Friday, January 16, 2015
Our First 100 Minutes
"Mum's struggling but I've told her you're an experienced foster carer and you know what you're doing."
So said the social worker with her hand on the door, poised to throw it open and reveal ... well I had no idea really.
Thirty minutes earlier I had been taking a panicked and hasty shower.
Thirty minutes before that I had been sweeping rubble up off the stairs carpet, clearing away the last mess of a lengthy renovation designed to prepare my new home for my new role.
Somewhere between those two moments a phone call had told me of a placement and invited me to go immediately to Children's Social Care to meet a young mum and her baby boy. My first placement.
The door swung open. I scanned the room, taking in the scene. A few chairs, some toys scattered around. A young woman crumpled in on herself, face streaked with tears, hair hanging down. Next to her a man with a lanyard. On the floor, fast asleep in a car seat, you.
The social worker took a seat and gestured me towards another. She began introductions. I made my face a calm mask but my mind was racing. I had apparently been presented as 'an experienced foster carer'. This couldn't be less true. I had never had a foster child before, or any other child for that matter. I had no idea what would happen in this meeting or what would be expected of me.
The social worker asked your first mum to tell me about you but she could barely speak. Instead, she passed me a handwritten sheet of paper with some details of your routine and essential information. Apparently you liked kisses, cuddles and watching Jeremy Kyle on TV. Two of those are still true.
We spent our first 20 minutes together in that room. I can't remember a single thing that was said. Then, the man with the lanyard was ushering your first mum out of the room and your social worker was putting on her coat, preparing to leave. I think it was only at this point that it actually hit me that I was supposed to take you home now.
You were still sleeping as I carried you to the car. You were so silent on the way home that I pulled into the car park of the health centre so I could go round to the back of the car and check that you were still breathing. At home, I carried you out into the house and placed the car seat down on the hall floor. My friend, who was at the house finishing up some last bits of DIY, came to look at you.
Then you did something I'll never forget. You opened your eyes and smiled a huge smile. There, in the middle of the most momentous moment of your life so far, you opened your eyes, saw a strange house and two strange faces staring back at you, and your response was to smile. It amazes me to this day.
When I opened your change bag to see what you'd come with, the smell of marijuana was so strong it made me reel. There were some nappies and wipes, a few clothes, a dirty bottle and about a quarter of a tub of formula powder. You and your mum had been away from safety for a few days, dossing down who knows where. This was all you had.
I didn't know when you'd need feeding next, but I knew that bottle needed some work. I put a pan of water on the stove to boil. The phone rang. It was somebody from Social Services asking if I had everything I need for the placement. I had literally nothing. I was promised a delivery of cot, pram, car seat, bottles, steriliser and other essentials later that day. As soon as that call was over I phoned a good friend and asked her to run to the shops for me and buy formula, nappies, wipes.
By the time the pan of water was boiling, you were looking hungry. I cuddled you and rocked you and tried to pacify you while we waited for the bottle and teat to cook clean. Then I made your first bottle with one hand while you yelled in my ear. Such was my flustered state that I had to read the instructions on the formula carton to double check I was doing it right.
That first time I fed you I had no idea that 100 minutes would turn into a lifetime.
A post about the day I brought my son home for the first time, written on the third anniversary of the day I brought him home for the second (and last) time.
This post was written for the Weekly Adoption Shout Out's (#WASO) celebration of 100 link ups. The theme was 'The First 100'.