My daughter was 16 months when I adopted her. When we first met she crawled up on to my lap and took in the world around her with an immense attention and curiosity. Then, within 15 mins of meeting she fell deeply asleep in my arms. Some of this was her way of coping with the stress of the adoption and part of it was a leap of faith on her part of feeling at home and safe in my arms. When we arrived back home in California, she was able to take naps during the day, but falling asleep was not easy for her at night.
At 16 months it is normal development to not want to lose the exciting world of day time activity and companionship of a parent, to the world of sleep. For my daughter the loss went deeper. Going to sleep tapped into all the losses she had already experienced in her first 16 months before the adoption – relationships and familiar environments - birth parents/siblings/other children in the orphanage/ the caregivers at the orphanage/ the schedule of the orphanage/the sights and sounds and smells. Loss for adoptive children is multi-layered and something all adoptive children experience at an early age. Part of being an adoptive parent is being able to acknowledge and make sense of these losses for our children, so they can heal and thrive and the loss does not become an obstacle later in life.