Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Is Love Enough?

About 5 minutes after you start looking into adoption, you start hearing about the worries of attachment. Attachment disorders, attachment issues, and the scariest of all...Reactive Attachment Disorder(RAD). Before you've even been matched with a child, your agency educates you about attachment, the adoption forums discuss it on a daily basis, your social worker advises reading books about it (and there are hundreds), you take online courses and tests to prove you "get it". But in reality, you think, "I don't need to worry about this stuff, everything will be fine".

Then you're matched with a beautiful little girl and that seed of uneasiness starts growing in your head, "what if she doesn't attach to us?", "what if she isn't capable of forming healthy relationships?", "what if she has issues?". But you push it away and focus on that one picture, that one with the smile, and you think "she's perfect, she's smiling, it's going to be fine".

Then you actually get to hold that little girl in your arms and be her Mom and that's when it becomes a reality. All that attachment stuff that you didn't want to put stock in becomes a reality. You start to analyze every single thing you do and every single move she makes. You become obsessed with all things "attachment". You scourer every attachment forum you can find, you talk with other adoptive Mom's, you worry every second about what might happen if she doesn't attach. But in reality, you're not sure what real attachment even looks like. You're not even enjoying your little girl because you're too busy worrying about "attachment".

All the experts say "love is not enough" when raising a adopted child who spent time in an orphanage. They say that because of the abandonment and lack of a maternal bond during the infant years, adopted children are actually hardwired differently than your biological children. Something about the brain and the cycle of needs and it causes a actual shift in brain chemistry. They give you lists of things to do, lists of things not to do, they warn of the long-term consequences of not doing it right, basically, they scare the poop out of you.

So that brings me to today, our family, our decisions, our Livvie.

The experts say your child should sleep with you for at least the first year to promote a bond. The experts have obviously never slept with a 2-year old who snores like a trucker and flops around like a fish all night. I would argue that a rested, happy Mom is much better for Livvie than a crabby, sleep deprived one who glares at her all night willing her to stop snoring so I can fall asleep. So as of last night, Livvie is sleeping in her own bed, in her own room. Does this mean she'll need therapy when she's 14? Maybe, or perhaps it means we're both getting a good nights sleep and waking up happier.

The experts say you need to give your new child everything they need and want, unconditionally. They also seems to frown upon any form of discipline (supposedly discipline is taken care of later, but no one really says when). Penny the Dog disagrees with this wholeheartedly after being clunked across the nose with a frying pan for the second time in one week. Granted, it was a toy frying pan, but I'm quite sure it still hurt because she is now hiding under the bed. The first time it happened, I was still in what I will call "attachment fog". I said "no-no Livvie", she laughed and that was the end of that. This time, I took the frying pan away and set her in the chair for a time out. Now, the experts are uniformly dead-set against time outs for adopted children. So have I traumatized her for life? Maybe, but my Mom instinct told me the kid needed a time out.

So...will Livvie have attachment issues as she grows up? She might. But I'm done revolving our life around what might be. Instead I'm going to live in the moment, enjoy the amazing little girl we were blessed with, and go back to what we believed when we started this process - "It's going to be fine".

Because I really do believe that love is enough.