my adoption attachment experience: Milo

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Attaching to Milo was not automatic. It maybe wasn’t even really easy early on… I want to be honest about that!

I felt a little bit of “who is this stranger baby in the back seat” as we headed back to our rental home in Utah. It felt very similar to the times I picked up Safe Families kids. In those situations, I was anxious to get to know them but prepared to not attach too much. But this time, with Milo, I wanted to attach quickly and fully.

Because he had spent three weeks with his birth mom (and nine months in utero prior to that), I knew he had already formed attachments to her. He knew her voice, her smell, and her touch. I knew he knew I was different, and it made me a little sad. Beyond that, his birth mom knew him so much better than I did. I didn’t know what it felt like to have him nuzzle into my shoulder or clutch my shirt while he eats, like she told me he would do. 

The first few days were precious and sweet much of the time. Each time he looked straight in my eyes or relaxed in my arms, I felt my attachment to him growing. But at night, with the frequent waking, it felt a lot like a miserable babysitting job. I couldn’t see his little eyes, and he took a while to settle back to sleep after each feeding. We all were a little bit on edge and a little bit out of place. Then the weariness set in. I was tired, and we were living in a hotel room. Dan had to go home before we were allowed to go home with Milo, and I missed him a lot.

As I got more weary from lack of sleep and lack of being in my own home, I didn’t feel super excited about another feeding or diaper change, and I more readily accepted help from Dan and my mom. I think this was okay and necessary to “get by” at that time, but looking back, I may have attached more quickly if I had pushed through and accepted those duties more joyfully. (I am seeing how the cocooning process in adoption is a choice that benefits children and parents. More on that when we are expecting Theo and Elliot!)

Once home, we welcomed our families for a short visit with Milo. Though I am glad we did that, I again felt a little disconnected from him as I watched him passed from person to person. It felt good to be home, but there was still a transition phase as you would maybe expect with a new roommate. Our house suddenly felt small and cluttered with the addition of a baby and his belongings.

It all quickly clicked for me, though. Dan went back to work, and Milo + I found our routine. After about a week of work, Dan had two weeks off, which we used to hunker down and focus on attachment and bonding. I bought a book I had previously only skimmed, Attaching in Adoption, and researched different attachment-building activities for parents and little babies. With life quieting down again, we were able to focus on really getting to know Milo’s developing personality.

And then the smiles… Oh, the smiles! He was laying on his changing pad for diaper change number five of the day, and he smiled a big smile right at me. As he’s gotten older and more aware, my attachment to him has quickly snowballed. It is a joy to spend my day with a baby who recognizes me, makes eye contact with me, smiles at me, and “talks” to me. He stops fussing when I come into view. He coos when I talk to him in the car. He looks for me when being held by someone else. By seeing the obvious signs of his attachment to me, my attachment to him has grown. 

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