Toddler adoption, sleep deprivation & Pottery Barn pimpin'

I could write for days about how toddler adoption is different from newborn adoption. The bonding and adjustment process is night and day.  But for now, I’m keeping things narrow:


Back in the day (before Doodlebug came in to our lives) I pictured a nice Chinese orphanage worker putting a child in my arms. This kid would be oh-so-delighted with a strange, loud lady getting in up in his grill. Two year olds like to be mauled by total strangers who squeal “I’m your mommy”, right?

As we traveled further down the road to adoption, I networked online with other “China families”. I learned a lot about bringing a post-institutional child in to a family. I let go of the “happy meeting day” fantasy living in my head. That was hard.

Through all this networking and learning this strange word kept popping up:


This is not the same as being too tired to put your kid back to bed after the fourth time in one night he’s crawled in with you. Hey, dragons outside the bedroom window are not something to mess around with.

Cosleeping. It doesn’t even pass spell check. I had to add it to my custom dictionary to make the red squiggly underline go away in in Word. Yes, I am that person.

If you are a cosleeping family, no offense, k? Do your thing. Rock on. But when I heard all this cosleeping chatter in my pre-adoption quest for info, 2 words came to mind:

Hell and no.

An occasional nap with mom? Of course. Allowing a child in your bed post bad dream? Sure. I mean, you don’t want to mess with those dragons that hang out near a kid’s bedroom window; those guys are no joke. But sleeping as a family all night, every night? On purpose? No.

Enter Doodlebug, adopted at 26 months. We received quite a bit of social history prior to his adoption (this isn’t typical with international adoptions and we were very lucky to get a glimpse of his life before us). Amongst the growth reports and “favorite foods”, this phrase jumped out at me:

“He sleeps very well with his foster mother”.

I remember thinking “right, so he’ll have to get over that.” Bed is for sleep. My sleep. And for other stuff (wink nudge). Yeah, yeah.  I know.  Parents of toddlers everywhere are laughing  at my naivety.

I expected to whisk this happy child from China to my doorstep and show him his very own room. No way would he want to sleep with me once he saw my mad decorating skills.  Okay, make that the explosion of Pottery Barn that was his new room.

Things did not exactly go like I’d planned.

Our first night with Doodlebug in China:


3 hours after meeting Doodlebug. Screaming had stopped, stink eye had commenced. Very wary.



Look closely at this craptastic hunk of metal they called a crib…

Doodlebug did not dig this sleeping arrangement.  I don’t blame him. This shot was taken during the seventeen seconds that he slept like an angel without fussing.  I ended up having to pull this excuse for baby furniture flush against my side of the bed and pat Doodlebug’s back when he woke up during the night, which approximately every hour and a half.  Thankfully, they have coffee in China.  It wasn’t very good coffee but it was better than nothing.

Looking at all this from Doodlebug’s perspective, he was probably thinking “what the hell just happened to my life?” All things considered, his transition to our family went really smoothly, but REM sleep and I were about to break up.

For those not familiar with China adoptions, a new family spends about 12 days in China dragging their new child to various appointments while living out of hotels. We were trying to establish family relationships in an environment that in no way resembled our life at home. We had no idea what we were doing.

I barely remember our first 2 weeks home with Doodlebug. A jet lagged mom, a jet lagged 2-year old who has never slept alone, and a good night’s rest. Remember that song from Sesame Street:

“One of these things is not like the other…one of these things just doesn’t belong…”

That thing, people, is rest.  Snoozing.  Shut eye.  Whatever you want to call it, I wasn’t getting any.  A girl can only go so long with less than sixty minutes of consecutive sleep before the cray cray crazy sets in. This I know firsthand.


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