Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An Open Letter to Family and Friends

Dear Family and Friends,

As I prepare for the arrival of Hannah, I have learned that while decorating the nursery and stocking up on baby essentials is important, even more important is the emotional health of my baby. In her short life (8 months today!), my daughter will have gone through more changes and life altering experiences than most adults could handle. Imagine how much harder the changes will be for her. While she may not consciously remember the events, she will still experience immense loss, including feelings of grief and trauma. Currently she is very attached to her nanny and next week that precious woman will place her in my arms and Hannah will deeply feel the loss of her in her life. She's already experienced the loss of her birthmother and will soon experience the loss of familiar and comforting caretakers as well as the sights, smells, and language of her birth country. Her world will turn upside down. She will struggle with feeling safe and secure and she may lack the ability to trust that I will meet her needs.

I am prepared to meet her emotional needs so that she learns that I will always take care of her and I will always keep her safe. I covet your prayers for Hannah and I as she learns to trust me and pray that her little heart opens up to love me as her Mom.

I also need your support. In order to form a strong and healthy attachment I will allow her to regress so that she has the opportunity to go through all of the emotional stages with me despite her chronological age. Although it may appear that I am spoiling her, I have been advised that it is best that I meet every need quickly and consistently. Until she has learned that I am her parent, I will need to be her primary caretaker at all times. It is essential that I always hold Hannah, feed her, and do all of the nurturing. You may wonder how long this will take, but the timeline is different for every child. I will follow her lead and trust my instincts as her parent rather than worry about what society expects.

We have all been waiting anxiously for Hannah to arrive but she has not been waiting for us. She may show her grief and confusion in many ways and I am prepared to help her through it and prove that she and I are a forever family and this truly is her last stop. I trust that as my family and friends you will help me to do what is best for my daughter, and I thank you in advance for your support and understanding.

Love, Catherine

(For more attachment information I recommend going to: A4everFamily.org)


  1. Best wishes with this, Catherine. I'm so glad you're taking all things into consideration. I know how vital all of the attention to emotional health can be . . .

    Mali & I send our blessings.

    (& if anyone thinks it's all silly, feel free to send them our way)


  2. Catherine-

    I just started reading your blog a few weeks ago. My daughter Sarah is adopted (domestic and in-family) and while her first months were different from Hannah's (she lived exclusively with my aunt and uncle who are still big forces in her life) she came home to us at exactly the same age that Hannah will be coming to you.

    You seem so prepared emotionally and practically for this undertaking! All I can tell you is that you will be amazed (I think) at how much of a baby Hannah still is. That may make things easier in terms of people understanding the importance of you being her primary and sole care-giver initially. I was worried when Sarah came home at 8 months that she wouldn't be a baby anymore and how wrong I was! It is wonderful that she is coming to you so young.

    Best wishes for the trip of a lifetime!

  3. Dear Sweet Catherine, you are such a woman of strength! And a woman of faith, love, hope. All of these will be on your side as you make this big step.

    You are wise to set boundaries. You are wise to ask for prayers and support. There are so many who love you and want to help and be a part of this great journey. But you know that right now Hannah needs you and what only you can provide for her.

    I love you!
    PS I'm with Alison and Mali...if anyone even looks at you wrong- have them click on over to our blog and do a little reading :)

  4. Dang, you rock, woman! I just love the research you've done and the way you're ready for anything.

  5. i got choked up reading this then the tears came at Al's comment. true words. you are already her best advocate. you are going to be one AMAZING mom.

  6. Wow! You are amazingly prepared for anything and everything! Though I would love to fly up to Canada and meet you just for the priviledge of rocking Hannah good night, I won't! That priviledge will be all yours and I'm sure you will cherish every moment. My prayers are with you and Hannah.

  7. We sent the same letter over 5 years ago to family and friends as we prepared to adopt our son from a Russian baby home in St. Petersburg. We laid it all out there and it helped. There were still a few that thought we were going over the top as we heard "he will never remember any of this" and kids are tougher than you know" and the best one of course was always "all he needs is a little love"! Always remember you are her mamma and you will know what is right for her well being. Keep the attachment parenting up and do what you know is right, you will never regret it. You will be a great mom to Hannah!
    (Sharon in NC)

  8. You are going to make a WONDERFUL mom!! This is a great post!

    When I got home and was so sick with pneumonia, I wasn't physically able to be the only one to hold Briana for about a month. It was so horrible because I knew that I needed to be the one doing everything for her but just could not. Thank goodness for my mom and for Doug. They helped me out so much when I could not do it. I did drag myself out of bed to do all of the necessary things for Briana - feeding her, changing her, dressing her, etc - even though it took everything out of me. But I had to do as much as I could so Bri would attach to me. Luckily, it all worked out in the end. Thank goodness!

  9. So excited for you Catherine!
    Just remember that mama sometimes needs a break too and asking for help and allowing others to help once in a while will benefit you and Hannah in the end. A happy, relaxed mama means a happy relaxed baby. Do what you feel in your heart is right for both of you.

  10. Brilliant post Catherine. (Yet more testimony to the fact you're going to be a wonderful parent!)

    There may be parents (or random passers by - yes it happens!) of a generation before, or those who don't understand attachment who question your approach at times.. But you know that whole 'questioning your approach' thing comes with the new Mother territory anyway. ;)
    Hang tight with the people who DO understand. Stay strong - you and Hannah will be a new Mother&Baby unit very soon. The importance of your new role as Hannah's Safe Place, and your friends and families place in *supporting* that role can't be underestimated, I think. :)
    You've done an excellent job of explaining in your Open Letter.

    From your blog it seems you have a lovely support network of friends and family. Here's hoping random passers by can learn something from you and Hannah too!!


  11. Dear Hannah,

    I'm sorry that you've had to experience loss at such a tender age. But please know that your mommy has a kind, generous and gentle nature and will help your little heart heal. You will know love and happiness and will flourish into the beautiful soul you are meant to be.

    P.S. Go easy on your mom, she's new at this.

  12. Catherine,
    We will be thinking of you these next coming days, weeks, months, etc. We will also be reading the updates as your journey through China is happening. Enjoy it, savor it, let it all in. You are about to see and experience things in such vibrant colors. We can't wait for that moment for us.

    DeWitt, MI

  13. Such an important post. Family often mean well, but they don't know all that we adoptive moms know.
    Francis needed this much more than Naomi did. Unfortunately I didn't know as much then. Every child is different. You will know. Mama instincts kick in pretty fast.

    Looking forward to reading all about your journey!

  14. You are going to be an awesome Mommy!


  15. All the best Catherine. You are looking out for Hannah's emotional and psychological Health first. Many don't realize how it can be more important than Physical Health, until you are living in the middle of it.
    I would have done things differently had I known this then.
    Hannah is blessed to have such an educated and prepared Mommy.
    God Bless you both.

  16. Stay strong and trust yourself and God to guide you. You are right people make think you are spoiling her - you're not just letting her know that you will there for her. These first few months are so important. She is yours and know she will learn that you are hers! All the best to you on your journey.
    NSN 3/21/06 DD Emily Ann

  17. Catherine,

    I think it is great how you are planning to practice attachment style parenting to help Hannah thrive emotionally.

    We too, shared a very similar letter, along with many discussions with friends and family. I thought everyone was on the same page.

    However, although most of our friends and family openly support and follow our guidlines, others have difficulty.

    For some reason, some feel the rules of not picking up the baby/holding the baby do not apply to 'them', just 'everyone else'. So you might want to explain to those you are very close to, who will be involved on a more regular basis when you arrive home, if you mean 'them' as well.

    Also, being the only one to meet all Hannah's needs, while essential and very important, is also very emotionally and physically draining on yourself.

    You have talked in your post of a great support network of friends and family. Sometimes it is hard to let others help, but go for it. Let others cook for you, clean your house, help out with laundry. Many people will want to help, but will be unsure how. I don't think we cooked a meal (other than breakfast) for the first two months) we had so many frozen meals made for us. We were then able to focus on our daughter.

    Have a wonderful trip, we will be thinking of you and Hannah during the next few days and weeks.

  18. Catherine, you will be an excellent mother! The writing is all over the wall.
    Cadence was adopted at 16.5 months, and although we had asked for an older toddler, we were very concerned about attachment and everything else that comes with adopting an older toddler. I was so amazed how adaptable they really are. I think, the more prepared the parents are, the better the adjustment. It's wonderful to know that you're prepared to let her grieve and for being scared. IMO, the more prepared you are as a parent and the more you let them do what they will do, the easier the transition.
    You're going to be a WONDERFUL mommy!!

  19. You are ready! I will definitely pray for both of you, as I've mentioned.

    I did think of two things I wasn't sure are on your list: a 3 oz. nasal bulb syringe and a manual babyfood mill. I realize that the hotels probably have the jarred babyfood, but you might feel better knowing you can grind up simple things fresh.

    From all you've written about your family, they seem like they will be a great support for you. Does your church have a new mom thing where they bring a meal every day for a week or two? My church does this and my local group of single adult moms also have what they call the First Week Fiesta where they bring food and offer practical help, like dishes and laundry while the new mom and baby just relax as much as possible.

    Oh, I wonder if it's a good idea to have a basic grocery shopping list of your favorite staples that a friend can pick up for you on the day of your return. Things like bread, milk, fresh fruit, etc...

  20. Please don't forget that you will need people to take care of YOU while you care for Hannah. Don't be afraid to ask friends to come do the laundry or cook for you. All new mommies are exhausted... your experience won't be any different.

    You are going to be the best mommy, and someday Hannah will turn to you out of the blue and whisper in your ear, "I love you, mommy", and your heart will burst with joy that she "gets" the connection you two have.

    I can't wait for you to have her in your arms.

    Amy (a lurker from Salsa)

  21. FIVE more days till you have Hannah in your arms!! :o)

    CRAZY!!!!! I'm so very excited for you my friend!!!

  22. It is so good to read and feel the love you have for Hannah all ready. Put your trust in God (as i see you do)and he will be with you both through the whole ordeal. Things will get better everyday for you both, and when she grabs your neck and gives you a big hug and kiss, you will feel like bursting...it will happen. We are sooo blessed to be called "Mommy" Can't wait to see her in your arms.

  23. Just as a word of encouragement. My friend Renee who just brought her dear sweet daughter home at basically the exact same age, all are doing amazingly!!!! Little Aster made the adjustment unbelievably well. I've seen so many pics and she is completely happy and content with anyone who is showering love on her. She's just so adorable. Renee couldn't begin to do the "attachment" plan you have put in place with all her speaking committments, and the Lord has certainly given immediate acceptance and security to Aster's little heart during this transition. Reading and seeing her quick adjustment has just blown my mind!!! Only God.

    I'm sure He will work out the best for you and little Hannah too. Can't believe how soon you're leaving!!!!! Praying!

    Love, prayer and hugs,

  24. Good letter. Anyone who knows adoption understands, so it's good to put it out there for those who may not know. We had to say a few things at church to help them understand that adoption is different...and can't be treated exactly the same way.

  25. Congratulations Catherine! I'm so excited for you and for Hannah too! She is blessed with an absolutely amazing mommy!

    Have a safe and wonderful journey!


  26. This letter is starred for us. I hope if it is okay that we use it when our time to travel comes.

    We are our kids #1 advocate and protector.

    Keep smilin!

  27. thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this time of transition

  28. Excellent letter, Catherine. It is so considerate of you to let your friends and family know about Hannah and your special need for intense bonding. Since everybody knows ahead of time, it will be much easier for family and friends to stand back and just glory in the joy of watching you with your baby. M3 and TubaDad did the same thing before we went to China with them and Wela and Bob-Bob and we understood perfectly, so it was no problem at all for us to keep our mitts off the twins. Gosh, after that long wait, we were just wanting to do whatever we could to help them, whether it was running errands, mixing formula, washing bottles, being there to support them, or just staying out of their way.

    We will be following you on your journey to Hannah and wish you both the very best of everything. You are a fantastic mom.

    Ro and Ree's Ma and Pa

  29. Perfectly stated!! I look forward to finally seeing Hannah in her mama's arms.

  30. I can't wait to see that first picture of you holding Hannah!!! I have goosebumps just thinking about it!!!

    Best wishes!

    P.S. You need to give Hannah 1,000kisses from everyone that has been following your Blog!

  31. blessings...you leave tomorrow...YAY! you are in my thoughts and prayers! go in God's peace!

  32. Have safe travels, and I'll be looking for your updates!
    Jeana in Illinois
    Mom to Hannah, 11, and Grace, 6

  33. While leaving kids with nanny, if they are not reliable it is better to have a nanny alarms systems installed.


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