Thursday, October 18, 2007

45 days

Can we really have been home from 45 days already? Where has the time gone? Sometimes it feels like our time in Ethiopia was just a strange dream. I'm sure I would think that were true if not for the beautiful boy still keeping me up nights. Just last night as we sat together in the rocking chair, me diligently working to convince him to sleep and him trying just as hard to thwart my efforts, I just couldn't believe he was really here. I had dreamt about him being home so many times and now there he was, this stranger, this love, in my lap in the dark of our very own living room.

It may seem silly that it is only really starting to sink in now that he is here but life has just been passing by so quickly since we got back. There has been so much to do, kids cycling through various illnesses, work to be caught up on, doctor visits to make, bills to be paid. It's only in moments like this that the reality starts to sink in... He's here. He's ours. Now what?

I'm finding this settling in process more challenging than I thought I would. I didn't expect to bond to him right away. I'm not that kind of person. It took weeks for me to feel that connection with my girls. Love at first sight is a hard concept for a staunch Capricorn. I fell in love with my girls little by little, day by day, until I couldn't imagine living without them. Because I felt that way with the girls, I wasn't worried when I didn't feel a motherly bond right away with Smiley. I knew it would take time and it has.

What I did expect was that we wouldn't have much trouble with attachment and bonding. Naive maybe, but as an attachment parenting advocate, good strong attachment is the core of all my parenting practices and philosophies. This is where I expected to shine. Co-sleeping? Check. Baby wearing? Check. Breastfeeding? Check. Gentle discipline? Check. What I didn't take into consideration is how Smiley would feel about it.

Smiley doesn't like to be held a lot. He fights being in the sling ferociously and prefers to play on the floor, for hours at a time, quite content with very little interaction.

He doesn't like to be cuddled. He'll give quick little hugs but that's it. No snuggles around here.

He doesn't want anything to do with breastfeeding. Though I know he must have been breastfeed for a while by his mom, he is uninterested in resuming that kind of relationship and screams when I try to introduce him to the breast.

He will not sleep if he is being held, nor will he sleep in bed with me. No matter how tired he is, no matter what the circumstances, he will not sleep while being held. If we try and hold him till he falls asleep he will start flailing around and pinching and slapping, pushing away against us.

Last night as we rocked in that chair we were locked in a battle of wills. He needed to sleep but was refusing to go down. He was over tired but didn’t want me to hold him and I wasn’t going to let him cry in bed alone. So we rocked and he screamed and I sang and we both cried. I wanted him to fall asleep in my arms; I wanted so badly to snuggle his sleepy, relaxed body close and feel his body get heavy with sleep. He flailed and whacked at me and tried to push me away. Finally after almost an hour he grew quite but still refused to go to sleep until I finally gave in and put him in his crib awake. He was asleep within minutes.

I paid the price of that battle today. He spent the day refusing to make any eye contact with me. He was extremely fussy but didn’t want to be held, wiggling to be set down every time I picked him up. Even during feedings, when we normally have really good eye contact, he wanted nothing to do with me.

Tonight I’m so discouraged. I don’t know what the right path is anymore. I didn’t know how painful this rejection would feel or how much it affects my feelings and actions toward him. I want to be his mom. I want him to trust me. The books say to foster attachment by doing this or that, but what if the baby hates those things? What if he fights you tooth and nail? What are attachment issues and what is just his personality? Where is the line between fostering an attachment and pushing too hard too fast?

I’m a loss. How can I convince an 8 month old baby who has lost everything familiar in his life, twice, that this time it’s for keeps? It’s been 45 days and today I feel like crying.

As I was writing this post he woke up for is late evening bottle. I took him from the crib to our bed and I put him down next to me, me on my side with my arm raised up, him on his back with his head against my chest, as I gave him his bottle. When he was finished he turned toward me rather than away like usual and rested his face against my breast and slept…


Sig said...

Carrie, just hang in there. I was lucky with attachment, but I have heard that it can take a while,a nd sometimes it might feel like 1 step forward 2 steps back, but from what I understand, 1 day it will just CLICK. I wish I was there to help you, you must be tired and frustrated. (But I'm sorry, every time I see his pic I have this overwhelming urge to squeeze and tickle him him LOL)

shelly said...

I love the way your post ended...this time he turned towards you....yeah..hopefully this is the start of some beautiful bonding....I sent up a prayer for you regarding the bonding and you will be in my thoughts!

Sandi said...

I will pray for you.

I wanted to also relay a story to you of my second biological child. She behaved in a similar manner to Smiley. She slept best when laid on her own. She didn't want to co-sleep. She tolerated slinging her but only during the I still want to be wrapped tight phase.

Anyway . . . what I meant to say with all that rambling is that I am sure he is attaching himself to you. It is just in his own way. Each child attaches differently. Trust in the bond that you two are forming.

May the Lord bring you confidence in these little bits as He did tonight.

Tricia said...

This must be tough for you. I worry the same things about adopting older children. Hang in there!

vanessa said...

I am a new reader, so I apologize if this is not a new idea...Have you tried or considered infant massage? It's a good way to increase "touch time" and bonding-there is a lot of research showing benefits. There are a lot of instructors/classes out there and it's usually not very expensive.
Best wishes!

Waiting for Zufan! said...

Wow, thank you for your honesty in this post. People so often are afraid to share the hard times, and those of us who don't have our kids home yet really benefit from hearing this side of the story, too. Even we AP advocates have challenges waiting for us, huh? I'll be checking in on you guys!