There's no one right way.
I'm barely going to touch the tip of the iceberg and it will all be very subjective.
But I've had several conversations about attachment recently. Some sprung upon me and others I've initiated. As, it's not something you can truly understand from a personal level until you are living it.
We are living it.
Attachment with an adopted child.
While we had three and a half years to read up on it - and likely could have read nearly every book written on it had we really paced ourselves, I will honestly admit that the motivation was strong at the start and at the end. It waned in the middle...and while I could blame the adoption game, the question of "will it ever happen", the frustration of the wait...I will truthfully say there was a small part of me who, while wanting to be book smart and savvy, also wanted to allow instinct to take over. My degree is (somewhat) in this area and I allowed knowledge gained over those years penetrate from somewhere back in the library of years past, permeate during the months between the referral and the pick-up.
For us, age played a huge role. Makeda was young. She was young at referral, when we met her prior to court, and she was still young, (mercifully) when she came home. (HOME. I am still in disbelief as I write those words...yes, even after two months together. Honest and complete disbelief, gratitude, and gratefulness.)
Our referral age request was always based on two main things: the age of our biological children and the age at which attachment is most easily formed. Perhaps this is selfish. Perhaps we should have been more open to a wide spectrum of age, special needs, and other possibilities. But for us, for our family, this was right. And doing what's right for one's entire family is at the crux of it all, isn't it? This doesn't mean the journey (to and after completion of the adoption) will be easy..."right" is defined differently and specifically within the parameters of each family and each parent's threshold, isn't it?!
Instinct for us - for me - meant one thing which I had continually read in regards to the bonding and attachment process. Closeness. Touch. Contact. General habits and routines such as being the only ones to feed, change, and put her to bed were in the repetoir, of course.
For me, it was eye contact above all else. It was that first meeting when we weren't allowed to hold or even touch her physically. Intentionally and for long periods, we would lock eyes. Our gaze not straying from each other. I tried to read her and allowed her to do the same - inasmuch as a 7 month baby could. The following day, the same thing: eyes locked.
When she was brought to me in September, as much as I possibly could I allowed her to stare into my eyes again. I truly believe we formed a bond then.
Children know much. They glean and sense more than we could ever give them credit for, I believe. And I think in those first few moments at each meeting we were able to exchange some sort of foundational relationship and attachment.
I'm not saying this is true for everyone. I'm not saying this is what we should all do. Older children (toddlers included) are a whole other ballgame and while it is as important to take cues from them, research and reading is as important as ever.
I wonder some days, if I'm just oblivious and we have made zero headway or if it has simply gone more smoothly than we ever could have anticipated. After several conversations recently, both with friends and professionals, it would seem the latter is true.
Never give up or cease continuing to build that bond.
Never underestimate the foundational importance of eye contact.