As I covered adopting in my last post, I wanted to say something about how our beautiful girl came into our lives. When we were matched with the boy there was never any mention of a sibling coming along, in fact, we only found out about her two months or so before she was born. We’d had a catch up meeting with our social workers to discuss how it was going with the boy, and they hung around a bit longer than normal “Odd”, we thought. Then they broke the news, birth mum was pregnant again, and due in a couple of months, it was unlikely the baby would be able to stay with birth mum and so they wanted to know if we’d be interested in something called ‘Fostering to Adopt’. It was a relatively new scheme, whereby we would act as foster carers for the baby, and then, if the decision was made that baby wouldn’t return to birth parents, we could adopt the baby. They asked what we thought, J and I sat in stunned silence, then ummed and ahhed – totally gobsmacked. This would mean we would get a baby pretty much from birth, something we thought we would never have the opportunity to do. In short, it was mindblowing. The social workers left to give us time to think, within an hour we’d called to say yes, of course we’d do it. Yes, yes yes!!
It was a strange time in the run up to her arrival, we weren’t really able to buy anything as the final decision about the baby not staying with birth mum couldn’t be made until she was born, and so we were in limbo. Mentally preparing for a new baby and the new challenges that would bring, whilst also trying not to get too excited. Just in case. It was also a time for me to try and enjoy just having one baby to cope with, and making sure we got out together and had one to one time – I took the boy out in a carrier a lot over that time, knowing that once baby came it’d all be that bit more manic.
Then on the day of a lot of missed calls, as the boy and I had been on a walk where I tried to explain farming to him (a bit ironic now, I had no idea) and tried to explain our lives were about to change forever, she was born. And two days later she arrived at our door. A teeny tiny beautiful bundle. We just sat and stared at her, until the social worker forced us to pick her up and then pretty much ran out of the door – just wanting to leave our new, slightly bigger, family to settle down.
The memories are all a bit hazy now, I suddenly had two babies to look after, the boy was still so young I couldn’t spend all the day just hugging and cuddling her, and so she spent a lot of time in her moses basket, we still joke today that she was pretty much left to her own devices, but this meant she was never a bother, would send herself off to sleep, have a bit of a moan if she was hungry, but that was pretty much it. But I do remember how it, strangely, felt easier. Her arrival made it all feel a bit less intense with the boy, he wasn’t all I should be focussing on anymore, and that seemed to take the pressure off me.
Of course we fell head over heels in love with her, but it was tough, because, afterall, we were her foster carers, not her adoptive parents. So every week she went to contact with her birth parents, every week I would be asked if there was anything to “tell mam” about how she was doing, every week I would have to write in a contact book about her progress, and every week I would have to deal with whatever came back in the contact book. I think during this time I pretty much compartmentalised that, I would live the rest of the week with her as my daughter, and then for a few hours, she was something else, something separate. Having met other people who have also done fostering to adopt, I now realise that actually once a week contact was pretty mild, and so we were lucky. But it didn’t feel like that at the time.
After six months the panel was arranged to decide whether she would be put for adoption or return to her birth parents. I can now say that this was probably the hardest time of the whole thing for me. I suddenly couldn’t even look at her as my daughter, just in case, just in case she was taken away from us. How would that be? How would the boy cope? We all totally adored her and now, she could be taken away. We’d never see her again. Never watch her grow up. It was heartbreaking, and I felt like a cuckoo had been dropped amongst us.
The day the panel met and they confirmed she would be placed for adoption the relief was immense; I hugged and kissed them both and can’t really remember, but must have cried, because I am not that hard. A final contact was arranged, annoyingly, and typically, it was arranged for when we were in the Lakes, and so J had to take her, early one morning of our holiday, back to the North East. Even more annoyingly (though to be fair, perhaps understandably) birth parents didn’t show. J drove her all the way back, and our life as a family of four started. I should add, when J got back he ate a manky sausage roll and was violently sick for a couple of days, both the kids then also became violently sick and the holiday was a bit of a wash out. And this was the holiday where the idea of a move to Cumbria was born. And here we are, living the rural Cumbrian dream, with two beautiful (and infuriating) children.