Monday, December 20, 2010

Let's Talk Attachment...

We have all been waiting a long time to see and hold our baby girl. We’ve had about a year to prepare for the changes we will experience, to learn as much as we can, to contemplate what adoption will mean to us as a family, and to anticipate the changes we will experience as our family grows from a family of four to a family of five. We have started to come to know and love Zoe Grace through the photos and updates we have received from our agency. It is hard for us to believe we are still strangers to her!

While we are preparing a place for her in our home and hearts, Zoe has not even thought of leaving where she is. She is happy and content in the loving arms of her nannies and caregivers. In just a few short days, Zoe will be experiencing the loss of everything she has ever known. We anticipate that this will be a very difficult time for our little girl. We ask that you keep Zoe in your prayers.

As Zoe's arrival is approaching, we wanted to talk to everyone a bit about bonding and attachment. We are thrilled that everyone is so excited to welcome our new daughter. That said, we want to make our expectations clear from the start, so that there won’t be any confusion, misunderstandings, or hurt feelings after her arrival. We have talked a lot with our social worker and agency about this transition and have done a lot of reading about ways to make healthy attachments with adopted children.

As hard as it is to say, please enjoy her from our arms for a while. Zoe needs to recognize us as mom and dad before she is ready to be passed around. This is a small window of time we have to develop an appropriate bond. She will be a much happier baby if we give her time to grieve her losses and then form a forever bond. There is no set length of time for this, but we will be able to tell by her reactions whether or not she is ready to be held by others.

We still invite you to say "hi" to her, talk to her and play with her (keeping in mind her reaction of course); but, for a while, we need to be the only ones to feed, diaper, bathe, cuddle Zoe. She will be grieving the loss of her environment, nannies, caregivers, language, and familiar foods, etc. This usually lasts for at least a few weeks, but grieving episodes could occur for months after her arrival. Grieving episodes are intensified by over stimulation, so we need to keep her world quiet and small for her first weeks with us as she begins to bond with her forever mommy, daddy and big brothers.

We have been so blessed by this gift. We want to make sure we are doing everything we can for Zoe to feel secure. It is important to remember, in her short 14 months of life, she's lost her birth-mother, the nurses and staff at the NICU (where she spent several weeks after her premature birth), her first foster family in Dejong (where she spent 3 months) and now will be losing her nannies and caregivers at the Reception Center (where she has spent almost 11 months). We know many of you have bonded with her just as we have! So many of you have prayed daily for her and we do not underestimate the bond or love you feel for her. We hope you understand our need for this special time with our baby girl.

If you have any questions, please call or email.

Thank you in advance for understanding!

Michael and Paula Sloan

Here are a couple links that might help you understand attachment a little better:


  1. Paula,
    This is so eloquently written. I will continue to pray for Zoe. She is going to be deeply loved and cared for and my hope is that everyone in your family and circle of friends will support these wishes. Adoption attachment is very different and some people do not understand the steps necessary to complete it in a healthy manner. But, that is not to say that they cannot learn.
    Much love and prayers for you~

  2. Very well said Paula! I love this post! I was trying to figure out a way to tell my family the same thing. They, like so many outside our wrelm, will not understand how important it is we keep their world so intact and small for the first few! I will post something very similar when our call comes in! You're an awesome mama! Prayers for Zoe ;)

  3. Very well said Paula, it is great to set your expectations first, before she come home. You have been planning a long time for her, she won't know what hit her. I think of that often, they can only be so prepared, it will be our job to make it right and build trust with them. Bravo! Momma

  4. Thanks for posting! I've known since we started this journey that the possibility of bringing home a toddler and all that it entails existed. But has really begun to hit home as we are seeing pictures of our sweet girl walking between the hands of her foster mom and a Holt worker. She'll be a year next month and it will probably be several more months before we are on our way to get her. It is breaking my heart what we are going to put her through- so hard to be over the moon excited on this side of the ocean and completely oblivious on the other side! I'll probably be putting a link to this post on my blog in a few days. :)