Adopting Embryos Created with an Anonymous Donor

 

Even though embryo adoption has been around for more than two decades, sometimes this kind of adoption can be a bit of a brain bender. But when you consider that life begins at conception, embryo adoption is such a beautiful way to build your family and rescue embryos from being frozen in time and space. At the beginning of a couple’s embryo adoption process, oftentimes the idea that the embryos are created through the placing family’s egg and sperm begins to form in their minds.

What surprises many adopting families is learning that nearly 50% of donated embryos are created through donor egg or sperm.

But if you put yourself in the shoes of the placing family, this decision is not so surprising. The desire to build a family can be extremely strong. Perhaps a family has gone through three rounds of IVF with no success, and the doctor advises them to consider using a donor egg. Many infertile couples continue their journey with a resounding YES! to donor egg and/or sperm.

What are the Pros and Cons for adopting couples thinking about adopting embryos created with a donor?

PROS:

  • Due to the average age of the donor, these embryos are typically more rigorous in achieving pregnancy.
  • Careful screening of donors for genetic, medical, and psychological issues is done.
  • You will receive a donor profile from the fertility clinic as part of the matching process.
  • Many adopting couples’ hearts and minds are put at ease when they realize that children have been born to the placing family resulting from these embryos.

CONS:

  • Discovering the identity of the donor can be difficult, as anonymity is still common-place in the fertility world.
  • The donor’s health history is not updated after the time of the donation.

What are some special considerations to keep in mind when adopting embryos created with a donor?

  • Work to understand the placing family’s motivations. Start by remembering your own grief work around not being able to have a genetic child and your own family building expectations.
  • Know you can choose to not adopt embryos created with anonymous donors, but be prepared for a longer matching time.
  • It is your responsibility as a parent to build a solid foundation for your child by telling them their whole story. You don’t want your child to learn about their beginnings from someone else.
  • There are resources available to you to help you explain to your child about their beginnings.

Racial Reconciliation and Adoption

 

Reconciliation is at the center of the gospel. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 says, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

Jesus Christ was sent to this world to reconcile our sinful selves to God and call us to the ministry of reconciliation. Reconciliation means “to restore to friendship or harmony.” Christ first restored our relationship and harmony with God and now offers this same act as a ministry for us to participate in with others. Reconciliation is the very act of adoption – we were brought into God’s family after our brokenness was restored through Christ.

We see much division across our nation due to differences in perspectives and experiences. This spans across values, politics, faith, and racial issues, just to name a few. God calls us to walk in harmony with others and seek reconciliation. He calls us to see value in those that may look, act, or believe differently than us and not to separate ourselves. One of those areas is racial reconciliation, which has come to the forefront of our nation’s attention. For transracial adoptive families, you have been confronted with many feelings, fears, and concerns as racial tensions now confront us. As a world, we are challenged to consider what it means to seek harmony when any of our community is hurting and in need. What should reconciliation look like?

The process of reconciliation should first look like opening and evaluating your heart, mind, emotions, and actions, through guidance by the Holy Spirit. Laying yourself before God and praying along with David in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” As God reveals sin in our thoughts, words, and deeds, we can ask Him first for forgiveness and then turn to seek forgiveness and harmony from any that we have hurt. How might this look in a racial reconciliation context? We can allow God to examine our hearts for any judgments, prejudices, or racist thoughts, words, or deeds.

Being surrounded by our culture that has been permeated with racism, these thoughts can creep inside us, often without our realization. God can reveal these to us through prayer, reading books that address racism, listening to the voices of people of color around us, and examining our hearts. When we as individuals can do this, it plays into the greater movement of our society seeking harmony and restoration with others that have been wronged. We can seek harmony with our brothers and sisters of color around us and speak to others through our ministry of reconciliation.

Where does adoption fit into the narrative of racial reconciliation? Adoption can move us in the right direction, but this is done through changes in our hearts: not simply through the act of adoption. Transracial adoption does not fix underlying problems. A family adopting a child of a different race or ethnicity into their family will not automatically rid them or others of prejudice. When the adoptive parents open their hearts to reconciliation as they consider adopting a child of another race, He can show you any places of racial prejudice inside you to rid from your heart and mind, as discussed above. Adopting a child from another race or culture will naturally bring up conversations and comments from friends and family that will allow you an opportunity to speak the truth and confront any of their prejudicial beliefs, whether conscious or subconscious. These conversations allow others to learn about someone else’s experience that differs from their own and challenges them to understand. These are changes that can come from our experiences in adoption and can impact the greater sins of racism around us if you are mindful to do so.

Recognizing the joys and true challenges of bringing a child from another race into your home is imperative. Our desire at Nightlight is to help guide our adoptive families in this journey through education and support. We are growing the resources we have available to transracial adoptive families and hope you keep checking back on the blog for more information in parenting your adopted child.

–Heather McAnear Sloan, Director of Post Adoption Connection Center

Preparing for a Frozen Embryo Transfer

 

You have decided you want to pursue embryo adoption and have completed all the necessary steps. You have chosen an agency, filled out an application, completed the home study, have been matched with embryos, finalized the contract, and had the embryos shipped to the clinic!

Now you are super excited to get to the fun part, right? The day of your long awaited frozen embryo transfer (FET)! However, you may have to wait just a little bit longer before that special day.

Your clinic may require some preliminary tests before you are ready to begin preparation. Once you have been medically cleared, then you are ready to start the prep work!

First, you will typically begin birth control, followed by an ultrasound to make sure the lining of the uterus is thin and blood work to check hormone levels. Then, your reproductive endocrinologist will prescribe estrogen pills to build up the uterine lining, followed by another ultrasound and more blood work. (Some REs may even allow you to complete a natural cycle transfer with no birth control or medications. Talk with your clinic to see if this is a possibility for you!) REs have an “ideal” thickness that they like to see the uterine lining before they proceed with an FET, but don’t be discouraged if your lining is not within that range! Many women, including myself, have gone on to do transfers with a lining that was not considered optimal and had a successful pregnancy!

About five days before your scheduled FET, you will begin taking progesterone in oil injections each day. It is not the most fun, but so worth it once you see that positive pregnancy test! I would recommend warming the oil with a heating pad or by rubbing it between your hands before you start. It also helps to sit on a heating pad for a few minutes before the injection, as this will help prevent lumps under the skin. Massaging the injection site immediately afterward can help prevent those lumps, too. Switching injection sides each day is recommended, so you do not get too sore on one side.

The day of the FET is really quite simple and easy compared to everything else leading up to it! You will come to the office with a full bladder (yes, really), get changed in to a medical gown and hairnet, and the doctor will perform the FET using a small catheter. You get to watch the embryo get implanted right there on the ultrasound!

At this point you are done! Try to keep busy and focus on other things during the two week wait for the pregnancy test. You will continue the progesterone in oil injections for those two weeks after your FET and continue them for several weeks after if you have a positive pregnancy test.

You got this, mama! And if your FET resulted in a negative pregnancy test, you are strong and courageous for giving those little embryos a chance at a full life!

 

-An Embryo Adoptive Mama

For more information, please visit Snowflakes.org

Adult Adoptees’ Perspective on Interracial Adoption

 

The Debate on Interracial Adoption: Since the 1970s, there have been debates in America on whether children of one race should be adopted by parents of another. One camp argues that children adopted interracially lose their sense of identity and culture, while the other claims that regardless of race, it is positive because these children are finding homes. So, what do adult adoptees have to say about their experiences with being adopted by parents of a different race?

Kiana’s Experience: On the Archibald Project’s 48th episode, Race & Adoption Advice from Adult Adoptees, Kiana speaks about her experience with being a black child adopted and raised by a white, single mother (https://www.thearchibaldproject.com/). Kiana was adopted at age two with two other girls from her orphanage. She grew up in a community that had many adopted children, so her family unit seemed normal to her until the age of five. When Kiana began Kindergarten, children asked why she did not look like her mother; it was difficult to constantly explain that she was adopted and know what level of detail she needed to share. Thankfully, Kiana’s mother encouraged open communication with her daughters about adoption, and together they came up with a plan on what to say to the other kids.

Kiana’s mother made an effort to incorporate Haitian culture into their daily life. Every Haitian Independence Day, the family would cook traditional Haitian food, fly their national flag, and celebrate. They had dance parties to Haitian music and even attended an annual summer camp with other adoptees from their orphanage. Although she speaks fondly of these memories, Kiana explains that interracial adoption is complicated. As an adult, she is most uncomfortable around black individuals because she fears them calling her “white washed.” She continues by saying, “it feels like you are standing at two tables (black and white), and you don’t have a chair at either one.”

My friend, Dante*: It has been over a decade since I met my friend, Dante. Our friendship has been close, and I am immensely grateful that he chose to share his adoption story with me…and all of you! At the age of five, Dante was adopted from Guatemala along with his younger sister, Agostina*. They were adopted by a white couple in the American Midwest.

This time was scary for Dante as he was in a foreign place and did not speak the same language as his adoptive parents. However, as with Kiana, experiencing this transition with a sibling made it much easier. Over time, Dante and Agostina began to trust and bond with their new parents. His parents took a different approach than Kiana’s as they chose not to incorporate Guatemalan culture into their children’s lives. Although Dante regrets losing his Spanish speaking skills, he still embraces his Guatemalan culture as an adult. Dante loves listening to Guatemalan music and learning about the country. Overall, adoption has been a positive experience for him, and he is extremely grateful that his parents made the decision to adopt. Dante reported, “I am thankful for my parents and everything they have given me. Without them, I would have likely ended up in a gang or participating in illegal activities because of where I came from. Instead, I have a good life.” Dante desires to adopt children of his own some day because he “has seen how adoption can change someone’s life for the better.”

Should I Incorporate the Culture of My Child’s Home Country in Our Lives?: The answer to this is… it depends. When a child is adopted, especially from a foreign country, they need to process their new life circumstances and decide what their identity is going to be. They often experience an inner battle between the culture of their homeland and that of their new home. Kiana recommends that adoptive parents give their children space to feel and process all of the emotions that come with creating a new sense of self. She said her mother did a good job of not taking it personally when Kiana pushed her away during these times. In addition, children in a sibling group may not react the same way to this process. For instance, Kiana enjoys learning about her heritage and visiting Haiti, while her sister has little interest in those pursuits. It is important that adoptive parents give their children opportunities to stay invested in their birth country’s culture. From that point, each child can decide whether he or she would like to learn about their heritage or fully embrace an American lifestyle. No path is wrong, and neither indicates that the adoptive parents are not doing a great job at raising their children.

Conclusion: It is difficult to state which side of the debate is correct. Both adoptees above said there were complications with interracial adoption, but also indicated that their experiences were overall positive. Based on these cases, a successful and healthy interracial adoption can be achieved by adoptive parents who 1) support open communication and 2) present opportunities to incorporate the child’s culture if he or she is interested in pursuing it.

*Names have been changed for anonymity

 

written by Heather Berry

The Quality of Embryos Does Not Equal Pregnancy Success

 

It was a dark snowy Friday night when I was driving to meet my husband at a local fundraiser.  I typically drive in silence but I had stumbled across a radio program that caught my attention.  My husband and I been unsuccessfully trying to build our family for over three years.  The initial testing had left us without answers.  We were preparing to meet with a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) and were nervous about the ‘next steps’.  At the time we did not know embryo adoption existed. Should our next step be IVF? Could we do IVF and still honor our faith and honor life?  These discussions were weighing heavily on my heart. As I listened, the message focused on the sanctity of human life, even in its earliest stages, and my tears welled up.  A part of me was scared this was my answer: IVF was not part the right choice for us.  As I arrived at our destination, I saw my hubby, rolled down my window and said I would meet him inside. As he walked away, the message concluded and right there in front of me, fireworks started going off.  I couldn’t have planned the timing better, but there they were…. Fireworks.

A few weeks later our RE advised us that they would do a workup on me and then likely would recommend IVF if all came back ok.  We shared our beliefs with them about not creating more embryos than we would use. They hesitantly agreed to honor our wishes, warning us our chances of conceiving would be significantly reduced with these restrictions.  We left feeling a little defeated and more confused than ever.

We returned to our RE’s office ready to discuss the recent test results and next steps.  We were floored when our doctor said ‘premature ovarian failure’ and said our chances of conceiving even with IVF and without any of our ‘restrictions’ were less than 5%.  I was shocked!  I was angry.  I was confused.  I was every emotion under the sun.  I was devastated.  But now we knew for sure: the door to IVF was shut.

Somewhere in the fog of the next few months, I learned of embryo adoption and that night of fireworks started to have new meaning and new hope.  I had been heartbroken over the possibility of not being able to feel life grow inside me.  I wanted to experience the joy of childbirth.  Embryo adoption truly was and is the answer to our prayers.  We began our embryo adoption.

A year later, we had been through one failed FET and had been matched with a second family.  We were head over heels in love with this family. They had chosen life for their three embryos and had agreed to place them with us.  We felt such a strong connection to the family and were overjoyed with the match.

When our embryologist received the embryology report, she called to tell us we should consider sending the embryos back. We quickly said no, we were committed to our babies.  She went on to tell us the embryos were graded a B, BC, and C and there had been a power outage when they were being frozen.  The power blipped for just a second and then the generator kicked in, but with the fragility of embryos, she feared we wouldn’t even have viable embryos once they were thawed.  We were crushed but held onto hope that this was the plan for our family and we needed to stay the course.

Two months later we were pleasantly surprised to show up for our transfer with two viable embryos ready to transfer and one left safely in cryopreservation for a future attempt.  On September 15th we heard the words we had waited so long to hear: “You’re pregnant!” On June 2 we gave birth to our beautiful baby girl, Makenna Lee.

And let’s not forget about that little ‘C’ embryo that was waiting in the freezer for us.  Against all odds, he survived the thaw beautifully and we completed our family with the birth of the sweetest boy ever, Alexander Brooks.  While embryo adoption may not be the right choice for everyone, it blessed us beyond expectation and measure.

 

–Embryo Adoptive Family Testimony

Keeping Your Marriage a Priority During Your Adoption Journey

 

The adoption journey is hard—especially on a marriage. From what seems like endless stacks of paperwork, waiting for a match, the anxious feeling you may have about any unforeseen hurdles… it can be hard not to feel a strain on your relationship. And this is all happening at a time when you need each other’s support the most.
Being forward with each other and taking precise steps lets you both take positive and preventable action to preserve your marriage. If you are blessed with a child, you will need and want a strong marriage to bring that child into. We made a list of small practices to put into action, so you can keep your marriage strong through the adoption process.

1. Decide to invest in the marriage – Don’t assume a healthy marriage will automatically happen. Proactively decide that preserving your marriage is as important as (or more important) than adopting a child. Remember what brought you together, invest time, money, and energy into making it strong for when you are a parent. This priority still remains after you bring a child into your home.
2. Make a plan together – It is important that both you and your spouse are in agreement of the plan of action you will take. This includes what program to pursue, how much money is practical to spend, how long you’re both willing to wait. You must be prepared to be flexible with one another.
3. Communicate constantly –It is important to set aside time to talk to one another throughout the adoption journey. It is also equally important to listen as much as you talk. Be aware of how the other is doing.
4. Don’t use infertility, stress, or hormones as an excuse for bad behavior – This is not a free pass. Recognize the impact of stressful behavior on one another. Don’t push your spouse away because you are having a difficult time in this stage of the process. Be there to support each other; they are not the enemy.
5. Ask for help – Don’t be afraid to ask one another for help. And don’t be afraid to ask for outside help either! Counseling is extremely beneficial for couples facing an infertility diagnosis.
6. Keep your minds off the process – Schedule something to do every week, or at least once a month, that has nothing to do with adoption or children. Keeping yourselves busy once-in-awhile with other things will help you both to remember your relationship is not defined by adoption.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Nightlight Christian Adoptions!

 

written by Paige Zapf

How to Spread the Word About Embryo Adoption

 

For the past twelve years, I have been working for Nightlight Christian Adoptions. All of my focus has been on raising awareness and participation in embryo donation and adoption. The most discouraging words I hear on any given day are, “I’ve never heard about this before. You need to be doing more to help people know about this wonderful adoption choice!”

Yes. We do.

Today we are going to focus on our BEST voice for letting other people know—YOU!

Why are you our best voice?

  • Because you may have successfully placed your remaining embryos for adoption.
  • Because you may have adopted embryos and given birth to your child.
  • Because you know people who are facing infertility and would be delighted to know about this adoption choice.
  • Because whether you know it or not, you know people who have remaining embryos and would love to help them be born.
  • Because the more people like you who are telling other people, the more people know.
  • One in eight couples are diagnosed with infertility in the United States.

Here are some ideas for helping you engage with people around you. If you would like to talk with me about one of these ideas, or another fabulous idea you have, please contact me in our Colorado office.

  1. Forward the monthly Snowflakes Newsletter to everyone in your email distribution list. There is a super-easy ‘Forward to a Friend’ button at the bottom.
  2. When you send out your Christmas cards/photos/letters this year attach this Snowflakes badge. There are many online services that will allow you to create personalized stickers.
  3. Participate on a Snowflakes Facebook Live session to share your donation or adoption story and answer questions from new inquirers.
  4. Create a vlog series of short, interesting, engaging videos for YouTube, allowing you to uniquely record and share your embryo donation or adoption journey.
  5. If you live near one of our ten Nightlight state offices, work with that office’s staff to be the keynote at an informational adoption seminar specifically on embryo adoption.
  6. Take your Snowflake baby back to your fertility clinic to introduce your baby and encourage the Reproductive Endocrinologist, Embryologist, Donor Coordinator, Nursing staff—everyone—to proactively promote Snowflakes among patients, both donation and adoption.
  7. Choose six (or more) churches in your community. Go visit. Talk with the church secretary. See if you can talk with the pastor or schedule an appointment for later. Ask if there is a specific person in the church who is passionate about adoption and talk with them.
  8. Submit your family’s embryo donation or adoption story to be included on our Family Story pages on the Snowflakes website (please email [email protected] to learn how to submit your story).
  9. Create a 15-30 second video that can be used in our social media advertising campaigns.
  10. Send us photos of your Snowflakes babies, along with a completed photo release form, to use in our awareness efforts!
  11. Talk with your employer’s human resource department and ask to have any adoption benefits apply to embryo adoption. (Proctor & Gamble provides this benefit to their employees.)
  12. Reach out to your local media outlets—newspapers/T.V./radio, to ask if they would be interested in your embryo donation or adoption story. Human-interest stories are a valuable tool for grabbing the attention of their audience.

Written by Kimberly Tyson

Learn more about embryo adoption at Snowflakes.org and EmbryoAdoption.org.

Meaningful Ideas for Birth Parent Gifts

 

Having a prospective birthmother choose you to raise her child is a priceless gift that you can never truly repay. Many adoptive parents choose to express their feelings for a birthparent by giving them a meaningful gift at the hospital when the baby is born or at placement- something a birthparent can treasure for the rest of their life. With the holidays approaching you can also be mindful to continue celebrating and loving your birthparents, even if the placement has already happened. For birthparents, the holidays can be a difficult time, filled with reminders of loss and grief. This is completely normal. Adoption can hold a lot of pain, loss, heartbreak, and grief, but also a lot of forgiveness, redemption, and love. The sheer definition of the word “gift” is: “a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present.” It is a simple act of kindness to show someone that they are cared for, thought about, and loved.

 

Because giving birthparents gifts can be a sensitive topic, it’s important that you talk to your agency caseworker about what gift is appropriate in your situation, whether it is for placement or after. Your caseworker will be able to give you input about which kind of gift is best for the birthparent’s emotions at that time, as well as remind you of your state’s legal standards regarding living expense laws before or at placement.

 

Here are some gift ideas for birthparents, whether it is for the adoption placement or a “just because” gift throughout the years as you continue to grow with one another in the adoption process:

 

  1. Flowers: Flowers are always a cheery sight for anyone. For a first match meeting, the hospital, or an annual visit, this can be a great idea to bring with you and give directly to her – or have them delivered. This could also be a fruit or chocolate bouquet.

 

  1. A commemorative piece of jewelry: Many adoptive parents choose to give their child’s birthmother a piece of jewelry she can wear as a reminder of the child she placed for adoption. It may be engraved with her baby’s initials or feature the baby’s birthstone. Whatever personalization you choose to give it, make sure it’s subtle so that your child’s birthmother is not constantly having to explain it to people she may not want to share that part of her story with. We have also seen adoptive families gift their birthmother a beautiful necklace called the “Adoption Triad Necklace”. It is simple, delicate, and a subtle chain necklace with a gold triangle; representing the adoption triad.

 

  1. A post–partum recovery basket: Recovering from giving birth can be both a physical and emotional act. A birthmother could not only be dealing with the emotions of placing her child for adoption, but also may have had to take time off work. You can make that process easier by creating a spa, self-care basket (lotions, bath items, etc.) so she can pamper herself during this time. If approved by your lawyer or agency caseworker, you may wish to also send a gift basket of meal preparation, gift cards and other practical things to help her during this time.

 

  1. Stuffed Animals: Birthmothers will likely be looking for comfort after placing their child for adoption. I recommend getting two identical stuffed animals: gift one to the birthparent, and one to the child. I then encourage adoptive families to take monthly/yearly photos of the child next to the stuffed animal as they continue to grow and send these photos to the birthmother. This is so the birthmother can see how big the child is growing and will be able to compare it to the same stuffed animal she has. To go a step further, you could even purchase a stuffed animal with a recording in it and record the child’s voice or heartbeat to gift to the birthmother. Another option is taking an outfit your child wore during their time in the hospital and have it turned into a bear.

 

  1. An engraved watch: Like jewelry for birthmothers, an engraved watch is a great way for a birthfather to carry around the memory of his child and your relationship with him. As you would with the jewelry, make sure the engraving is subtle (perhaps on the inside of the wrist) so he doesn’t have to answer unwelcomed questions about what it means. Ideas for engravings could be the child’s time of birth, the child’s date of birth, or initials.

 

  1. A meaningful book or an adoption memory book: If you know the birthparent has a particular interest in something, consider buying them a book about that subject. This goes hand in hand with hobbies. If you know your birthparent is interested in a particular hobby as well, consider gifting them something along those lines. Sometimes adoptive parents have created a more involved memory book as well for their birthparents. In addition to photos, it can include mementos from the adoption process, like your original adoptive family profile, things from the hospital stay, baby’s footprints, etc. You can leave blank pages for the memories still to come. Some families purchase a recordable children’s book. Have the birthmother record her voice by reading the book. This will allow her voice to be heard by the baby and it is a wonderful way for her to feel connected with her child. As the child gets older and is able to read, you could also have the child record their voice and gift the book back to the birthmother.

 

  1. Beautiful Framed Art: If you and the birthparents live in different cities or states, you could gift them with a beautiful art piece of the two cities or state maps overlapping one another. This could be found online, such as Etsy. A framed copy of your child’s footprints or handprints would be meaningful too if your birthparent did not receive this from the hospital. Even as your child grows up, don’t forget to gift your birthparents some of the child’s artwork that they will create throughout the years.

 

  1. Photo frame or photo album: A birthparent may appreciate a memorable, engraved frame or photo album with several photos of their child. This way, they can store or switch out photos they receive from you or the agency over the years as their baby grows up.

 

  1. Journal: Gift your birthmom a journal. This can not only be healing and therapeutic for her, but also a way for her to write notes and letters to her child. You could also do a stationary set that includes envelopes and stamps so that she can send letter to her child.

 

  1. Keepsake box: A memory box or a keepsake box contains a selection of memorable and meaningful items or memorabilia that belonged to a loved one. Gifting your birthmom a memory box can be a significant and meaningful way for her to store precious memories and gifts that you send her.

 

Remember, each adoption relationship is different, and it may not always be the right thing to give a gift to the birthparents. However, if you do choose to give your child’s birthparents a meaningful gift, it can be an important step in solidifying a strong relationship between you all for many years to come.

 

Written by Caidon Glover, LMSW | Pregnancy Counselor

Learning the Attachment “Dance”

 

 

Attachment is the secure bond that is created initially between an infant and their caregiver. This attachment process will begin in utero with a child’s birthmother and then be formed again with other caregivers, specifically their adoptive parents. Children have the capacity to form several attachment relationships, the important thing is those are formed with adults who will remain consistently, and lovingly, in the child’s life. Even for children adopted in infancy, there is an element of loss that the child will feel when receiving new caregivers after their birthmother. In order to have healthy, intimate attachments later in life with family, friends, and spouses, an individual has to learn healthy attachment as a child.

 

This article discusses the styles, or ways, an infant attaches to a parent as well as the ways that a parent attaches to their child. Attachment is often called a dance, corresponding movements and counter-movements between both the child and parent. Both have to participate and move in order to make this a real dance. When the child is securely attached and the parent is securely attached, this dance moves as it is supposed to. Often times because of our own difficult childhoods and the experiences your child has had with caregivers in his life, one or both parties may not have the ability to attach in a healthy and secure way. Below is an outline of secure and insecure attachments and how those impact us as adults.

Attachment Styles – Children

There are four identified attachment styles in children that predict the way they attach to their caregiver. In observational experiments in children age 18 months, called The Strange Experiment, these four styles are demonstrated and can be matched with a corresponding attachment style in their caregiver. We will first examine the four styles in children to understand these attachment styles and how that impacts the child as an adult and their attachment style.

Secure

A child who is securely attached has a caregiver that consistently responds to the needs/cries of their child. This child regularly has their physical and emotional needs met and they are confident when they have a need (hungry, upset, tired, diaper change), crying will result in their needs being met.

Anxious – Avoidant

A child with anxious-avoidant attachment has a caregiver who does not respond when the infant is upset. The parent may shush their child to stop crying without meeting their needs (the reason for the crying in the first place). This child learns not to cry to get needs met and that they have to meet their needs themselves.

Anxious-Ambivalent

A child with anxious-ambivalent attachment has a caregiver who inconsistently responds when the infant is upset. This parent sometimes responds to the cries and needs of their child and other times does not. This can be for a variety of reasons, but some may be mental health issues or substance abuse in the parent. When the parent is in a good place, they respond well to their child, but they do not respond well when they are in a bad place. This child cries and is difficult to soothe in an effort to stay in the caregiver’s direct attention.

Disorganized

A child with disorganized attachment has a caregiver who is frightening/traumatic. This typically happens in situations where a child is in an abusive home. The person who is supposed to be their source of comfort when they have a need or are upset is also the person that is hurting them. The child has no clear strategy when upset and you will see very erratic behavior from them when they are upset.

Attachment Styles – Adults

It is important to understand the attachment style that we developed as children because this will directly impact our attachment relationship with our children. The duty to attach is not placed solely on a child’s attachment to you, but it is also your ability to attach to them. In studies done on attachment styles, 81% of the time a mother’s Adult Attachment Inventory (AAI) classification (listed below) predicted their classification as children. This shows a direct correlation with your childhood attachment style and your corresponding adult attachment style. When looking back through generations, 75% of the time the mother’s classification predicted their grandmother’s classification. Attachment styles can be passed down from caregiver to child to caregiver to child through a generation. You usually parent your children the way your parents parented you, good or bad. If that generational line of descendants are not securely attached, then they are passing on insecure attachment relationships to their children.

Secure

A secure adult is 1) able to give care, 2) able to receive care, 3) able to negotiate their needs, and 4) able to be autonomous. These skills are developed as infants/children in healthy attachment relationships with our caregivers. For example, if our cries were appropriately attended to, then we learned that when we speak a need, a loved one will meet that need and we can trust them to do so. If we learned that our needs are not met, then as adults we will not voice our needs or trust anyone will meet them if we do.

Avoidant – Dismissing

A dismissive adult is closed off emotionally. They are able to give physical care to a child (feed, clothe, bathe, etc.) but do not connect emotionally. They can be described as not a “huggy, touchy, or feely” person, as physical affection does not come naturally. These adults put energy/interest into objects/things rather than people.

Ambivalent – Entangled

An entangled adult can be described as intrusive with care and in relationships or they get emotionally close to someone very quickly. They do not have good and healthy boundaries in their relationships and can be seen as controlling or overbearing. They may carry anger or resentment toward their own parents that is unresolved as an adult.

Unresolved – Disorganized

A disorganized adult may engage in mental “checking out” behaviors/disassociation. They commonly have behavioral or emotional disorders or another mental health diagnosis. Their personal relationships are chaotic/confusing.

 

In the general population, among adults you will find that 60% are categorized as Secure, 18% Avoidant, 12% Ambivalent, and 10% Unresolved. Interestingly, among the foster/adoptive parent population, you will find that 15% are categorized as Secure, 40% Avoidant, 15% Ambivalent, and 30% Unresolved. There is a much higher percentage of Avoidant and Unresolved adults among foster/adoptive parents. Reasons for this could be that these adults grew up in homes where their parents did not connect/attach with them emotionally (Avoidant attachment style) or were abusive/unstable (Unresolved) and their attachment style corresponds to their parents (remember, 81% have the same attachment style as their parents.) These parents want to provide a different experience for a child that has been orphaned or placed for adoption, so they are drawn to serve and love this population of children. However, without intervention, these adoptive parents will struggle in attaching with their child, especially if their child has their own attachment insecurities, and perpetuate the cycle.

Intervention

Dr. Karyn Purvis says that we cannot take a child to a place of healing if we have not gone there ourselves. Even with children adopted at infancy, impacts of stress, substance use/abuse, or traumatic experiences in utero or during delivery will leave lasting impacts on a child in development and attachment. There are great resources to read and digest in the areas of child and adult attachment and impacts of trauma on the brain to children, especially in adoption. Three authors we highly recommend are:

 

If you would like to have an evaluation done of your adult attachment style, you can get an Adult Attachment Inventory (AAI) completed by a trained and licensed counselor or psychologist. One professional we recommend is Jim Harlow (http://www.jimharlowlpc.com/) but there are other counselors around Texas that can complete this evaluation. There are online inventories you can do, but the best results will be received by an in-person interview.

 

We encourage you to seek a path to healing for yourself if you grew up with a difficult childhood or relationship with either of your parents. Any impacts or wounds from your childhood will have lasting results that will be brought up in you as you become a parent. A child knows exactly how to find the right buttons to push in you, especially if your child has any struggles. The best thing you can do for your child is to seek healing for yourself. Our staff are here to support you and your path to healing. Everyone has some negative impacts from their childhood and openly admitting these will not disqualify you from adoption. We know counseling is used by the Lord to make you the best individual, spouse, and parent you can be and we encourage you to seek this as needed while you are adopting.

 

written by Heather McAnear, LBSW | Inquiry Specialist | Post Adoption Connection Center Coordinator 

Spirit of Openness: How it Relates to Adoption

 

 

As an adoption agency, Nightlight Christian Adoptions deeply believes in the value of open adoption and the positive impact it has on all members of the adoption triad. One of the main questions that Nightlight social workers typically receive from inquiring prospective adoptive parents is about openness and the relationship they will have with their future child’s birth family. It is a topic that we often explore in depth with families throughout the process, starting at inquiry and spanning through to post-adoption. If the idea of openness is not explored and researched properly, culture (including movies and TV shows) may lead to feelings of fear and anxiety, especially since society does not portray many parts of adoption accurately or in a healthy way. Many prospective adoptive parents have walked a painful and difficult journey prior to beginning the adoption process with an agency or attorney, and fear may be a comfortable place to settle (as it is for most of us in so many areas of our lives) as the new path to parenthood is begun. As I continue to explore the concept of openness that will be unique to each adoption with prospective or current adoptive parents, I have really begun to shift encouraging both “open adoption” and a “spirit of openness.” The purpose in this is because a “spirit of openness” can be demonstrated within the adoption triad in every adoption (embryo, domestic, foster care, international), where the practical logistics of an open adoption may not – for various reasons.

Now what can this look like? This may look like the creation of a life book (maybe even beginning with the birth mother’s pregnancy journey), open and honest conversations with the child (and almost always his/her birth family), sharing pieces of a child’s tough story as appropriate, explaining openly and kindly to the child as to why they may not have contact or any knowledge about the child’s birth family, and addressing intricate identity questions as the child begins to understand the complex, unique, beautiful, and sometimes painful journey to their adoptive parents. One of Nightlight’s domestic adoptive parents told their son a story about his birth mother every day when he went down for a nap. Before 15 months of age, he knew her name and that she is another person in his life who loves him. Of course at that age, he cannot grasp what that entails; however, he will grow up always having a memory of her being someone important in his and his family’s life – and as appropriate and healthy, he can begin to understand all that entails. Logistically, this family has not had a visit with their child’s birth mother since he was born (a few years ago) due to the birth mother not desiring visits at this point of her journey of adoption (it is so critical to remember the journey experienced by birth parents and navigating that with the child’s). However, he will always understand that his parents not only want to share his story with him, but also his parents’ desire to love his birth mother and honor her role in his life by sharing about her openly and regularly. Birth (or genetic) parents may not always desire visits or even direct contact, and there is no question that adoptive parents may have a difficult time navigating that part of the child’s story. However, the honest and open discussions will allow for the child to ask questions as he or she feels necessary and help in the journey of bridging that gap in their story.

Even in open adoptions, there may not necessarily be a “spirit of openness.” There may be certain circumstances in a birth family’s (or adoptive parents’) life or adoption journey that may lead to hard conversations and complicated contact between members of the adoption triad. But even in those moments, the adoptive parents play a key role in shaping a child’s view of his or her birth family (and, in turn, a reflection of the child’s own personal identity as a part of the biological family). In the end, many adoptees may internalize how adoptive parents reflect on their birth family – as he or she always will have a connection to them that cannot be broken or ignored or glossed over. This lack of a spirit of openness can be displayed in very simple things that adoptive parents may not even realize, such as tone/attitude when discussing the behaviors of the birth family or fear or anxiety when preparing for visits, phone calls, letters, etc. Children pick up on the smallest attitudes and fears, especially when related to their adoption story. There is no doubt that this is a difficult balance to explore, but humility, honesty, forgiveness, and grace play major roles in the journey for the entire adoption triad.

Many times, the struggle with a spirit of openness comes from a place of fear (before, during, or after the adoption). However, our Heavenly Father does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). Adoption is a complicated, messy, and beautiful journey for all members of the adoption triad, and a spirit of openness is going to further provide opportunities for exploration, development, and healing throughout the process for everyone. A spirit of openness about a child’s adoption and his or her birth family can always be attainable, even when an open adoption may not be (whether now or ever). In the end, the goal for all adoptive parents, birth parents, adoption professionals, etc. is whatever is in the best interest of the child.

 

written by Chelsea Tippins