Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I've been kicking this post around in my head for a while now, time to get it out there!

Shortly after we got home from Ukraine, someone asked me what has been the most surprisingly difficult part of the whole process. I immediately answered: bonding with Lily.

You see, silly me, I didn't anticipate that I would have trouble feeling bonded with her! I knew it would take time for her to bond with us, but for some reason I didn't realize that it's a two-way street: if she doesn't have a bond with us, then it's very difficult to feel bonded to her (some may disagree with me here, I'm just stating my own personal experience). That really threw me for a loop.

I will never forget the evening of our Gotcha Day. Lily and I were on the bed in our apartment (Rob was at the grocery store trying desperately to find something that she would eat); she was crawling around, crying and screaming...I was crying and having my first real, "What have we done?" moment. This little stranger had suddenly invaded my life and she wasn't going away! We were stuck with her!

For the first few days I really wanted nothing to do with her (doesn't that sound terrible?! Honesty post, here!). Rob did everything: he made her food, fed her, changed her, held her, etc. I just did my best not to cry as we flew through the rest of our adoption process and made it home in record time.

I had done plenty of reading about attachment and I knew what the experts said to do: hold her constantly, have only one person feed her and change her, rock her to sleep, don't let anyone else hold her aside from Rob and myself, no visitors for a month, cosleeping or having the crib in our room, etc. I had great plans of doing this perfectly and having a secure attachment after a few weeks...HA! We didn't do any of that. We just couldn't. I couldn't. Lily couldn't. It was too much for all of us.

So we let other people hold her. We had visitors the day we got home and most days since. We started off feeding her in a chair with her holding the bottle. We let her rock herself to sleep. She's slept in her own room since Night 2.

I am happy to report that things are getting easier. Lily is showing more signs of attachment to us, and I am feeling more bonded with her. She wants to be held more. She prefers to be held by us, although she will let anyone hold her for a short time. I feed her in my arms now, holding the bottle for her and making lots of eye contact.

Lily still puts herself to sleep and sleeps in her own room. I think all three of us need that right now. I feel confident that there will be a time when she can't fall asleep without one of us in the room with her, and that will be a good sign. I feel like I will be ready for that when she is; none of us are ready for it now.

I hope that this post will encourage any other adoptive (or biological!) mommies who are struggling with bonding. It does NOT always come naturally, and that is ok! It will come. I no longer think of attachment as something you either have or don't have; rather, it is a continuum that you slowly move along from one side to the other. I am happy to say that Lily and I are on the move :)


Mel said...

Hang in there Jess!! THANK YOU for your honesty! Hugs & Prayers for you all!!

Jill said...

Great post, Jess. Thanks for your honesty and for sharing. I, too, was surprised about the bonding being a 2-way thing. You never read much about the parent side of attachment. I've had more than one "what have I done" moment, but they are pretty much gone now. As you said, it is a continuum. It does get better and easier, I promise! :-)

Oh, and since I'm here and see Lilly's photo, I wanted to tell you that my daughter and her best friend are selling items to help raise money for Lilly's grant. Their blog is If you could post their button or a quick post about them as Lilly's warrior, I know they would really appreciate it! Thanks!

Kate said...

I adore your honesty.

Erik and Ashley said...

Hi Jess,

love your honest post!!

about the falling asleep on her own...the above-mentioned attachment issues aside, being able to fall asleep withOUT one of you in the room is what many parents would gladly give their right arm for, haha. so be careful what you wish for. ;) i don't see a problem with her being able to fall asleep alone, as long as while she's awake she is (working on) bonding with you.

i think what you're doing sounds great. feeding her in your arms, lots of cuddling (whenever she's willing), reading together, hanging out - the bonding will definitely happen that way if you keep it up, which of course you will!!!! just spending all that daily time together is how bonding happens naturally.

my mom ran a home day care for years, and she had to come up with the name "momma trishie" for the kids to call her, because some of them spent so much time with her that they started calling her "momma" or "mommy" - oops!! parental fail?! just the result of spending so much time with her, and she was a loving caregiver (even though some of the kids were so awful they gave her a case of shingles from the stress at like age 40, lol) so the kids bonded with her.

in a nutshell, you will get there!!!!! hang in there. i think every parent (IF they are honest, but many are not, even to themselves) have plenty of days where we want to give up, give the baby back to the hospital or wherever, haha. but our culture trains us (esp as moms) to be HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY with our lot 24/7 (because we wanted it! because children are a blessing! because they are lovable! because we love them anyway!), and life is just not like that all the time. we are human and we are faulty.

have you seen "jack jack attack" - the short related to "the incredibles" ? if not, you have to watch it. there is a great moment where the babysitter opens the door to the evil nemesis, whom she assumes is her replacement babysitter, arrived after a horrendous night with jack jack. she looks all crazy and disheveled, and she tells him, "you're my replacement! thank heavens you've come!" in this insane-sounding voice. there have been plenty of days where erik came home and i opened the door, handed julian to him, and repeated the babysitter's words in her crazed voice. :D

admittedly, this was mostly earlier on. there have been days where i have wanted to throw in the towel recently, but not as desperately as before. so hang in there, you DO eventually get the hang of this parenting thing!!!!!

keep up the great work!!!! being a parent often feels thankless, but every time your daughter falls asleep feeling safe and loved in her new home, every time she looks up at you feeling secure in your arms, every time she smiles and laughs with you, that is her thanking you and telling you wordlessly that she is bonding with you, loving you, and growing to feel ever more secure in her new family!!!!!!

Ellie said...

What strikes me about this post is that you refer to her putting herself to sleep like it is not really ideal, like "someday" you all will be ready for her not to do that, for her to need you in the room for her to fall asleep. For biological kids, this is what parents work TOWARDS..the child putting themselves to sleep and the parents not having to be in the room, standing over the crib rubbing backs or whatever. So let up on yourself a little bit!

Ellie said...

And I didn't read the comment above my first one until after I posted it, so I didn't know that she said basically the same thing about the sleeping:)

Alexis said...

Jess, you are amazing!

Molly said...

Wow, you are incredible! I felt that way too. I was fortunate to have another adoptive mom who kind of walked me through it. But, I really had a hard time bonding and people would say "oh, I just love them so much!" And, I'd be like "really?!? I am still working on that!"