It is with great anticipation and excitement that we write this letter to you. As you know, we will be traveling to China tomorrow to finalize our adoption and bring home our daughter, Emily Hope! We are deep in the trenches of preparing for her arrival. We feel like a big part of that preparation is to prepare YOU for her arrival as well. There are so many unknowns and we love all your excitement and questions about her homecoming. We feel it will be beneficial to Emily if we can be open about our expectations of friends and family upon her arrival.
We have gone through extensive training with medical doctors, psychologists, therapists, and social workers. We have learned what we can expect from adopting an orphaned child, as well as how to cope with expected behaviors. You have been hearing so many great things about Emily but we don’t often discuss the ugly realities of what she has been through. In the first 2 years of her life, she has experienced great trauma. She has experienced abandonment, medical issues, and no family to bond with, just to name a few. Being institutionalized has a major impact on a child’s development. We expect our daughter to be delayed in many areas.
One area that will need our immediate attention will be attachment. She has never learned to have a trusting bond with a mother and father and she will have to learn this attachment, just as a newborn does. Our parenting of an adoptive child will look completely different from the way we have raised our first 3 children. This may change after a year or so but it is essential that we make sure she has learned proper attachment before we altar any of our parenting. What will this look like? In order to create a healthy attachment, Seamus and I must be the primary caregivers for several months. Only we can feed her, give her a bottle, change her diaper, and provide her basic needs. Emily will likely sleep with us at first (we NEVER let our biological kids do this). She will basically call the shots. If she wants something, we’ll give it to her, in order to build trust and an environment where she knows she can rely on us. Discipline will be taught later, just as it would with a newborn. A good way to view this is to think of her as an infant. Because she never had the experience that a properly cared for newborn does, we will have to train her as though she is a newborn. Again, any rules that we have had with our bio kids are basically thrown out the door. They had the opportunity to connect with us from birth, and Emily has to start from the beginning.
Laura will be home with Emily for an extended period of time, and will rarely leave the house with her for several weeks. As eager as we know you are to meet her, we can’t have visitors in the home for a while. If you need to come over briefly, we certainly don’t mind. You are welcome to tell Emily hi. We just ask that you please don’t make physical contact with her or spend more than a few minutes with us. We ask that if you have something to give her, you give it to us first, and we will pass it on to her. We ask that no one hold her until we feel that attachment bond has been established. I am planning to carry her in a wrap so that when we do go out, people won’t be tempted to hold her. We are excited that so many friends are already talking about play dates with our sweet girl. Please know that we absolutely want this to happen, as soon as we are able.
There are numerous ways you can help, upon our return. Our older kids would love some play time, or maybe you could help with an errand or a meal. I promise to be open about what we need when we return. So many of you have already offered such wonderful care and we really appreciate that!
The time frame on all this will greatly depend on Emily’s progress. We will continue to communicate with you, as progress is made and new phases can be introduced. If this sounds extreme to you, it did to us as well before we were completely educated on the needs of an internationally adopted child. I realize we are probably going to upset someone but our daughter’s well-being is of utmost importance to us right now. We can’t expect you to understand why we are implementing this “cocoon” phase but we are grateful if you can just love us through it. Please fire away with any questions you have. We are happy to answer anything! And please, no question is a dumb one. Believe me, we’ve asked them all of the professionals. Asking about the unknowns will ultimately benefit Emily and your relationship with her. Our social worker, Logan Gibbons, has also offered to answer any questions from our friends and family. We would be happy to share her contact information if you request it. She is a professional who is experienced in this area, and has a very good understanding of the protocol we are implementing.
We long for the day Emily can forge meaningful relationships with our friends, when she will be running around with your children and getting big hugs from each of you! Thank you for your understanding until we are comfortable with the hugs and other social interaction. We are grateful for the love so many of you have poured out on us and we are comforted knowing that you will walk alongside us when Emily comes home!
With love in Christ,
Laura and Seamus