The Baby Looks "Out of It"

The young woman felt on the verge of tears. She had just watched the new video from the Guatemalan orphanage where her soon-to-be-adopted eight-month-old was now living. Though the government papers were promised to be complete in "just" three more months, Tonya worried that by then it would be "too late" for her to bond with her baby.

On Tonya's trip to Guatemala, she had met Sofia, a beautiful, robust six-month-old. The baby had watched attentively as Tonya reached out to take her from the caretaker's arms. Sofia had playfully pulled Tonya's hair and had giggled when the new mother had shaken the purple and green rattle she'd brought from Kansas. Sofia seemed ready to take on a new mom, and Tonya was sure ready for her baby.

But the new video had troubled Tonya. Sofia had looked slightly frightened as the camera lens captured the caregiver lifting her from the crib. The bulky camera equipment and the hustle and bustle of several camera people seemed to cause Sofia to look "out of it," Tonya had told her friend and mentor at the local school of nursing.

The nursing professor was reassuring as she explained how newborns and even older children can protect themselves from overstimulation with a temporary "shutting down" maneuver. The professor had just taught a class about the normal coping strategies children have and how these actions can signal a baby's competencies rather than deficiencies. She sent the new mom a DVD which depicted these very behaviors in hopes that Tonya would be reassured. (See:

Tonya called several days later to report that she had looked at the DVD and then at the Guatemalan video again. She had noticed that as the filming progressed Sofia snuggled close to her caregiver and smiled up affectionately at her. Of course, Tonya knew that there would still be questions to ask about the bonding process of an adopting family, but today she felt more confident. Sofia would use her body language to show her new mom how to make those new and important connections, and Tonya was ready to learn!