Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Speaking of Attachment - Part 2

If you haven't read yesterday's post, you might want to back it up a bit and start there first. This is actually the second in a short series regarding our family's journey of attachment with Li'l Empress.

In addition to intentionally regressing Li'l Empress in some specific ways, we purposefully went after some of her Self-Comforting Behaviors. It was our intention to replace these behaviors with a healthy belief and the security that she no longer needs to comfort herself. In order to do this, we had to observe her carefully, and become a "student" of our new daughter. It was pretty easy to find the "big" stuff coming to the surface, as the whole transition from foster family to orphanage for a short stay and then to our arms created a big sense of insecurity and fear. The little stuff (control issues, fear reactions to poor listening environments, panic in chaotic situations) manifested later, when she began to experience the rest of regular security and was more attached and relaxed in our home. We are still working on those and feel like the foundations we've set are serving us very well so far!

We were told by the nanny that Li'l Empress would normally just take a bottle in her crib and fall asleep on her own. We stopped that immediately, and began training her to be comforted to a sleepy state in our arms. It went right along with the bottle feedings, in that we reversed (over a few days of intentional changes) the order in which she was doing things. Instead of getting a bottle when she woke from a nap, we helped the "gentling to sleep" process by starting nap time with those bedtime ritual/bottle feeding practices that I mentioned in my post about Intentional Regression. It was exhausting to make every single bed and nap time such an event. And I found myself crying and praying over her more once we returned home than I did in the long wait for her. But in those precious moments of intensely warring for her healing and her comfort, I am convinced that the Holy Spirit met us and began His work in her heart. I am convinced that, though she often resisted us at first, the prayer covering over her and our family broke down that instinct to protect her heart and take care of herself. Gentling her to sleep was a huge part of that process for us both.

She had some very "hard to watch" self-comforting behavior in those early months. She pulled her own hair out when bottle feeding. She picked at her skin and any little bumps, abrasions or cuts. They took forever to heal up. She did a lot of self-stim*lation that created some awkward and embarrassing moments for the older kids. In fact, she still practices some of these things when stress levels are extra high, when she's overtired, or when there is a lot of chaos in our environment. It's taught us all to be mindful of keeping a peaceful environment in our home, and makes us practice extreme patience while correcting and replacing the same behaviors over and over sometimes several times within a few minutes. Here's some of the new behaviors we introduced:
  • We got her a soft, mini-blankie and placed it in her free hands during bottle time, to deter the need to yank at her hair. As we are preparing to wean her from a bottle now, she also has attached to a soft stuffed puppy who "waits for her" in her crib so he can sleep with her.
  • We moved her hands away from her "boo-boos" when we caught her picking and reminded her to "let it heal." It has become a response that carries many levels of meaning now and I try to phrase it that way often, carrying that message to her spirit as often as she needs to hear it.
  • We would remind her not to play with her diaper, and pick her up to re-direct her attention to another activity or for a hug and snuggle. That actually came after several other "fails" on our part - it took awhile to find what worked with this one!
  • Basically, we had to teach her "from scrap" that we were her parents. That we were not caretakers. That we were/are permanent. That she could trust us to meet all her physical needs. And that we would answer her EVERY. TIME. she called.
  • Yes, that meant we did not let her "cry it out." I've never been a big fan of that parenting tool, but that's a whole 'nuther post that I likely will never write!
  • We did do some co-sleeping on and off, more especially in the early months. She's not a particularly tiny child and it was difficult to feel rested on the nights that we attempted it. But when she needed to feel us both surrounding her and touching her, we did it.
  • I've always believed that co-sleeping is a really good thing, but only when everyone feels rested as a result. We didn't need to keep it up after she started sleeping soundly through the night without any of the bad dreams or fearful wakings.
Next post, I think I'll share with you the final portion of what I shared at the seminar. It's a different concept that came directly as a result of prayer and research into attachment. It was scary and difficult to wrap my brain around when the Lord first asked it of me, but I believe whole-heartedly now that it was a hugely important key concept to cementing Li'l Empress in to The Gang's dynamics and to helping her understand who we are as a family. Further, I believe that it really set the stage for the whole Gang to welcome the change in dynamics that a new family member brings. It helped us all to embrace a change in the way we do things for the sake of someone in need. That it was the most loving compassionate thing we could do while she was at the height of that need.


Sarah said...

Thanks again for speaking at our seminar. Your talk was amazing, and I still have parents talking about it! Thanks again, Sarah

Chris said...

Thanks for sharing!
We also had to do some intentional regressing with our daughter. I wish I had known more at the time when we brought her home. I know I made mistakes...
Information like this is invaluable!!!

A Beautiful Mess said...

I need help "teaching" sophie to go to sleep on her own...2 years later with a 99% secure girl she is still in our room sleeping on her own little bed and still NEEDS me to lay down in my bed. Her cry when I leave her alone is sheer panic and desperation. I don't feel like I am being manipulated, I know what that cry sounds like:) she sleeps pretty much all night, although it isn't unusual for her to wake up around 5 a.m. **sigh**

pups n horses said...

Question: Looking back --- would you have done things differently such as getting her right into a “normal” routine rather going through the intentional regression. If I am reading it correctly and perhaps I am not – her independence was taken away, replaced with having to rely on her parents for everything. This is just a thought --- but couldn’t this be the reason, or at least part of why there is such separation anxiety?

Elissa said...

We're also where Sophie's mom is with bedtime-- and I don't feel badly about it. Two years *seems* like a long enough time to be 100% but 15 months in an orphanage probably *seemed* like an even longer time...

Anyway, thanks for sharing this-- I wish more people shared about how to practically deal with attachment, especially for kids who seem ok most of the time like Lily did. I think I could have avoided some of the mistakes we made early on if I'd watched 5 fewer gotcha day videos and instead read 5 more blogs like this :) Thankfully God's grace can cover whatever mistakes we've made as parents!

julie said...

I just read both posts on attachment and they are great. I have read many books and I think you are need to watch your child for signs and pray, pray, pray. I can't wait to hear more.

Happy Thanksgiving,

The Gang's Momma said...

To Pups n' Horses: we really feel as if her emotional age needs to be "adjusted" when discussing issues like this. As my wonderful friend "Beautiful Mess," once said, in some ways she may be 27 months old but since she's only been home 14 months, she is 14 months old in some respects. Which is developmentally a normal age for separation anxiety to manifest. Further, her "independence" was borne out of self protection and survival without security. Regressing her for that short time period has been worth it to help us "rewire" her for security and unconditional love that comes with a family.