Because the adaptation process with adoption is different than what most families expect when you are bringing a new baby home, our adoption counselor and social worker suggested letting our friends and families know about the structure we needed to come home to through a letter before we left (even if we had communicated it in conversations beforehand). After lots of research and discussion, we came up with our plan and wrote our letter. If you are preparing for an adoption journey in the coming weeks, months, or year, perhaps some of this letter might be helpful to you. We came across the family age language after we returned from Ethiopia and would have included that in this letter if we’d been familiar with it so I’ve linked to that blog entry in case it’s language you’d like to use, too.
Dear Friends and Family,
Here we go! How exciting that we’ll soon be traveling to pick up the newest member of our family. We can’t wait—and we know you can’t either.
As we get ready to embark on this amazing journey, we are thinking about each of you and feeling such gratitude for having you in our lives. We are so fortunate to have such loving and supportive people surrounding us. Thank you.
We know you have questions about our trip and life after the trip so we thought we’d compile things in one place.
Our flight information: Insert your information here.
Our hotel information: Insert your information here.
Of note: Electricity and general phone service are a challenge in Addis Ababa so we are not even going to try to make calls out. If you would like to call us (we’d love for you to do that) at the above guest house numbers (and ask for either one of us), you should call your phone company and ask for an international calling plan for Ethiopia for that week (make sure you find out how much it is a minute). You might also try to get a global calling card. Ethiopia is 8 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time so just plan on calling us before 2 pm here on any day that you would like to call us. We will try to email, but we hear that the power issue is a significant problem and that the internet is incredibly slow– that might mean you won’t hear from us at all while we are in Ethiopia. Our agency will absolutely call you if anything happens with us so just know that no news is good news.
Our schedule: Insert your Ethiopia schedule information here
We are excited to bring our baby home and to begin our life together. We have done a lot of reading, research, and spoken to many adoption medicine specialist pediatricians, social workers, child therapists, and adoptive parents about this process and we feel well-prepared to help our baby become a well-adapted member of our family. There are some things about adoptive parenting that are the same as parenting a biological child. There are also many things that we have learned are different. Our responsibility right now is to our baby— helping him get what he needs in an environment created with him in mind so that he has the best opportunity for the brightest future.
Baby A needs a specific type of environment and parenting when he first comes home in order to feel safe and secure. While we know that every child is different, we also understand that we only get one chance to make the first impression. There are many things that impact a child’s long term behaviors and beliefs. While he is gaining us, he is also losing many things- his country, language, people, place, caregivers, friends, and routines to name just a few. His formula is even changing. In order to help him feel safe, we are creating the type of environment that will help promote security and stability during this stressful time.
Based on research, professional input, and our parenting approach, we will be living a very quiet life when we return home from Ethiopia with very limited trips out and few visitors in for a little while. Social workers, psychologists, our adoption medicine specialist who has adopted children of his own, our agency director, other adoptive parents, and researchers all say that when children are first adopted (and, in this case, brought to a new country) they may be overwhelmed, scared, and nervous. By keeping our lives very still at first, we’ll help him to feel safe while creating a routine that benefits him. This does NOT mean that we do not want you to meet him soon after we arrive. We just have to create limits that are based on best practices out there since he can’t communicate with us what he needs.
We will drive ourselves to the airport so that we can quietly deboard the plane to load up and come home. We ask that you welcome us home that day in your hearts and prayers rather than at the airport or at our house. Please know that we will sense and feel your prayers.
During our first week home, we ask that you do not call or come by. We’ll certainly call to report our safe arrival home, and, over the next week, we’ll call, send emails, videos, and photos when we can, but, mostly, we need to let him adapt to being here, we need to adapt to being the parents that he needs and the parenting partners that we need of each other, we need to create a bond between Lola and him, and we need to set up a routine. He will also be without vaccinations and could possibly be quite ill—many adoptive parents report coming home with sick children- and we will need to attend to those issues without exposing you to what he might have. After a week at home and, possibly our first scheduled medical visit on DATE HERE, we will have a sense of how we are doing and how he is doing and will be in touch to see if we can arrange some “meet the baby” visits in a couple 30 minute blocks each day.
Even during this time, we’ll need to be mindful of not overloading the baby with new things and people. We know you’ll want to hug and kiss on him, but it has been recommended that we be his only caretakers in his initial months home (trust us, we’d love to share diaper duty, bath time, and feedings with you. Have no fear, there will be many more of those duties in the months and years to come). Until we- and our pediatrician- feel that he has strongly attached to us and clearly knows we are his parents (keep in mind that this is a totally new concept to him), we will need to feed, change, soothe, bathe, and put him to bed (as strange as it may seem, adopted children who act very outgoing and affectionate with strangers are not necessarily well adapted. They could have indiscriminate affection which means they haven’t really attached to anyone). In the coming months, one of us will need to be with him at all times. We will also avoid group gatherings and functions as we get to know him and his personality. Then, we’ll slowly begin to add to our activities.
We get one chance to do this right, and we are incredibly dedicated to helping him adjust and adapt during a stressful time in his life. We want to not just be the best parents that we can be, but also the parents that he most needs. Adopting a baby is a little different than having a biological child, and we are committed to being good stewards of this process. We feel confident that with our commitment and the support and respect of our loved ones, we can build the essential trust and bonding necessary and inherent in families in a timely fashion. We appreciate your understanding, support, and love throughout our journey. Our cup truly runneth over.