This post addresses a sensitive topic, and therefore might generate some strong emotions.
I am a very vocal advocate of attachment parenting and the consequences that impact our lives if we choose not to fully attach to, and be attached to by, our children.
As I sit holding my 14 1/2 month old son, he turns and gives me his slobbery kisses. As I read about ways to guide him, to use discipline gently as he is learning to throw fits, and how he has somehow figured out how to hit (how do they learn that?) I am in continual awe of the attachment between us. It is something tangible. It was forged as we walked through pregnancy together and “talked” to each other. Forged as we birthed together and were carried through the ring of fire, as we slept together, ate together, and continue on this lifelong learning adventure together. We are like stem and leaf, firmly attached and yet at the same time not restricted or restrained by it, but it has made us free to grow.
What really amazes me is that 12 years ago, I was in close contact with another 14 month old (and the 14 month old’s younger brother). They were from Haiti. My mom now recalls watching a TV program on the History Channel about Haiti and thinking “I would never want to adopt from there.” Months later, after loads of paperwork and a land sale, we still came up short and were unable to adopt in the USA. We were disappointed until our social worker explained about an opportunity for us to adopt out of country, from Haiti. Along with adopting from Haiti, we were given the opportunity to bring two boys in to our family, which we did.
I cannot describe the shock that I felt when my mom stepped off the plane with Shadraque, the older of the two boys, in her arms. He looked like a starving child from the pages of National Geographic; toothpick arms and legs, eyes too big for his head, distended belly, and at a year and a half old he had no teeth, eyelashes, or hair. A few months later Dad went for Isaac.
Along with the obvious adjustments that come along with adding new children to the family came an even bigger change – both boys came with severe attachment disorder. The stories of our time with them and the emotional/mental/spiritual consequences in our lives should be a book in itself and really the consequences are still echoing through our lives because they were the beginning. It was them, and the disorder that they had, that slowly ripped us out of a predominate belief that “if you just love enough…” A belief that you have the power to change people when they do not reach out for that change. Our roots were torn out of our home as we lost friends and our sense of belonging.
In myself, I now have a deeper understanding of what was actually broken in these children, in my “brothers.” As I travel this road with my son, I can now see where this bond began and even though I do not know the depths or the end of this bond, I now understand how vital this attachment is and the fires that forge it. I am broken anew understanding what they lost.
My “brothers'” are now back with their birth mother. They have been for years. I am now starting this adventure into motherhood and I hope through this experience I am headed in with my eyes a little more open than they might have been had I not experienced the devastation of the unattached.
I am mother.
I am attached.
And my child is attached to me.
I pray for my brothers that they found in their home the attachment that they could not find with me.
12 thoughts on “Why AP?”
As an adoptive parent who has been bonding with my son since he was three hours old, I am disturbed by the implications of this post. I hope you are not suggesting that productive bonding can only occur between biological mother and child. If so, then you are dooming to failure hundreds of thousands of adoptive family relationships that are formed each year in the US (and hundreds of thousands more around the world.) I’m sorry that your brothers’ attachment experiences were such a challenge and I hope that they have done well since returning to Haiti, but their experience, while all too common, doesn’t represent the multitudes of successful attachment experiences in domestic and international adoption around the world.
This post hints at several complicated issues that probably each deserves its own post–the events or experiences that inspire us to become AP parents, the naive assumptions we often have about love being “all you need” to make a child’s world right, the tragedy that can occur when children’s emotional needs go unmet…All very important topics that we’ve all probably talked about many times with other parents and in our API support groups. I hope Jasmine’s attached parenting has helped her achieve some level of healing over the trauma of loving and then losing her brothers.
I do not believe that you can compare the parent/child relationships that begin upon the birth of a child (biological or adoptive) with those that begin when the child is older. While the ideals of AP can still be guides, the means by which an attached relationship forms will be different. See Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control for more … Read Moreinformation. Also, please note that the writer of this article was a child herself and cannot possibly know all the intricacies of the relationships her parents tried to develop with her brothers (or, perhaps, foster children – it’s not clear from the article).
Further, Haiti is a country on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean – not the Island of Haiti. My children from Haiti should be home with us sometime this year.H
I am in no way hinting or suggesting that a child that is adopted can not be attached. At the age that my brother’s arrived to us and the extent of the damage in their lives it was not possible for them to attach to us.
I also hope that their lives have been good since returning “home”.
This of course is a very broad post, like was pointed out by Lara and has very many issues. I purposely kept it broad just to encompass why I am so strongly for APing also it has been quite the experience APing my son after the experience with my brothers.
Thanks for the response!
I would also like to add that we may indeed be in the minority of adoptive families, and for that I am very glad!
Please keep in mind that this is a very condensed version of a very in-depth story with the point being how important APing is whether it is with your body-born child or with your adopted child.
p.s. Thank you for the island correction, you are completely correct.
I am a huge advocate of Attachment Parenting. There are many reasons why I think AP is the best way to parent for me, for my children, for our family and broadly for society.
That said, reactive attachment disorder is something that occurs in cases of severe abuse or neglect or multiple traumatic losses or changes in their primary caregiver.
Regular, mainstream, North American child rearing practices are not ideal IMO. But I don’t think that NOT being completely AP leads to attachment disorders.
Interesting comments to this sensitive post.
I am an adoptive parent and having many issues with AP. I am open to AP ways, but feel that this alone doesn’t necessarily help the child. I believe in a happy medium and using different methods to reach the same goal. I’m also dealing with Reactive attachment disorder and some fetal alcohol syndrome symptoms. I wish it was as easy as it sounds to attach or connect to your adoptive son/daughter, but I do see the differences between my Biological Downs Syndrome 18 year old and my adoptive children. My hope is that this will change with time, but I’m not too sure it will.
Looking for positive recommendations.
Though I am not the parent in my story I can relate so well to what you are saying Cristina. Nancy Thomas was someone who we used a lot in our therapy with RAD. She had some of the earliest material out on RAD and still is one of the most comprehensive.
This is how I stumbled across this website. I too, am searching for ways to bond with my 4 yr old adoptive son, who is my husbands grandson. I wasn’t able to have children and he came into our lives shortly after we married. We have had him for 2 1/2 yrs now and up till recently couldn’t understand why I was struggling to bond with him.
We are Blessed he is healthy and smart but, there was something not quite right and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I didn’t know if it was the drugs his mother had taken while pregnant with him or something in the DNA of the male sperm donor. In talking about this with other people, someone had asked if he was nurtured by his mother as an infant and up till then, I hadn’t given that time much thought. Looking back, I realized that hadn’t happened.
I have been a stay at home mom up till a month ago when we decided to put him in a structured daycare, to socialize him and get him ready for Kindergarten. It’s not going so well. I had seen little signs of lack of empathy since we’ve had him but, now my eyes are wide open. That is the problem I couldn’t put my finger on.
I can’t put into words what it felt like to find this topic and see your comments. Just knowing I am not alone, is a relief beyond measure. My heart goes out to all of you that is struggling with this and most of all, for the children that have been effected. I can only Pray, with knowledge and support, we can make a difference. So, any and all suggestions would be greatly welcomed and appreciated.
Gina. My heart goes out to you and the how difficult it is to live with attachment problems. Nancy Thomas was one of the original people to really bring attachment disorder to the light and she has great info. Here is her web site: http://www.attachment.org/