Help Me, Help You, Help Us

I love that we are able to share about our adoption journey with you. I hope it’s helpful for those of you wanting to support your own adopting friends and family in the future — or even be a resource to those of you who hope to walk this road of adoption yourself.

As time ticks closer to our trip to China — I’m overwhelmed by the number of people who have called, texted, stopped me at church or school and asked, “How are you? How can I help? What will you need when you return?”

So many people have asked that I thought it would be easiest to put it all in one place. 





One of the biggest concerns for an adoptive family is establishing attachment. What biological children have from them moment they leave their mother’s body — her skin, loving gaze, soft touch, voice, smell, and nourishment — adopted children often lack.

We are so fortunate that our daughter has been in foster care with the same family since she was a baby. This is of enormous benefit for attachment, in the sense that her brain knows how to attach (unlike many children in orphanages, who see a different caregiver at every shift change).   

Our social worker put it this way, “In the short term, this will be incredibly hard, as she will grieve the loss of her family. In the long run, it will be to your advantage.”

So, our main goal while in country and when home for a while, is to work to establishing a strong bond between her and Chris and I. She needs to feel safe. She must learn to trust us. She needs repetative patterns of her needs being met by us for neural pathways to form so she knows without knowing, that we are the people to which she belongs. 

How does this look in practical terms?  Well, this means that we will get home from China and as much as we want to show this little one off to family and friends, we will be making her world small, predictable, and calm. For her to know that Chris and I are her go-to people, her protection, her security, her parents — we must be the ones to meet all her nurturing needs. Feeding, bathing, dressing, toileting, getting to sleep and getting back to sleep. We may not take her anywhere outside of our property line or further than a walk around the block for weeks on end. She needs to know Home. What our bio kids learn intrinsically, we must give her purposefully.

In adoption circles, it’s called Cocooning. We’re thinking at least a month. But it may be longer.



gerund or present participle: cocooning


  • envelop or surround in a protective or comforting way.


After that, we’ll see. But we ask for your patience and a measure of deference to our lead as we figure out what’s best for her.



A while back I knelt down to meet a young adopted child who put her arms around me and tried to give me a kiss. Her momma scooped her up and said, “We’re working on high-fives instead of kisses for new people, aren’t we?”

I’m so looking forward to letting this little one see her new world, so when we’re ready to have visitors or leave our home, I’d love for you to help us help her get (and keep) her bearings. When we get together, we ask that you refrain from all the hugs and kisses you may want to plant on her. Right now, we have no idea of her personality — but her foster parents said she is “extroverted.” She may be perfectly friendly and look well adjusted — but risking being too honest, she may not know the difference between you as a friendly stranger (we don’t go kissing strangers) or a friend. In time, that will change. But at first, she’ll need to understand kisses and hugs are for her immediate family. Please allow us to hold her while you talk to her. Give her a pat on her head and high-fives instead of big squeezes.

If she comes over to you and asks to be picked up, I know you want to! but please let us do it. Even her most basic need — like wiping a nose, having a shoe tied, or being held even for a few minutes — is our job. It’s our privilege. Please allow us the opportunity to lavish her with our love and attention to her every need, needs we haven’t been able to meet for these incredibly formidable first three years of her life.  

Obviously, we haven’t even met this child. We don’t know her or her personality and we can’t predict how well or how hard this transition will be. Maybe everything will go along just swimmingly. But it’s possible that she/we may struggle intensely.

We will err on the side of caution as we introduce her to our circles of friends and as she meets her extended family. We promise to be open and honest with you about where we are (as far as we can tell) in the bonding and how we think it’s best for you to interact with her. (High fives? Always great. Snuggling before nap time? I’m quite positive that will be Chris or my job for as far out as we can see.)



A big fat No. We’d love and will most definitely need your help.

Here’s how:

  • Call or text if we’re on your mind. I may not have a chance to get back to you right away (or ever) but it would warm my heart to know you’re thinking about us. What you read above may seem like a lot of intense work. Especially because we have 3 other kids. It will be. And we’ll need to know we have people in our corner. Even if it’s via our phones or Facebook. 


  • Please check in with us me (via phone or text) and ask how we are or if we need anything. You know what I did today? Went to the store for the 4th day in a row. Want to know what I forgot today? Shampoo. There is always something I’m forgetting. And yes, there’s always Amazon Prime, thanktheLord. Maybe in two months, I will need milk. But maybe I need nothing more than a quick reassurance. Remember what it was like to have a new baby? You’re just exhausted and you don’t know which way is up. Except this will be me having a brand new toddler.        


  • Be a friend. I know I need to stay at home, and as much as there is a part of me that’s so excited about hunkering down, I’m an extrovert. Eventually, whether it be in a month or three, I’m going to miss seeing people. A Lot. Maybe I cant meet out for coffee or go out to dinner,  but I’d still love if you asked me. And in time, we hope Chris and I will be able to tag-team to get time away. ((Also. Guys, Chris is a super-introvert, but even he will need you to check in with him. How are things going? Need to meet out for a beer? This would be our version of “ministering to a family in need” scenario.))


  • MY BIO KIDS will need to play/be normal/see their friends! Maybe we aren’t able to go to the movies, or a birthday party, or out for ice cream, but our kids can. (And for the record, they are used to not doing all things together… ex. We are only taking 2 of the 3 to China…) So don’t feel bad if you want to only take one. Someone else will ask one of the others. No worries. It will all work out. This would be a HUGE way to help our family.


  • Not gonna lie. A meal never hurts.


  • Pray for us. I mean it. Obviously, I believe/know/have-seen-the-evidence-of prayer works. So my prayers are that our trip is safe. That she transitions well. That we are able to meet her needs. That our language barrier won’t prevent us from communicating (I know that sounds crazy, but that’s my prayer). That Ash will adjust well when come back home to him. That our lives are all forever changed and that God will work in a mighty way.


  • Last, please give us the gift of time. You may see us four months from now and I’ll still be talking about attachment while our daughter runs around looking perfectly well adjusted. You may think, “She’s fiiiiiine. Relax!”  Please allow us to know what’s best for our child and our family, and trust us to protect and provide for her no matter how she looks at any given moment.    We’ve been trying to explain to our kids that they’ve lived their entire lives physically and emotionally next to us. Every hurt, joy, cry, or pain was taken care of by us. We hope and pray our newest daughter had those needs met in her foster home, and though we can never make up for lost time, we can intentionally pour all we can into her now, so we can all emerge out of our cocoon and, in time, show off her beautiful wings.



I’m so grateful you are here and reading about our journey.

I probably wont be posting much on the blog (if anything at all) for at least a month. (If I do, it’ll be pre-scheduled!) I hope you have a wonderful Advent and Holiday season, a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah, and I look forward to writing more in the most amazing New Year!

Many blessings! Merry Christmas!

Sonya Spillmann


  1. This is very helpful. I want to help you successfully parent her, so I will pray from the sidelines, and love from a distance and trust you and The Father to cuddle, cocoon, and comfort little Vivienne .

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