As I write this we are T minus 12 days and counting until Lucy’s initial palate surgery (scheduled for Good Friday). I am dreading this day and yet, in a way, excited for it too. Dreading because I know no matter how much I might try to prepare Lucy for this, she cannot understand what is about to happen. Her sweet little self doesn’t realize that most everyone else in the world doesn’t have that cleft she has in the roof of her mouth. I’m also dreading this surgery as I don’t want to see my daughter in pain (what mom does?). And honestly, I don’t really want to be the one in charge of pain management meds when my little girl can barely communicate. I’m also dreading having to feed her by these special syringes they will give me at the hospital for her and wondering how she will do with the post-op arm restraints (so that she can’t get her hands in her mouth). But I am trying to rest in the Lord and am praying that He will give me peace and wisdom beyond myself so that I sense Lucy’s cues and can help her eat, rest and heal as best as possible. I am leaning on these promises:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. — James 1:5
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. — John 14:27
God’s promises are my strength and the Spirit is helping me focus much more on the positives of this surgery so that I am not paralyzed by my fears. I love these lyrics from Hillsong’s “Oceans”. Since we left for China, I feel like this has been my own personal anthem. He has certainly taken me deeper than my feet could ever wander on my own – and I am EVER so grateful we were obedient to His call!
So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
So, I’m excited for this day as I know this surgery is what is best for her and with it, after she heals, she will hopefully soon be able to pronounce more sounds and will begin to talk more and be able to drink from straws. Infants born in the US with cleft palate typically have this surgery before they are one year old, so it is certainly best to get this over with, so to speak. Also, thankfully, Lucy does come to us for comfort, so in terms of bonding and attachment, there is no reason to delay this surgery.
About the whole bonding and attachment “thing” and why I labeled this post “like a butterfly”… Our family has chosen to do something called cocooning where we have mostly been keeping Lucy at home (other than medical appointments, grocery runs, select play dates, etc.) so that she can establish strong attachment bonds to our family. To further explain this, a lot of the below I took from information shared by an organization called Show Hope which is an excellent organization that advocates for orphans worldwide.
Attachment between a parent and child occurs over time when a baby has a physical or emotional need, communicates that need, and a primary caretaker meets the need and soothes the child. This repeats over and over so that the child learns to trust the parent. By God’s very design, an emotional foundation is laid in the tiniest of babies, which will affect their learning, conscience, growth and future relationships. The security provided by parents will ultimately give children a trust for and empathy towards others.
Children who come home through adoption have experienced interruptions in this typical attachment process. Lucy experienced the loss of her biological mother and father very early in life and then, at two years old, experienced the loss of familiar and comforting caretakers as well as the sights, smells and language of China. It is typical for children like Lucy to be overwhelmed by this loss. Everything is new and she not only needs to learn about this new environment but also about love and family. She has not experienced God’s design for a family in an orphanage setting.
The good news is that, with the Holy Spirit, we have, as her forever parents, begun to rebuild attachment and help her heal from these emotional wounds. The best way for us to establish these parent/child bonds is to be the only ones to hold, cuddle, instruct, soothe and feed her. As this repeats between us, she will be able to learn that parents are safe to trust and to love deeply. Once she begins to establish this important bond with us, she will then be able branch out to other healthy relationships.
Please know these decisions are prayerfully and thoughtfully made choices based on personal experience, research, and instruction from trusted adoption mentors. While some of this may seem like a bit much, we hope that you will understand and trust that we are doing this to give Lucy the most ideal environment we can to become a secure, well adjusted, and confident little girl. We can’t give an exact timeline on what this will look like or at what point we’ll say she is “attached” to us. This takes time and every child is different.
Why are we telling you all of this? Because you will actually play an incredible and vital role in helping Lucy to settle in, heal and lay a foundation for the future. There are a few areas in which you can help us:
The first is to set physical boundaries. For a while, things like holding, hugging or kissing Lucy need to be reserved for only her parents. Children from orphanage settings are prone to attach too easily to anyone and everyone – which hinders the important, primary relationship with parents. Blowing kisses, high fives and fist bumps (Lucy’s favorites) and perfectly appropriate and welcomed! She should know that the people with whom she interacts are our trusted friends.
Former orphans often have had so many caretakers that they, as a survival mechanism, become overly charming toward all adults. A child struggling to learn to attach may exhibit indiscriminate affection with people outside of their family unit. It may appear harmless and as if they are “very friendly” but this is actually quite dangerous for the child. Please know that we want nothing more than to have our daughter hugged, cuddled and cherished by all of our close friends and family. But until she has a firm understanding of family and primary attachments, we would be so grateful if you direct her to us if you see that she is seeking out food or comfort from anyone but us. It is totally fine to let her hug you, but please don’t pick her up or hold her on your lap.
Also, please feel free to ask us questions about this process at any time. We are so grateful to have a supportive network around us and for all the prayers that have been said on our family’s behalf! It is our prayer that, like a butterfly emerges from its cocoon, Lucy will emerge from this time a very changed little girl with her heart transformed so that she feels deeply safe and loved by our family.