Every tree limb overhead seems to sit and wait, while every step you take becomes a twist of fate.
Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the road...

If you are new to our adoption blog please take a moment to scroll down to the archives at the bottom of this page and start with July 2009 post "Watershed."


Love Grows Softly

How do you know when attachment is growing?

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.


  1. Heaven for sure. Ariam is perfect and I'm so happy you claimed your baby. Did you make her cake? I love it.

  2. Awesome post. She truly is heavenly. Love the name. Love the progress your family is making with sweet A. Isn't this parenting thing pretty cool? Sure it has its moments but big picture it is amazing. And good for you for being a flexible parent and adjusting to your child and not doing what all the books suggest. It is obviously working :)

  3. I love the name Ariam. And I think naming IS claiming. And as for adoption plans, there are so MANY moving parts in adoption, any hopes we have of planning everything out goes right out the window! My daughter would not co-sleep either. For one thing!

    As for your question--My daughter gets dejected if we have to strongly tell her no. She doesn't cry, and does not become defiant, it is more like she feels like she didn't please us, like she fears losing us. She melts. I find it really hard to see this so I just try during these months to just keep the no-nos out of her realm as much as possible until she has every confidence that she can mess up and we will always be there and love her as much as humanly possible.

    And yes, it is amazing how swiftly and well these children take up residence in our hearts. That is the easy part! The harder part is assuring them on a very deep level that they can allow us to take up permanent residence in their hearts. We aren't going any where.

    I love your blog.

  4. Welcome home Ariam and happy birthday! Your parents love you dearly and will always be there to support you. Give lots of kisses to the doggies for your friend in Virginia!

    Wonderful story - I can't wait to hear more. I can just see Jer digging his heels in with a screaming kid at the front of a plane.

  5. Love this. The whole thing. LOVE it. How honest and real you are. What wonderful parenting right there!
    I agree w/ Lauren....Elia does the same thing.....she really doesn't like dis-harmony (you'd think she was a Libra!) If you tell her "no" she used to burst in to tears. She's not quite so fragile these days, but her soul is very gentle. I try to keep things as even-keeled as possible in front of her...which is indeed challenging at times! I LOVE that you are all doing so well!

  6. I think what you are noticing about her upset when you are frustrated is because she is attaching to you - reading you and wanting your happpiness and contentment too.

    love it!

  7. Picking up on your emotions and reacting to them is a huge deal in attachment. If she wasn't attaching, she wouldn't care whether you were frustrated or irritated or sad or happy. She just wouldn't care. So it's good. But also remember to share your joy with her as much as possible.

    Also, one mistake I made with my daughter was making "fake" angry faces while talking normally or even happily. It's a game we all play (making mean monster-y faces) but she just got confused....so always SOUND happy if you look happy and SOUND sad if you look sad. It helps teach her to relate emotions to facial expressions/body postures. Getting in touch with her own emotions and reactions have been the hardest trials my daughter has faced.

  8. I've had this page open on my computer for days, trying to think of all the huncreds of things I want to say! IN the end I can't think of anything right, and just wanted to say how happy this all makes me. It's such a beautiful name. It's so wonderful to hear about you all growing together as a family. What a wonderful thing for us to be witnessing (although frmo a distance!) - these relationships forming that are going to last a lifetime. What a gift.


About Me

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J and I have been married for almost 15 years. We have shared many adventures and a lot of watershed moments. In 2009 I began blogging and in 2010 we adopted our daughter from Ethiopia. In March of 2012 we began the process to adopt a little boy from Haiti. This blog follows the many twists and turns on the road to our two children and beyond.