Posted by: Tracy Barsamian | January 22, 2015

Adoption and Attachment

Meeting our big girl in China.

Meeting our big girl in China.

Last week, a mother (who I know only casually) wondered aloud how adopted children could ever really attach to their adopted parents.  I was caught off guard by her comment, particularly because I’d felt safe in the space of assembled women.  I didn’t say anything in response to her question.  Not a word.  But what I should have said was this…

I adopted my two daughters as toddlers and both girls have healthy, secure attachments to me and my husband.

What I should have explained is that I believe that all children come to their parents for a reason.  Whether through birth or adoption, we are chosen by our children.  I didn’t give birth to my daughters, but there is a red thread that has always tied my girls and me to one another.  It was a longer journey to one another, but none-the-less, a blessed one.  A sacred connection exists between us – not a blood connection, but a soul connection.  And while I didn’t create (give birth) to our children, I did create our forever family.

As I believe in reincarnation, I know that my children chose to come through their birth mothers into the world.  They chose to come into the world through a mother who would not be able to parent them.  There is some lesson that the girls have chosen to learn in this lifetime.  Is it trust?  Is it unconditional love?  I don’t claim to know.  But I do know that children who have known more than one mother in their short lives are strong, brave souls.  I do know that to discount these children as broken because their first attachment was broken is a gross underestimation of the human spirit and our capacity for love.

I also wish that I had explained that in a case of failed attachment, the solution often lies within the mother (adoptive or biological) and healing her own attachment to her own mother.  Often, the mother has to work through her own childhood issues (see this post about the mother wound).  We cannot expect our children to attach to us unless we ourselves, have a strong sense of self-worth, self-love, and the ability to trust and love others unconditionally.  Attachment is a two-way street and sometimes mothers have to heal their own wounds in order to attach to her children.  Until we mothers clear our own traumas, we cannot be a safe container for our children.

My own journey to healing my childhood wounds really started when I became a mother.  Motherhood has been a shared journey with my girls.  Together, we’ve learned about unconditional love and trust and built healthy attachments.  And my family’s journey has been supported by energy healing and energy medicine (homeopathy).

I am certain that I have learned far more from my children than I’ve taught them (see my post about conscious parenting).  My two wonderful girls and I chose one another and I couldn’t be more grateful for the privilege of being their mother.

Would it have been an easier for my girls if I’d given birth to them and followed Dr. Sears’s handbook?  Quite possibly.  But that wasn’t the path that any of us chose.  When we meet ourselves and our children right where we are (as opposed to lamenting that we didn’t follow a particular path or methodology), anything is possible.  In fact, attachment is not only possible in adoptive families, it is probable.  Most children who were adopted attach to their parents.  And sadly, there are children (both adopted and biological!) who do not attach to their parents.

In closing, several years ago now, my big girl and I were members of the most amazing playgroup of adoptive mamas and their Chinese daughters.  Every single little girl in that group had a strong, healthy attachment to her mother.  There were twenty families in that group.  Twenty happy, healthy families formed by adoption.  I wonder how many playgroups that size could boast those same attachment statistics?

So thank you to that mama the other day, for creating this opportunity for me to speak my truth.  I feel much better.


  1. What a gift this opportunity was! It’s made you reflect on the beautiful relationship you have with those adorable souls and maybe brought to her attention something she might be missing out on in life.

    If the question is being asked, then likely she’s never experienced a non-blood formed connection, herself. While I haven’t had the privileged of becoming an adoptive parent, I have definitely formed connections with children who are not “mine”. It warms my heart, to the point where it feels like it might burst, when I come home and find little voices have left a message for me on my machine:o) I’m thrilled that my birth kids know that I love all of them and the other kiddos in our life, equally. When I ask them, “Who does mom love?” they reply with not only the children in our family, but a long list of children to whom I didn’t give life.

    I hope this poor person is able to do the work she needs to do to get to that place where she is open to experiencing that kind of deep connection. It’s a blessing to experience the raw, unconditional love that comes from a little person who have chosen to give their heart to you. There are few rewards greater in life! ;o)

    • Oh Andrea…when are you going to start blogging? You have so much wisdom to share and your writing is so beautiful!! I so appreciate your comment. I was entirely focused on the mother’s need to be “right”. She wore her babies, she breast fed her babies on demand, she co-slept with her babies – she really invested a LOT into her chosen parenting methodology. So…if a child could come home at the age of two and still attach to her adoptive mother…well then, maybe attachment parenting isn’t the only way to build healthy attachments? And that felt threatening. But I never even considered that her comment could have come from a place of fear. Fear of an inability to open her heart to a child to whom she did not give birth. Huh. You know…my healer suggested the same thing yesterday. You were faster. Ha! If you don’t go into writing, maybe healing? Hugs to you, Pat and your sweet kiddos. We miss you.

  2. Just beautiful, Tracy! I’m so glad you wrote about this very important topic.

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