“I wonder where they are taking me today? It’s a long way. I’ve never seen all these places. First a car, then a train, plane, but where am I going? I miss my friends. I miss my ayah.”

I’ve often wondered what my children were thinking when they left the orphanage the day they came to us. Could these thoughts have been some that swirled around in their head? I will never know, but I do know it was one of the most excruciating experiences of their lives and would need respite to recover. I write about Gotcha Day HERE.

 

A beautiful picture of respite is imagining the cocooning stage of the little hungry caterpillar. After a long journey crawling everywhere and taking care of himself, it is time for a rest where a great transformation will occur. My adopted children came from families into orphanage care and then to me through adoption. Such great change (trauma) to go through with no understanding of process, the why, or even willingness. All of them were four or younger, and honestly they acted a couple of years younger than that. There was no foundation to build their understanding upon… the orphanage official pointing to us and saying, “Mama, Baba” and what in the world did that mean to them? Another nanny, more new people, and no desire to be handed off to these strange adults.

All of a sudden the child is whisked away from the orphanage people and handed to us. Crying ensues or maybe a blank stare or shaking because {this ‘mama’ wants to hold me tight and kiss my cheek but no one has touched me in so long, I don’t like how this feels. I need to get away. Let me down! I don’t understand what they’re saying. They smell different. Oh but I like the lollipop they just popped in my mouth}. SO much had to have been reeling in their little minds and hearts. All of a sudden they turn around from being distracted and find the orphanage officials are gone, left with complete strangers. Are you feeling their terror?

 

Cocooning:

I hope those snippets into Gotcha Day and before gives enough proof that respite and cocooning is SO critical to helping an adopted child cope and hopefully thrive in their new life.

Can you imagine how it felt for the little caterpillar to curl up on a branch and begin wrapping himself in layer and layer of silk, shielding him from the rest of the world, giving him time to rest from his journey thus far while readying himself for a beautiful metamorphosis into the future? Doesn’t it remind you of a baby inside his mother’s belly, all safe and secure from the world?

 

What is cocooning for an adopted child?

To me, cocooning our child is a way of taking them back into the womb and allowing them TIME to grow, mature, and begin understanding the new world they have been thrust into.

I like to think it begins as soon as they come into my care. Right there in the civil affairs building or hotel lobby, they need ME to offer respite for them so their healing can begin immediately. Certainly China is NOT where they will feel the most benefit of cocooning, but there are lots of things I begin doing right away to begin the process: feeding them, taking care of bathroom needs, holding them constantly, offering snacks and toys as distractions, hand over hand experiences like coloring, stickers, and playdough. Most were in a carrier facing me the whole time we were outside our hotel room, so I could shield them from the many people and places finalizing an adoption takes us. They didn’t always like it at first but by the end of the first week, they were pretty sure it was the place to be!

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In province with EK while touring a park one day.


 

Cocooning The First Week Home:

Cocooning is what our adopted children yearn for, yet have no words to express it. It is our responsibility as the adoptive parents to know it is needed and then follow through with blessing our child with it.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Our children did NOT choose any of this… to be abandoned, to be raised in an orphanage or foster family, to be adopted into our family. WE chose to adopt them knowing full well the trauma they had suffered so we have the GREAT responsibility to give them every opportunity for respite we can and it is done through cocooning.

 

Come Home and Stay Home:

There is no set time this Home stage lasts but I do know the longer the better and the stronger the family bond forms. Home resembles the places they have lived before but it is our job to show them the differences. Keeping their world small with only small introductions at a time will make a world of difference. This is crazy but we don’t even take our child to their room the first days at home. We have a few toys in our living area where we play, and they sleep with us or in our room and this practice keeps their anxiety level as well over stimulation to a very minimum. They have years ahead of them to know all the new stuff in their lives.

What we have to remember is, they came from very UNstimulating environments and the ones they live in now are A LOT! It is hard to understand how they must feel.

Question: Would you leave the hospital with your newborn and stop by the circus on the way home? NEVER! A great way to think about newly adopted children is as if they are a newborn. In a sense, they are just that. A newly born child into a family in another country where NOTHING is like anything they have ever known: new language, new people. new food, new home,

 

Limit Who Visits:

Just like us, a whole community of people have anticipated this beautiful child coming home and can’t wait to meet them. I know, I’ve been there! They want to meet the child and shower love on our family.

One of the most important things our children have to learn is WHO their family IS and who is NOT. How do they do that if a new person is walking in their house constantly. We have a few rules when it comes to visitors.

ONE golden rule in cocooning your child in any situation~ HOLD them and be able to shield them from any situation.

  1. Family is welcome at the airport and even when we are home that first weekend or so. Grandparents and close family are always welcome with understanding they can’t hold our child or meet any of their needs. We ask them to say, “Mama or Baba”, one word they for sure understand and respond to. It is my job to hear my name spoken and meet the need. Ways they interact is playing on the floor with them or sitting beside me while I hold our child and they talk/smile at them lovingly.
  2. Meals were graciously brought to our home and for that we were forever grateful! To know food was provided and I wasn’t required in the kitchen made the bonding process flow without interruption. One of our rules is meeting those sweet people at the door, having a conversation there, and sending them on their way. It is not the time to meet our child, interact with our child, or play with them. That will come WAY down the road when our bond as a family is secure.
  3. Errands away from home is not a good idea unless you will not have to get the child out. Going through a drive thru or dropping someone off for a lesson is fine but keeping the child in the cocoon of your own car allows the child to feel safe. There is NO need for church! God totally understands what we are doing, and He is right there holding us while we hold our children. And please NO school or daycare for a while… could there be anything more similar to their orphanage life than that? Think newborn!
  4. Have someone (my amazing husband!) run the errands. Grocery shopping, Target runs, and school drop-offs can easily be delegated to our spouse or close friend. It makes a difference how much time you are home verses driving around in your car.
  5. Play in the backyard keeping neighbors and visitors at bay for a while. Kids need to get outside because more than likely they never played outside in China. Remember that everything they come into contact with is most likely a new experience for them, and they need much support approaching it. Playing in the sandbox, swinging, jumping on a trampoline, going inside a playhouse, can be an opportunity to bond, build trust, and enjoy time together as our children begin to feel safe.

 

Make Your Child Your Biggest Concern:

I KNOW how hard it is to bring our new child home to a big family and meet all the needs of each family member. For me, if my new child was awake and I needed to make breakfast, Scott held them or I put them in the carrier. I was able to love on my other children at the same time while keeping my new child my biggest concern.

Sitting on the floor and holding the new child and lots of others is a fun way to make everyone feel loved. I have photos of me holding up to four children at a time, and they remember it too! Not only is it critical for US to build safe bonds with our new children, it is SO important to help all our children adjust and bond to each other.

One way we have found this to be successful is not making anyone share… WHAT? If someone is playing with something, we don’t make them give it to the new child. It was their toy first. We distract our new one with something else (usually toys we brought them in China) OR we take them away from toy area and distract with food. {Food is the GREAT bonder!} It is important to help our other children feel protected and safe too!

The night we came with SJ.

The night we came with SJ.


 

What Does All This Mean?

First of all it is what worked for OUR family but maybe one little thing I shared might help with transitioning your child a little smoother. It is my great passion to help parents and children feel supported and normal through this Cocooning time. I can’t tell you how many people have reached out in those first weeks home at a loss for what to do next. My best advice is this…

Give it Time! Time makes all the difference. I have often said, it takes as long as our children were in an orphanage for them to feel forever in their new family.

Remember Adoption was OUR Choice! Any wounds our children come to us with is now our responsibility. It is the hardest thing in the world to watch your eleven month old bang her head on the mattress self soothing herself to sleep or your four year old SO mad he goes into a crazed screaming fit because he didn’t get his way. It is NOT the child’s responsibility to get over it. It is OUR most eternal privilege to hold and nurture all that yuck away and replace it with unconditional Love!

Jesus says in Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  We are doing Kingdom work when we bring our children home to our family and give give give day in and day out, It is WORK and not to be taken lightly. There is NOTHING easy about raising children and then add adoption on top of that… Eternal Significance. We couldn’t be asked to a higher calling. 

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How a family looks when everyone had been HOME longer than they were in an orphanage~ Beautiful Gospel!


I will continue this Cocooning post on Friday and would love answering any questions you might have.

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Blessings and love to all!