Thursday, 03 December 2020
Anxious vs. Avoidant Print
I am blessed with two beautiful children who came home forever from Korea as infants. While I would not change a thing to be the mother of my children, my journey with each was very different. It’s my tale of two children – one who came home avoidant and the other anxious – and how very different each experience shaped our current relationship.

My youngest came home in a state of shock. Something we could wrap our brain around and understand. His reaction just made sense after all of the changes he had to go through before finding his final placement in my arms. During the day he had a look that said, “What happened to my life?” and at night he grieved. There were smiles, laughs, and cuddles mixed in, but for the most part he was reserved. As days, weeks, and months went on he began to form a bond and attach to me, his mother. This attachment was a very anxious one. He did not want me to leave him and he became what my husband lovingly referred to as my tumor. He was only happy to be glued to me, playing with me, eating with me, sleeping with me. He had an intense fear of separation from me. Yes, it was exhausting and claustrophobic at times, but it was all understandable and meeting his needs was relatively easy…he just wanted and could not get enough of me.

The experience with our youngest was nothing like that of our oldest child. While waiting for our baby to come home, we were both excited and nervous at the prospect of becoming first-time parents. We prepared for and expected a baby, much like our youngest, to be scared and confused. What we greeted instead was a happy, content, easy baby who had nothing but smiles and laughs for us. Was this his personality? Was this just a well-adjusted and secure baby? Were we lucky? I wish that were the case. When the honeymoon was over we discovered that this baby, who could not even sit up on his own yet, was not a baby. He was independent in a weird way. He did not want to be loved and nurtured. Little by little he pushed us further and further away, but boy was he charming for family, friends, and complete strangers. After a few months he was only content to sit and play by himself for hours. He was the most focused baby I had ever seen…we discovered later this was a way to avoid. He was the master avoider. Alone, he completely ignored me. He was so avoidant that when we took him to our first attachment therapist, she questioned whether he might be deaf…he was not deaf.

What is it like to mother a baby who had an avoidant attachment? There is only one word to explain it. It is horribly painful. I questioned my sanity regularly. I became irritated and angry especially when anyone had anything nice to say about my son, for they only knew the charming fake baby, not the baby that filled me with resentment. This was a child who even as an infant was not willing to “go there” again. He did not want a mommy and fought having one with every fiber of his being. It hurt. Looking at it outside my shoes it’s easy to think, “He’s just a baby” or “He’s been through so much” but when you live every minute of every day being rejected, it hurts.

Both of my children had very similar early experiences. Both were deeply affected by their early experiences. Both did not trust that this Mommy is always and forever. Both required professional help along with therapeutic and attachment parenting. And each presented differently. One could not let go for fear that this Mommy would leave and one who could not open his heart because of the same fear.


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