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Intentional Bonding after Adoption or Childbirth

by McKenna on July 20, 2009
category: 0 – 1 year (baby),Adoption

857111_beach_fun_3 This post is for moms of biological and moms of adopted children.  After birthing two children and adopting one child, I have noticed that bonding with your new child, no matter how they joined your family, does not always go smooth.  Amanda wrote a post sharing her own difficulty in bonding with her newborn. 

There are two main attitudes that women should approach motherhood with:

No expectations

  • After dreaming about your child as he or she develops in your womb or after staring at a single picture of your child who is halfway around the world for 9-18 months, the expectations that you have of who this child is and how they are going to behave are really not based on anything more than fantasy. 

Understanding that bonding may not happen naturally or immediately

  • Hollywood has placed an unreasonable expectation on mothers that they are supposed to immediately fall in love with their new child.  Friends, family, and loved ones also add to the theory that “good mothers fall head over heels in love instantly” with their new child.  This is not realistic and does not happen for a lot of mothers.  By going into the orphanage or the delivery room with the understanding that bonding probably won’t happen instantly, I think mothers have set the stage for true bonding to begin.  The disappointment and surprise when the bonding does not happen immediately can prolong and interfere with the progression of true bonding.

Mothers who keep the above two ideas in mind when meeting their child for the first time have a great foundation set to form a deep and intimate bond with their new child.  For moms who do not feel connected to their child, they do not need to sit and wait for that feeling of closeness and deep love for their child to arrive.  Those feelings may not come without intentionally seeking out a close bond with their new baby.  Even mothers who feel that they did instantly bond with their new child need to be proactive in deepening and strengthening the bond they have already begun to form with their new child because stress and sleep deprivation can do wonders on that bond!

There are many practical ways to foster and encourage a close bond with your child with an attitude of intentionality.  I did not do all of these with my children.  I suggest picking and choosing some of these ideas that will work for you, however do not choose your activities based on what feels natural for you because if you are not feeling attached to your child it is likely that none of these activities will feel natural for you.

  • Kangaroo care (this helps newborns and children who are new to their forever family feel close to their moms and can also help moms to feel close to their new child).
  • Breastfeed (even mothers who are adopting small children can choose this option!)
  • Counseling: Sometimes feeling like you’re not able to bond with your child stems from Post-Adoption-Depression-Syndrome or Post-Partum-Depression-Syndrome.  Both are VERY COMMON and you should seek help and support from professionals who have experience and training in PADS or PPDS.
  • Slow down the other areas of your life and focus on your relationship with your child. It’s more important for you to spend time with your new child than with your dishes and vacuum cleaner during these first few months with your new little one.
  • Get some time away. Go to the bookstore or out to coffee with a friend.  Sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder.
  • Baby wearing.  This especially helped me in bonding with my daughter who we adopted.
  • Have your child sleep in your bedroom or stay with your child until he or she is asleep. 
  • Talk about your feelings of detachment from your child with your spouse or close friend who will understand and encourage you.
  • Be diligent and wait for the fruit of your labor.  Love is a verb which becomes a feeling after it is practiced. 

These activities not only promote mom’s bond and attachment to their new child, but also promote a healthy bond and attachment from new baby or child to mom.  Sometimes the feeling of being bonded to your new child comes after your new child is exhibiting evidence of being very bonded to you. 

Have you had trouble bonding with your new child?  What are some things that helped you in fostering a closeness with your new child?

Adjusting after Adoption

by McKenna on May 4, 2009
category: 1 – 3 year (toddler),Adoption,Down syndrome

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I’m back!  My husband and I recently adopted a little girl from Ukraine and I took some time off of The Mom Crowd to focus on our new little one. I have not experienced anything in my life more rewarding than inviting this precious angel, who was abandoned, to be a part of our family.  The fact that she will not die in an orphanage without knowing what love is makes me wish for others to consider adoption!

Adding a 15 month old to your family is a little different than adding a newborn to your family!  Reese joined our family with an already somewhat formed personality.  The only language she understood was Russian and she has lived her entire life in an orphanage sharing 2-3 caregivers with 15 other children 24/7. So, the adjustment after an adoption has some unique challenges that adjustments immediately after childbirth do not have.

Our adjustment and Reese’s adjustment since coming home from Ukraine has gone remarkably well.  My older two children did better than I could have imagined, with very minimal jealousy from my two year old son as he relinquished his role of being the baby of the family.  Most of the adjustment issues I was prepared for with Reese became non-issues and I have spent the last month in awe at how {dare I say} easy this transition has gone.

I think the research I did on bonding and attachment issues in orphans really helped prepare us all for this transition.  It is not realistic to expect an orphan to feel an instant love for their new family and many times new parents do not feel an instant bond with the child they adopted.  I did not have the expectation that from day one, she would feel bonded to us and even us to her.  My love for her started before she came, but my bond with her may be something that I would acquire over time and not necessarily instantly feel.

Reese’s personality is pretty laid back, so she ended up being content with our routine and family dynamics quickly.  A lot of orphans are not comfortable with too much touch because they are not used to it.   I was prepared to teach Reese to enjoy being held, but there was no teaching necessary…she ate it up from the start!  The one place she is aversive to touch is her face, so we are sensitive when we have to wipe her nose.  While it was good that she loved being held from the beginning, she did not like being put down.  Reese had a hard time with making eye contact with us the first week she was home.  However, that changed pretty quickly. We also had to work very hard for her smiles and giggles in the beginning.

Even though she had very little difficulty in adjusting to our family, I am still amazed at the changes in her over the last month!  After about four weeks, it became quite obvious that she knew we belonged to her and that she was a part of our family.  Around the same four week mark, she began laughing and smiling much more, did not require being held all the time, and is even doing better when I wipe her nose.  It is hard to put into words, but she obviously feels very established in our little family now and it brings me so much joy!  We are all used to our “new normal” around here.  The only thing I am still getting used to is the logistics of transitioning from place to place with three kids rather than two. Getting in and out of the car with three kids is probably not my favorite thing to do…

The question my husband and I had before we met this little girl was whether we could truly love her as much as our biological children.  The answer is aboslutely “YES!” and it happened quicker than we thought!

Making International Adoption More Affordable

by McKenna on February 2, 2009
category: Adoption,Finances

1035531_holding_earth_1.jpg Last week, I highlighted the cost of international adoptions {specific to our adoption}.  The cost of adoption is one of the biggest deterrents for folks in taking this avenue  to expanding their family.  It was certainly one of our biggest discussions before we decided to dive in to our adoption.  This week, I would love to share with you some ways to make international adoption more affordable!

Employer Reimbursement

  • Check with your employer and see if they offer any reimbursements of adoption costs.  Some employers reimburse up to $6,000 or more per child adopted of international adoption expenses! If your employer doesn’t offer a reimbursement, why not ask if the company will consider adding this benefit for their employees.  Here’s a GREAT article on how you can approach your employer about reimbursing adoption expenses.

Federal Income Tax Credit

  • The United States offers almost $12,000 right now of tax credit to families who adopt internationally.  This is a big deal and most people don’t even know about it!  I don’t want to go on confusing everyone, so instead of trying to talk “taxes,” I’ll direct you to the IRS’s explanation!  ;) I need to ask my accountant friend if she can write a book explaining this stuff in layman’s terms!!  It seriously makes my head hurt…but it makes me happy that we have another avenue to help with the adoption expenses!

Grants

  • Adoption grants are highly competitive and sadly, there just isn’t very much money floating around, but grants are definitely worth applying for!  We surprisingly received a $500 adoption grant from a generous family who started a small memorial fund which gives adoption grants in honor of their son they lost to cancer.  By researching and googling and asking around, you never know what you mind find!

Fundraisers

  • A little effort to have some fund raising events can go a long way!  We had a very successful garage sale and our friends and family donated an amazing amount of stuff for us to sell.  If you count the piano that was later sold on Craigslist, we raised over $2,000 in one weekend by selling other people’s stuff!  It was an easy way for our loved ones to support us and we had a lot of fun!  Other fund raising ideas are: online raffles, poker night with the pot going to the adoption, home parties {like Beauty Control, Pampered Chef, etc…}, spaghetti dinners at your church, etc…

Get the word out!

  • Making the decision to adopt is a big deal and not everyone understands the enormous costs of adoption.  Nobody wants to come across needy, but unless you are up front about the costs of your adoption, your friends and family may not know that you need their help!  Not everyone is drawn to adopting a child, however most people have a heart for orphans and want to help them in any way they can.  Allow your loved ones to help an orphan by sponsoring your adoption.

Overtime

  • Maybe you can work overtime one-two hours each week to help with your costs?

Negotiate and Shop around!

  • It never hurts to ask!  Don’t be afraid to negotiate home study costs with your social worker or lodging expenses and taxi rides when you’re traveling in country.  Just about every expense along the adoption path is variable and flexible, so try to get the best deal!  Be sure to shop around.  When we began our home study, I contacted several social workers.  The costs ranged from $800 to $2,500!  We are also planning on only sending one of us on our second trip to save $1,000 in airfare costs.

While I’ll be the first to admit that international adoption is very expensive, it is not impossible!  You may also be surprised at the unsolicited gestures of support you receive from friends and family and even strangers who hear about your adoption!  I have been amazed at how generous people are and even more amazed at the random acts of kindness that have been demonstrated toward our family from people we do not even know as we’ve begun our adoption quest!

Do you have any ideas on how to make adoption more affordable? 

International Adoption Costs and the Nitty Gritty Breakdown

by McKenna on January 27, 2009
category: Adoption

1003609_dollar_2.jpg You don’t need to have considered adoption to know that international adoptions are incredibly expensive.  What most people don’t know is how those tens of thousands of dollars are distributed.  Something I have learned on our adoption journey is that the cost of adoption is not typically due to money hungry villains who are taking advantage of men and women who desperately long to be called “Mommy” and “Daddy.”  Since all of you have learned I am not private about anything, I thought I would outline the costs of our adoption for the curious.  Long before adoption was ever on my mind as a real possibility, I was curious about why adoptions are so expensive.

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Reece’s Rainbow Christmas Angel Tree Project

angel-tree-logo-blue.jpg As many of you know, our family is adopting a child through Reece’s Rainbow and a while ago, The Mom Crowd hosted a raffle to help bring another child from Reece’s Rainbow home.  You can catch up with this beautiful family and their new daughter, Addison {AKA: Nika} at their family blog.  Is that enough “hyperlinking” for ya?

I wanted to take a moment to share with you about Reece’s Rainbow and their mission.  Reece’s Rainbow is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to raise awareness regarding the plight of children with Down syndrome in foreign orphanages and their availability to be adopted, to raise adoption grants for waiting children, to seek out adoptive families for these children, to help adopting families during their adoption process with fund raising opportunities and paperwork assistance {and emotional support-I threw that one in!}, to provide humanitarian aid to foreign orphanages, to facilitate support groups for birth parents of children with Down syndrome to help decrease the number of children placed in orphanages, and to enact social change abroad about children with Down syndrome and other special needs through the testimony of adoption.

In 2006, Reece’s Rainbow expanded from an outreach program for families with children with Down syndrome in Atlanta to an organization promoting international adoption of children with Down syndrome.   In the short two years since beginning this new focus, over 120 children with Down syndrome and other special needs have found forever families with the help of Reece’s Rainbow. As of June 2008, they have dispersed over $86,000 to adopting families and have waiting children with substantial grants ready for their prospective parents.  Many orphans around the world are not receiving adequate nutrition and health care.  In Eastern European and other countries, orphans with Down syndrome are commonly transferred to mental institutions if they are not adopted by the age of four. After they are transferred, most die within the first year from lack of basic care.

There is a special way you can help Reece’s Rainbow fulfill their mission.  Every year, Reece’s Rainbow hosts a Christmas Angel Tree Project.  Right now, you can see every child with Down syndrome waiting for a family through Reece’s Rainbow and sponsor one or more of them for Christmas.  With every $35 donation, you will receive a special ornament with a picture of the child you are sponsoring for Christmas.  Will you consider sponsoring an orphan with Down syndrome this Christmas?  In order to receive an ornament, donations must be received by December 15th.  Please visit their site today and help bring an orphan home for Christmas!

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