We have now been home with our daughter just over 4 months. When we came home I felt like Tessa (8 months) was adjusting to our family really well, but was feeling so uneasy about her attachment. Knowing full well that it would take time, I also felt like something was "off" and I couldn't put my finger on it. Having had 3 birth children, it was inevitable to compare the process to a certain degree. Maybe not fair, but that can hardly be avoided. I remembered each of my boys at 8 months, 9 months, 10 months....how they smiled and made gleeful noises, their silly expressions, the eye contact. What I kept coming back to was Tessa's flat affect, poor eye contact, inability to laugh out loud and non-reaction to any playful expressions. I just couldn't make sense of it and then began to wonder- what am I doing wrong? Does she not like me? Will she love me?
Despite everything I had read, I began to wonder if something was really wrong in her ability to attach....or perhaps there was something I should be doing that I wasn't. After about the 2 month mark I noticed she was becoming more expressive and needing me more. Things were improving!
With Tessa just celebrating her 1st birthday last week, I was reflecting on how much she has changed in the past 4 months. I realized something, which I wish I had understood earlier while in the midst of my anxiety about our bonding process (but perhaps that is why I couldn't). All of a sudden it dawned on me that while in the care center that Tessa's basic needs were met. She was fed, diapered, she was very healthy physically and I believe was given love and attention. But during that process there wasn't time for enough individual interactions at a deeper level. Of course there wasn't in that setting. And without that focused individual attention and bonding she was unable to develop the social skills that one might normally acquire during those formative early months (like with my birth sons). Tessa had no idea what I was doing when I was trying to make her laugh with my expressions. No idea that I was playing with her. While Tessa could easily attract a person's attention with her gaze and big beautiful eyes, she may smile at you, but wasn't able to go beyond that. It is subtle, very subtle. I am a very sensitive person and keenly aware of expressions, so now as I see Tessa initiate interaction with her silly eyes, her scrunched up nose...I see that she has now learned to connect! She had to have the individual attention to learn these social skills...social skills aren't nature, they are nurture. nuture. nurture.
To some this may be a no brainer....for me it really wasn't and I felt a lot of anxiety. Pricelessly because it is something I care so much about-connecting with my daughter. Coming home with an infant is different than one born to you. Right from the beginning a baby is developing their social skills, their ability to connect. You can't put your hands on it and often can't wrap your head around it, but really isn't that just the most beautiful thing! The bonding is happening now and I can see it in her eyes at last.
Tonight someone asked to hold Tessa at a store. Someone she doesn't know. In the not so distant past she would easily go to anyone without any complaint. Tonight she complained, hung on tight to me and wouldn't let go. She wanted her Mama and didn't want to go to a stranger. aha!