Friday, 19 July 2013

Attachment and bonding in adoption

Here is a little something I sent to a friend asking about attachment and bonding and the differences between our experience as adoptive parents and a "typical" (if there even is such a thing) bio-parent. This followed a discussion about adoption disruptions and the challenges of integrating a second adopted child into the family, especially an older child.

When you adopt, you don't usually have the same attachment and bonding options as when you give birth to a child.  The things you, as a bio-mum, did in the first few months with your child (including breastfeeding-if you did- and things like holding your child, smiling at him, picking him up and soothing him when he cries, holding him close to you when he sleeps, etc) all create a feeling of safety for a child.  As adoptive parents to J, we were lucky that she was from a good orphanage and a great foster family, who helped her feel secure and loved.  It was very difficult for us when we received her, as she grieved her Foster family for a long time, but we used modified "attachment parenting" methods, with her and we were successful in securing a good, healthy bond (which is the parental feeling towards the child) and attachment (child’s feeling towards the parent).  

In many situations, especially in second (or subsequent)  adoptions, a child will not “fit in” with the family, which is often a sign of an absence of bonding or attachment.  The older the child, the more likely that is to happen.  When we did the adoption course (in another province), they had an amazing exercise where they told the story of a child (I seem to remember they called her Sally).  As they went along and told her story, they tied a string to Sally's wrist connecting her to all of the people to whom she had formed attachments in her life (bio parents, siblings, grandparents, foster parents 1, foster parents 2, foster parents 3, etc, foster siblings, parents new significant others, etc).  Every time she experienced a return to a situation (i.e. return to mother’s care) a sting was also tied to her wrist. And every time she had to leave these people, the string connecting her to each one was cut.  At the end of the story, Sally had upwards of 250 (the number 277 sticks in my head) strings around her wrists.  Those were the number of attachments that she had created with the 30 or so people who came and went in and out of her life, and which had been broken.  The question at the end of it was: if you had this many broken attachments, would you trust anyone who comes into your life? Would you trust that people adopting you were going to be there for you no matter what and stay in your life? Would you take the emotional risk of attaching to them?

On the other hand, bonding can be challenging in itself.  Some bio-parents feel it difficult to bond at first, but it tends to resolve itself quicker than for adoptive parents.  I remember my “Ah-ha!” bonding moment, and it was about 6 months after we came home from China.  J had attached and adjusted very well,  so we decided to finally let her cry herself to sleep (this was contrary to main stream opinions which advise not to let an adoptive child cry themselves to sleep).  This is always a tough decision, but we felt she was ready.  As I left her bedroom that night, she cried hysterically.  I left the room calmly, but broke down like a blubbering elephant outside her door (as most parents do).  Then I had my ah-ha moment.  The reason I was so upset was not because her crying drove me nuts (as it had for the previous several months).  It was because she needed me and I couldn’t be there for her.  My heart bled, and it took everything I had not to go back in there.  All worked out well, and it was the best thing we ever did, but I still remember that day, for so much more than just the fact that we have no sleep issues even today.

Attachment and bonding can be so scary.  I'm glad things went (extremely) well with J, but nothing says that if we adopt again, we would be as lucky.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

15 signs you should start eating more "grown up" cereal

I did up this list a few years ago on Facebook, but every so often, I like to take it out, dust it off, and post it somewhere. Enjoy!

15 signs it's time to start eating more "grown up" cereal...

1. You start spelling Fruit with two o's.

2. Corn Pops are the least sugary cereal in your cupboard.

3. You're always disappointed when the milk makes your Frosted Flakes mushy, but you've discovered you can avoid that by eating them really, really fast.

4. You've convinced yourself that a bowl of Froot Loops or Fruity Pebbles counts as one Fruit according to the Canadian Food Guide.

5. You don't like Honey Nut Cheerios because they don't have enough sugar.

6. You get really excited at the Club Pack of mini cereal boxes (6 each of Rice Krispies, Corn Pops, Fruit Loops and Frosted Flakes) at Costco because there aren't any of the crappy kinds (surely, you can use the Rice Krispies in a recipe of some sort).

7. You're disappointed about buying the Club Pack of mini cereal boxes because they've changed the inside packaging and you can't use them as their own bowls anymore.

8. The leftover milk from the Froot Loops bowl is a delicacy (and you've even found an alcoholic beverage that replicates it). hahaha

9.You consider milkless Corn Pops to be a perfectly good evening snack.

10. You find there are never enough marshmellows in Lucky Charms.

11. You can still spend countless moments trying to spell your name with Alphabits, but are always disappointed at their lack of sweetness. And you now insist on spelling your first AND last names.

12. You consider Raisin Bran to be a "sugarless" option.

13. You think the "Life" cereal commercials are a sham and no kid in their right mind would ever choose those or Shreddies if given a proper range of options.

14. You're disappointed if you get to the bottom of the cereal box and there's no toy.

15. You are not fooled by the talking Mini-Wheat. You know it still tastes like cardboard.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013


I'm 38 years old.

By the time my mom was my age, she used a scooter regularly, and had very limited mobility.  She dreaded having to take medication for her arthritis because she knew there were risky side effects.  Eventually, she broke down and started on meds.  Within 5 years, she was gone.  Pulmonary Fibrosis, induced by the medication she took for her arthritis.

Mom's arthritis started when she was 29. So did mine.

I have always been very thankful that mine hadn't developed into anything more than the occasional 1 day flare up every few months.  That is, until about 3 months ago.

I woke up one morning and my tailbone hurt so much I could barely walk.  It hurt for three days, and then subsided.  About a week later, my knees started really hurting.  And it never stopped.

I have new pains every few days, but he old ones don't subside.  First it was the knees, then the ring finger on my left hand.  Then the wrists.  Then the toes.  Then the ring finger on the right hand.  Then the right shoulder.  Then the left thumb.

My daughter is afraid to touch me.  And when I hold her hand, and she squeezes it even ever so slightly, it hurts.  She tries to climb on me, and hurts my knees,  she tries to put something funny on my feet and they hurt.  She lies in my bed, and I can't snuggle because my shoulder hurts too much.

I drink a lot of water, but I can only drink it cold (I know, I know, room temperature water is better for you-but I won't get the benefit if it's not cold because I won't drink any at all!).  A few days ago, I hurt my hands twisting an ice cube tray.  Today, the button to my pants made my hands feel like they're on fire, and I couldn't do up my daughter's lunchbox zipper either.

The only way to make it all feel better is to move.  Walking helps my knees, playing with a stress ball helps my hands.  But if I do too much, I feel it twice as much the next day, and can't make it feel better (same thing happens if I didn't do enough the day before).  So I am learning where the balance lies.

This is all happening so fast.  I never imagined I would go from "zip, zip, zoom" one day (I've always been very active) to "Holy moly, how slow can I go?" in such a short time.

But I'm trying to keep an upbeat attitude.  I am strong, I am a good mother, and I am a wonderful wife.  My mom may not have had the ability to carry very much in her arms, but her shoulders were the widest I've ever seen.  Maybe God knew that I needed my physical strength for my daughter's first few years, so He delayed this as long as He could.  A good mom doesn't necessarily need to play tennis and volleyball with her children.  That's not what they'll remember.  They'll remember that their mom was there for them when they needed her.  They'll remember that she gave good advice, established appropriate boundaries, and allowed them (and motivated them) to be the best they could be.  Mine sure did. :-)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Japan and China in a nutshell...

Ok, So we get to Japan and China last November, and all my hopes of documenting our trip went out the window.

Let me just say this:  It was incredible. Seven months later and we are still talking about it regularly.  I was surprised at how much J was able to appreciate despite her tender age of 5.  Many times during our planning stages, I wondered if I was doing the right thing in taking this trip now.  I have no regrets whatsoever.  Mind you, J is very mature for her age and dealt with all challenges way better than I would have at her age.

J did experience jetlag in the form of a tantrum each day around supper time (both in China and back home). However, as long as I was able to get her to have a nap in the afternoon, she was ok. We did this by bringing the Kangaroo wrap everywhere we went (yes... my 5 year old still fit in a Kangaroo wrap, much to the excitement of the Chinese ladies who would stop and watch from the moment I took it out of the bag right up to the moment when my daughter was properly snuggled in).  This meant that J missed about 1 1/2 to 3 hours of every day's sightseeing.  Thankfully, I took pictures of EVERYTHING!  (Albeit, with my phone's camera, because J dropped my good camera on a marble bench on day 1 in Guangzhou, and it was beyond repair.)

We first traveled to J's birthplace (Guigang, in the Guangxi Independent Region, China) by train, and spent 2 wonderful days there.  Although we were not able to meet with the orphanage staff nor meet the foster family,(much to J's chagrin) we did end up seeing the outside and meeting one employee to whom we gave gifts for the staff and for the foster family.  We have no idea whether or not it ever got to them.

Interestingly, this trip has given J a whole new interest in learning Mandarin.  She has been attending Chinese School on Saturday mornings for 3 years, but now, she recognizes the importance of it, and she has decided she wishes to become fluent so that she may speak to her foster mummy when she meets her someday, and her tummy-mummy if we ever find out who she is (She understands that this is very unlikely, but also that it has happened for some adoptees in the past).

After we left Guigang, we returned to Guangzhou by train.  My BFF was teaching at Clifford School so she took us to school one day, for her students to meet us.  J seemed to really enjoy this and still refers to this as one of the highlights of the trip.  We spent most of our time in Guangzhou just mixing in with the locals.  We set off every morning by bus and subway, and roamed the city.  We ate street food, we haggled on every purchase, and bought and cooked foods that were foreign to us.  Apart from the fact that we stayed in a very nice condo-style apartment in a gated community, we felt we truly experienced what it would be like to live there.  Some aspects that we found disgusting on our last trip (i.e. kids using the sidewalks as bathrooms) actually made sense to us this time around (it was less gross that the squatter toilets you could smell from a mile away).  I never used a squatter toilet the first time we traveled. This time, I used plenty of them, with my first one being on the train (thankfully-it had a grab bar to hold on to).

We ate amazing food including things we had never tasted (lotus root soup and boiled frog) and J enjoyed her BBQ'd sardines on a stick :-)

We have managed to find a few favourites since we've been back (including an orange drink that I really liked and some Milk Tea like we had in Japan), but we continue to seek some other things (like the delicious egg tarts made in a puffed pastry shell, and steamed pork dumplings with sweet corn).

So all in all, the trip was an amazing success.  I reiterate that Japan Airlines is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!  Their staff was the most wonderful staff I have ever met.  Prior to the flight, they all gathered around the attendant's desk, welcoming passengers on board with a collective bow prior to them boarding the aircraft and starting our boarding.  I was over my carry-on allowance, but instead of telling me I had to check some of it, THEY HELPED ME CARRY AND STORE IT!  They were so attentive.  During the entire flights (even the 12 hour one), we were never more than 5 minutes without seeing an attendant as there was always one pacing in the aisles.  They refilled my water bottle with ice water too many times for me to count.   And on our flight back, when I was looking for something new for J to play with in the middle of the night with my bag near the emergency exit, one of the approached me (I thought she would tell me to move away from there, and in a way she did, but so delightfully) and she asked if I would like to come to the kitchen area where there was more light.  She closed the curtain so as not to disturb anyone with the light and then entertained J until I found what I was looking for.   Finally, they gave J a gift on every flight (a metal plane that she could assemble herself, sticker games, etc).  Oh wait-there's more!  The Food!  OMG, the food was incredible.  Smartly, I had ordered children's meals for J, so that we had more variety to choose from if there was something we didn't like.  Instead we liked EVERYTHING!  Especially the delicious Haagen-Dazs ice cream they provided on every flight!!!

So the trip was an incredible success.  I am ridiculously thankful to the benefactor who paid for this trip for us, without whom it never would have been able to happen.  We would go back in an instant, but can't afford it just yet.  Our next one is already in the planning stages, though, and should, hopefully, occur sometime between November 2015 and March 2016 (don't get excited, we're not adopting again).  Oh, happy day!