I really wanted to go to Taiwan myself to bring Chi to her new home, but due to the high cost of airline tickets, we arranged for the wife of a pilot friend to travel to Taiwan and bring Chi back to us. A week before we were to get her, the pilot had a sudden heart attack. By God's grace, we had set up an emergency plan and obtained a passport for me, “just in case”. I had also been in contact with a woman who flew to Taiwan a few months earlier to pick up her baby. She gave me maps, pictures, and local addresses written in both Chinese and English. She suggested I stay at the YMCA, which was not too far from the orphanage. We also had a wonderful local travel agency (Columbine Travel) that helped me buy airline tickets and they made my arrangements to stay at the YMCA. Within a week I was on my way to Taiwan. As it turned out, it was such a blessing for me to spend the time traveling with just me and Chi. It was a precious time alone with her before I had to share her with the family and the rest of the world.
After a 16 hour flight, I was at the airport in Taipei, Taiwan. I had no idea how to navigate my way to the YMCA. Many, many people were praying for my trip and providence made it possible for me to share a taxi with people who had been to Taipei before. They were very helpful so I successfully made it to the YMCA and got settled in. Staying at the Y was an experience in itself...but that is another story.
Since I couldn't sleep, I decided to explore a little of the city’s nightlife and check out the street vendors. I wanted to pick up a few things for Chi and my boys before my return flight home. My husband and I had done the math with the time changes and found that if I stayed just twenty-four hours, he and I could both see her for the very first time on the same day! That was important to us, and even though it was a whirlwind of a trip, I am still glad we chose to do it that way.
The next morning I walked to the orphanage and met Chi for the first time. She was beautiful, quiet and quite scared. Sister Rosa,who had helped us through the process, met me and arranged for us to have an escort back to the airport via bus. It was a brief visit. All I wanted to do was hold our beautiful little girl. The staff, in turn, did not seem to want to let her go. They gave me some bottles, formula, a few diapers, one extra outfit and more paperwork. Then, we headed to the airport.
Once we were on the plane, her tears started. Chi started to cry the biggest alligator tears I have ever seen, but she did not make one sound. She just had those big tears rolling down her cheeks and they wouldn’t stop. I didn’t know what to do. Finally, the airline attendant, who was Asian, offered to hold her. Soon after she had Chi in her arms the tears stopped.
At six months, she had been thrust into a new world that included a blonde, round-eyed momma. To my knowledge, she had not had any exposure to someone from another culture. I can’t imagine how scared she was. Also, she had not been held very often. The orphanage had many babies with bassinets lined up in a row. Feeding time was made as easy as possible on the staff by having a large hole in each bottle’s nipple so feeding would be quick. Basic physical needs were wonderfully met, but emotional and developmental needs were barely understood back then. Later research would reveal the significance of physical touch and how facial gestures and talking help develop mirror neurons an infant's brain.
Interestingly enough, I recently had a visit from my six-month-old granddaughter and she could not keep her eyes off her auntie (Chi all grown up). She was intrigued with this dark-haired woman with dark almond shaped eyes. It was very clear that she was already aware of the difference in facial features.
The plane trip was exhausting. With Chi crying in complete silence and unable to sleep in my arms, I was terrified to fall asleep. Thankfully, we had a seat by the bulkhead so I was able to lay her down in front of me to sleep. The alligator tears on the plane brought up all my insecurities and concerns about whether or not she would bond with me and be able to adjust to her new family. We were shocked to learn that the first homestudy indicated...
The Power and Process of Attachment
In reflection, adopting Chi began my lifelong journey of studying and understanding attachment, which heavily influences my work as a therapist today. While going through the process of adoption, I was familiar with the importance of attachment and bonding, but the scope and complexity of it’s importance has only become clear to me in the past few years .
Early attachment theories, which began in the 1960’s, theorized that attachment style was developed at a very young age and did not change throughout one’s lifetime. Fortunately, recent research indicates that, while our early childhood experiences influence and shape our attachment styles, we are all capable of moving toward secure attachment throughout our lifetime. Learning our attachment style can help us understand how and why we relate differently to one another. The best way that I know to explain attachment, is to think of our style on a continuum with secure attachment as our goal.
Avoidant Attachment Style
· Problems with Intimacy
· Invest little emotion in social and romantic relationships
· Unwilling or unable to share thoughts and feelings
Secure Attachment Style
· Trusting, lasting relationships
· Tend to have good self esteem
· Comfortable sharing feelings with family & friends
· Seek out social support
Anxious/Ambivalent Attachment Style
· Reluctant to get close to others
· Worry that partner doesn’t love them
· Becomes very distraught when relationships end
In order to create the most healthy and happy relationships, I believe it is important to understand our own attachment style, which is influenced by our primary caregivers. Like all of us, I made my most sincere efforts to be the best parent I could and I continue that commitment with my adult children and grandchildren today. However, in spite of our best intentions, we all make mistakes; we all react in ways we regret; we are all human . Sometimes we find ourselves spending less quality time with our children than we would like. At other times, we must be separated from them due to illness or other crisis situations. The good news is that when we learn about our child’s attachment style and our own (as well as family members), we can begin the journey of growth and change toward secure attachment.
For more information you can read this article in Psychology Today, July 30, 2013.