Thursday, February 26, 2009

Adoption Specialist

We met with our adoption specialist, Susan, for the first time yesterday. This is the woman who will be writing our homestudy that will be sent to Korea. It was a very good meeting! We got some paperwork and questions out of the way, and then we spent the rest of the time answering questions. Basically Susan's job is to learn as much as she can about our family in the 3-4 meetings that we have and then write out a comprehensive review that the Korean adoption agency can look at. It will help them in choosing a specific child for us. Susan did her best to reduce our anxiety about the meeting, assuring us that this isn't the "weeding out" part of the process. We've already been through that, and now is just the learning part of the process. She will learn about us, and we will learn about adoption from Korea.

The questions we were asked this time related to our motivation for adoption, specifically international adoption. And then more specifically "why Korea?" This is the question that is often the most difficult for us to answer concisely. I think (hope!) we did an adequate job of presenting our motivations.

We learned some interesting and probably important things from Susan last night. First, she described for us what our child would most likely be like when we go to pick them up. She told us that Korean foster mothers will in most cases carry the baby everywhere all day long. The babies typically co-sleep (sleep in bed with foster parents). Also, Korean mothers wake an infant up multiple times a night to feed them, as they believe babies should not go an entire night without feeding. There are several implications of all this. First, our child will most likely have low muscle tone when we receive it. We will have to do a lot of lifting and carrying. She said they quickly are able to adjust and build muscle, but the child will most likely prefer being held to playing on the floor. Second, the child will have to either sleep with us or in our room until we are able to wean it away into a crib and its own space. Also, since the babies are fed all night long, they are typically around 25 lbs! So, I guess its time to break out the weights and start preparing my body to be a mom :) All of this was REALLY good information for me as I think I would have been totally unprepared for that. I would expect our child to be at the same developmental stages as an American child of the same age. I am excited to continue learning more!


Sarah Crane said...

Hi Andrea!
I'm enjoying reading about your adoption journey. I'm not sure how old of a baby you are planning on adopting, but I thought it was interesting that the adoption worker assumed that because the baby was "carried all day" it would somehow have low muscle tone or be developmentally behind. The style of care you were describing that Korean mothers/foster mothers give their children (carrying them in slings, co-sleeping, breastfeeding at night, etc.) is actually the way most cultures around the world care for their children. In fact, if you look into Attachment Parenting (a style often recommended to help adopted children) this style is also fairly common in the U.S. and other "developed" countries.

Your adoption consultant may be talking about mothers carrying their babies everywhere AFTER 6 months of age, which probably COULD affect muscle tone if the child really had no time to move on their own (yet these children do still learn to walk, right?. :-) However, it is very common and actually beneficial to infants to be held, rocked and carried. It actually helps to stimulate their brain, helps prevent breathing problems like SIDS (they are reminded to breathe by proximity to the mother) and facilitates breastfeeding and proper growth.

Having done research on the Attachment Parenting style (and also feeling much of it was intuitive to me) My husband and I chose to raise all three of our children that way when they were infants. Although they did take naps on their own during the day, I often held and carried them in a sling for most of the day (before they were crawling age). I also co-slept (which was a huge help with breastfeeding and still allowing me to get good rest) and my children as well as many other breastfeeding mom's kids didn't actually stop nursing at night until around 18 months. Which is a lot more common than you probably hear about. At that point, it was a very easy transition into their own bed and their own room.

As far as how that has worked out for our family, our children all crawled/walked at normal ages or even earlier than normal. My daughter walked at 9 months, the two boys walked at 11 and 12 months. At 6,4 and 2 they are attached to us and also secure enough to be comfortable with being social and outgoing to anybody. Our children are not prone to any sleeping issues such as nightmares, night terrors, trouble going to sleep or trouble staying asleep or bedwetting. I wonder if maybe the good associations they had with sleep early on have something to do with it--or maybe it's just luck! :-) Of course, there is no one "right way" to raise a baby, just wanted to give my two cents that sometimes we can learn from other cultures (many of whom have been using these methods much longer than our society's "cry-it-out" and "sleep in a crib in the nursery" kind of parenting.)

I just wanted to let you know that there are other families out there (here in the US) that choose to use this parenting style with good results. Obviously, you have to do what's best for your family, just wanted to let you know that the style of care may be somewhat different from the mainstream, but that it can also be very beneficial and natural and has been done this way for thousands of years. Babies sleeping on their own in another room would have been totally unheard of even 100 years ago in our country.

From my perspective, I am very happy to hear that Korean foster mothers give so much one-on-one care to babies. Many of the adoption horror stories I have heard are because the child was given very little touch (prior to adoption) in an institutionalized environment and left by themselves in a crib all day, only having basic needs like changing diapers and feeding attended to. These children never were able to bond with a caregiver during a crucial time in development and therefore developed attachment disorders and could not bond with their adoptive families (creating problems with empathy, accepting and giving love and affection, and creating more sociopathic behavior). I am so happy to hear that foster mothers in Korea care for babies this way, because you are much more likely to get a baby who will have no problems with creating a healthy attachment to you and your family. While muscle tone is something that can easily be built, the ability for attachment is far more elusive if it was not developed during a critical timeframe. In fact, if I was going to adopt, I'd probably look at Korea now, since I would worry less about attachment disorders in babies who had been cared for that way. :-)

I hope everything goes well on your adoption journey and I really respect and applaud you guys for going through so much to give a loving home to a child that really needs it!

Do they know how much longer the process is expected to take? I'm sure it will all be worth it when you have that precious child in your arms!
God bless!
Sarah C.