We’ve made it to six months home. In some ways it’s flown by and in other ways it feels like an eternity has gone by. Post adoption life has definitely changed but it feels a lot slower than I hoped. I’ve honestly had a hard time sitting down to write this post because we are in the THICK of it. It’s hard. Writing about adoption isn’t “fun” for me right now. At the same time I know this post will be good for me because I need to look at how far we’ve come.
If you’re currently waiting to adopt or have already adopted, please don’t compare. I know that’s so hard because I do it too. Our precious kids are different and will adapt to life differently. Instead use this as a post to remind you of the good or prepare you for the slow work of parenting. Learn what you can because every journey and person is unique.
Post Orphanage Behavior
Post-orphanage behavior, or POB, is something I want to bring up before we go into these last six months. It’s important to understand that adoption from an orphanage is very different than from a foster system or other route. Not only do children go through the challenges of attachment struggles and many different types of abuse, they come home with learned orphanage behavior. In some it goes away in months to a year or two. In others ,it takes many years, lots of new learned behavior skills and counseling to correct mindset. Sadly, many of the learned behaviors from an orphanage also look like psychiatric conditions. Dr. Gindis lays out POB very well in this article.
Six Months of Family
- September 2020: 17 lbs
- March 2021: 20 lbs
- When we brought her home, I could literally put my hand around her waist and touch my middle finger to my thumb. She was tinier than an infant around the waist and started in 18-24 month clothes. She now fits 2-3t clothing, though her waist is probably closer to 12 months. This has more to do with her hip dysplasia.
- We’ve noticed thicker hair, much plumper face and skin in general.
- She is now strong enough to pull herself onto the couch without the use of her legs
- Started stair climbing in November 2020
- September 2020: Carsick during 90% of driving (throws up in car 4x/ month)
- March 2021: Carsick in 30% of driving (throws up in car 1x/month)
- Play in September 2020: Only knows how to hold doll and draw on paper a little. Doesn’t understand how to play with toys. Doesn’t understand puzzles. If brothers are playing, she will seek out someone to hold her/ give attention to her or lay down and suck her thumb.
- Play in March 2021: Bailey will play pretend for about 10 minutes with building blocks, making food or making a house with siblings.
- Learned Helplessness September 2020: All attention is worked for by looking helpless (whining, making self “hurt” or putting on a “cuteness” show) …learn more about learned helplessness at http://www.bgcenter.com/BGPublications/OrphanageBehavior.htm
- Learned Helplessness March 2021: Bailey has learned to use words more to get needs met instead of looking like a victim. She uses words about 50% time and is still learning that whining is not the way to get needs met.
- Ouchies: September 2020 vs. March 2021. When we first arrived home, Bailey complained about (mostly invisible) hurts about 50 times a day. I’m not trying to exaggerate. In March 2021 she only complains of hurts about 20 times a day and while some are very small, most of those are true hurts.
- Self Soothing Behavior September 2020 vs. March 2021. Bailey lays down a LOT everyday which is common for those coming out of an orphanage background. When she arrived home about 90% of her time not held would be spent lying down and sucking her thumb. In March 2021, she spends about 25% of her time doing this if she’s not being held.
- After just three months home She began speaking completely in English without her first language. She still doesn’t understand a LOT of meanings of things (like if I use “how, why, where” etc.) but she talks a LOT.
- March 2021: She doesn’t pick her nose (at least mostly)! Her hand was in her nose nearly 24/7 when we brought her home.
- Attachment September 2020: Ambivilant Attachment with Dad and Mom. Extremely clingy with mom. Won’t allow her to leave the room, set her down and becomes very nervous if leaving a place of comfort like the house.
- March 2021: Bailey doesn’t freak out and cry if Dad or Mom have to go outside for a minute.
- She has a much better connection with Dad. September 2020: Would fear him, taunt him, refuse him, smile at him if mom took her from him etc. March 2021: Bailey waits all day for Dad to get home from work and then goes out to feed animals with him and loves playing with him.
- September 2020: Must have someone in room right next to her in order to fall asleep. March 2021: Sleeps through night 80 % of time. Is alright having a parent sit outside the room reading while she falls asleep.
All in all, Bailey is still showing signs of ambivilent attachment (learn more HERE), and more so when tired or after busy days. She has come a long way and we are still setting strong boundaries for behavior to help her gain healthy patterns for relationships.
As much as this post is about the strides our girl has made, I want you to realize that it’s not just the child who grows through this process. Here are some of my personal struggles and gains.
- September 2020: I was completely overwhelmed by the helpless emotions and clinginess. I struggled to leave a room, I held her almost all the time, going to the bathroom caused chaos, much less doing chores and making meals.
- March 2021: Bailey is doing much better at feeling at ease with mom having a daily routine but still “wants my attention” all day. I’ve had some very hard periods of overwhelm from this which led to me learning more about my triggers and where they come from.
- I found a big trigger is basing my worth as a mom at how well I can help my kids stay emotionally balanced. If they are not emotionally balanced, I blame myself. As a people pleaser I have struggled with giving without the satisfaction of pleasing another. It’s as though the cup I’m pouring into has no bottom. I feel like I can never win.
- The biggest thing I’ve learned is to take it a day at a time and look at the big picture, not the day or even month.
- I’ve learned that it’s a spiritual battle. My Father God needs to be the one I look to everyday. I am learning to look at what he thinks about me and his plan for this adoption. When I don’t, I tire and cannot fight the battle in my heart and mind.
- I’ve learned that taking care of myself comes before my house. This means nutrition, exercise, asking for help and getting sleep. Also talking to fellow adoptive moms and yes, even counseling.
Other Adoption Posts you Might Like
Resources For Adoptive Families
Check out https://theadoptivemompodcast.com/ for podcast to encourage you in your adoption journey
Empowered to Connect has great Training and Resources. We especially loved learning at their conference
The Last Six Months Turns into the Next
This may be the last update I specifically give on Bailey as I don’t want this blog to be about her intimate details. You may however, see more on my own journey. It’s our life now, and there’s no taking that away.
Looking back at these six months has been encouraging for me to do. If you’re an adoptive parent, I’d encourage you to keep track every couple months or more and write down the gains. It’s so easy to keep track of the hard but looking for the good takes extra work. You need those rewards in the midst of such hard work.
I hope you find encouragement in this post and if you are struggling, reach out to people. there are many adoptive support groups on facebook as well as counselors trained in attachment for children coming from trauma. Don’t walk this road alone.
There are hilltops, even in the valleys of life,