Wednesday, September 5, 2012

True Confessions: Cocooning Evaluation

When we brought Feven home in April, we began a process known in the adoption world as "Cocooning."  The basic idea is that you keep your newly-adopted child's world very small, and slowly bring in new people, places, and experiences.  If you haven't read my blog post on the cocooning specifics we chose, please do so; the rest of today's post will make a lot more sense!  Even if you've already read it, you may appreciate a refresher.

Here's my evaluation of the steps we used in our cocooning process:

Strategy: Limit Visitors and Trips Outside the Home

Implementation: for about 4 weeks we didn't let anyone else see Feven, except for the occasional neighbor in passing while we were out for a short walk.  We didn't take her to the grocery store, Target, or anywhere outside of the neighborhood.  She did have one or two car trips for doctor visits, but other than that, she was pretty much just at home.

Benefits: We were able to start a great attachment with her because we were the only ones in her world.  We met her every need and she began trusting us.  It took quite awhile for her to trust us.  We thought she was trusting us, but looking back at photos and videos from those early weeks, we can see now that her face still registered trepidation.  Attachment takes a looong time.  Another benefit from limiting trips and visitors was that Zac and I got rest.  Figuring out how to be parents - and be parents to a toddler - was very overwhelming at times.  Our slower pace helped us adjust too.

Challenges:  I felt so silly sometimes when friends would bring over meals.  When Zac was still on paternity leave, he would take Feven to a room on the opposite side of the house and close the door while I would welcome our visitor and accept their gift of food.  It felt very strange to not share our new baby with the world right away.  Also, running errands was particularly challenging after Zac went back to work.  I couldn't go out and about with Feven, so I had to wait until evening when he was watching her to get our groceries and make our shopping runs.  

Recommendation: I would definitely recommend this strategy to others.  If we are blessed enough to adopt again, I plan on doing a 4-week cocoon or even longer.  It seemed to really benefit Feven and give our family a great start.

Strategy:  Give Feven Chronological Age experiences she may have missed and treat her as her Family Age

Implementation: We spoon-fed Feven her food for the majority of the first months she was with us, even though many kids her age were beginning to use spoons.  We tried to make eye contact with her for each spoonful.  We fed her bottles 3 times a day (and still do!).  We "wore her" in our Ergo carrier for walks and sometimes around the house if she wanted to be held but we couldn't at the time.

Benefits:  Hopefully there were good connections happening in Feven's brain through our efforts to connect with her.  I know Zac and I really enjoy giving her her bottles and spending that special time with her.  I like to sing to her and talk to her about our day when I give her a bottle.  Zac likes to tell her how much he loves her, how much I love her, and how much God loves her.  We've also enjoyed carrying her in our Ergo.  SHE loves it too!  Before she could walk, she would see us getting out the Ergo and she would crawl over to us and then stop right in front of our legs with her arms reaching upward!  Even now, she smiles when she sees us take it out and she walks over to be swept up into our arms.

Challenges:  Sometimes we don't always feel like holding her, or having her hold onto our legs.  It's hard to give her cuddles each time she wants them.  However, when I think about all the times she may have wanted cuddles in her first 11 months and there was nobody there to give them, my heart floods with compassion and I pick her up again.

Recommendation: There is a lot of research out there which lists the benefits of making up "missed" chronological steps.  I think this is valuable.  I recommend this strategy to any adoptive parent - especially wearing your child.  I have heard of a number of other kids who REALLY like being next to their parents in the baby carrier!

Strategy: Zac and I will be the only ones to meet Feven's needs for awhile

Implementation:  We waited 3.5 months until we had our first babysitter.  For that entire 3.5 months, Zac and I were the only ones to feed, change, or bathe Feven.

Benefits:  She now seeks us out to meet her needs.

Challenges:  That's a long time to go without a date night!  We waited until we met with an attachment specialist and got the "official" go-ahead before having a babysitter.  Perhaps we could have had one sooner, but we were sure happy to get out when we did!

Recommendation:  This is such a good thing to do, especially if a child has had multiple care-givers.  We are still implementing this in some ways by being the ones to pick her up when she's hurt and when we have family over, we typically are still the ones to feed, change, and bathe her.

Strategy: Funneling

Implementation: Whenever someone wants to hold Feven, we should be the ones to pick Feven up and place her in the arms of that person.

Benefits: Through this, Feven sees that we are giving our consent for that person to hold her.  In a way, we are letting her know that this is a safe person.

Challenges: We haven't been great about doing this.  The attachment therapist suggested we do this more intentionally and it fell off our radar.  We can see the negative impact from our laziness; Feven too-willingly approaches strangers or people she has only seen once or twice before.  We are working on this strategy with more fervor now and hope that it helps her understand the importance of "checking in" with mom or dad before going with someone else.

Recommendation: This is important, but can feel awkward at times.

I hope you have found my evaluation to be helpful.  Feven is doing extremely well overall, and I credit it in part to these strategies.  The other credit goes to God.  He is working on her, and He is doing marvelous things in her life.

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