We leave in about two weeks and honestly I am all over the place emotionally. Trying to get everything planned out and then dealing with changes, worrying about if it will all go perfectly (umm, I really like things to all go perfectly), and losing sleep over how the kids will do while I’m gone is all making me a hot mess. So, I haven’t had a lot of space left in brain to write anything creative. Or write at all, or respond to texts or messages. It’s taking all of my energy to just keep plugging along.
But, I did want to quickly write about one things people outside the adoption world might not be familiar with – it’s called cocooning. When I mention it to people, they agree that it makes sense, it’s just not something they’ve ever heard of before. Sometimes I forget that everyone hasn’t read all the same articles, blogs, and books as me, and I just assume everyone has heard of these things.
For detailed information, you can google adoption and cocooning, but I’m just give you the simplified, Ali-version here. The basic idea is that once an adoptive child comes home, they kind of need a “reset” of sorts. This is especially true of older and internationally adopted children. Everything in their life has changed dramatically, and “experts” seem to agree that there is value is spending a little bit of time hunkering down once you are home.
What this looks like varies from family to family, and the length of time is dependent on the individual child (and what the rest of the family can handle). Essentially, you want to help the child form a secure, lasting bond/attachment with his new mama and daddy, as opposed to just viewing you as a reliable caregiver. One thing I read suggested cocooning for one month for every year of orphanage life, plus one month. So we’d be looking at 3 months-ish. Something else recommended at least 6 weeks.
One thing that is hard during this time is that you are not encouraged to let other people meet your new child’s needs. Which means even though he will be the cutest little Eastern European on the block, when he first comes home we won’t be able to let other people hold him. We also won’t be able to go out as a whole family for a while, so we plan to alternate Sundays at church for a bit. Some families have said it’s taken only a few months for their child to adjust, others actually over a year. Really, we have no idea what it will be like for our little dude.
The danger is that if your child is being cared for/loved on by too many people (really people outside of mom and dad), they won’t internalize the actual difference between their previous situation and their new life (i.e. orphanage care versus FAMILY). And to create a strong attachment, its important for them to understand that they have a mama and a daddy who will meet their every need. This attachment is crucial for later emotional maturity and stability.
We will also have to limit family outings because of the over-stimulation for him. He has literally spent his entire life in one building, and mostly the same one room, so EVERYTHING will assault his senses. At the beginning, that will be too overwhelming for him, so we will stay home and just focus on simple play, eye contact, rocking. Essentially, you almost treat them like an infant at the beginning, in an attempt to create the natural attachment that occurs when caring for a baby.
Practically, I think this will be difficult for our family. The other kids have activities, and I know spending so much time in two units (one parent with Sissy and Bug, the other with Boo) will be lonely for all of us. Also, Daddy K and I won’t be able to go out on dates for a while since he won’t be able to stay with a babysitter, although we have talked about leaving after the kids are in bed. Let’s be honest though, by then I’m sure I will just want to be in bed too! I’m definitely looking forward to the time when we are past this initial phase. But I don’t want to rush it either, because I understand we are laying the foundation that will be crucial for Boo to feel secure for the rest of his life.
So, if you are in the local area, please don’t be offended if we turn down invitations or don’t invite you over. Also, please don’t think we are crazy when ask you not to pick up our little guy. You are welcome to talk to him and engage him while we are holding him. We will play it by ear and try to adjust as necessary to make this transition easy on all of us. We can’t wait to share him with everyone as soon as he is ready!
We are totally fine with having people come to the airport to meet us, especially because this will probably be the last time for a few weeks that we are able to be in a larger group and give people a chance to meet him. After that, we plan to cocoon through all of April and then see where we are at. Daddy K and I will take turns getting the other little people out of the house for the sake of the sanity, and to make sure they still feel nurtured and loved. If you want to help Sissy and Bug feel special during this time, you are more than welcome!
We are so excited to be this close, and yet obviously we are still in the stage of the big unknown. Even more excited to get home and start figuring out what our new normal will look like. Thanks for supporting us on this journey.