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Tuesday, 02 March 2021
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A few moms from A4everFamily have offered to share their adoption stories. This is a small representation of the families that have contributed to the website.

Our son appeared very, very happy for his first 6 months home. At 11 months of age, I noticed that he was starting to whine a lot. I figured it must be teething. The periods of whining kept getting longer and closer together. He started hitting his siblings and occasionally tantruming. Our pediatrician agreed that it sounded like normal toddler behavior. After 10 months home, he started having nightmares and night terrors, almost every night. He also acted angry, occasionally pulling his own hair. He tried to bite a lot, even biting furniture if no one was close enough sink his teeth into. After one year home, he suddenly started crying whenever Daddy left for work; until this point he'd always strongly preferred Mom. At 17 months of age we saw Dr. Buenning's infant/toddler attachment checklist and believed we had a match. We started Holding Time as described in Martha Welch's book. Almost immediately, all the angry, aggressive behaviors and night terrors stopped. Five months later we decided to begin therapy because, although he was better, we were still struggling with whining and finding a discipline method that he responded to. Now, at age 2.5, he is a happy boy. We continue to work on anxiety/PTSD issues in therapy. (a. 5.5mo, FC)

When our son came home at 6 months old, he was happy...full of joy, smiles and laughs. He was an easygoing baby with such a delightful personality. He took to every new change very easily and with no complaints. Little by little he became less and less happy when he was with me but if we had visitors or were out of the house he was once again joyous. I blamed his unhappy moments on gas, teething pain, being tired, being bored, and anything that I could think of to explain it. I even convinced myself that being around other people was a distraction for him and made whatever pain he must have been in less intense. But the miserable behavior grew worse over the course of four months until he basically acted as though he hated me and was only ever content if he was playing alone or had someone else around to perform the happy act I grew to hate. I resented how happy he was for everyone but me. What didn't help was being told over and over by family and friends that he was fine and I was just being sensitive.

After 4 months home my son was very avoidant with me but loved anyone and everyone else he came across. He never looked for me or reached for me or wanted me to do anything for him. He would have been content playing in a room all by himself for the entire day in a wet diaper and having no food, but of course I would not allow that to happen and I did my best to care for him despite his angry cries. Well-meaning family members and friends told me he was curious and intelligent and did not want to be interrupted from playing with his toys, but I knew in my heart something was wrong.

We hit rock bottom when my son turned 10 months old and got sick for the first time since coming home. He was sick for three weeks and that was the first time he ever reached for me. But even though he reached, he would push me away at the same time. There was nothing at all I could do to console my hurting baby. He would cry and fight being in my arms for hours even though he needed me and actually did want me. Being his mother felt impossible. It was physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. Getting sick made everything even worse, but I'm glad he did. It's what prompted us to get help. We knew something was very wrong but just did not know what to do about it.

In the months that followed we worked with 2 different attachment professionals, read a lot, and made a lot of changes to the way we parent our son. He needed so much more than we knew to do and needed more consistency then we knew was even possible. With help, our son quickly went from avoidant to highly anxious. He finally wanted me to be his mommy but was so afraid that I would leave too. He still has an anxious attachment but with continued help, a much better understanding of attachment issues, and attachment parenting, he keeps progressing more and more and taking big steps towards 100% trust in me. I am amazed at the steps he has taken in the last few months and never thought we'd be where we are today, one year later. But I also know we would not be where we are today had I not accepted that my son has attachment issues and has needs that require a different approach to parenting. Being loving and nurturing is not enough. (a. 6mo, FC)

From the first moment we met our son when he was 6 months old, he seemed to be easy going and adaptable. He slept well, was a great eater, smiled and laughed a lot and generally appeared to be adjusted and happy. After about 6 months of being home, things slowly began to change. He became more fussy and much more difficult to "read". He began throwing his food at meals and refused foods he normally ate. He started hitting his older siblings and me and began throwing angry tantrums. I couldn't seem to reach him and he didn't respond to "no". I started seeing how different he was when we went out. He could be quite charming to other people. I would drop him off once a week for 2 hours to our nursery at church and the people there would comment on how well he played with the toys. At home, toys were for throwing, not playing.

I mentioned some of these behaviors to some people and one brave person asked me if I had looked into attachment. I had read about attachment before our son came home but never thought it would apply. I started researching it and reading books about attachment and was shocked to see how many behaviors our son was showing. People around us told us it was "teething" or "normal behavior" and he was just going through the "terrible twos" a year early. Even though I wanted to believe them, I felt deep down it wasn't true. He was clearly rejecting my love for him. He had never hugged or kissed us or leaned in to "snuggle" with us. After awhile he started showing affection to my husband, but not to me.

He is now 17 month old and we have been working on attachment for 3 months. We read many books, researched techniques and had an evaluation done by an attachment therapist. Many of the behaviors we saw before have mostly disappeared (with hard work) but we are still working on some food issues and whiney behavior. I am encouraged with his progress and know we still have some hard work ahead. (a. 6 mos. FC)

Our son started screaming the moment his FM was out of sight. He screamed for virtually the entire plane trip home. He screamed, I don't mean cried, for nearly two weeks. He'd scream for about two hours, dose for 10-15 minutes and begin screaming again. He was doing everything he could to object to his placement with us.

That was followed by two weeks of relatively normal baby behavior.

And then, he began to screech when he didn't get precisely what he wanted. He whined non-stop. He stopped babbling. He became chronically fussy. He started hitting Mom and pushing us away when we held him. He continued to have sleep issues (fitfulness, night terrors). Seeing him losing ground like this made us start asking questions.

Through the referral of a friend, we found a wonderful psychologist who specializes in attachment therapy. She has been a constant source of information, practical advice, and support for our family. Having worked with her for 6 months we see incredible improvements! And, when the behavior isn't so great Mom and Dad now know what to do. We continue to work with our therapist toward healing our son's heart.

There is much work ahead for our family. I suspect that our son will always have a perspective that was shaped by his first six months of life. But I believe strongly that our determination and hard work will lead to great success! (a. 6mo, FC)

Our son came off the plane crying, fussing and trying to literally throw himself out of people's arms. He would not settle and was in constant motion. The next few days at home were what I had expected-his sleeping was off, he was fussy, he had a cold, he would arch his back when I tried to hold him and avoided a lot of eye contact; all the things I had expected initially. We didn't let anyone come to see us for 2 weeks to allow us some family time.

Soon after his arrival, he began the dreaded whining. He whined non-stop. He would sleep well at night, but the minute his eyes opened he would start the whining. People told me it was teething (he was drooling uncontrollably), he was bored, he was curious...you name it, they came up with the excuse. My social worker, my pediatrician, my family and our adoption agency all told me they thought things were going great! In addition to the whining, he avoided me like the plague. He acted like he didn't care if I was with him or not. He would cry to be picked up, only to then cry to be put down. He was never settled.

After his first birthday, things started slowly improving. He started accepting our love more and now, 2 years later, we have come a long way. We have seen an attachment therapist and are working on getting him some more attachment therapy. We still have some problems with the whining now and then. He's always on the go and still gets in and out of our laps frequently.

It has been a long road and we are not quite there yet, but I'm hopeful that one day we will all be a "normal" family. (7.5mo, FC)

My daughter is now five and 3/4, and first let me say, things can get better. I'll describe a little about my daughter and share some of the things that worked for us.

My daughter was in foster care when I got her at 10 months old. We actually had a few neutral months at first; then when she was 12-13 months old, she began hurting me and hurting herself. Biting, scratching, head-butting me or whatever she could reach instead. She was always very active, and after she learned to walk it seemed she had a drive to touch everything, pulling things down on herself (like lamps, small tables and dressers), and pulling out everything at once. She would climb on the sofa and fling herself down on it, sometimes bouncing off to land on the floor. She was unphased. Corrections and redirections did little to curtail or contain her activity. It was exhausting to chase after her continually and try to keep her safe.

Looking back, I think this escalated during the time when children are developmentally learning to separate from their parents - around when they learn to walk and do things for themselves. The trouble was, my daughter had never emotionally attached to me - so every activity that led to further separating from me left her lost and confused. She also had no desire to listen to me. I think she was very, very frightened and her heart was very hurt and she was distracting herself from her fear and her pain with whatever chaos she could create. She didn't believe she could trust me to keep her safe - she had no reason to.

What to do? First, I limited her living space and removed everything but a few toys and floor pillows. I wanted her only distraction to be me. I spent days on the floor with her, trying many attachment parenting activities. I spent time in front of a mirror with her - at first this was the only eye contact she'd allow. I'd try sharing lotion with her when I put some on myself. Bathing together. Constant touching. Anything to "trick" her into letting me in and sharing a good, warm moment. But she had a real need to control everything and it was tough. Feeding, dressing, playing, reading, everything was a battle.

Being close to me inevitably frightened her and she'd try to bite or hit or scratch me. It is so upsetting when your baby turns on you and bites - I'd find myself flinching when she got close. That's when I started holding her close to keep us both safe from her. If you can find a therapist to guide you by all means that is better. I couldn't find one and I was desperate so I worked out what worked for us on instinct. She would at first be angry and scared and rageful, but I would just hold on, trying to keep us both safe by propping pillows or towels so her teeth and fingernails couldn't reach me. I told her it is OK to cry - Mommy is here to keep you safe - it's so sad you had to leave your foster mommy - I know you're very sacred - I love you and nothing you can do will make me stop loving you - I'll never leave you. She would cry and cry. If she settled a bit I'd stroke her face and try to coax eye contact. Tell her to breathe. After a minute I'd let her down as she wanted. Over time she slowly started to enjoy quiet time in my arms after her rages. She allowed eye contact.

It took a few weeks, but eventually she started to like me a bit. And I started to fall in love with her - with this fiercely determined little girl who had such a scared and hurt heart. We cycled through several times over the next 6 months when she would go away - get scared and try to turn back within herself. Holding her is how I brought her through her pain and fear and back to me. It's all about getting her to trust that I could and would keep her safe. So it's vital to not let them hurt themselves or you.

Another thing I did during this time was limit outings. She would turn outings into chaos. I am single and after a few months went back to work 3 days a week. She went to a calm, quiet homecare with a single caregiver and 3 other little girls. I figured that was enough stress on her. So we didn't go shopping or on playdates or anywhere else that there were people or stimulation. I got groceries after work before I picked her up. We had no visitors and no one else watched her. We also co-slept (still do). I hand fed her finger foods and fed her bottles on demand. I found that by "catching" my daughter enjoying me and our time together the bad behaviors lessened. Trust could begin to take root. After about 6 months, she began to relax a bit and trust me. It's hard to describe, but one day I just felt the worst was behind us. (a. 10mo, FC)
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