You’ve spent months preparing for this day. Completed tons of paperwork, done extra training, gone through three interviews and two home inspections. The day has come when you can bring your soon-to-be adopted newborn baby home. For us, bringing our foster son home was a very stressful event.
Our son was able to be ours because my close relative had used drugs while she was pregnant, which in the state of Utah is immediate grounds for the infant to be removed from their parent and placed in foster care. We were warned when we picked up our son what drug addiction can do to an infant and what signs to watch for. We were saddened by the experience of taking him away from his mother, but we were excited to bring home a newborn. We were extremely blessed that he never showed signs of drug addiction, and this post cannot address the signs of drug-addiction and what to do for a newborn because I don’t have that experience. However, we did have the experience of having a healthy newborn infant and we did have the experience of building a healthy attachment to him. Here are my best, real-life tips for other adopted parents:
1. Use Kangaroo Care
The idea behind Kangaroo Care is that the infant is not really ready to separate from the mother at the time of birth and to aid in attachment, having healthy touch consistently is encouraged. The adoptive parents did not get the chance to carry the child physically for 9-10 months and have no prior attachment to the infant, like a birth mother might have, so consistent touching and holding is very important.
Our baby was in the sling or wrap the majority of the day during the first 3 months. When it was bath time, we bathed with him and held him in the water. We held him, rocked him, and sang him to sleep at feeding and nap times for the first 6 months (until he was eating solids).
Today he is 23 months old and we still hold him and rock him when he goes to nap and at bedtime. (Some adoptive parents are able to breastfeed. I was not, but this would’ve helped with attachment.)
2. Follow Consistent Routines
Babies’ and toddlers’ brains develop better when they have consistent routines. We had our days planned out from wake-up, play time, tummy time, reading time, bath time, feedings, and naps. This was easier to do in the first 6 months, before I went back to work. We tried to do things as consistently as possible.
3. Recognize Post-Partum Symptoms
Recognize your own mental health and that adoptive parents can go through post-partum symptoms. Your hormones change based on the hormones of the infant. If you are doing kangaroo care, your body will become in-tune to his body’s changes, which can interfere with your moods. I also think that adoptive parents go through sleep deprivation and social isolation that comes with caring for an infant.
Post-partum symptoms can interfere with your attachment to your baby, so make sure that you take good care of yourself during this time to improve your own ability to connect to your baby.
As much as possible, try to do the same celebrations that you would do for a natural born child. If you do newborn photos for natural children, do newborn photos for your foster/adoptive infant. If you typically track all the milestones, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, etc., track them for your adoptive child. Sometimes in foster care adoptions, you don’t know if you’re going to be able to keep the child, but if the baby does go back to their birth parent, they will have these pictures and keepsakes.
We made a newborn announcement with our son that said “Loving him every day we can” with his name and stats. This went to only our personal friends and family and was never posted on Facebook (the state has strict rules about what can be posted online and who can have his photo), but it was something that we did for our birth children, and so it seemed right for our foster son. This was part of the excitement of having a newborn.
5. Accept help
Parenting any child can be challenging and yes, it is very important that the infant form a healthy attachment, but moms are not expected to be able to do everything. Allow other people to support you and to help. Non-essential tasks can wait until nap times, or maybe can be replaced for a season.
For us, we used lots of paper plates during the baby stages so that we would have less dishes, which freed up time for all the kangaroo care that was essential. Remember that the baby will only be little for a time, and then you can get back to having a perfectly clean house with a picturesque lawn. Make a list of all the tasks that are required and determine what is necessary and what can wait, prioritize and, if possible, ask for help from friends, family, or if available, hire someone to help.
The adoption process is so stressful, but when you hold your infant in your arms, it all really is worth it.
The therapists at NeuroTherapy and Trauma Center of Utah are all very experienced with working with adoptive families both in and out of foster care. If you think that your family could use some extra support, call us for a free consultation at 801-855-7999.