Yesterday was our sweet niece Morgan's 4th birthday party. We had lots of fun watching her open her presents and play and even stayed to have dinner with Michael, Lisa and the girls. One of the things we gave her was an adorable lavender tutu, that she did notwant to try on! She finally did right before we went home (at around 10:00 pm - the party was at 2:00!), but forget about a picture...it was on and off in a flash. I hope she has fun playing with it later and dancing around like a beautiful ballerina!
We love you very much Morganito Burrito and wish you a
Happy,Happy 4th Birthday!!!
I didn't take many pictures yesterday, but here is one of Morgan as we were singing to her...love the expression, but I should have used the flash!
For the last six months or more, the expectant parents have been busy. They've painted a room, bought little tee shirts, shoes, and diapers and gone over the baby name book at least a hundred times. Daily, if not hourly, their thoughts turn to the baby waiting for them, thousands of miles away. They take out the precious photo and examine it again and again, wondering "How much older will he look?" The hearts and minds of these loving parents are never too far from this baby. For the baby, however, these folks haven't even been a fleeting thought.
Somewhere, often in a far away country, the baby has already experienced immense loss. For nine months, he lived and breathed with his mother. He learned to know her voice, her smell, her moods-both good and bad-and her sleep. At birth, he abruptly lost everything he had grown to love. He may show signs of grieving at the time, or he may store the loss deep in his brain and body, at a visceral level that will become more obvious with time.
At the time of birth, a child perceives himself as being one and the same as his birth mother. He does not recognize that they are two separate individuals. Physically, his respiration and heart rate regulates in sync with hers. Emotionally, he sees the world through her eyes. Her anxiety is his. Her joy and contentment are his. So what happens when a part of him, the part that regulates not only the physical, but also the emotional, disappears?
Perhaps he is placed in a foster home at birth. He spends his days getting to know the smells, voice, tastes, and moods of his new caretaker. Although it is hard to trust, having already lost a mommy, he enjoys the soft touches and the warm feeling he gets when she fills his tummy. He feels confused and worried, not knowing who this person is and what happened to his first love.
If he spends time in a hospital or orphanage, his little body grows increasingly anxious. After all, he can only focus about nine inches from his face, and the images that move in and out of that space are constantly changing.
In both cases, the sheer separation from the birth mother can put his body on high alert. The primitive part of his brain, the "fight or flight" center, works overtime, flooding with cortisol, sending the body messages akin to that of an adult who senses his life is in danger. "Will I get food?" "Who will comfort me?" "Will I survive?" A variety of factors-genetic predisposition, prenatal environment, ongoing transitions, early environment-contribute to the level at which the child is affected. The initial abandonment alone affects his brain and body, with hospitalization, foster homes, orphanages, multiple placements, and pain increasing the potential for long-term attachment issues.
And then, without warning, it happens again. Just as he is getting accustomed to the new caretakers in his life, he is suddenly handed to a stranger. This person's hair, skin, smell, and voice are all wrong. The stranger takes him to a place filled with people. They go and go and go for what seems like an eternity. Eventually, the child is handed to more strangers. Bright lights flash everywhere. Nothing smells right. Nothing sounds right. Nothing looks right.
In an effort to inform and educate myself before Lily Kate arrives, I have been reading a lot about attachment and bonding, so I know how to help her feel as safe and secure as possible, right from the start.
We pray that she is in a loving foster care home, or in an environment in which she has had her needs met, and where she has learned to trust and developed healthy attachments. Separating from her caretaker or foster family will be difficult, but having formed those attachments, she will more quickly bond with Jonathan and I, as we show her the love and security she needs to trust us and know we will never leave her.
There is a great attachment web site that I have a link to under recommended reading; I want to begin sharing some of what I have read there, and elsewhere, with you all - my family and friends. We will need all your love and support when Lily Kate comes home and hope you read and find this information helpful and interesting.
Safety & Security Begin With a Small World
When a newborn arrives home, his world is very small. He isn’t given many freedoms because he simply isn’t ready. The primary caregiver, usually the mother, provides him with necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter. Since he isn’t yet able to self-regulate, she gives him emotional stability and a sense of well being by keeping his body close to hers. As the child gets a little older, his world gets bigger. He is able to venture out beyond Mom, at first tentatively with frequent check-ins, then more confidently, first with the near environment, then with family members and close friends, later by venturing out into the world of school, jobs and beyond.
In a similar manner, parents often find it helpful to think of the newly adopted child in light of his emotional age, versus his chronological age. Consider the length of time he’s been in the home, as if emotional “birth” began at placement. Even an older child, although far from looking like a baby, will need close proximity and the sense of safety incurred by having his basic needs anticipated and met by the parents until he has had time to adjust and attach. Just like an infant, as an adoptive child becomes more and more secure, he will be emotionally ready to handle a “larger world” with freedoms closer to that of his chronological age.
A newly arrived child of any age needs to sense that mom and dad are in control. This is critical to the child’s sense of security! A predictable schedule, with bedtime and meal routines, helps to promote an environment of security. The child needs to have minimal choices, but ample opportunity for fun times with mom and dad. Small-scale fun like singing songs, dancing, reading, and fingerplays benefit even older children. Large-scale, sensory baths like amusement parks and big vacations need to be saved for the future. Again, it is most helpful to think in terms of the world of the newborn. Would I take my newborn baby to Disneyland? On a 2-week vacation? To a room full of friendly, inquisitive people? If the answer is no, it’s probably not something that a newly adoptive child would benefit from either.
After the child has been home and given time to adjust, the parent reflects on whether the child is ready to have a slightly larger world:
Is my child making wise choices most of the time?
Is she sleeping and eating well?
Is he able to follow basic directives from mom and dad?
Does she seek me out when she is hurt, tired, or disregulated?
Is his emotional state generally positive and balanced?
Is she able to accept love from her parents?
Is he able to maintain eye contact with his parents?
In new situations, does she show appropriate deference to strangers and preference to parents?
If the answer is yes, the parent may give the child a few more freedoms. Perhaps an older baby or toddler begins to spend a little more time on the floor playing with siblings and a little less time in a front pack carrier. An older child may have the opportunity to have a short play date in the backyard with a neighbor for the first time. If the child does well with these new experiences, parents will gradually add to his repertoire until he is fully participating in activities deemed typical for his chronological age.
Yet, after his world begins to get larger, there may be times that he becomes emotionally disregulated. When the parent recognizes this, she can pull the child in closer, where he is able to derive calm. Perhaps she holds him or has him sit in a chair in the same room where she is working. Sometimes, even after the child has been held, the parent can sense that he is still not ready for complete independence. She may spread out a small blanket or rug and give the child a small container of Legos or Dublo blocks, explaining that for now, he and his toys need to remain on the blanket, close to her. If the child is able to follow instructions for a period of time, the parent sees that he is ready for a slightly bigger world; perhaps getting off the blanket but still remaining in the same room as the parent.
Although these methods may seem punitive to a secure child, parents of children who’ve experienced early trauma, like separation from the birth family, find that such techniques help the child to feel safe. That doesn’t mean that the child won’t complain; in many cases he will, mightily! But over time, proximity to a strong, loving parent will help the child’s heart, so damaged by early loss, to grow strong.
Although Lily Kate’s room has not yet been started, I have been gathering things for several months. Last week, I finally bought the crib bedding – a big step!I have been eyeing it for months and after shopping around, knew I was not going to find anything I liked better.I was lucky enough to find it (brand new) on eBay and got it for a great price.The woman I bought it from has a terrific site (and shop) calledPurple Daisy Kids. Check it out and buy something from her for your little one.She has some great vintage-style toys and adorable dress-up stuff. In fact, I just bought something for my niece for her birthday. Here is a picture of the bedding (it's by House, Inc. and it's called Stella Blue):
As you can see, I am going for a sort of old-fashioned, feminine, shabby chic look. I have been scouring some of my favorite stores (Marshalls, Target, etc.) as well as antique shops and eBay for accessories and furnishings, both new and old. I want something that she can grow into, even after the crib is gone. We have the crib selected, but no picture as yet. My sweet parents are getting it for us and I can’t wait to see the bedding with it – it’s a Jenny Lind style crib in the palest, prettiest blue.
The rest of the furniture will probably be white and I am thinking of using a dresser we already have and transforming it into a changing table/dresser. I will post pics before and after soon. I think with some white paint, new hardware and antiquing, it could work.
I want to put white wainscoting on the bottom half of the walls and paint the top using some sort of a faux technique - still working that out. Stay tuned for more updates to come!
In a day or so, we will celebrate six months since our dossier was logged-in at the CCAA. On that day, we realized that we were truly on our way and the wait "officially" began. Time is passing, but due to things we cannot control, we may be another six months from seeing your sweet face and from knowing more about you. What we already know is that you are our own precious daughter and that we love you with all our hearts - you are part of us already and we talk about you all the time, including you in all our plans and dreams for the future.
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a mother. It is something that I have always hoped and prayed for, and when your Daddy and I met and fell in love, we talked about wanting a family, of babies to love and all the wonderful possibilities that life as a family can bring; you were in our hearts and minds from the very start and we just didn't know that we would travel all the way to China to meet you!
We are getting everything ready for your arrival and know that you will be with us soon. You may not even be born yet sweetheart, but to your Daddy and I, you are living in our hearts every day and as soon as we can, we will be there to kiss you and hold you and tell you we love you more than anything else in this world. You have a great, big, loving family and so many friends here - they can't wait to meet you either!
We love you, sweet Lily Kate, and pray that you will feel all the love and prayers that surround you. May God and his angels watch over you and keep you safe, secure and warm, until we can be there with you and we are a family - together forever. All our love,