Beware: This post will contain honesty that some may not want to hear or read. However, we want to be real. (I also want to have a diary-style monologue for family-history purposes.) And further, we know that with Henry's arrival, we have become part of the larger adoptive community, and the last thing we want to do is be fake on our blog. If I'm not real, then others who happen to experience what we've experienced (and indeed are currently experiencing) may feel alone or that their feelings in those circumstances are not valid.
I also want to make it unmistakably clear up front that while what you are about to read describes the more stressful circumstances of the past days, it is impossible for us to express the joy that Henry is to us and the joy that we know he will be for us. Even though he has not yet really warmed up to me, as you'll read about below, I still get great pleasure from seeing the slightest grin that comes my direction, and the thought of being a father for Henry as I've been and will be for Lincoln and Lydia is very much a job to which I look forward. Please do not mistakenly interpret this post as one of complaining. Instead, we ask that you read this post as an accounting of events, emotions and feelings.
Prospective adoptive parents: Each adoption experience is unique. Jenn and I have observed several very, very different experiences just in the last few days among the families on this trip. If you, the reader, are adopting or even considering adoption, please digest this post as one family's experience. And if our experience adds to your level of preparedness, we'll be very happy.
I've written just recently about the first half of our adoption trip, and at length in the past three days of our GOTCHA! day. It's hard to imagine a better scenario of attachment than Henry has had with Jenn. He was cool with me holding him in his first hour with us, and that was great for photos. Some kids latched on to one parent and didn't want to have anything to do with the other very shortly upon arrival, and those photo opportunities were tougher. And he's a happy little boy. He's content to play with two stacking cups for 30 to 45 minutes at a time, and when he grows tired of those, he grabs his tooth brush and a little dish and either drums or imitates a mixing bowl motion for another 30 to 45 minutes. And he's all smiles throughout. And he's increasingly walking, which we are very glad to see.
As Monday became Tuesday, and Tuesday became Wednesday morning, Henry has become a Mommy-only child for the most part. He literally freaks out when Jenn tries to put him in a stroller or a high chair. So much so, that when a waiter brought a stroller for the table next to us on Wednesday morning at breakfast, the freak out commenced. It's the type of commotion that's not a result of sadness, pain or grief, but the type of commotion designed to produce a particular response, and when his desired response happens, he returns to being a pleasant, happy child.
I've decided to not try to push things with him. I don't pick him up, and I barely initiate any touch. Doing so under most conditions triggers a less than desirable response. Sometimes it's a funny look, sometimes it's a fuss. When Henry is playing, and he looks up for affirmation, he ALWAYS looks to Jenn. He smiles routinely at Jenn, he doesn't smile at me. If he's playing with a toy, and I move too close to him, he either fusses and looks for Jenn if she's not visible, or he crawls to her if she is visible.
Our strategy shifted this morning to my being the only one to feed him. I will be the only source of food and drink for him ( w/ one exception... keep reading). This started to make some progress by Wednesday afternoon, and even more progress was made when I set the toys he really likes to play with on my leg to require him to crawl close to me to get his toys. He even started touching me during our afternoon playtime.
Henry's exclusive attachment is also draining for Jenn. She doesn't get a free moment, either for her arm when we're walking, when we're playing, or when we're eating. (Our shift in feeding strategies has multiple purposes.). When we went to the store in the afternoon, she carried him in the Ergo for part of the time, and on her hip/arm for part of the time. When we returned, her back was spent.
Dinnertime was a challenge. For starters, as Henry saw me preparing his food, he crawled as far away from me as he could. That meant I had to go get him and pick him up. That went okay. I fed him a dinner of noodles, applesauce, and PB&J with apple juice. Well, he only really wanted the noodles at first, but not so much that he absolutely didn't want his applesauce. So he'd cry whenever he saw the spoon go in the applesauce, but he still wanted the bite of applesauce. I had on my hands a tired, crying, grunting, hungry little boy. But we made it through, and by the end of dinner, it appeared he'd forgotten that Jenn wasn't there, and he was starting to enjoy me just a little.
After dinner, we went back to his toys, and he actually began climbing on me. He was kind of like the type of cat that's okay with his touching you, but not the other way around, but progress was being made. So we did that until Jenn came back in the room, at which point, he crawled back to her and began playing within her 3-foot radius.
Then he needed a bath. Henry sweats A TON, apparently it's an Asian boy thing, and he gets gamey pretty quickly, especially because he won't tolerate leaving Jenn's side on a walk (picture eyes closed, back arched, red faced, soaking sort from sweat screaming if she tries to pass him off to me or set him in a stroller). After Monday's bathtime fiasco, and his lack of attachment to me, we decided for Jenn to take a bath with him. He fussed/cried (but no freak out) for about ten minutes as Jenn eased him into he process.
And then Henry pooped. It was a little bit at first. But when Jenn handed him to me to try to get things cleaned up quickly, he freaked out. So I handed him back to Jenn so I could go get a wipe for his bum. And in the 5 seconds I was away, he pooped. A lot. Down Jenn's swimsuit and leg. In the moment, we decided to stop caring about the colossal freak out that was to come and shift out thinking to what was going to get this whole literal and figurative mess over with the quickest. I took him back from her and held him close, and he didn't do too bad.
Jenn then decided it would be best to move into shower mode. Did I mention that she'd already showered while I was feeding and playing with Henry? So she washed the poop off of her, she'd stepped in it multiple times during the necessary shuffling around, and I held onto Henry as he was still wet. Because Jenn has never been comfortable with any of the kids in the shower, preferring to leave that task to me, I got a shower with Henry. He wasn't as upset about it as I thought he'd be, and in fact was less upset about it than he was during bathtime. He calmed down very shortly after I passed him off to Jenn to get dried off.
For bedtime, Jenn felt it would be best for me to give him his formula and put him down. He was very upset that she had put Him down last night, and he tried to crawl out of the crib. So she thought a different strategy would be a good idea. We've sice talked about it, and I feel comfortable sharing here that we are in agreement now that this is/was not the best idea, and this is the one time that she will be source of food for him. How did we come to this conclusion?
After picking him up to begin the process, he immediately began crying. He drank about about a sixth of his formula, and commenced to cry so forcefully and vigorously that he soaked his shirt with sweat. I am not exaggerating when I use the word "soaked." I kept trying to give him his formula, but he wanted nothing to do with it. Perhaps he was full enough from dinner. Perhaps he was overtired. Perhaps he only, and adamantly only wanted Jenn at this point. Jenn emerged from the bathroom to take over, and he wouldn't take the formula from her. She put him down. He carried on like a tired toddler that didn't want to give up, and I sat net to his crib and softly shushed him to sleep (as I did last evening, and twice in the middle of the night... and very successfully, I might add!).
Time will tell, but I feel now like all of the progress that was made today will be set back. I can hear the adoption-veterans now. "Don't worry. This is just a process, and he'll learn to love you in time." I know that, and I get it. In fact, I believe it. I'm not worried at all about his attachment in the long-run. He's crying out and begging for attachment, and he's found his first attachment in Jenn. It doesn't look like ANYTHING will change that, so we know he's capable, and I know with time he'll not only warm up to me, but probably do very well with me when it comes to father/son things. But this post is about how both Jenn and I are feeling and what we're experiencing in the moment, and you've just read an honest, play-by-play post of an on-the-ground.
Do we wish that some or all of these events would have been different? Certainly. But isn't that life? Who among us can honestly say that they wouldn't want to have some of their life circumstances play out differently? But here's the kicker... Would we trade this... would we trade Henry for not having to go through these difficult times? No. Way. We love him with as much strength as the word "love" can carry. No less than we love Lincoln and Lydia. And we know that by God's grace we'll look back on these early days with him as formative days in our relationship.
Jenn wanted some time to herself, so she got up early and went to breakfast. I did the morning thing with Henry, and he was pretty good with me having not seen much of Jenn after waking up.
A good friend messaged me on Facebook and described her own similar experience... child more bonded with Daddy, and how she takes advantage of times when Daddy isn't around at the outset of an event to have quality time with her little one. It's funny... her story is the one "shared story" that wouldn't/doesn't rub me the wrong way because it's not advice from the outside looking in. Thanks so much to her for reaching out.
And lest this post border on the depressing, as the morning led into the afternoon, things progressed to the status of yesterday's improvement, and by late afternoon we'd established a new high water mark.
Today finished up with another tough bathtime because Henry poop-bombed his diaper, shorts, shirt and belt. But dinner time went well, and he didn't cry too long at bedtime because he was exhausted. So here it is, not even 9:00pm and we're done for the night.
I anticipate tomorrow being a low key day as we await paperwork and try to catch up on rest. Thanks again for your prayers, and to those that have left comments and sent messages, we appreciate them so much.