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Adoption Blog: The Perfect Blend

Adoption Attachment: Coping With Our Infant Son’s Grieving Process

I will never be able to fully explain the feelings I had as we finalized our adoption in Korea and as my husband, Jeremiah, and I spent the first few hours with our infant son, Dylan. If pressed, I’d stick to one word: nausea.

Two days after we met our son, Dylan, in his Korean foster home, we walked the short block from our guesthouse to the office of Social Welfare Society (SWS), our Korean adoption agency, to take custody. An hour-long playdate aside, we were strangers to Dylan and he to us. I worried that the next few days could go very badly—for all of us.

And they did.

When we first arrived at the SWS office, Dylan was pleased to see us but anxious about his surroundings. This wasn’t unusual, we were told. He was always ill at ease at SWS. Aha, I thought. This explains the weepy, whiny boy in the videos we received before coming to meet him. They were filmed at this office. He hates it here.

The next moments went by in a blur. We exchanged gifts and thank-yous with our social worker and Dylan’s foster mother and, too suddenly it seemed, were being sent off (though it felt like we were being pushed away) into an elevator with our son. As the elevator doors closed, his foster mother stood only a foot away, a smile firmly planted on her face. I tried to match it, but my grimace gave me away. I was terrified.

It had helped me to think that his anxiety wasn’t sparked by our presence but rather the place. By the time we arrived back at our room, though, I had no scapegoat. Dylan was terrified, too—if not actually of us, then of the separation from his foster mother, not his only caregiver but the one who’d cared for him for the most recent several months.

Dylan cried for the next five hours. He took breaks to eat and sleep in my arms, but his main enterprise was mourning. Everything was new. And new, to a baby—well, shoot, to me, too—is scary. I had imagined this day, had grimly fixated on how heartbreaking it would be to watch my new son mourn his past mother. In reality, it was indeed agonizing, but it was also frustrating, scary, and horrible on my end. Sometimes, although I hate to admit it, I wanted him to just be done already. It was just too hard to watch and hear. How much time did he need? Then, of course, because I’m not a totally selfish wretch, my eyes would catch his, teary and swollen, and my heart would break all over again.

As you know, if you’ve read my recent posts, it got much better very soon. The frightened, despondent boy became a smiling, affectionate explorer just about as fast as he wrapped me and my heart around his finger.

But I’ve never been through anything like that first day, and I don’t know if I ever could again.

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A friend of mine brought a toddler home from China and I remember the first few weeks were so difficult. The little girl would only go from whimpering to crying to wailing to whimpering. I know it was hard for all of them at first. She is now five and thriving smile We are working on our application to adopt a child from Haiti. It is likely that the child we bring home will be a toddler or older so I’m soaking up stories like yours. We brought our two as tiny infants so our experience so far has been different. Thank you for sharing!

By Gaby on Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 9:12 pm.

Thanks, Gaby. I’ve loved reading you so far (whenever I come up for air)!

By Meghan on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 3:09 am.

Thank you for your writing.  My husband and I are 32 months into our adoption process and have about 8 more to go until we travel to Korea to bring home our beautiful baby boy, Isaiah.  This process has been the most difficult thing we have ever done (and this includes an 18 month deployment for my husband to a war) and today was finally the day when I could begin to read some other people’s blogs about the process.  I cried while I read your words out loud to my husband and I look forward to reading more from you as you write about the transition of Dylan into your home.  I can’t wait to be at a place where Isaiah is home I can also encourage others with news of his arrival.  Some days it feels like it will never happen but then I read your blog and take a deep breath and know this wait will come to an end.

By April12 on Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 5:06 am.

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