The Worst Day
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.