Monday, November 30, 2009

Adoption Attachment/Adjustment Update

It's hard to believe, but we have been home with Mikayla now for just over seven weeks! Our family has come a long way in that time in regards to adjusting and attachment. We still have a long way to go, but progress has been made little by little. I wanted to share a few of the areas where we have struggled since coming home, since I know many adoptive families read this blog and can either learn from us or relate to us :)

  • Mikayla would often have periods of "zoning out" on us, when we were in Ethiopia and when we first came home. Most of the time, we would notice her losing interest in whatever was happening at the time (eating, playing, etc.) and then we would notice the tears falling. Sometimes the tears became full sobs, and other times remained silent tears. We would often just respond by holding and comforting her. She typically bounced back in a fairly short amount of time. Nowadays, she doesn't really fall into this pattern of "zoning out" anymore. She will usually approach us when something is wrong and doesn't usually cry for no apparent reason. It is likely that she was just having moments of grieving during those first weeks. She also had no attachment to us at the time, so she would not approach us for comfort - she would just be content to cry on her own, unless we approached and held on to her.
  • When we were in Ethiopia, she had multiple episodes of refusing to eat meals. We knew we were serving her foods that she liked, because she would ask for them and most of the time it was something she had liked, and eaten, the day before. Once the food would arrive though, she would take one bit, shove the plate, and just start crying. At first we tried to order something new for her, but she repeated this behavior with anything that was given. So, we quickly started holding a boundary with this... she either ate what was served, or chose not to eat. This resulted in a few "fits" during meal times, but we also noticed that she quickly learned she wasn't getting something else and would often decide to eat the food. This behavior has only repeated itself once since we've been home. We aren't really sure what it was, but likely some type of control issue or way of testing us - versus actually being about the food. Thankfully, she now enjoys almost all types of foods and usually asks for "more!"
  • Mikayla seemed to attach to Micah more than me when we were in Ethiopia. But since coming home, and Micah returned to work, she has been acting out more defiantly toward him... refusing to listen, obey, etc. She will also hit him at times. This typically happens if I leave the house to go run errands and Micah is home alone with the kids. There are so many "good" reasons Mikayla could have as to why she is acting this way with him, that we don't even try to pinpoint it. Instead, we are just working with our social worker to use strategies/methods to help her break out of this pattern. We have actually seen some improvement in the past couple of weeks, which was a huge relief because we felt like we hit rock bottom before that. Poor Micah :(
  • When we first came home, Mikayla rarely liked to make eye contact with us. She was also not very affectionate. She was more affectionate in Ethiopia, but that was probably "fake" affection that wore off once reality set in. We have used some strategies given by our social worker to help in these areas, and I have seen huge improvement here!! She will now let me cuddle with her before bed... the trick being that SHE is cuddling back with her arms around me (it's no longer just one-sided!). She will also make eye contact much more often, and if she does look away, she will eventually look back. Our son, Eli, is very affectionate so her lack of affection has been hard for him. He loves giving hugs and kisses. She is finally responding more to him as well, and I even saw her initiate a hug with him the other day! That is huge change from how she used to just try to pull herself away.
  • Eli really had a tough time adjusting to his new sister, even with as much as he loved having her here. We saw him acting out in ways that we had never seen before. I often wondered where my little boy had gone?!? Although he still has tough days, things are nowhere near as bad as they were just 4 weeks ago. The two siblings are learning to love and play with one another. Just this morning I listened to them play and laugh together without my having to intervene!! It was music to my ears :)
  • We have dealt with a few health issues: tape worm (now cured), nail fungus (still dealing with), ring worm (still dealing with), and quite a few cavities that we will eventually get taken care of. Nothing too serious, but ring worm is definitely annoying! All of us caught it, and it's very stubborn about going away :(
  • The fact that Mikayla didn't speak English, really hasn't been an issue at all - I add that in here because many people ask about that. Honestly, there are so many ways to communicate without using words :) She is learning the English language so rapidly, it's just amazing. She already has a large vocabulary and is now attempting to ask questions and/or explain things in English. She mostly understands everything we say to her. The language barrier was one of the least concerning things we encountered since taking custody of Mikayla.
  • As a mom, I am attaching more and more to my new daughter each day, in the same manner that she is attaching to me. I am thankful for the moments that God provides where I just have the opportunity to glimpse deeper into her beautiful personality/soul and see who she really is and see how we fit perfectly together. More and more it is becoming hard to remember what life was like before Mikayla was part of our family. I am so thankful that God brought her to us - it was the perfect match.
So there's a glimpse into the past two months of our lives on the adoption-related issues. That probably wasn't interesting at all to some of you, but it will make me happy to look back at this post a year from now and compare where we are then :) Even 6 months from now! Feel free to leave a comment and ask questions if you have any.


  1. First of all, I'm amazed it's already been 2 months! It sounds like you are hitting some bumps in the road, but ironing out issues at the same time, which is normal and good. Sorry about the ringworm...we got ringworm from a cat we adopted and it took a long time to get rid of it for good (I had 2 patches at 2 different times on me...and I felt like it was a burden for almost 6 months)...I hope those issues resolve quickly for you. It's great to hear attachment is getting better for you by day it will continue to! Best of luck with everything.

  2. Thank you for sharing Bethany! What techniques did you use for the physical attachment issue? I'm sure I will have a million questions once our little guy is home!!

  3. i love your honesty. it helps to know how to pray for you and others adopting. its exciting to think of the girl and woman she will become because of the love you have for her. :)

  4. Great job everyone! Keep up the good work~ it will pay off so much down the road. The blessing of seeing our children gradually open up and trust is a beautiful journey, and it's easier to enjoy it when we are patient along the way. Hugs to your beautiful family!

  5. Hey Bethany,

    If you get a chance I'd love to know what you'd do differently if you were starting over today or what your biggest tip would be for a parent just starting out with the transition!

  6. Very cool to read. Anyone adopting I think would be interested in hearing the reality of things in addition to seeing the cute pictures. I've heard several talk about treating them like a newborn, even if they're 2-3. Feeding them, snuggling skin-to-skin, etc. It's so easy to think that having little kids at home will help distract but we know that they have to grieve all while having lots of change!


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