What to Expect While We’re Expecting
I have borrowed this post (and adapted it slightly) from an adoptive mom, Rushton, who traveled to China last spring to bring home her beautiful daughter. It is well written and I truly appreciate her allowing me to post this on our blog.
As we prepare to leave for China, I would like to prepare our friends and family about what to expect when we get home. Obviously, bonding with an adopted child looks different because she’s already 31 months old and doesn’t know us at all. Charlotte has faced challenges that God has spared other children from going through. As part of the adoption process, we had tons of required reading on the issue of attachment and bonding (the best being “The Connected Child”, which we highly recommend for parenting in general!)…. some of which can leave you slightly freaked out if I’m being honest!
Charlotte has endured trauma in her life by being abandoned by the mother whose heartbeat and voice she knew for 9 months. Since that day, she has lived the first 31 months of her life without consistency from a variety of caretakers. While I am sure they have loved on her, I know there are times she has cried out in hunger and no one has answered, where she has fussed over a dirty diaper and no one has changed her… you get the picture and can see how it is a vastly different picture than the early lives of biological children. When a biological child cries as a newborn, his/her parents run to meet whatever need they have… so a pattern emerges… they cry and have their needs met…. over and over which results in his/her attachment to the parents. There are studies about actual connections that are made in the brain as a result of this cycle.
For Charlotte, this cycle was broken by her birth mother and was repeatedly broken when her cries went unanswered or even when they were answered but by a new stranger… what does this mean for us? In a sense, we are going to have to “retrain” Charlotte’s brain…. and convince her that we will meet her needs and we will never leave her. We do not expect a happy and excited child on the “gotcha day” when we meet her. We expect a scared little girl whose trust we have to earn…. and whose love we will fight for. We’ve been waiting, praying, preparing (along with all of you) for the arrival of our little girl….but, she has not been waiting for us and she will need time to adjust.
We don’t know how long it will take for her to attach to us securely… but the reason I’m explaining this to you is because it will affect the way we interact with others for a period of time. We probably will not want very many visitors that stay long in the first few weeks we are home, and even from close relatives for the first few months. We are asking for now that you please not hold her or pick her up. I will have her strapped to me most of the time when I am out in public, at church, and even some times at home. It is totally fine to talk to her when you see us out, just try to refrain from touching and loving on her as hard as that may be. We just need her to understand the difference between her mother/father/siblings and other people, and get used to consistency in her caregivers….which is hard for a child who has no concept of a mother or father. She needs time to develop a bond with her immediate family before she can begin to bond with those who will come and go in her life. 
One of the greatest attachment tools is feeding. So for now, we will need to be the ones who give her bottles, meals and snacks. If we are visiting or playing at your house and she wants a snack, I ask that you give it to us so that we can give it to her. In a sense, this is replicating what she missed out on as a newborn but it may seem awkward to others because she is older now.
With all that said, we welcome anyone and everyone who wants to, to come to the airport to meet our sweet Charlotte when we land to bring her home. If you are dying to see her in person, we ask that you come then because we plan to come home and crash for a while!
We know that we have lost time with Charlotte…. And some days it grieves our hearts to have missed out on so much… but I’m so thankful that I have HOPE in a God who restores. I love the picture in Joel 2:25 where God says “I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.” I have confidence that what seemed lost; will be restored in her life…. I know she will flourish into who she was created to be…. And I’m thankful for the front row seat!
Out of these ashes… beauty will rise
And we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes
Out of these ashes… beauty will rise
For we know, joy is coming in the morning…
In the morning, beauty will rise
-Steven Curtis Chapman-