An episode of NPR podcast 'This American Life' describes the struggles of adoptive parents and their son as he transitions from a Romanian orphanage into their family.
We are fortunate to have contributions from an adoptive parent in which she writes about her family's personal experiences returning from their trip to Korea. Her piece reflects the difficulties in forming the bond between adoptive parent and child, and the need for parents to be patient and empathetic as they absorb the fear and uncertainty their child is feeling.
In June of 2012 we made our trip across the world to meet our son in Korea. He was 16 months old and had spent just over a year with his foster mother. She was in her sixties with grown children, so from what we gather, it was just the two of them most of the time. When we arrived for our first meeting at her home, she met us at the van with our son on her back in a carrier. Although he had a huge smile on his face, and continued to look back at us and smile as we walked to her house, I know he had no clue how his world was about to change!
Our social worker warned us the closer he was to his foster mother, the better for us in the long run regarding attachment, but the harder our first month was going to be at home. As we sat in the foster mother’s home and watched their interaction, those words circled my mind. He sat completely content on her lap, and was hesitant to make any connection with us, although having our 8 year old son helped break the ice a bit. He eventually came over and sat on our son’s and my husband’s lap for a quick second, but returned to his foster mom just as fast. When she went to the kitchen to prepare a snack, he moaned and followed. When I finally did get him to sit on my lap, he slightly cried as he was trying to grab something off the table, and his foster mom quickly swooped him up. This showed us that their bond was very strong and we were going to have some work ahead of us.
On our “Family Day” when we returned back to our room at SWS it seemed the grieving started immediately. He was very lethargic, although some of this was due to a cold, but he was only comforted by my husband. If I even looked at him, he would cry. This broke my heart, but inside I knew that he was not trying to replace his mom; he didn’t need another woman in his life. In order to comfort himself, he would rub my husband’s face, usually until falling asleep. This lasted for at least a month with both of us. We thought that he was bonding with my husband until we were at the airport on our way home and he tried to go to any other Caucasian male, even when there were other Korean males around.
Once we were home we spent the first couple weeks waking up in the middle of the night with him crying inconsolably for his foster mom for about 3 hours each night. He would be screaming out her name and thrashing his body and no matter what we tried to do, nothing was comforting him. At this point, all we could do for him was be there and make sure he was safe assuring him we weren’t going anywhere.
Laurie Toth Cleveland, OH tothadoptionjourney.blogspot.com
Part 2 will be published early next week. It discusses the post placement period and the ways in which she worked to build a bond between herself and her child.