hug or snuggle our little girl. The place from which our daughter will join our family is a hard one. And I’m not even talking about her country of origin, though it is also an undeniably very hard place it itself. I’m talking about coming from the hard, tragic place of loss.
I’ve said many times (and will continue to say) that adoption is a redemptive response to brokenness and loss. There must first be loss and trauma before adoption can occur. And while I will not share the details of our daughter’s history with anyone (it is her story to know and share when/if she wants), I will say that she has lost so very much. Beyond any loss I have experienced in my life. We do pray that healing begins as she joins our family, yet, we do not ever believe that our presence in her life erases the traumatic losses of her birth family.
She is two now, and I do not know how old she will be by the time she comes home. Maybe still two. Maybe three. If you have a baby in your life, a niece, a nephew, a friend’s child, your child, think of how much love and care and affection happen in two years of life. So much. A baby knows their caretaker is trustworthy because they feed them and hold them and change them and snuggle them.
But for those years of my daughter’s life, I was not the one meeting those needs. And some of the basic needs may have been missed altogether. In Created to Connect, a study guide for the must-read attachment parenting book The Connected Child, Dr. Karyn Purvis and Amy and Michael Monroe write:
Researchers have documented the profound and lasting effects that early care or the lack thereof have on the development of trust (“I am safe”), self-worth (“I am precious”) and self-efficacy (“I am heard”)… Tragically, many of the children that we love and serve came into an unwelcoming world and started life amidst very difficult circumstances. Disease, abandonment, hunger, mental illness, stress, substance abuse and a host of other risk factors may have conspired to create an environment where these children’s needs were unmet, contributing to the abuse, neglect and trauma that they experienced. These heartbreaking early harms and losses often hold our children back from developing in healthy or optimal ways and too often prevent them from developing trust and understanding just how precious they truly are.
Our daughter joins our family from that heartbreak. So, in the first weeks and possibly months, you may not see a lot of us. I don’t know when I will come to church with her, or when we’ll be OK going to the grocery store, or when we can have visitors. Please don’t disappear from our lives, but know that things will probably look different for a while because we have a very long road towards attachment ahead of us. We cannot make up for all of the time we will never have back from those early years, but we are working to form some stability for all of us, and especially for a little girl who does not know what stability or permanency are in the sense of a traditional family structure.
When I ask that you not show physical affection to our daughter, it is because she has had, potentially, numerous caretakers that may (or may not) have shown affection to her. And yet none of those who have demonstrated affection in the past became permanent, forever people in her little world.
Why should she believe we are any different?
Why would we be here for good when no one else has?
We want her to know that we are her parents and that we are not going anywhere. This may take a very long time, and we’re OK with that. But for a little child who does not know what constant, unbroken parenting relationship looks like, introducing her to slews of grown ups giving lots of attention is confusing, at the very least.
I understand that some might find our hunkering down and nesting season extreme, but really, what was extreme was my daughter’s life and trauma before knowing family.
So, we will go to whatever lengths to let that little know we are here for her and we are here for good.
… but we do still need you. Next time, we’ll be tackling how you can offer support in other ways. Check back in soon.
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photo by Fré Sonneveld