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Our Plan…

As we prepare for travel–we want to invest more time in preparing our plan for attachment for our Isaac. Think of it as when you got married and desired to prepare more for the marriage than the wedding. Richard and I have spent almost a year reading attachment books, praying for the Lord to guide us in making the best decisions in how we help Isaac heal, meeting with mommy mentors who have traveled the adoption road and seeking wise counsel from those with counseling and physcology backgrounds. I, oddly, enjoy this type of research and understanding how God created our minds and our hearts to thrive and even heal after they have experienced trauma.

In a perfect world, babies would be raised by their birth moms and never have to experience the trauma of seperation from them. They would be given the gift of knowing their mom’s heartbeat, voice, birth language. “A baby or child is at risk for attachment problems and future behavior difficulties when they have experienced abuse, neglect, separation from a caregiver, changing day cares or using providers who don’t do bonding, moms with chronic depression, several moves in placement or self-centered parenting” (Nancy L. Thomas in Taming the Tiger While it’s still a Kitten). Thankfully, there is a window of time where healing can take place—you can think of it as “Attachment ICU” also called “cocooning”. During this time, our family will be going above and beyond to help Isaac attach to our family and to heal.

We are very confident in the attachment Isaac has received at his orphanage. BUT–when we get Isaac–trauma will again happen as he leaves another caregiver he has once again bonded with. There will be grieving even from leaving the orphanage (we actually hope he grieves early–as this is a good sign for healing–but it won’t be easy for him or for us). We recently got an update on Isaac that said he was a “fussy baby” which this is a really good sign that he still has preferences and feels a caregiver will help or react to him if he cries out. We want to be very sensitive to our little guy as “a child in transition, is a child in pain” (Nancy L. Thomas). We want to remember the realities of his transitions thus far—for the first 6 months of his life he heard one language and connected to one caregiver. For the last 5 months he has heard an entirely new language and bonded with yet another caregiver. Next week, he will meet yet ANOTHER new caregiver (me!) and be introduced to yet another language, environment and family. It is very important that our son gets to know me as his caregiver and establishes a strong, healthy bond with us–which will enable him to establish healthy bonds in the future with other members of our family and our friends. But leaving his country, familiar faces and being older–this transition may be the hardest that he has endured yet.

When I think of it from a small scale–I don’t sleep well when I’m on a trip. I can’t WAIT to get home and be in my bed…that is where I simply am comfortable and sleep best. You could take me to the most fancy hotel–yet, I sleep and rest best in where I am familiar. Isaac will feel the same way for awhile. We will need to go above and beyond to help him see our home as his home, to feel safe and comfortable here. There will be brokenness in his little heart as he leaves the caregivers at the orphanage–and just as when you have a broken relationship as an adult some go to counseling and often struggle with trust again–we will be doing things that may look different to help with healing and gaining Isaac’s trust. We acknowledge that many of our family and friends have waited and longed to see Isaac as much as we have. You will be itching to see him and hold him. For this we are thankful! I know it will be hard for many of you when you read our plan and see you’ll have to wait several months until we see signs of attachment and that he is ready to form new attachment with others. During this “ICU attachming/cocooning time”, our family and friends can help us most by supporting us, bringing meals, sending cards of encouragement, respecting our need for privacy and waiting to visit with our little guy has strongly attached to us. Our connecting strongly with Isaac during this “ICU phase” will help him better connect with all of you later…and trust me, we will be anxious and ready to share his sweetness with you when the time is right!

Our plan may change when we meet him and see possible new needs–but this is where we are starting. If you are close to us, we ask that you would carefully read our plan so you can encourage and support Isaac and our family during our transition time…

Our Plan

  • Cocoon in our home for first 3 months home (July, August and September) – We will limit outings during this time and slowly start going out where there are fewer stimuli. After 3 months, we will start venturing out more depending on how Isaac has done around strangers during our cocooning phase.
  • For the first 6 weeks, we will limit visitors. I will not be answering the phone during this time during the day (my close friends know I don’t do that now really…so no changes there!) so I can focus and devote all my time to my little ones. Thankfully, there is email so I’ll be able to email and return emails when the older kids are sleeping and Isaac is napping in the carrier.
  • For the first 3 months, Richard or I will wear Isaac in a carrier as much as possible so he can bond with us–know our smell, hear our heartbeat, learn language and feel close and safe attached to us. (pray for my spine because I’ll probably have both Isaac and Frank attached to me on most days;). No one the baby doesn’t see daily will hold him during the cocooning stage—if he attaches to some one other than us—we don’t want him to struggle with feelings of abandonment again. Nap time during the first 6 weeks will also be in the carrier. After 6 weeks, I will begin working on independence slowly during naps–but always coming quickly when he cries out or is afraid.
  • Massage Isaac 2x a day with lotion (Frank loves this too and Frankie baby’s eczema requires it…so I’ll be tag teaming since they are just 9 months apart!
  • Limit overstimulating things–no TV, etc. (you know we don’t dig the TV here anyway…so most of this we already try to do fits perfectly in our plan)
  • Only Richard and myself will give bottles and spoonfeed–we will also give bottles until Isaac turns 2 years. We will focus on eye contact during each feeding while holding him close to our chests so he gets the gift of bonding with a mommy and daddy while feeding.
  • For the first 6 weeks there will be no limit setting or use of word no–after 6 weeks we will gradually teach our little guy limits and healthy boundaries. Discipline during the toddler years will even look different…”time in’s with mommy” instead of “time outs” (my Laney responds best to this…so again, this is something we already do for one of our children)
  • Our baby will not be seperated from me for more than 30 minutes for the first 3 months–and he will not spend the night away from me for the first year…and I would be surprised if I leave this one during the first 3 years home. Seriously…if I go to Africa–this one is just going with me;). AND…he’ll be co-sleeping with us and slowly transitioning to his crib (also in a nursery attached to our bedroom) as he attaches and becomes a toddler.
  • As you can see–and probably imagine–this will not be easy. BUT, we are certain that our investment will be worth it! We feel there is a greater risk in under-doing it rather than over doing it. “Every minute you invest holding your little one and gazing lovingly in their eyes is one hour less pain when they are teenagers” (Thomas). Soooo…will we be exhausted? Absolutely. Will we regret investing all of this extra into our son? Absolutely not! We know it will be much easier to invest this time and effort into a baby rather than trying to fix unhealthy attachment later in a teenager. We also recognize there is nothing we can do–but ULTIMATELY–it will be the Lord’s healing and miraculous hand that brings healing through ALL of our cocooning time and years to come.

    Another family’s plan that I love and appreciate is the Hertstein family. Jesse Hertstein wrote a wonderful post here on their plan as they brought home their itty, bitty infant baby girl. We are so thankful for all of those family’s who have gone before us who have offered us their experience and encouragement. And like Jesse said at the end of his post on their plan, we can’t WAIT, WAIT, WAIT to get started!!!

    Karee Koepp - June 15, 2010 - 4:31 pm

    I like “plans” and “lists” a lot and I really appreciate this post. I’m doing lots of reading and research on attachment and have been feeling overwhelmed. Your summary is helping me break things down a bit. And I am reminding myself that I don’t have to be in control or worry because our Lord and Savior will guide us as we continue in our adoption journey just as He has led us to this point of waiting. Thanks Andrea, you have a great perspective. I’m looking forward to more insight from you as you bring your babe home. Praying for you in the coming weeks.


    Elle J - June 15, 2010 - 4:33 pm

    Encouraging you to continue the focus and see the big picture as you cocoon and settle in for this new adventure. You can do this, your older children can do this, it is meant to be. Wishing you days of joy and nights of peace. =)

    april - June 15, 2010 - 4:38 pm

    i love this and I am so excited to hear how your bonding goes when you bring Isaac home! I have a question for you, we are adopting an infant first here in the states and it will be just 3 days old when he/she comes home with us! Should we develop a plan of bonding similar to that or would it be way less since we have the baby since practically birth? I would love your thoughts on this! I definitely plan on trying to do as much as I can to bond!

    Andrea Young - June 15, 2010 - 4:50 pm

    Oh April–I think your attachment will be much different and easier because you are establishing a healthy bond and connection from the beginning. Because a newborn DOES sense his/her mommy because of being in the womb–if I were you I would consider not letting anyone else hold your infact for 2-3 weeks. I would also encourage LOTS of skin to skin contact–especially during feedings. I would even let the baby nap on your chest for the first few months (a baby’s brain is unable to establish a schedule until 3 months according to the author of “Healthy Sleep Habits”…so I would ax the scheduling and let the baby sleep on your chest to bond with you and know your heartbeat for the first 3 months. MUCH easier–but still intentional:)

    julie@Flitterbugs - June 15, 2010 - 5:25 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful, well thought out plan, and I think you are wise to post about this and educate/warn:) friends and family before you get home. Hoping you will be posting LOTS of pictures of your peanut:)

    Sarah - June 15, 2010 - 6:38 pm

    Great plan, Andrea!!! We had/have an almost identical plan, and at 5 months home, Bethlehem is doing well and according to our SW is right where she should be attachment-wise! I’ll be praying for you as you work to transition little Isaac into his forever family and help him form a secure, healthy attachment to you. I also haven’t forgotten the lotion/massage oil stuff I’m sending you – my last batch, which I was going to send you part of was a complete flop due to a certain small child who woke up from her nap in the middle of it and threw off the delicate balance of lotion making! 😉

    Alison - June 15, 2010 - 7:02 pm

    Wow!! Sounds like a great plan! I am going to have to remember this when we get close to bringing Caroline Faith home!

    Dawn - June 15, 2010 - 8:03 pm

    Can’t wait until you get to hold him- SOON!!!!!! Counting down the days with you 🙂
    Great Post 🙂

    Kim - June 15, 2010 - 8:19 pm

    Great post that I will direct to one more family prayerfully considering adoption from ET!
    Counting down the days with you!
    Love & Blessings from Hong Kong,

    Betsy - June 15, 2010 - 11:11 pm

    Hey friend! Love seeing the plan all mapped out. It always helps me to write things down when I feel overwhelmed. Isaac is going to love his family so much, you are such a sweet, selfless, intentional momma!
    I can’t believe it is next week!! Crazy! I am out of town all month, with spotty internet access, but I will be anxiously checking in on you!
    Blessings on your travels!

    Caytie - June 16, 2010 - 9:40 am

    Thanks so much for posting this Andrea! This is a great plan and so well thought out. I too, need to be thinking in this direction on how to handle it all when we get home…one day! I am so excited for you I can hardly stand it!!!! Can’t wait!!

    Blaire McCurry - June 16, 2010 - 11:24 am

    ANDREA!!! This is so awesome! Your long-time dream is finally coming true! i’m so very happy for the Young family and will definately be praying for ya’ll. I love you friend and can’t wait to hear more about Isaac’s arrival!

    Melissa - June 16, 2010 - 9:32 pm

    Wow Andrea this is intense. You weren’t kidding. But, I am excited you and Richard have a plan and you are both on board. I would love to help by taking Laney and Parker places too, so they won’t be stuck in the house so much. I heard you were making crib bedding tomorrow! It doesn’t surprise me a bit! Oh, and FBC is going to do most of our shots. Thanks for advising me to go there! Praying for fast attachment with Isaac!

    shelly seymour - June 21, 2010 - 10:10 pm

    This is amazing, Andrea. I have never visited your blog, but deceided to once I saw your last Life Path email with the upcoming details of your Isaac trip. The whole story is amazing along with your photos, your creativity, your family and your faith in Christ. I just love it. It is so inspiring. I would love to spend time getting to know you guys better… you can just see all the life your family brings the world. I will be praying for you guys……

    Shelly Seymour & Jeremy
    Brooke (4), Kate (2), Ellie (2)

    […] some times–a good social playdate is all the help you need! (But more visitors? Oh, but your cocoon plan said to limit visitors…which brings me to number […]