It’s probably worth telling you all from the outset that this post will be as little different in its set up. Introductions for us were such a hugely emotional experience for everyone involved, but importantly the first one that directly involved our boys so I won’t be quite as indulgent in my content. I hope this blog is more advisory and gives you an insight into what to potentially expect and maybe a few pointers that may help on what is one hell of a roller coaster.
So we had made them same labourious journey we had made several times befor but this one felt different! This was THE drive, the last one. The route became familiar the expectation of what comes next, everything but familiar. A car crash of emotions:
* Anxiety, crippling Anxiety and the rather inconvenient physical symptoms we shall call nuances for the purpose of being polite and dignified.
*Fear, What were we doing, were we going to be good enough, WAS this the right thing after all? Is this what we had dreamed of or have we bitten off more than we are prepared for or could chew. This fear of course fed beautifully in to my heightened anxiety and its rather delightful nuances.
*Excitement, Everything about the process had felt slow and tedious, Invasive and objectifying. It felt like this was our last hurdle! We were on our home straight, pardon the intional pun.
*Exhaustion, You will read no doubt as did we about the exhaustion you feel at this stage! ( I now see this a vital preparation for things to come, parental tiredness, it is if nothing else consistent ) The emotional exhaustion was tough but we were also now routinely doing 500 mile round trip journey sometimes in 24hrs and this was catching up.
*Guilt, We had grown to know the Foster carer of the boys, and had developed a genuine friendship. However with this came a true insight into the depths of her love for them. How was she going to cope without them? Would she be supported? Would she be ok? We were taking what felt like her children! They adored her, and they had no idea about what was just around their corner.
I think of the emotions I felt then as an iceberg there was a visible vulnerability on the surface, but the REAL BIG stuff was all hidden under the surface. Carefully concealed from the prying eyes of the ‘professionals’.
Lesson 1) It’s ok to not be ‘ok’. The children are not the only vulnerable ones in this scenario.
SO what happened?
We were fortunate we were housed in a lovely cottage within the grounds of a lovely hotel, all expenses paid for! I learnt this later.
So lesson 2) KEEP ALL OF YOUR RECIEPTS, I didn’t. It stung.
Not much sleep was had that night, an unfamiliar bed, a mind that would be anything but restful or at peace.
That morning Siri or the SatNav equivilent desided much like my anxious nuances desided that she had every intention of not playing ball that morning. Our timetable had been very carefully laid out by all of those involved at the planning meeting we had after our panel. It was rigid, expectant and very clear in its outcome, in 7 days our children would be HOME.
We were scheduled to meet the foster carer at a local soft play centre for 2 hours were the boys would meet Daddy and Papa and we would the head back to the confines of cottage and the boys would go back to the security of their known home.
We got lost, we went around and around, the car much like me had no clear sense of direction., my mind much like her instructions where running all over the place and getting no where fast. We were late! Finally some 20mins into our permitted 2hr slot we arrived. This is a Moment I will never forget. We parked up outside this glass fronted building and there they were! One with tiny Hands glued to the window, SCREAMING “DADDY PAPA” the other blissfully unaware, sound asleep. I froze. The enormity of what we had undertaken hit me in one clean, foul swoop. SHIT!! He knew who we were, we weren’t inane people to him, we were every part DADDY and PAPA.
Seconds passed we walked in and he came running up to us with pure unadulterated excitement. His little brother blissfully unaware of the significance of what had just happened as he was fast asleep in his pushchair wrapped in the blanket we had made for him. The blanket we slept with for weeks, Vulnerable, innocent and unaware equally as mind blowing.
I could of watched him for a life time. A privilege I am now blessed with.
The boys foster carer was clearly emotional and taken aback by his response, she still says to this day she has never seen him that excited by anything. A moment that I can only imagine for her was incomphrehensively bitter sweet. What a moment for all of us!
So we stuck to our 2hr slot, and left begrudgingly, hungry for more, greedy for this time and affection.
So the ‘Plan’ was during those 5 days up there we would increase our time with the boys and L would start to pull away. It became clear quite quickly during our intros that the “plan” wasn’t really working. The boys wanted more of us, more than we were permitted to give. So we tweaked the plan.
So lesson 3) If it’s not working out for whatever reason its ok to speak out! Don’t be afraid to question. This can be a tricky time for you, the children, foster carer and professional alike. Your voice matters to.
We loaded the car with the boys last few bits and made the journey home. My mum had been house sitting for us and we arrived late , around 12pm. She had kindly left by then allowing us to collapse and then start making the space as familiar as possible with all of their “stuff”.
I cried a lot that night, I cried for the boys and I cried for L. The thought of her alone, knowing this was the last night the boys were going to be in her home broke my heart, I felt like a crook, like I was stealing something that wasn’t mine and cheating them by replicating as much of her and them in us and ours as possible.
The boys were due to arrive the following afternoon with L and their social worker to come and say Hi have a spot of lunch and then be whisked off to a hotel room they were staying in down the road.
We captured the moment they arrived on video. Everyone waited with baited breath to try and read their response to everything. Did they recognise any of their bits? did they recognise the space from the photos we had made? Did it feel familiar? Safe? Exciting?
L took great delight in handing our littlest to us will a full nappy that had not been successfully contained , something we soon learnt he was very good at, and we quickly got good at rectifying.
Over the coming days we spent much more time with the boys, we would go and collect them in the morning and take them home for the day, desperately trying to forge a relationship with them, hoping they felt secure, or at least familiar for their first night sleeping over. After the sleep over was “hand over day” I will get to that a little later.
We were aware that littlest had never slept thought the night so we were prepared for a restless night all round. How wrong we were. Both boys slept through, peacefully, undistrubed, appearing unphased. This was as well received by L that morning as the arrival of littlest with his rather offensive nappy.
That night I don’t think either of us slept. The sheer vastness of what we had undertaken hit with full force. The Boys were asleep upstairs we lay down stairs as “daddy and papa’ to these innocent souls who still had little to no idea as to what was about to come in the morning and neither did we
”hand over day”
SO this is the day where the children are officially collected or left in our case. There is an exchange of paper work that outlines your legal responsibilities and entitlements as their interim carers, passports if they have them, little red books etc.
This is a day that will stay with us forever. It’s worth mentioning now that our experince here is not the same for everyone, all things parenting, child related or adoption are very Individual.
The boys had slept through, I like to think this was down to a strong attatchementeven in the early days. Its more than probable they slept through sheer exhaustion.
L and the boys social workers arrived early that morning as they were faced with a long drive back. The air was thick and felt heavy, close like humidity. Everything clung , thoughts, feelings, clothing, emotions. This was the moment we had dreamt of and L had most definitely lost sleep over. The boys were visibly pleased to see L and their social worker who had become part of their limited familiarity.
We were ushered into the kitchen to sign all the nessecary paperwork, it felt like we were hustling children, un natural in every sense. Like some kind of dirty exchange. It was at this point the atmosphere changed. Our eldest became INCREDIBLY distressed. L had explained she was going to leave now and that he and his brother were staying and that she loved them very much and knew they would be happy, loved and safe. I have no idea where she summoned the strength and courage from but she did, they hugged, she cried, we cried and they cried ALOT. We had to physically prize *Trex off finger by finger as he clung to her, his safe place, his security blanket, not us. In the middle of this we had the social worker congratulating us on becoming parents and having “our” children now. A valiant and desperate attempt to normalise the experince we had all just shared.
Emotions were raw, children unable to verbalise their thoughts and feelings, social workers trying to normalise what’s happening, foster carers heart broken, and angry, and then us! The adopters with “our” children. I will be completely honest in saying at this point they felt many things but definitely not “ours”. We were completely unaware of what we should be doing to right this wrong?! To heal this pain? To prove our worth.
Of all the uncertainties during our assessment, introductions, since then there is one thing I am certain of. That little boy knew in that moment that something VERY significant had happened. Something that thankfully TIME, LOVE, SUPPORT, UNDERSTANDING, ACCEPTANCE, PERMISSION, A VOICE have allowed them to understand and feel safe secured and loved within.
All of this is our experince only. I can promise you one thing its not easy, but hell its worth it!
So to end this blog my list of things to do befor intordutions:
SEX, have it, lots of it, enjoy it, its in short supply after.
Pop out with no real intention. Leaving the house with children makes negotiating Brexit look easy.
Stay up late, and wake up later! Even if the kids sleep you wont In the early days.
Enjoy wathching what you want on the TV. Justins house will soon become your house.
Take your time in the bath or on the toilet! Two things you will not do alone for sometime.
Lastly Enjoy yourself and or each other as you matter! Oh….