#Write31Days: Day 14 Bonding

Oh, bonding.

write-31-days-14

As a mother who has gone through both pregnancy and foster care, I can say without a doubt that bonding is one thing that was incredibly different.

When I found out I was pregnant with Tera, it was there. The bond. There was a person growing inside me. Some people bond amazingly with their child throughout pregnancy, and I didn’t feel like I was one of those people. But I still had a ten month advantage on bonding with Tera compared to the two week’s notice I have of Little Miss’ life.

As soon as Tera arrived, we were parents. We were it. There was no one else to make decisions for us and there was no one else to take care of her if we just decided we didn’t want to. In fact, there was no such thought in our minds.

When Little Miss came into our home, it took some time. When I first brought her home from the hospital, I took hardly any pictures of her…because I didn’t feel like she was mine to take pictures of. I didn’t breastfeed her and therefore it was a lot easier to pass her off to someone else for a bottle. Little Miss was a difficult baby and I always jumped at the chance to take a short break from holding her rigid, screaming body.

Don’t get me wrong…we treated her just as we treated Tera. We fed her, cuddled her, held her close, sang to her, bathed her, loved her. But it took longer to bond with her.

If you are going into fostering, I highly recommend researching attachment parenting. If I could go back, this is one thing I would do differently with Little Miss. I wouldn’t let anyone else feed her bottles, and I would be very careful to only hand her over to a limited amount of people who want to hold her. I would have done far more skin to skin (she didn’t automatically get it from breastfeeding, remember). I would have done more research and let that girl cling to me like she needed.

I don’t think Little Miss will have any detrimental effects from all these things I would’ve done differently. I just think that I learned a lot from the time that she was with us. Here are some of my top tips for bonding with your foster children  (my experience is with an infant, but I’m sure some of these would apply to older children as well):

  • Pray for and over them. There is nothing more bonding than bringing them before the throne of God frequently.
  • Skin to skin. If you have an infant, take a bath with them. Take off your shirt and let them nap on your chest. If you have an older child, you have to be careful…but physical contact is still incredibly important. Hugs. Back rubs. Even just a pat on the shoulder can go really, really far.
  • Consistency with limited contact. You now have a child in your home who does not know you at all. When you take them to your church, you might trust almost everyone that you come into contact with. You trust them enough to watch your kid, supervise your kid, hold your kid and feed them a bottle. But your foster child does not know this. This know that they were taken from their safe place (no matter what reason they were taken away, it’s what they know and to them…it’s safe.), and they haven’t determined yet where a safe place is. Your job as foster parents is to show them that you are their safe place. This might take a few days, a few weeks or even months. Be wary of who you are handing your child over to, because it could cause you to go back days or weeks in the bonding department. I seriously recommend a period of time at the beginning where NO ONE else is allowed to hold your baby, and NO ONE else is allowed to be in charge of them. Yes, this even means saying no to respite while you are working through bonding.
  • Research adoptive attachment parenting. No, you might not be adopting the child. But each principle should come into effect in the same ways.

Of course, bonding is a hot topic in foster care. That’s what makes it so painful to say goodbye to them, isn’t it? That’s what we are all afraid of, because in the end…that is what hurts. Yes, it’s true. After bonding with a Little Miss for nine months I can without a doubt say that losing her hurts. However, it’s so, so good. It’s what the child needs more than anything else in their lives at that point. It’s how they will learn to heal and cope and it’s vital to their development. So, please…bond. You won’t regret it. I promise.

 

Questions?

If you have any questions at all about foster care or adoption from foster care as I go through this series, please don’t hesitate to ask. You can leave a comment or send an email. At the end of the series, I will have a Q&A day and will be answering any questions I receive throughout the month.

Previous posts:

Day 1: Introduction

Day 2: Meet the Hines

Day 3: Shop Feature: Karla Storey

Day 4: Why We Chose to Foster

Day 5: The Process

Day 6: The Cast of Characters

Day 7: The Paperwork

Day 8: The Goal is Reunification

Day 9: Reflections

Day 10: Shop Feature: Ransomed Cuffs

Day 11: The Placement

Day 12: The Daily Life

Day 13: The Extra’s

Please share and interact!

As a blogger, it means SO much to me if you like, comment and share on these posts! You can share the whole series or just a particular blog post, but your support in that way means the world to me!

#Write31Days

You can find the official #Write31Days and all the other bloggers who are linking up by clicking here.

8 comments

  1. Jacki says:

    This one bright years to my eyes! Bonding is so important yet I’m sure difficult when you don’t grow that little person. I love hearing from your learning experiences.

  2. Nancy says:

    I remember friends who adopted and the child was almost a year old (I can’t remember exactly). They didn’t even bring her to church for a few weeks (the other parent came with the other kids) and when they did, they didn’t let anybody else hold her for another few weeks. It’s amazing how important bonding is!

  3. Christina says:

    I’ve thought about this topic and really appreciate your thoughts. I still feel torn, though. We are at 3.5 years of fostering and we had three different babies in the first year. We loved them and did what we could to make them feel safe and loved. But we did choose respite once, and we did have them with babysitters in church nursery and other situations, even in the first couple of months. I think though the benefit for the child is the same as adoptive bonding, it is different if you are adopting and you have a finite plan for your family. Not because the children are less deserving of our attachment, but because we need stamina. We could be doing this for a decade or so. Our marriage is not one that does well with 24-hour child care for weeks and weeks, only to start over and do it again for weeks and weeks again. And there is a benefit for children in protecting our marriage, as we will be able to foster longer and be more loving overall in our household. They are decision to weigh carefully, though, and I respond to bring up another side of things not because I think you are wrong, but just because I think it’s complicated.

  4. Christina says:

    I understand what you’re saying and don’t disagree about attachment parenting as if you are adopting. At the same time, I think it is different. Not because the child deserves less attachment, but because foster parents sometimes have to look at a bigger picture of fostering. We had three infants in our first year of fostering, and we did have others babysit them, and we did use respite once. We didn’t know our bonding clock would reset twice in that year, but it did, and it took an amazing amount of effort and energy. To hold ourselves to the standard of adoption attachment parenting would not have been sustainable for us as parents or a married couple. That is us and others may feel differently, but I just wanted to add that while we should consider things like this that benefit a child, there are choices we need to make to be able to benefit many children, over a long period of time of fostering. I wrestled with these questions and especially felt uncomfortable talking to adoptive parent friends and a psychologist friend, but we know our family and we are still hanging in there, helping kids.

    • sdevalve@cedarville.edu says:

      Christina,
      I really appreciate the points that you are making here! After reading over your comment, I can say that I completely agree, and I think I may go back to edit this post to add in your comment…would that be ok?
      We never did respite for our placement, mostly because that seemed really confusing for her and not worth it for us in the long run. She had weekend visits with kin, and she had weekly visits with Mom and visitation days/weekends were horrible when she would come back to us and be soooo confused. But I am 100% a fan of respite and having that option and I think that foster parents NEED to take it.
      I think at the beginning I struggled with bonding and she cried SO much that I (personally) was too quick to hand her over to anyone who would relieve me for a few minutes. In my situation, I wish I had handed her off less often, but I can totally agree with your assessment that foster care is NOT adoption and foster parents NEED breaks differently than an adoptive parent does.
      Thanks so much for your input!

      • Christina says:

        Yes, you can edit with it! And I’m sorry for the double-post; I thought my browser wasn’t working and tried again. I definitely understand the fine line between long-term self-care for foster parents and making sacrifices for bonding. They are good questions to ask ourselves and figure out as needed. I think I became sensitive from having adoptive parent friends respond negatively to my choices, all while not really offering practical support.

Leave a Reply