Motherhood is a gift

1386612_mom_and_kidEditor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) hopes every mom enjoyed her Mother’s Day on May 10 and every dad is looking forward to Father’s Day on June 21. This week, in honor of all mothers, API gives you a special “Inspired Mothers” celebration. We hope these posts inspire you in your parenting journey.

The road to forming your family through adoption, and thus becoming a mother, can be long.

Various interviews, paperwork, letters of reference and physician referrals that are required before you are considered eligible can make the process of becoming a parent seem tedious. As you wait and yearn to care for a child, it can become difficult to see other couples and families receive referrals or become matched. At times, the wait may seem unbearable.

Yet, you still need to prepare physically and emotionally and be ready for your little one to arrive. So, like any parents anxious to build their family, you turn to blogs, books, anything that will give you a glimpse of what a family formed through adoption looks and feels like. You decide upon things like cosleeping or nursery, bottle-feeding or breastfeeding, open or closed adoption.

While waiting to grow our family, my husband and I researched it all. Yet, no matter how many books we read or blogs we followed, nothing could have prepared us for that moment: sitting across from this woman, seeing both the pain and joy in her eyes, watching her hold our son.

Up until this moment, preparing to meet our son, I had been focusing on how to care for a baby, not how to emotionally connect with my son and the woman who gave him life and love — his birth mother.

As I watched her and heard the palpable mix of loss and love in her voice, I learned more than a blog or book could ever teach me. My husband and I left this conversation with our son’s birth mother with a seemingly conflicting sense of sadness and loss but also joy. We renewed our determination to provide both of our sons with greater security, tangible love and a concrete sense of confidence in themselves, knowing they are loved beyond measure. I learned the love of a birth mother and how that love would transform our sons’ lives and ultimately encourage me to be a better mother myself.

The love of a birth mother is at times sacrificial and gives life and possibility, not only to the precious life brought into this world but also to the adopting mother and family. This love allowed me to experience motherhood, to see my children’s first smiles and hear their first laughs, to hold my boys close and dry away tears, and to receive unconditional love from two wonderful beings. It encourages me to seek everyday moments of connection through activities, such as light saber battles and family football games, strengthening the bonds that I have with my sons.

The knowledge of this first love sparks honest and empathetic conversation within our family. When my older son asks, “Where did my baby brother come from?” I am able to openly tell him a story of a woman who loved his baby brother and carried him in her belly, ultimately allowing us to grow our family, just like his own birth mother did before he was born. Responding sensitively with empathy and love as we talk about their birth mothers, or first families, allows me to build trust with my sons, sharing in their developing emotions.

On this year’s Mother’s Day, I celebrated more than being a mom myself and being blessed with a compassionate mother and caring grandmothers. I’m celebrating the courageous women — the other mothers — who granted me the amazing gift of becoming a mom.

Nurturing touch restores security in adoptive families

sarah kucSome of my favorite parts of the day are when my husband and I get down on the floor with our sons to wrestle and play, hearing them belly laugh. Or when I lie down for sleep with two tired, little boys snuggled tight under my arms.

Since we started our adoption journey four years ago, we have received so much joy and love from our sons and their birth mothers. However, it’s bittersweet…for although it’s true that there are countless joys and benefits from building families through adoption, there’s also inherent sorrow and loss resulting from separation from their birth mothers — they who had comforted them in the womb and held them during those first wakeful moments.

For some adopted children, this loss of a birth mother can have profound effects on their sense of personal security and ability to trust others. Undertones of anxiety and apathy may affect their relationships with loved ones. Furthermore, children who have experienced prenatal and perinatal trauma and loss may display even stronger, more vivid emotions of fear or anger when exposed  to stress in the future. Adoptive parents, being aware of these potential challenges and facing them head-on, is one key to the child’s successful bonding, growth and development. 

When we brought our sons home from the hospital, we couldn’t verbally make them understand that both we and their birth mothers love them immensely. However, we could — and did — use nonverbal communication to express our love and commitment to them.

We did skin-to-skin contact, laying them on our skin and allowing us to connect without words. We also chose to respond quickly to their cries by holding them close and reassuring them that we will always come when they need us.

Babywearing became an essential aspect of early bonding, especially with our second son. Life became noticeably busier with two young children. Both need love and special attention, and babywearing allows me to keep my little one close while still freely interacting with my older son. I can provide simultaneous security to both of my children.

These forms of physical contact are categorized as nurturing touch by Attachment Parenting International (API). When words are difficult, as is the case with newborns and young children, nurturing touch transcends language while still communicating security and love. It involves everything from massage to physical play and can be as simple as putting your arm around your child while on the couch together.

As our sons continue to grow, we are finding other ways to deepen this connection. Our 3 year old loves to wrestle and pillow fight. Each night, we happily indulge him to meet his need for physical contact, helping him to build trust and confidence in us and himself. Later, at bedtime, I lay next to him and rub his back through stories and prayers. He craves this connecting, nurturing touch and the security of knowing that we love him immensely.

Parents can never undo the loss that some adopted children experience, but hiding or not acknowledging it can be detrimental to them. Being aware of these challenges and meeting them with
persistent affection and honesty can allow healing to take place.

My husband and I are so blessed to have two happy, spirited and loving sons. Looking back, I am confident that much of our boys’ smiles, laughter and love are due to our decision to follow API’s Eight Principles of Parenting. There is so much unique joy experienced in adoption, and connections formed through nurturing touch foster this joy — allowing our children to feel secure and build necessary, lasting trust in us.

Our story of adoption and Attachment Parenting

sarah kuc“I love you.”

Three little words that I whisper into their small ears throughout the day. I look into their eyes and say, “You are special and strong.”

A few years ago, my husband and I met our first son in a crowded, busy hospital lobby. He was just 3 days old. His dark eyes peaked out from under his hospital cap and mesmerized us. It was a long ride home, but once we were there, we held him close and rarely let him go.

After a few years, we were ready to grow our family again and were overjoyed to meet our second son, 2 days old, several states away.

It is difficult to imagine our lives without these boys or the connections we have with their birth mothers and first families.

Families formed through adoption sometimes face challenges in understanding, communicating and connecting with one another. Prenatal stressors, trauma of separation and hardships endured in first families can affect our children and how they respond to us and the world around them.

My husband and I realized fairly soon after adopting our first son that we needed to parent differently than a lot of friends and acquaintances around us. For example, nighttime cry-it-out methods, unfamiliar babysitters for parents’ night out and even the use of timeout for perceived misbehavior were not going to work for us.

We were navigating the adoption realm and still trying to figure out what was right for us as parents and for our children. As I read and studied about parenting approaches, I learned about Attachment Parenting and discovered that this model seemed to support our parenting goals by encouraging connection with our children while communicating love, safety and respect.

Forming a strong attachment with our sons became our goal, and before long, we were busy savoring skin-to-skin moments among other elements of Attachment Parenting.

When our first son was about 6 months old, we found our cosleeping groove and ability to connect throughout the night. We have been bedsharing ever since and now have both of our sons with us overnight. Cosleeping helps foster a bond between my sons and I that wasn’t necessarily formed in the womb but can be made strong now as it allows us to relax, sense and trust one another.

As our boys get older, we are constantly learning and looking for resources that will foster our parenting skills and allow us to maintain connection while trying to understand how our children are feeling.

So now when my 3 year old cries, throws himself on the ground and refuses to comply with whatever I have just asked of him, I have tools beyond threatening words or actions that will let him know that he is safe, his feelings are valid and heard, and I am going to work with him to find resolution.

Along the way we have had to make lifestyle changes that affect our personal social lives. Not everyone understands why we parent this way, and that is okay. We parent in the best way we can for our boys.

For us, that means striving for a connected family. Attachment Parenting International‘s Eight Principles of Parenting support us in raising confident children…purposefully connected and loved within our family.

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