Attachment In Adoption

Healthy attachment is a given for a child who has been born and raised in a loving family. When a child’s life has been disrupted in the beginning most times attachment is broken.

When a child is adopted into a new family, that family works to establish a bond with the child. This is not always an easy task. Here’s my story.

We chose international adoption. In the beginning, when we started we were told there would be a nine month wait. Those nine months turned into a year then another and another and another and another. For five long years,we fell in love with a little girl whom we did not yet know, a little girl who we had not yet seen, we did not know her age, we did not know what she looked like, we just knew in faith that she was there and she was ours. 

During those five years, we have many faith stories and many tears were shed while we held tight to the hope in Christ that He would grow our family by His design somehow one day.

We were prepared for a lot of things, including being well aware that this child would not know us, nor love us in the beginning. We knew we would have to establish a trust between her and each of us. As a mom, I desperately wanted the fairytale story in my head to be true where I would open my arms and she would come running into them. 

That didn’t happen. When we got to the Child Welfare Institute in Halangjiang, China our sweet little analytical daughter pulled out a photo album and tried to match us with the people in the photo whom she was told she would be going home with. After deciding that we were indeed the people in the photograph she decided to come with us. It all seemed fine to her in the beginning. She really favoured my husband, he was much more playful and I was much more emotional. 

We got to the hotel and reality started to kick in for our sweet 4-year-old daughter. Fear crept in and gripped her heart. She grabbed her tiny kitbag and jacket and headed to the door trying desperately to open it while crying for the nannies in the orphanage. She just wanted to go back to what she knew. You can imagine how heart-wrenching it was for us to see this. I cried too…not knowing what else to do then we tried to distract her with toys, treats and tickles. 

The toys and treats certainly worked and playing with her also helped. Shane won the show and she really didn’t want to have much to do with me but I knew that in time she will come around.

From then on, for about three months daddy was her world and I was just another nanny from the orphanage with blond hair who was going to wash her sticky face, make her eat strange food, dress her in odd clothes, bathe her, brush her teeth and hair and all the things toddlers so love. 🤣

In the process of our wait, I spent a lot of time reading and researching on attachment and other things that could come up after adopting a toddler. But I wasn’t prepared in my heart for the rejection that I would feel from this sweet little girl.

I was trying desperately for this little girl to allow me to adopt her. 

One day while she was playing in the living room I was on an adoption blog because that was a thing to do back then. Blog about your adoption story and share with others in the process. One adoption mom had shared a YouTube video to a song in Chinese. I listened to the song and then my small four-year-old little daughter came over to the computer and started to sing along with it. I picked her up with tears in my eyes while she cupped her little hands on either side of my face. She sang the rest of the song to me while looking deep into my eyes.

I kept her in my arms until she got tired of me holding her. I didn’t want the moment to end. Soon she got tired and went off to play and I frantically searched the Internet looking for the words in English that she sang to me in Chinese. After a few days of searching and having other adoptive families help me with my efforts, I found the words.

“If you find a mother, you have a found a treasure on earth” is what the chorus was to the song she sang over and over to me. From that day on she wanted me beside her. She would grab my hand to hold when we walked. She wanted to sit on my knee she would look me in the eyes while we played mini bonding games.

It was that day when she sang to me that I realized after all my hard work of trying to have her accept me adopting her…That I realized she felt she needed to adopt me and that day she did just that. 

I did some strange and quirky things trying to get that little girl to bond with me but it came down to her adopting me.

When I tried so hard to make her love me and she didn’t, it hurt…I knew I had to wait…If she would have pretended to love me I would’ve known it was not true love. But when her time was right and she chose to give me her heart it was truly love. I needed to be patient kind and loving just like father God is with us.

He doesn’t want to force us to love him. He knows that’s not truly love. He wants us to offer our hearts to him on our own. 

When that happens, we have the perfect adoption. He then opens his arms and we run into them and it’s so much better than a fairytale. This is the best picture of attachment I can ever imagine.

Psalm 68:6 NIV says: God Sets the lonely in families. Have you allowed yourself to be adopted by God the Father? He is longing to begin the bonding process with you…and His arms are outstretched patiently waiting to embrace his new son or daughter. 

-From the heart of Deb Howatt-Gallant

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