5 Helpful Tips to Remember When You Adopt an Infant.
Mention to people that you are adopting a baby, and they immediately start telling you what you need before you bring home your baby.
“Do you have a Pack ‘n Play? I have an extra!” They say excitedly. “How about a high chair? I’ve got that too!”
Nevermind the fact that you really don’t need a high chair for several more months. And a Pack ‘n Play, though handy, is not the first thing you require when bringing home a baby. It’s great to have friends who are generous and are willing to pitch in when you bring home your new baby, but there are far more important things to remember. People forget that a baby’s needs are simple: a place to rest, nourishment, a few baby essentials, and, most importantly, parents to love on them. Many of the other needs fall into place easily along the way.
What I found in my own experience of adopting three children at birth is that some of the things people tell you are needed at birth are really not that important.
So while you’re preparing for baby’s arrival, keep in mind these five things for when you bring home your baby.
Preparing for an Adoption is Different
One of the questions I was often asked when we said we were adopting a baby was whether I was ready or not. Generally, people who asked the question weren’t asking if I was mentally or emotionally ready to bring home a baby. Instead, they were asking if my nursery was prepared or if I had all the baby gear that I needed.
Although these things are important, I never had a nursery that was complete before any of my babies came home. I usually only kept the basics around because I knew that adoption was an unpredictable situation. There were no guarantees that a situation would work out since birth mothers in our state could not sign consent forms right away. (Check your state laws to determine when your state allows birth mothers to consent to an adoption.)
Sometimes you are able to bring home a baby just like you expect. Other times, the adoption falls through and all the baby things become a reminder of what you have lost. How much you prepare ahead of time is really up to you, but be prepared for either outcome.
Is a Baby Shower a Good Idea?
This leads to the question of whether it’s good to have a baby shower before you bring home the baby. Although this is a personal choice, it’s good to consider both scenarios and your response. If you bring home the baby and you don’t have much (other than the essentials) will that cause stress? However, if the adoption falls through and you have a fully stocked nursery, how will you feel about facing those reminders?
In my own experience, I was concerned that if I had too many baby gifts and we were not able to bring home a child, I knew that would make it harder. For our third adoption, we had several failed attempts to adopt. I had only bought a few baby things in preparation but promptly returned them when one adoption did not go through. As you prepare the nest for the little one, prepare your heart for two scenarios, knowing there’s never a 100 percent guarantee that baby will come home as planned or at the right time.
Though I made sure to have the necessary items on hand, we always waited to have the baby shower until after the baby came home. This made the situation easier for everyone because they knew that when we brought home a child, they didn’t have to worry about taking gifts back or the possibility that these gifts would be a painful reminder. They also knew the gender so they could buy gender-specific clothes and room decorations. For me, it made the whole baby shower situation easier to plan the event for later on. But no matter what you choose, enjoy your shower, no matter when you plan on doing it.
Your Baby Needs to Bond with You
When it comes to what you actually need when you bring home a baby, the truth is, it really isn’t much. Yes, babies need a place to sleep. Babies need milk for their hungry bellies. But really what your baby needs is you. This is the best advice for when you bring your baby home. Your baby craves love. He needs someone to meet his physical needs and attachment needs in order to reach his fullest potential. That means the most important thing you can do when bringing your baby home is to spend as much time as possible loving and caring for your new child.
To begin, you will want to work on building a bond between you and your new child. One of the ways to do this is to practice a lot of close contact with your baby. For some parents, this means skin-to-skin contact. For other parents, this means lots of holding and close cuddling. Still, others do baby-wearing with a sling. Some choose to do a combination of the above. How you provide that loving and affectionate touch is up to you. The more time you spend in close contact, engaging with your baby, the better that will be for establishing your bond.
Establish Your Role
Another thing that you can do to help establish a bond is to be the primary caregiver for the child. For many families, the mother and father are the primary caregivers, so this is not an issue. But for others, this may be affected by either a work schedule that requires you to leave your child in daycare or by family members, who want to be a help during those first few weeks. Certainly, if you are one of those lucky people who have family willing to help, accept the help. There will be plenty of dishes to wash and endless piles of laundry to fold. Just remember that in order to establish your role to your baby as their primary caregiver, you should be the person who cares for them the most: holding the baby, feeding them, and caring for them.
Your baby spent nine months in their birth mother’s womb establishing a bond with them. That is nine months of bonding with their birth mother. Nine months of hearing their voice and listening to the rhythm of their heart. Now that the original parental bond has been severed, your baby will need to establish a new bond with you and that takes time. That means they need to hear your voice. They need to be able to look at your face. They should see that their needs are being met when you feed them or change their diaper. They should know that you are going to hold them when they are upset. Through repetition, a baby learns who his caregiver is. He comes to rely on you for help and to look to you for his comfort when he is fussy.
If you are constantly having other people hold and feed your baby, it can be confusing for establishing that bond. Your baby needs to learn through repetition who you are and this can only happen when you are meeting a baby’s needs consistently.
So does this mean that you can’t have anyone else care for your baby? Although some people go so far as to say that no one else should hold a baby in those early months, I think the choice is a personal one. I don’t think having grandma hold your little one sometimes is a bad thing, as long as your baby relies on you as their main caregiver. I did allow some family members to hold my babies, but I tried to establish my role as primary caregiver, along with my husband. We were the ones who did the majority of the feeding, soothing, and diaper changes. We were the ones continually providing care and comfort for our child. This is the most important thing for establishing a routine, so the baby can come to trust you to meet their needs. They should learn that when they cry, you will comfort and cuddle them and when they’re hungry, you will feed them. Since you did not have nine months of caring for that child in your womb, you will start working on your bond and attachment the day the baby is placed in your care. That is the most important thing to remember when you bring home a baby.
Finally, besides establishing the important attachment bond, the other piece of advice is to learn to stay flexible, adjust your expectations, and enjoy the ride. So many times as parents, we have our expectations set so high that we will experience feelings of inadequacy when we don’t meet our dream of what parenthood should look like. The next several months are a time to learn to adjust your expectations.
We all have a dream in our mind of how parenting is going to go, especially when we first bring home a baby. It’s such a special time, but it can also be very exhausting when the baby is up several times a night. Also, every baby is different—some babies like a schedule, others are colicky, others like to be held all the time. It’s really about learning how your child responds. In these cases, it’s not unusual to struggle with understanding how to meet your baby’s needs and to feel adequate learning the best ways to do that. Also, sleep deprivation, family changes, and post-adoptive depression syndrome can bring about feelings of frustration and despair. Please know that although many of these feelings are a normal part of the adjustment of becoming a parent, sometimes you need extra help. Parenthood requires a great deal of work and flexibility, but if you give yourself grace in the process, you will learn how to adjust to the constant changes that parenthood brings.
There may be no other role in life that is as exhausting as being a parent, but there may also be no other role that is as fulfilling either. If you find yourself struggling to adjust your expectations, find some friends who are also moms or grandmas who can provide a good listening ear. It’s important to share your struggles with someone else, especially friends who understand how hard parenthood is. Find a group of friends who have children the same age, or who are ahead of you on this journey. They can help answer your questions and offer advice. They will help you to see that your feelings are normal and that parenthood can have its ups and downs, but you can still enjoy the journey.
Don’t forget to take breaks and learn to do things just for you during this busy time of adjustment. It can be all too easy to forget about self-care and scheduling time for you. Even an hour away can help refresh your spirits so that you can be a more engaged parent.
Likewise, when you struggle through a new season of parenthood, look to resources for helping you with the questions you don’t have answers to, whether that’s navigating the open adoption relationship, or understanding why your child is having tantrums. There are so many parenting resources out there, it’s just a matter of being willing to find and implement the things you learn.
No matter what you face, remember this: If you are able to provide a loving home, strong attachment, and flexibility in learning your role as a parent, you will be further along in your parenthood journey in the end. We all learn how to navigate parenthood the same way: by learning to be the best parent possible for our child. When you first bring home the baby, you’ll discover that this is only the beginning of a beautiful journey together.
Sara R. Ward is a writer, adoption advocate, and mom to three children through adoption. Her passion is helping adoptive parents and those who struggle with infertility and grief on her blog PoetsandSaints. Sara writes about parenting, marriage, and faith and has a book coming out in 2019. Follow Sara on Facebook or Instagram @SaraRWard.