Attachment and healing

Time will pass and I will forget some details. I mentioned at the beginning that she was shy and we were clumsy the first time we met. But from the moment we had to say goodbye the very first time, she was sad to see us leave. She’s been cared for and I dare say well loved by the foster parents. But a mom and dad have a special place. A special purpose. Forever.

Jaclyn doesn’t attach to things easily. We visit friends with kids and toys, mountains of toys. She goes and plays with some of the toys. She likes the musical ones, or just the empty containers pretending she is mixing drinks, and making meals. She has been offered to choose a toy, but she doesn’t. Even if she likes to play with a particular toy, and she hugs it tightly, I tell her we will return to that friend and play with the toy later. She then willingly gives it back to the host. She’s been offered to pick a toy to keep it, but she says no thank you.

Yesterday evening as we had to say goodbye, she got so sad: “Why do they leave?” I reassured her we will return and asked if she wants to come to Cluj with us. She answered a definite “Yes”.

Jaclyn likes to snuggle. I match her rhythm of closeness, and she is drawn to me like a magnet. She prefers only my hand when we walk, she hugs my leg tightly when others want to talk to her, and as we play on the carpet, she comes to hug me tightly often. Just as I kiss her head whenever I get the chance, she kisses me now. As we drive, she holds my hand and as I sing she sings along, looking up adoringly at me. By the way, Christina Peri “be mine forever” is the winner in distracting from car sickness.

The social workers said often that the older the child, the faster the attachment. We imagined that a one year old would attach easier, but I realize now that that’s not necessarily the case. Even the doctor on Friday said “Jaclyn knows her mommy” and couldn’t believe we’ve been together for such a short period of time.

Another funny thing, yesterday we took a stroll through the village, and met with some of Jaclyn friends. They called her by her old name, and she looked at them and asked: “who’s that?” – who are you talking about? “I’m Jaclyn!”

As I am re-reading some books related to adoption, I want to reproduce here a few passages that stuck with me, now that we have Jaclyn.

Listen to the words of one adoptive mother in Naomi Ruth Lowinsky’s book, Stories From the Motherline: Reclaiming the Mother-Daughter Bond.… The mother remembers how grieving losses together brought intimacy with her daughter: “I ached for her, for my beautiful youngest who had never been inside me, never been nursed by me, whose face I did not see when she entered this world. I felt grief for the pregnancy I had not experienced with her, grief for her birth and early months. I felt grief for the empty place in her, left by the birth mother who could not keep her. I understood that my daughter and I needed to feel these things together.
During the next few years, I often spoke to her about these feelings of grief and loss. She would climb onto my lap and her wiry little body would relax in my arms. We spent many hours like this, mourning together, creating a bond out of our feelings of loss.”

As a few people have said, the “20 things adopted children wish their adoptive parents would know” is rather dark, depressing, but I find it real and helpful. Adopted children carry with them a wound, underneath the surface. One would say that if you adopt a child right out of the hospital, you bypass this pain. It appears not…

Adoptees need to learn to accept their wound as part of their life history—an unchangeable fact over which they have no control, but which need not cripple them in the future. This is one of the challenges of being adopted which, if accepted, can bring tremendous growth and maturity. Dr. Connie Dawson, adoptee, attachment therapist, and adoption educator, says:
“When someone told me that I have suffered an irreparable wound, a burden lifted from my shoulders. In all my therapy, no one had ever told me that I couldn’t wrap this one up neat and tidy … couldn’t fix it.”

So, in light of this knowledge about adoptee grief, I imagine you saying “What can adoptive parents do? How can we help our infant mourn the loss at this particular stage and receive our love? How can we assist our toddler, school-aged child, or adolescent?” We will talk more about that in the next chapter, but first let’s get a clear understanding of what grief really is: sorrow, lament, ache, sadness, anguish, despair, yearning. I can’t bear the thought that my child has already experienced all of this, you may be thinking. It makes me feel so helpless as a parent. Let me assure you that you are not alone. Almost every adoptive parent I have talked to expresses the same sentiment when learning about the pain associated with adoption. Perhaps you are wondering, Is all this mourning stuff really necessary? Yes, it is, for one must enter into freedom through pain. The only way out is through. Once adoption loss is acknowledged, the prison gates of grief will swing open to a new world. How awesome it will be to see your child reframe his losses and discover that adoption was the very thing that taught him some of life’s most precious lessons. Instead of depression and sadness, there will be joy. Instead of wandering and aimlessness, there will be life with a purpose. Instead of feeling second class, he will know he is loved and accepted just as he is.

The journey ahead is long but as we prepared and continue to prepare for it, fully aware, I believe wondrous things will come of it. I know many of our friends and acquaintances assess this relationship through a narrow point of view, easily worried, easily offended, easily offensive, and I can’t help but wonder why. We didn’t ask anything of you… The THINK before you speak acronym came to mind. I find it would be relevant to ask yourself before sharing your thoughts on a topic you are not an expert on:  Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?

Adopting this girl and loving her wholeheartedly, is a gift to us. I know many people think we are the ones who give her a life, because she needs a mom and a dad, but she blesses us more than I can express. Jaclyn is not an extension of us. She is unique, different and her own little person. In my youth I wished for a mini conrad or a mini me, but we got something amazing.