Monthly Archives: May 2015

Guest post from my beloved: Attachment vs bonding

So my lovely beloved wanted to write a guest post which makes complete sense as she is the primary carer to LO so here it is:

 
Mummy here. We’re having a great time with our lovely daughter and are bonding nicely. I choose that word carefully, as apparently there is quite a difference between ‘bonding’ and ‘attachment’. This is still largely an enigma to me, although last week an incident occurred that started to shed some light, just maybe… 
But I just want to rewind slightly before I describe the incident. Some two years ago when we first started the adoption process, we attended the prep group – a series of weekend training sessions intended to help us prospective adopters prepare ourselves for the journey ahead. There was a strong focus on attachment – the theory of attachment, and looking at healthy vs faulty attachments. It was all pretty theoretical and while it made sense at the time, nothing truly prepares you for reality, does it?!
So when we started the introduction week with our little one, I must admit that I felt pretty clueless as to what this magical concept of attachment truly meant. We followed all the advice given to us by social services – washed our clothes in the same detergent as the foster carer, sent some of our clothing ahead of time so LO could get used to our smell, sent large laminated photos of us with a new cuddly toy, brought the same cuddy toy along to the introductions, and sent a butterfly toy containing our photos and recorded voices. We trusted the professionals and the research that underpins their social work practice. And it worked, or at least, something did. I guess we’ll never know whether it was due to these preparatory measures, or simply due to LO’s very easy-going character, or perhaps a combination of the two, but in any case she was very comfortable with us from the word go and seemed to transfer her attachment to us during the introduction week.
So fast-forward some 5-6 weeks to the aforementioned incident. I was at the library with LO attending a play group for the first time. When we entered the room there were several mothers sitting around a mat on the floor with babies of varying ages lying/sitting/playing on the mat. In one corner was a group of women, related to each other, with a baby girl of a similar age to LO. We started chatting and LO was immediately drawn to the other little girl, looking at her and going right up to her on the mat. We exchanged compliments and information about each other’s children and smiled a lot, so I guess LO felt that these were safe and friendly people. A few minutes later we were seated on the other side of the mat from the aforementioned group, when LO suddenly decided to crawl rapidly across the mat straight up to the other little girl’s mum. When she got there, she turned around and sat on the woman’s lap. The woman was charmed, I think, as she responded by saying hello, smiling and holding LO on her lap. At first I was slightly surprised but then told myself to relax and that it was ok. However, when I noticed LO was not really interacting with the woman but was sitting comfortably on her lap, looking around the room at everyone else (everyone but me, it seemed), I started to feel a sense of unease about this scene. LO seemed so at ease, as if she thought she was sitting on her mother’s or carer’s lap rather than a stranger’s. I waited patiently and resisted the urge to call her back or draw attention to myself. Funnily enough, another woman sitting next to me knew that LO is adopted as we’d been talking earlier, and she was trying to help me by pointing at me and saying ‘this is your mummy; mummy is over here’. It was quite sweet but a little awkward too!  To my great relief, LO eventually made eye contact with me, smiled, and came crawling back to me. She repeated this pattern a second time, with the same woman, but again came back to me. After a small run-in with another child resulting in a scare and mutual crying, LO also came straight to me for comfort, so that was a relief.
I am still unsure as to whether there is any cause for concern here or if I am being overly sensitive. I have images in my head of those children that we’ve all seen, who freely hug total strangers and cling on to other adults’ hands during school trips etc. We were told during the matching and introduction phase that we should make efforts to ensure LO attaches strongly to us first, before introducing other people, particularly with care-giving tasks such as feeding, bathing, changing etc. We’ve been following that advice and it seems to have gone well. However, I was not quite prepared for this situation to occur and I will be watching carefully to see how things unfold. I will also do some reading and/or seek advice from our social worker as to any measures we can take to strengthen LO’s attachment to me as primary carer, and to both of us as her parents.
So I guess it’s a case of deep breath and watch this space…