Building Bonds with Baby Through Knowledge

By: Jen Arnold
As moms, we all want the best for our babes, and whether we physically bore our kids or welcomed them through adoption, healthy attachment is a priority for us. In my case, we adopted two boys five weeks apart. Attachment through feeding was definitely a priority of mine for my boys, but I was also thinking about building bonds in other ways and the challenges our unique family faced. We’re white, they’re biracial and African American, respectively. So not only was I concerned about bonding with my boys as babies -- after all, I didn’t birth them and I wasn’t breastfeeding them -- forming healthy attachment with them as future boys and men was on my heart, too. How would our different ethnicities create a natural barrier? Would our choice of open adoption mean they’d be “too” bonded to their birth parents and thus take away from our connection?

Here are a couple ways we bridged the gap to bond with our boys, even though breastfeeding, biology, and background were different in our case:

Bonding with baby

Open Adoption Opens Doors

While making this choice for the adoptions meant a real fear of our kids being “too” bonded to their birth families, we realized that was just it -- fear. For us, choosing openness meant choosing attachment in a unique way: even as adoptive parents we got to know their stories and histories before the boys were born. We bonded to our babies before their birth by hearing their first moms’ reports of womb activity, cravings, and stories of when they first found out. These are important details of our boys’ lives that we get to know. Openness also means we could give our boys a deep sense of self and security in the long haul, through the opportunity to stay in touch with their families of origin… to celebrate milestones together and to truly be extended family with our boys in common. My co-worker Joni at Choice Network describes the attachment that happens via open adoption in her post on the subject:

"We believe the big picture of adoption is about merging two families. Two families who meet based on mutual hopes for their child and two families who have the courage to create a life long friendship based on respect and mutual admiration. Will they always agree on everything? No. Will there be bumps in the road? Yes. Will they be co-parenting a child? No. Pro Love [open] Adoption actually looks a lot more like marriage than the traditional process of birth and welcoming a child into a family. We come together in the beginning in love and hope and we persevere in challenging times for the same reasons."

We are committed to honoring our children by connecting with their birth families through our open adoption relationships - by making an effort to reach for relationship when fear says pull back. 

Cultivate Love and Appreciation for Other Cultures

Although our skin differs in pigmentation, we share a bond in our humanness -- our need for love and our desires for community and togetherness.

We, as Caucasian parents of boys of color, have a great responsibility to attach and bond with our kids by educating ourselves on the plight of their ancestors and the important distinctions of their native cultures. We do this by taking the time to understand where it is they come from, understanding how these characteristics of origin shape them and their future worldviews, and embracing how we can wrap them into our family expression.

For families that choose to adopt internationally, there is great opportunity to embrace your child’s culture with important holidays, historical figures, traditions, foods, and even traveling to their native countries, if possible.

More than buying black baby dolls and reading books about the beauty of diversity (which are good small steps), we love that we can bond with a culture that isn’t naturally our own, yet one that has adopted us as we’ve adopted it. We look forward to our various backgrounds continuing to come together out of love and honor. As we have committed to transracial open adoption, we’ve made a promise to open our eyes, hearts, and minds to bond not only with our boys but the world around us in new ways -- where we live, work, and worship, and we invite their birth families to take part as often as we can.

bonding through adoption

Attachment looks different for each family, and that’s truly a beautiful thing! Don’t trap yourself into your own upbringing, fear, doubt, or social norms. I’m inspired these days by the work of social researcher and author, Brene Brown. She says, “When perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun, and fear is the annoying backseat driver.” In parenting, there is no room for perfection. Surround yourself with people who keep it real and who are willing to share their stories of attachment fails, of mean mommy days, and of the times when they felt deflated because the baby wouldn’t stop screaming and they hadn’t slept, let alone showered, in two days.

Remember -- you know what your baby needs. You are equipped for this call, this mission, and this opportunity to love beyond yourself. Bonding can happen in so many ways, especially in an adoption story. Join me in the final post as I suggest a few ways to promote bonding as a whole family.

Continue to Part III

Missed Part I? Check it out now.

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