Friday, November 28, 2014

You Made My Day...

... when you told me a long tale about 'fire in cups' and it turned out you meant candles

... when you helped me sort out some of your old toys for the two-year-old that never came

... when you said, "Don't worry Mummy, I'll help you keep the baby safe."

... when you got undressed and ready for your pyjamas without any help

... when I said it was bathtime and you said "Yay!" instead of "Noooo!!!"

... when you got your third swimming badge, you amazing boy

... when you confidently told me your memory verse from weeks ago, completely unprompted

... when you ate all the casserole and said you liked it

... when you came for a lovely cuddle to keep me warm

... when you told me, with great excitement, that you were being 'Jofuss' in the 'Batibity'

... when you slept in until 7.30!

Sometimes our days are hard and our emotions are big. Sometimes we are tired and far from our best. But time after time, sometimes in surprising ways, you make my whole day. Soon we will celebrate another birthday together and I will remember to give thanks for all the days we have.

Happy Birthday OB. I love you xx

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Tomorrow we might be welcoming a new child into our home. Or the next day perhaps. Or maybe this one won't happen at all and we'll have to wait and see what comes next.

This time between placements is always awkward. It's nice for me and OB to have each other all to ourselves, and I certainly appreciate the reduction in laundry and the disappearance of nappies, bottles and disturbed nights. But it's hard to plan anything and there's always a sense of being in limbo, of waiting for the hammer to fall.

When you don't know what your family will consist of next week, it can be hard to make firm plans. Somebody asked me the other day if I could commit to something in February. I laughed. Who knows what we'll be doing in February?! In the short term, a possible placement tomorrow means I'm struggling to plan this week's shopping. What will the child come with? What do they eat and drink? Will they need nappies, shoes, clothes, a coat? It means hurriedly acclimatising the new child to our regular babysitter as I have a commitment I can't avoid on Wednesday evening and it wouldn't do for this little one to wake and be confronted by a total stranger's face. It means organising OB's upcoming birthday party with a traumatised little one in the house.

Planning for a new arrival means getting my head around how the house needs to be organised for a child of that age. So, over the weekend I've sourced a safety gate extension to restrict access to the kitchen, done a little necessary DIY, sorted out a small pile of age-appropriate toys, caught up on the laundry and cleaning and made sure the nursery is ready.

And of course I've started to prepare OB, inasmuch as it's possible to prepare a 3-year-old for the possible but not certain arrival of a new person in the household. He understands that more babies will come. Since BG left, he's told a few people that we're getting a new baby and it's going to be called "Bill the Dog"! There's a world of difference between understanding the words I'm saying, and understanding what it all really means.

So, tonight I have butterflies in my stomach that will no doubt only intensify each time I check my phone tomorrow. We're waiting with intent.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Rhetoric and Reality

I have just spent four days away with some good friends who, sadly, I rarely get to see much of these days. Between them, in their collective close family histories, they have experienced just about every adoption-related scenario I can think of. I won't tell their private stories in all their complexity but between them they have lived:

  • being an adoptee
  • being a mixed-race adoptee
  • being an adopted child with an adopted non-bio sibling
  • being a bio-child with an adopted sibling
  • being a trans-cultural adoptee
  • having a sibling of a different racial background
  • adoption disruption
  • single-parent adoption
  • infant adoption
  • older child adoption
  • being in reunion
  • being adopters
  • being trans-cultural adopters
  • being 'international' adopters, though living in the birth country of their adopted child
  • raising adopted and birth children together
  • raising children of different racial backgrounds
  • raising a (bio) child in a culture completely different from that of their heritage

There's a lot more, but it's personal to them and not my story to share. Suffice it to say, they have at least a book's worth of real, lived experience of adoption in all its complicated glory. And boy, do I pick their brains, compare notes, and just generally enjoy being part of their crazy world from time to time!

And what's very noticeable to me, especially after weeks of rhetoric from both sides of the Atlantic associated with national adoption week/month and so on, is that my friends, like most people, do not fit anybody's mould. The temptation to assume that all adoptees feel a certain way, or that all adopters are seeking the same things, can sometimes be strong. I have lost count of the number of times I have read sweeping comments, sadly, uttered by all sides of the adoption triangle, about all other sides.

There is no, one single experience of being a birth parent, an adoptee or an adopter. There is no reason to expect that two people who have similar experiences will react in the same way to those experiences. There is no one, magic way to act, think or feel about adoption. It's complex. My friend's lives are complex. To reduce them to slogans, soundbites, protocols, catchy hashtags, statistics and tick sheets would be to do them a great disservice, and totally miss the point.

Let the whole world shout out their opinions about adoption. The rhetoric is a poor shadow of the reality.

Friday, November 7, 2014

D is for . . . Daisy Nook!

And so we continue to make slow progress on our A-Z tour of days out. At least we are finally past our ABCs!

D is a country park we took a drive out to at the end of September on a day that couldn't make its mind up weather-wise. We had a little drizzle, but mainly the sunshine was kind to us, and we enjoyed a lovely afternoon doing what I imagine 'outdoorsy' mums do with their children! 

I don't know anything about the park or its history but, after visiting, I'd love to find out more about the large stone wall structures dotted around like dams, holding back grass rather than water. We played in a lovely sand-filled play area near the cafe, took a walk along the waterway, climbed these stone structures which somehow reminded me of the lost parts of the Kingdom of Gondor on Frodo's journey towards Mordor, and best of all, from OB's point of view anyway, played on the slide in the adventure playground.

Oh, and we collected a fair few sticks!

Lovely afternoon!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Worst Day

It feels as though the last couple of weeks has been a series of momentous days. Hard days, emotional days, tiring days. And yet, there has also been a sense of pleasure in the completion of our part of the journey, and the apparent success of the final stages.

Before I started fostering, I probably would have thought, as many do, that the day of final handover would be the worst day of the process for me. That's the dramatic moment isn't it - handing over the precious child you have loved and cared for into the arms of another? But, after saying goodbye to four different little ones, under various circumstances, I now know that the last day is never the worst day.

Why not? Because I know it is coming months in advance. I know what it will look like and how it will happen and I have so much time to mentally prepare. In all of the uncertainties of the process of moving a child onto adoption, that final morning seems the least uncertain. The adopters came at the pre-arranged time. We had been ready for a while. All BG's clothes and belongings had been transferred some days before. The social worker came and did the formalities. Nobody cried. It was all over in half an hour, and then we filled the rest of our day up with pre-arranged activities.

Other days, other moments were much harder. There was the time BG's new parents took her out alone for the first time and when she came back she clung to me and cried when I tried to put her down. Then there was the time, a few days later, when she came back from a day with her parents and didn't seem all that bothered to see me! There's a constant conflict between loving and letting go.

Right now, I'd have to say that the worst day so far was actually the day before handover. I was desperately tired after a week of managing BG, managing OB, managing constant visitors and then travel up and down the motorway and, of course, managing my own shifting emotions. I felt drained and a bit tearful and, to be honest, I just wanted it all to be over. I think, perhaps, this is a hidden benefit of the intense stress of introductions - there comes a point when it's all just getting too much and the end almost comes as a relief.

From experience though, I know that the worst day is probably still to come. Of course, after she's gone, I have odd moments. Although I'm quick to strip the cot and remove the car seat and put away the bottles and other paraphernalia, there are still little things that catch me unaware. Twice now I have reached out at bedtime to switch on the monitor before remembering that I don't have to - I really need to pack that away! Now that her window no longer has blackout blinds and her bedroom door is open, the house feels different each morning as the early sun streams in and onto the landing, bringing an unfamiliar light into my bedroom through its half-glass door. I'd forgotten about that over the last ten months.

But none of these moments make for a worst day. No. I'm fairly certain that the worst day will come when I get that phone call from social services asking me to take in another child. Unlike endings, beginnings in this game are rarely predictable. It is hard to mentally prepare for the completely unknown. I do not know when the phone call will come, or how much time I will have to prepare. In the past I have had as little as 90 minutes. I do not know the circumstances or the people involved. In a few weeks, amid a flurry of activity and professionals all over the house, I will have to welcome a complete stranger into my home, place them into her cot, give them her toys to play with. She will be completely replaced. I know that it will get better, that we will learn each other, that I will become comfortable with the new routine, the new social workers, the new family members, but I also know that on that first, worst day, I will yearn for the comfort and familiarity and easy smile of Baby Girl.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

This is why...

... to watch her lift her hands to the people who were strangers only six days ago ... to see her shine her smile on those who have committed themselves to her future ... to witness the transferral of that hard-won attachment to its permanent home ... to hear an adopter say that they are thankful for what you have done ...

... as she sleeps for the last time in her first cot I know that, despite the wobbles and the emotions and the bumps in the road, this is why.