I wondered about this a lot. I swore to use the word "bonding" for at least our first 6 months home instead of "attaching" since I know this second word can be...confusing? debatable? hard to measure?
Bonding is easy. I think we understood from day one that bonding is little moments and memories you create that build a web of invisible strings between parents and child. We started bonding when we delivered sweet snacks into D's mouth on day one. We started bonding when we gave her the bottle. We took photos. We touched her feet to the grass. We pointed at ourselves "mama" "dada" a million times with big smiles. We hugged and held and made her laugh just a little. We took photos as a family. We were creating bonds.
But how to measure attachment? What does it really look like? I am thinking about that a lot these days because something is changing in our house. There is something, dare we say love (?!), growing softly in our home.
Tonight we had this moment of overwhelming sweetness before we put her to bed. The three of us, giggling, kissing, rubbing noses, making eye contact. She was so happy she was just glowing. J and I were not a. trying to rush her to bed so we could get some evening time alone or b. tired and frustrated from a long day with a demanding one year old. Nope. We were just enjoying it. No faking it till we make it.
looks me in the eye a lot
smiles when she sees me
plays near my feet or within my sight (or J's if he is home)
bursts into sobbing tears if she senses any frustration or irritation on my part (I don't quite know what to make of this actually - any thoughts?)
comes to me and lays her head on my shoulder while we are playing in her room
gets upset if I leave the room when we are out in public
touches my face and hair (or J's) when we rock at night (sometimes with more force than I would like but still, I think it counts)
Likes to look at us together in the mirror - this makes her laugh and sometimes she announces "mama" at our reflections
Talks about "dada" or "dadee" all day long
She does all of these things. They were little at first. Their charm snuck up on me. Many early days I spent wishing for the cavalry to come and save me from her grabby hands and screaming voice. But then one day recently I realized that I know each scream. Now I understand what she needs immediately. She screams so much less now that she trusts us. One day I realized that I liked looking at her in the mirror too. One day we realized that we have little family jokes and tricks just between the three of us.
J and I have become oozing piles of baby love mush. We were not when we arrived home a month ago. And now we are. What happened? More than bonding I think. Dare I say attachment work is going on here? I think D is helping us along. She is really the answer to all of my prayers for a child that would bring us great joy and laughter.
We named her:(Jeremy suggests that I tell you it is pronounced like the music group R.E.M. but I would say that the last a is much softer. More like Are yehm.)
The name is a Ge'ez word which means Supreme Heaven. Ge'ez is the ecclesiastical language of Ethiopia. I think that means it is the language used for worship, scripture, and music.
We gave her the middle name Isabella. It means God's promise and it is also the name of Kelley's little girl whom we absolutely worship and adore.
Finally, we kept Derartu as a second middle name.
We left for Ethiopia armed with a few names we liked. And believing that we might choose to keep Derartu as a first name. But the name became painful to my ears after hearing it on the nannies lips for 3 weeks. There were too many moments when someone used her name to draw her to them and try to claim her. Too many times when her name felt like a leash tying her back to her long series of losses and orphanages and caregivers and not like the cord that could tie her to us. We needed to claim this little girl. To be honest I was scared to do it. I was having self-doubt. I was worried that she would feel loss. But far from that, she became A from day one and never looked back. She immediately stopped responding to D. She's a survivor. But more than that I think she WANTED and was waiting to be claimed by her family.
PS. After rereading each post I am shocked by how far we've diverged from our adoption parenting plan. Co-sleeping? Not a chance. Baby wearing? She wants none of it. Keeping her name? Nope. I would call the plan a huge fat failure IF I didn't look at the big picture and see so clearly how good each decision has been for all three of us.