Friday, April 26, 2013

Changes and Setbacks

The more I spend time around my boys, the more I'm convinced that in some way they know when something's going on, even if they couldn't possibly really 'know' or understand.  It's like something in their spirits or souls picks up on the change in the air around them.

The week before OB's final contact with his birth mother was traumatic for us.  Always prone to waking up in the night, screaming and covered in sweat, these episodes became a nightly event during that week, and sometimes I'd be in there trying to comfort a writhing, thrashing little boy several times a night.  Maybe it was that I was unknowingly stressed about the event (I'm not very self-aware!) and he was picking up on that somehow.  What I do know is that once the final contact was out of the way, these night-time episodes retreated back to their previous levels, and have improved over time so that now we have whole weeks going by without any problems.

Similarly, NB acted out in both the week before and after his final contact.  Tantrums became an almost hourly event, and he frequently wet himself lavishly, despite having been pretty good at using the potty for months.

And now I have begun to broach the subject of 'new mummy' to NB and, although he seems quite pleased at the idea outwardly, he is clearly unsettled.  Even before I began to speak to him about it, the wetting started again - sometimes 3 or 4 times a day.  Today I picked him up from Playgroup and was handed a bag with wet underpants in it.  Apparently he had weed 'on them' but not 'in them'!

We are experiencing a lot of changes in our lives at the moment.  Unfortunately, they are unavoidable, and there's only so much I can do to shield the boys from the stress of them.  We have had our adoption order from the court for OB, and of course the news that NB will have a new Mummy.  In a couple of weeks, members of my family will come to stay with us so that they can attend our Celebratory Hearing.  We are waiting to move house (at the mercy of the builders!) and I am already surreptitiously packing things away.  The boys must surely have become aware that cardboard boxes are appearing in our house, and various things are mysteriously disappearing off the shelves.

Every so often, I take the boys up to "noo 'ouse" as OB calls it, so that they can play in all of the rooms and in the capacious garden - a big treat for us!  I have taken some of their toys up there so that there is something familiar waiting for them, and they have loved the freedom of running around in a home with no safety gates!

My plan was that they would be thoroughly acclimatised before we moved so that hopefully it would come as less of a shock, but now it seems that the building work won't be completed before the end of May (not such a surprise as it hasn't been started yet!).  The end of May was my mental deadline after which it would be too late to move.  If we are aiming to transition NB at the end of June, then it's just not acceptable to move house a couple of weeks beforehand, and then jettison him off to his new home straight afterwards.

If even the mention of new Mummy results in a cluster of wetting incidents, then what would that sort of stress lead to?

So, no.  We will hang on in our current house a bit longer, even though it means I'll be losing money like water through a sieve, and that OB and I will have to postpone our post-NB-recovery holiday while we do our house move (followed by renovating and renting out our existing house) in July rather than May.  I can't help feeling that doing it that way round will be more stressful for OB, but at least I know he has the security that I will always be his Mummy, even if everything else around us is changing.

Monday, April 22, 2013

It's a "Yes"!

We had word from NB's social worker today - the prospective adopter said "Yes"!

I must say, I'm thrilled!  Of course, it means that NB will be leaving us, but we'll cross that emotional bridge when we come to it.  In the meantime I'm delighted that they have secured what seems to be such a perfect match for NB; someone who has so many skills to meet his particular needs.

I've known that NB would be moving on to a forever family for so long now, and for months we've been preparing for an event that seemed nebulous and just out of reach.  Potty training, big boy bed, knives and forks, speech therapy work, manners, dressing, sharing - all these things already covered, or at least introduced by me so that NB's new Mummy won't have too many unwelcome surprises! 

It's challenging enough welcoming, accepting and raising an adopted child - I see it as part of my role to try to minimise the shock of the initial period by ironing out some of the more straightforward hiccups.  Maybe I can't put right all that has gone wrong in his life so far - that's a long-term project! - but at least I can make sure that NB knows how to take himself to the toilet!

And so we have dates for another of the major events that we'll be going through over the next few months.  OB's adoption order is done, we have the date for the Celebratory Hearing, we have tentative dates for NB's transition, and my big birthday will be on the same date as it is every year!  As for the house move . . . well, we're at the mercy of the builders there, but at least some of the pieces are starting to fall into place.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Please Please Please!

Right now, even as I am writing this, two social workers are at the other side of the country meeting a person who might soon become NB's Mummy!

And all I can think is please, please, please!

Please let the social workers make the trip safely and get there on time.
Please let them remember all the wonderful things about NB that I've been telling them.
Please let them be articulate and passionate when they describe him to this stranger.
Please let her be able to see past the story on the paperwork and appreciate the wonderful complexity of his personality that can't be conveyed in words alone.
Please let the DVD that I have made work properly in the player!
Please let a searching heart be touched and opened up.
Please let her realise that her experiences and skills are so suited to his particular needs.
Please let her have that rush of emotion, that call in her heart, that tells her that he is 'for her'.

Please, please, please let my social workers come back tonight knowing that they have found The One for NB.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sort of like becoming a parent . . .

It's hard for me to write this post because I'm worried that it's going to sound like moaning, when really it isn't.  The #WASO theme this week is 'Transitions' and even though I've already linked up a post that wasn't really on that topic, a very small thing that happened (or rather didn't happen!) this morning has prompted me to write again, this time on the theme.

This week I transitioned from being OB's foster Mum, or Mum-in-waiting, to being his actual, legal Mummy.  In many ways, nothing has changed, but in a deep, fundamental sense, everything has changed.

Like most adoptive parents, adoption wasn't my first option.  In fact it wasn't even on my radar.  Of course I had dreamed of becoming a parent, like most people, and assumed that would be through a very traditional route of marriage, pregnancy and all the trimmings.  Obviously, that didn't happen.  I couldn't even manage the marriage part!

When I started fostering, I was warned that this wasn't to be seen as a quick route to adoption, but actually I had no intention of adopting at that time - it was only that OB stole my heart!  So OB came to me as a foster child, exactly 2 years ago today, and my family and friends have followed our journey from that point until last Tuesday when we were granted our adoption order.

It's been a very long 'pregnancy' :)

But now it's official, I've noticed a range of reactions in the people I know.  Most have congratulated me and a few have attempted to find 'Happy Adoption' cards (unsuccessfully I might add!).  There has been a tea party and a meal out with family - good times!  But even among people I know well, I've sometimes sensed a sort of uncertainty, as if searching for the right words, the right emotions . . . "Errr . . . congratulations?".

Others seem to have had a complete non-reaction.  I understand that as well.  After all, in the eyes of people around me, I've been OB's 'parent' for nearly two years.  They haven't seen the contacts, the social worker meetings, the paperwork, the adoption prep or the court paperwork.  As far as they are concerned, OB has lived with me for two years, and is still living with me.  As it was yesterday, so it is today, and a piece of paper doesn't really change anything.

This morning I went as usual to my lovely church and lots of people, seeing me for the first time since Tuesday, came to congratulate me.  Now, usually, when somebody in our church gets pregnant, there's an announcement.  Then when the baby is born, there's another announcement.  When the parents first bring the baby to church, they are brought to the front and everybody oohs and aahs over the baby.  Later there will usually be a dedication, and another opportunity for the happy family to share their joy with their friends.

Well, on Tuesday I became a parent, so today was my equivalent to the first Sunday after my baby being 'born', and there was no announcement.  No mention of it at all.  It's not like people didn't know, but obviously nobody made the connection that becoming a parent in my situation was equivalent to becoming a parent through birth, so nothing public was said.

I'm not annoyed about it as I know for sure it wasn't deliberate.  I really don't expect others to think things through as deeply as I do, and like I said, lots of people came individually me to say how pleased they were.  But I was sad, because I fear it's a sign of things to come.  Being an adoptive parent is different to being a parent the usual way.  I was blessed enough to get OB at a very young age, but still, there's so much that adoptive parents don't get that birth parents do.

Obviously I never got to carry OB, or give birth to him, or breastfeed him.  There were no birth announcement cards or baby showers.  Nobody wonders who he looks like, or wonders which of my genetic traits he will inherit. Throughout his childhood I will constantly be reminded that he has another family as we do our letterbox contact, and I have to face the likelihood that sometime in the future, he will want to seek out his birth mother, with all the insecurities that brings up for me.

I can't imagine how OB could feel any more like my own child.  And yet I will never be able to forget that in some very important ways, he's not.

A couple of people said to me today that they thought I was a wonderful parent, and couldn't possibly be more of a Mummy to OB.  I was very grateful for those comforting words, but actually, I already know that!  What I hope for is that everybody else will know that and act on it too.

I have become a parent by an unorthodox route, but it is the only route open to me.  This is the only type of parent I'm ever going to be, and although may not have actually given birth myself, I still want everything that other mothers get!  And that includes all the 'trimmings' - announcements, cards, parties, cakes (I've ordered a big one for his dedication party!!), paying a fortune for those cute baby photos and everything else! 

These things are important, partly because I never thought I'd have them so I covet them especially, and partly because as a stitched-together family, we are building something new, entirely from scratch, and these milestones, commemorations and events are an essential part of the fabric of our lives together. 

Ah well, it's not the first time in this long, long process that something I expected to be plain sailing has had a surprising emotional impact on me, and I know for sure that it won't be the last!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Judging What You Don't Know...

This is a little bit off topic from the usual Suddenly Mummy fare, but I recently got a new social worker and something she said has been knocking round in my head so persistently that I feel I must blog about it in the hopes that getting it off my chest will get it out of my head!

It was the first time we had met.  She sat in my lounge watching a news report about changes to benefits that happened to be playing on the TV.  Then she said, "I've got to be honest with you, I've got no time for rich people.  They just sit there with all of their money and do nothing to help the poor."

Putting aside how inappropriate it was for her to say such a thing in the course of her professional duties, I have to say I was really offended by it.

To explain why, let me tell you about my awesome Mum - I'm sure she won't mind.  My Mum comes from a working class family and grew up in a two-bedroomed terraced house with her parents and two brothers. While she was still school-aged, she fell pregnant, at a time and in a place where that sort of thing was just completely unacceptable.

I'll gloss over what happened immediately after, but basically, she eventually found herself alone, penniless, and a single mother, barely into her twenties.  And when I say penniless, I mean she couldn't afford to buy coal to put on the fire.

So she did what she had to.  She went out to work.  Some years later, she married again, and I came along.  There was still no money, even though my Dad worked.  We lived in a council house and my Mum made our clothes, made our bread, and made an awful lot of meals out of potatoes.  In short, she made do.

When my parents made the decision to improve their conditions, it simply meant more work.  They took turns to get an education while the other one worked and worked and worked, evenings, weekends, whatever it took.  My Mum scrimped and saved from awful, demeaning jobs so that we could go on a camping holiday each year.

Eventually, both my parents qualified as teachers, but my Mum couldn't get steady work in the FE teaching she had trained for, so she took another risk, and applied for a job that was unlike anything she had done before.  She got it, and then she worked and worked and worked in that business to make a success of her role.

Because of my parents' hard work, my upbringing was pretty cushy actually.  Yes, there were times when I was very young when there wasn't enough money, but I don't remember that.  What I do remember is how hard my Mum worked so that I could have all the benefits that she didn't have.  I have the life I have today because of the hard work that she did.

As I became an adult, my Mum entered a new phase in her life.  She gave up her job, re-mortgaged the house and with her husband, she started a new business.  She didn't pay herself at all for the first year, and she worked and worked and worked, even completing an MBA.  They made a success of that business and provided many secure jobs for local people.

My Mum is amazing.  Even though she has taken some hard knocks, she has refused to sit around wasting time having a massive pity party about how unfairly she has been treated, and demanding that 'someone' do something about it.  She has always assumed that it is up to her to make her life what she wants it to be.  Everything, absolutely everything she has, she has earned by sacrifice, detemination and hard work.

Now she is retired and, by some people's standards, she'd be called rich.  And because of that, my social worker would have no time for her.  That's the Social Worker's loss I reckon.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

At Last . . .

. . . . I have a son!

Far, far too tired to say anything more about it right now - just happy to sit back and bask in the wonderfulness of it all!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Big Day Approaches

On Tuesday this week, our long wait will hopefully come to an end and OB will officially become the son he has been to me for so long.

I'm worried that it will be something of an anti-climax!

Somewhere in the city, a judge and some other officials that I have never met will sit together in a room that I have never seen, and go through a procedure only imperfectly understood my me.  Shortly after, I'm hoping to hear that it's all done, although I don't know whether I'll get a letter or a phone call or what . . . or whether it will take an hour, a day or a week for the news to filter through!

This is why I am so glad that there will be another 'fake' hearing, or celebration hearing in a few weeks.  When I have mentioned this to some people, there have been raised eyebrows and quizzical looks as if to say, 'why bother?'.  But to me, this day will be very important.

Parents expect to be present for the birth of their child.  Adoptive parents don't get that.  Our 'adoption day' has to stand in for our 'birth day', and if adoption day passes by in a strange, distant place, and is marked only by a phone call, or a letter that arrives several days later to tell you that you have a child, it seems, well, not that much of a special day really!

So, the celebration hearing aims to bring a sense of occasion to something that really should be an occasion!  All my family will be there, as well as OB, and we'll celebrate together.  We'll have some sort of meal afterwards, and maybe a party for my wider circle of friends.  There will be talking and laughter and  photographs and memories.

In the meantime, there's the issue of what to do with 'final hearing day'.  I made the mistake of underestimating the impact that 'adoption panel day' would have on me. The outcome seemed so certain that there was really no tension or uncertainty, and so I made no plans to celebrate or mark the occasion, mistakenly assuming that it wouldn't have much impact on me.  Of course, I regretted this afterwards as it turned out that the experience was far more thrilling and emotional than I had expected.  Over a week after the event, I finally managed a celebratory breakfast with a friend!

So I'm glad that our final hearing date on Tuesday happens to coincide with a week-long visit from my parents. They will be here with me and we'll be able to celebrate the occasion together.  As a single adopter, finding someone to share your joyful moments is important, and who better to share this one than possibly the most doting grandparents in the world!

Roll on Tuesday!!