Sunday, November 17, 2013

Establishing a new normal

Well... My maternity leave is over. I went back to work last Tuesday. It's time for us to begin establishing a "new normal."
Since chip arrived in September, we have been tucked away in our home, recovering and bonding with him. Isn't it funny how all people with newborns do this? We tuck away. And for some reason, the world totally understands it. In fact, I get this question a lot... "Are y'all getting out any yet?"
In the adoption world, this sort of "lifestyle" for the first few months is known as "cocooning."
While I was home on maternity leave, I couldn't help but compare the things I was doing with what we will try to accomplish once Malachi is home. I want to point out a few things so that once Malachi comes home and we are "cocooning" (even though he isn't a newborn) you will understand what we are trying to accomplish.

Before Chip was born, all he knew was the womb. He didn't understand his new "world."
Malachi, too, will have a "new world" when he comes home. All he will have known before that is the "orphanage world."
So we will cocoon to help comfort him with all the changes in his physical environment. Slowly introducing him to things outside of our home.

In the womb, Chip probably knew my voice, and that I provided his physical needs such as comfort and food. But he didn't fully know me. He didn't know my face, my smell, etc. If he was passed around to 10 different people on day one, and nobody spoke, he probably wouldn't know whether it was his mom holding him or not.
So I am teaching him that I'm "mama." And honestly, I can tell that there has been improvement in this bond. I comfort him when he cries, I provide food when he's hungry, I change his diaper, and I talk to him and show affection. He is getting to know me and understand that I am his mother. Other people like grandparents change and feed him at times, but Lee and I provide the majority of his care.

The same will be with Malachi. He will not instantaneously understand that we are his parents. This bond will take time. This bond will begin to form just as it has with Chip. It will begin to form as we become his caregivers. We will comfort him when he cries, provide food when he's hungry, change his diaper and show affection. The difference in "cocooning" with Chip and Malachi from this standpoint, is that Lee and I will be the ONLY ones to do the above things for Malachi until he has bonded well and understands that we are his parents. Unlike with Chip, friends and family won't be able to provide Malachi's basic needs at first because Lee and I will be trying hard to get Malachi to attach to us. We arent saying you cant be around him. We are just saying that if a need arises, like if he starts crying, rather than you attempting to comfort him... We ask that you simply pass him over to us to provide comfort. This is best for him. We hope you aren't offended. But his NEEDS will have to come before our WANTS. We can't wait for the day that he is well attached and you can hold and cuddle him! We are praying for that day!!! Trust me! :)   
Unlike Chip... Prior to us, Malachi may have had multiple caregivers (his birth parents, orphanage workers, etc). And he probably won't understand attachment because he has never been emotionally attached to one human for his needs. So if we allow different people to constantly provide his needs, then we essentially haven't changed his world that much. To establish our role as parents in his life, he needs to understand that we are his primary caregivers. He needs to look to us for comfort and provision.
Normally, we see a baby that is willing to "go to anybody" as a positive thing. We think the baby is being "friendly."
Please make this mental note... There is a difference between a "friendly baby" and a baby that goes to everyone because that child is not attached to any ONE human, and to that child, essentially all adults are the same.

With Chip, we have been tucked away in our home for several weeks. Stir craziness has definitely set in. But it has been great for bonding.
Most people stay in their home because a newborn hasn't had shots yet and has a weak immune system. Not to mention pure physical exhaustion from lack of sleep. It's easy to say "this baby is still too young to get out for social gatherings."
However, Malachi may be almost 2 yrs old when we are "cocooning" with him. We will stay tucked away in our home until we feel like he is ready to venture out. Remember, Malachi's entire world has changed and he will probably be overwhelmed. Before arriving home with us, more than likely he will have spent months within the walls of an orphanage. So a birthday party or football game may be slightly overwhelming to him. We don't want him being totally freaked out and scared to death. He's not a newborn who has "no normal." And we will venture out according to what we feel he is prepared for. So please don't be offended if we do something one day, then have to say "no" to your offer on another day. We will venture to our tolerance too :)

In light, we pray that in the same way family and friends have supported our "cocooning" with Chip, that you will also support our "cocooning" with Malachi. I pray that you understand the similarities and differences.

I am confident that our cocooning stage with Malachi is still several years down the road so we will have to re-visit this. But I wanted to jot down some thoughts while I am fresh in the maternity leave season with Chip.

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