When I adopted both Boy and Girl they were at a similar development age where they could be somewhat independent. Both could walk, neither could talk really but there was some communication there (usually in the form of screaming the word no, what a joy that was), they could both feed themselves in a fashion. They could make choices and try and assert a lot of control. In other words they could get by without mommy doing every single thing for them, they could be independent, not for everything but enough to be able to keep mummy and daddy at an arms distance should they so choose.
We all know with attachment-y stuff that those first years are crucial but today it really hit home how different my kids would probably be if I could have been the one to do that first year of growing with them. The cuddling, the rocking, the soothing, the spoon feeding, the nursing, the bum wiping, the teething gel applying, the knee bouncing, the encouraging, the discovering and most importantly the bonding and attaching. Oh, I got to do some of it but not enough of it and more importantly not when it mattered the most, in that first year.
I’ll try and explain what I mean. I have been with my friend and her 10 month old twin girls and for once I had neither of my kids with me so I was able to step in when she needed help. One of her girls was very clingy and tired so she needed a lot of help with the other and while I was smearing on teething gel and rocking the grumpy, teething baby back into smiling, happy baby it occurred to me how completely and utterly dependent this little baby was and how accepting she was of me comforting her and really, overall how trusting and easy she was to please. It also occurred to me how it was easy to move about the house with her constantly attached to me, head on my shoulder or cradled in my arms, the constant and accepted contact.
Providing this completely dependant care for such a young baby is an utterly unique experience that I did not get to have with my children, Boy was achieving all his development goals early so at 15 months did not need to be quite so reliant on mummy and Girl didn’t really want it from me for a long time, she had to accept it but often not without a fight.
My friend’s babies are five months younger than Boy was when he first came home and next week my friend returns to work full time. She has no choice about it, she is dreading it and my heart goes out to her and the twins, the separation is going to be heart-wrenching for all of them, they have been with their mummy every day for 10 months and before that of course they were part of her for 9 months, they are wholly devoted to her. Importantly they are going to be cared for during the day by people they know and trust (the grandparents) in familiar surroundings and every day mummy and daddy will come home, care for them, love them, play with them, encourage them and then at the end of the day tuck them up safe in their own beds where they can gaze at their belongings, smell the familiar smells, listen to the usual hum of the house as they gently drift into slumber.
Compare that to our own children’s experience. Both my children were removed from birth, both had totally different experiences of foster care. Boy had plenty of cuddles and the sort of care that any baby should expect, perhaps with a little more distance than a mother would give her own child and Girl it seems did not. Both have attachment issues and when you really think about it is it any wonder? Whatever their experience in that first year, their trust in what they knew the world to be was shattered when they were placed for adoption. I cannot even begin to imagine somebody ripping my friends babies from her and placing them in a different family but that is exactly the experience my own children have had and when you see babies with trust and devotion for their parents it really wrenches the heart that my children had to endure such a traumatic experience at such a young age, that their trust in the world is so diminished.