Saturday, December 29, 2012


How is our attachment going?... many of you have inquired.

Attachment refers to the bond between the primary caregiver (usually the Mother) and her child. Biologically, this happens in utero. In adoption however, it requires more work as it doesn't always happen naturally.

Typically the adopted child doesn't understand the role of a parent as they have never had one. They need to learn that 'Mom' is a place to feel safe and secure. 'Mom' is where they receive comfort, nourishment and love. 'Mom' should, essentially, be the center of their universe. Learning this is part of the period of 'attachment'.

' Developing a secure attachment to a primary caregiver is extremely important as the child's mental representations of intimate relationships and the foundation trust often carry over into adulthood, affecting future adult relationships. "Studies of attachment have revealed that the patterning or organization of attachment relationships during infancy is associated with characteristic processes of emotional regulation, social relatedness, access to autobiographical memory and the development of self reflection and narrative."

Of course attachment doesn't always go one way - it goes both ways. It also refers to the bond of Mother to Child.

All that being said, we are happy to report that we are securely attached!

I honestly never expected it to happen so seamlessly, and perhaps I should be knocking on wood.

From the beginning, Zahra has never wanted to let me leave her sight. She wants me to carry her 90%... I spent the first month carrying her in an Ergo. We are now starting to encourage her to walk more and use the stroller a bit to save my back (she is 30 lbs!), and more recently, she now allows Daddy to carry her in the Ergo.

She never walks out of my sight (unless in our home), and always checks in with me while playing.

Eye contact, never a problem.

She has slept with us right from the start, which I firmly believe is a great attachment parenting tool. The first two nights, she slept on my chest. When she is feeling particularly whiny/clingy, I will have often lay her on my chest, skin to skin. She loves to go bed and I think it's because of the guaranteed cuddle time.

She screams like the sky is falling if I leave her or she thinks I am leaving her.

She is generally happy most of the time. She is super funny and silly. We love watching her personality unveil itself to us.

The home that she came from was quite small and she was one of the first babies to come into this home (and the first girl), so I believe this has a lot to do with her quick attachment - given that she did have a lot of care and attention and was well attached to her caregivers.

My lack of blogging certainly is not because we are having any issues, but more so that we are happily busy chasing 3 children, homeschooling, hanging laundry, and washing dishes in addition to connectivity issues and power outages. ;) (This post has taken exactly 1 hour and 24 minutes just to get it posted!)

We are very much counting our blessings and hope things continue down this path.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Kenyan elves don't make Fisher Price toys.

I browsed around last week for a Christmas present for the kids, and this is what I found.

Ocean Wonders Nesting Pails - 5,495 KES - $63 CAD/US
Never mind the fact that it looks like it 10 years old and the packaging is all beat up.
Muffin had these when she was little - I paid $10 for them.

Fisher Price Learning Letters Mailbox. 9,156 KES - $105 CAD/US
These sell for $25 in stores in N. America.
Can you say RIDICULOUS!?
Needless to say, Santa will not be gifting any toys this Christmas.
(Note to adopting parents - bring toys with you!)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

You just never know what you will get....

We approached the elevator of the 8 story building that housed our lawyer's office. Typically, elevators seems to be small and narrow here in Kenya compared to what we are used to in N. America.

We were first in line, I was holding Zahra, and another adoptive friend of mine was holding her 15 month old son, accompanied by her Mother.

As we waited for the very slow elevator, the line behind us began to increase. Slowly the elevator approached, and the doors opened. Before I knew it, we were being rushed from behind... nudged and pushed... what we call back home 'Budging in line', by men and women.... it didn't matter - every man for themselves.

(This is something that I have experienced too much of here... My kids have been rudely shoved numerous times (by men and women) while they wait in line with me, and I have had numerous men budge in line right in front of me, like they own the place and their pants are on fire. No regard for anyone else. Perhaps my 'Canadian' manners have made me too sensitive to this type of thing as I find the more this happens (cause my jaw no longer hits the floor)... I often say 'Excuse You!'... )

As we opened the office door, we were greeted by a very small waiting room (similar size of your main bathroom). 4 chairs were lined up against the wall where three men sat.

Two of them instantly sat up and asked to us to 'Please, sit.' We sat down, and the men observed us with our Kenyan children, speaking amongst themselves about us in Kiswahili. This, we have grown accustomed to.

'Do you know what we are saying?' said the one man.

'No.' I said.

'We are saying that you will forever be blessed by God for the gift of love you possess in your heart to love these children of ours. Thank you.'

'Thank you,' I said, 'that is very nice.'

Then he pulled out his wallet. 'I would like to bless these children.'

I thought he was going to pull out a prayer card or something similar, but he started to pull out money, then the other two men started to do the same. All searching their barren wallets and pockets.

'I am a Pastor, and I would like to bless these children.' as he passes me the small bills he collected. 'Please buy these children a soda.'

A soda! Ha... Certainly not what I was expecting, but a generous offer nonetheless.

Together, they collected 300 shillings per child, about $3.50 Canadian. I assure you that these men were not of the wealth to afford this donation, but they gave what they had. We felt quite honored.  

We did not buy the babies soda with this money, but instead tucked it away in a safe place... for our Kenyan children to remember that love can be found where you least expect it.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bonding days at the orphanage.

I'm so sorry... I miss keeping up my blog, but the truth is that I am just so darn busy, I literally collapse at the end of the end of the night. My husband has been gone for 2.5 weeks, back to Canada to wrap up some business, so I have been single parenting here without the luxuries back home like hot water, reliable electricity or a car, or corner store. I also find the task of 'catching up' very daunting... so I am going to just get it done in one post.

Day Two

We walked through the iron security gate and rounded the corner into the main room where the older children were sitting at the table, drawing. She turned to look at me, then quickly turned the other direction, pretending I wasn't there or perhaps hoping I would leave. "Zahra, look your Mum is here!" one of the Carers said. She remained steadfast, holding her gaze at the adjacent wall.

I said 'Hi' to the other children and came to her side, squating down to her level. I stroked her hand as she stared off. I began to pull some gifts out of my bag, and the other children swarmed me. I pulled out a couple books, some snacks and the bubbles. She turned her head to see what the commotion was all about... and reached for me. I took her onto my knee and asked her if she wanted to go outside. She loves to walk and be outside, and to be outside the property gates, is a treat for her.

We took the children outside the gates of the orphanage compound to look for Chameleons. Muffin and Mister held a couple little ones they found. The children were afraid to touch them as Kenyans are really afraid of them for some reason. In fact, some women walking up the lane, wouldn't even pass when they us holding them.

We spent the rest of the day playing outside with her and the other older children until she became sleepy and fell asleep in my arms. I put her down in her crib and kissed her cute chubby cheek.

Z looking out the iron gates.

Day Three

We rounded the same corner into the room where Z was being held by one of the Carers. "Look Zahra, your Mum!"... as she tried to hand her to me. She whined, giving a warning that she was close to tears. The Carer tried to force her to come to me. "Please don't." I asked. "She will come to me when she was ready."

Today she was very resilient, nothing in my bags of tricks were working. Was she mad at me because I wasn't there when she awoke yesterday? Is she tired? Is she not feeling well?

After 15 minutes, when she realized that I was going to take the other children outside, she slowly sauntered over to me... reaching up for my hand.

A woman from up the road came over and asked us if we wanted to show the kids some sheep and cows, so we walked with them all up the lane way - that was supposed to be 'just up there'... but turned into a 2 km walk. We never made it all the way, as all the children started to get tired. so we had to return. 

When we returned, I gave Z a quick bath while she stood in a baby bath basin. One of the older boys helped by pouring water over her back. It was very sweet. I dressed her and brought her into her room, shared with 5 other cribs. Laid her down, gave her a kiss, covered her up and said, "La la".

Day 4

We decided that it would be best for me to go to the orphanage alone today to encourage more bonding, and less stimulation for Z. Not to mention, Dan had to start to furnish our apartment so we could bring her home.

When I arrived, she was sleeping. I held some of the babies for a little while, checking in on her every few minutes. I wanted to be the first face she saw when she woke up.
20 minutes later, I noticed her stirring. I quietly entered her room and softly stroked her back. Startled, she glanced up... smiled, pointed at me and said 'Wewe, wewe!" in Swahili. Meaning 'You, you.'

She was happy to see me! I think she realized that I wasn't going to be just a visitor that she couldn't rely on seeing tomorrow. I was here again, and today I seemed to have won her trust. She reached up her arms and I hugged her tight... kissing her sweet lips and cheeks.

The remainder of the day was wonderful. She turned to me for everything she needed or wanted. This shift caused her to drift away from some of the Carers, refusing to go to them or look at them. I could tell that this bothered them as they repeatedly tried to capture her attention.

Z sharing her apple with the other children. This made me so proud! :)

Day 5

I went alone to the orphanage again today, and Zahra came running to me as soon as I walked into the room.

Today would be our last full day of bonding at the orphanage. I was not prepared to take her at the end required 5 day bonding period, as I didn't think she would be ready - but after yesterday and how well she received this morning, I knew she was ready.

The 3 other older children started to really act out today. They have seen this before, and they knew what was happening. I was there for Z, not for them. Instead of their usual frequent requests to be held... or trying to grab at least one of my fingers to hold on to while we walked, or their efforts to attract my attention any way possible, they were hitting me, yelling at me, pushing Zahra, spitting on one another and ripping books.

They were sad. Heart broken. Crushed. They felt so rejected! My heart broke for them all... all they wanted was to be loved and the few days that we had to spend with them, shedding love and attention on them all, was now making the rejection so much more unbearable for them.

Why not them? What was wrong with them? Why does everyone get a Mom and Dad to love them and not them?

These children are all 3... and all deserve a family. While they are too young to understand the logistics of why they are not 'freed' for adoption, they understood that many of their other friends have been taken by families that loved them and they have been left behind.


If possible, I highly recommend seeking an opportunity to bond with your child outside the proximity of the other children. Not only it is so much more difficult to bond with your child when you have 3+ other little ones demanding your attention, but it is too hard on them as well. In our situation, the orphanage was very small (14 children), and so were the grounds. It was extremely difficult to achieve any one on one time, without the other children.

The director spoke with us briefly about today and suggested that she would take the older children out of the orphanage the following day when we were to take Zahra home. We were very grateful for this.

Day 6

My only son's birthday. There is no greater gift than that of getting a new sibling! He was so excited to be able to bring her home on his day.... a birthday we will always remember.

We arrived just as Z was waking up from her nap. I changed her diaper (which was towels in a over sized plastic covering - thank you to those that donated cloth diapers, we have left a bag full here.) and cleaned her up as best I could considered the mess that was in that diaper. Off came the 2 layers of onesies and blue, boy overalls.

Good bye layered, shared, gender neutral/ boy clothes - Hello pink and frilly! She was now mine... and dressing her in a pink frills, leotards and white leather sandals and a cute little flower head band, felt like my writ of passage.

All the staff members sadly said good bye to her. Some more than once. She will clearly be missed. She was the very first girl to be taken in at this orphanage, and I think they all had a soft spot for her.

Zahra got in her car seat with no hesitation. Her eyes as big as the moon, watching out the window... as we backed out the driveway. She remained quiet, taking in all the sights of the country side as we drove along. She likely had only been in a car a handful of times. I wonder what was going on in her head during this drive. So much to see... so much wonder.

After a long day, we undressed Z of her pink frills and put on the cutest sleeper I had. I laid down with her on the bed and she quietly fell asleep on my chest. I stroked her hair softly, observing all the little details in her hands, face, ears etc... Mourning the loss that her first Mother had in not being able to keep her. Feeling so grateful that she was so well cared for, fed and loved for her first 2 years.

All my prayers had truly been answered. 
Door decorated by two of Z's little Kenyan - soon to be Canadian (BC local!) friends.