When you decide to adopt and start stepping gingerly through the different stages of your journey you are faced with many challenges. Will you and your lifestyle be good enough to be considered to adopt a child? What type of child could you consider parenting? Could you adopt more than one child? What about the birth family, their circumstances and contact? I thought of all these things before and throughout our adoption journey, but rarely considered much about our prospective child’s current family, their foster family.
The first time we met Little Pink’s foster carers I was a complete bundle of nerves. A swirl of thoughts clouded my mind; what would they be like? Would they approve, like us even? Were they ready to let her go? At that moment they had what we wanted more than anything in the world, our daughter, and we had to get it right.
As we entered the room we were greeted by a friendly faced couple, they smiled and answered our questions cheerily. They shared pictures and spoke with such love. But unpinning all this it was impossible to ignore the sadness and the loss they were already starting to grieve. Their voices trembled at times, and I saw tears dance in their eyes. I was excited yet uncomfortable, what right did I have to unsettle this happy family unit? Our social worker read my face like she had always done and reassured me that this was their job. They had done an amazing thing in giving Little Pink the best start in her early months, but now it was time for her to move on to be with her forever family. My worries eased, we were her family and we would love her like no other, she just didn’t know it yet.
As we progressed through matching panel my excitement rose. I started to wonder how Little Pink was doing that day, what plans she had with them. My mind wandered and I imagined them showing her the pictures we had sent of us smiling and waving. Had they given her the teddy, covered in mummy’s perfume? Or opened the album that played our voices telling her how excited we were to meet her? I hoped so, yet I felt powerless. I just wanted to know that she was alright. I was a mummy to a baby that I hadn’t yet met. Time crawled on agonisingly slowly.
The day we met her was probably the scariest of my life. We walked into the room and there she was, our daughter, cooing happily on her foster mother’s knee. We were strangers, intruders into her happy little life, and while I yearned to grab my daughter from this woman’s arms I didn’t, I settled on the sofa and waited. Those few seconds felt like an age, and she didn’t let her go. I just wanted my baby.
Finally, as Little Pink was carefully sat down on the floor, I watched their faces. Foster dad sat closely, with a protective arm outstretched. His eyes were kind but cautious, and I suddenly felt intimidated by this man. It was him she went to when she banged her head, it was him she snuggled in to for her bedtime milk and called dada when she was afraid. How could we replace the only family she had ever known?
As the days progressed we spent more time in their home. It was hard but they opened up their lives to us, took us shopping, cooked us meals and on a level we bonded. Each day was easier as we got to know them, yet harder as their upset grew, knowing their time left with Little Pink was limited.
The day we took her home forever somehow almost felt wrong. What should have been one of the happiest moments of our lives will forever be tainted by the image of our daughters’s foster carers crumbling on the doorstep as we drove away. It was more than a job to them, they had loved her and done all the things a loving parent would do in her early days. I imagine the loss cut deeply, and while I desperately tried to relish finally becoming a mummy, the reality is I cried the entire hour drive home. As friends and family waited to congratulate us the guilt ate away inside. I tried so hard to move past it but she didn’t feel ours yet. I felt jealous that they still knew her more than we did. We were frauds caring for a baby that we had only met a week earlier. It was hard.
But time passed and wounds healed. We learnt her likes and dislikes, the songs that soothed her to sleep, her favourite dinners and the food she would throw to the floor in rejection. We got to know her routine, how to bath her so the water didn’t drip in her eyes and how to make her giggle until her cheeks flushed pink. We learnt how to be her parents and she started to feel more like our child.
Some people keep in touch with their child’s foster family, and others don’t. It’s a personal choice and your decision is likely to be guided by the experiences you’ve had. For us it felt right to keep in contact, after all, it was the first significant relationship Little Pink had experienced in her life, it was part of her story and we felt it important to preserve that.
We kept in regular phone contact and first met with them 6 months after Little Pink had been placed. It was emotional! There were hugs, tears and laughter along with a massive swirl of anxiety that coursed through my body. Even in our house, wearing the clothes we had painstakingly picked out for her, playing with the toys we had bought and smelling of home, I still felt she was partly theirs. I still desperately sought their approval.
As we exchanged pleasantries I hovered close, somehow terrified my daughter would decide it was them she wanted after all. My heart stopped when she cried after her foster dad as he left the room, but was fit to burst in the instant it dawned on me she had thought it was me who had gone. As she clumsily crawled to my knee I knew that she was ours and we were hers. I felt the tension, the jealousy and the threat their presence had previously instilled leave my body and finally, I fully enjoyed our time with these very special people.
The day our daughter had been home longer than she had resided in foster care was another little milestone. I’d counted down the days and Little Pink and I did a private dance for two in celebration around the kitchen table. She’d been here longer, I felt we knew her better now and it was us who were her family. They knew the baby that was, and had nurtured and helped her grow into the beautiful girl she now was. Our daughter.
We meet up with Tim and Sandra every few months now. We exchange photos often and each Christmas Little Pink makes them a card. They’ve never said but I know they will keep each one forever. When we visit, her photograph is still pride of place on the mantle piece, alongside the messy handprints we added as a parting gift. They are an extension of our family and we talk about them often. Little Pink’s eyes still smile when we mention their names or she spots their photographs in her life story book. They are almost as special to her as she is to them.
In reality it would have been far to easier walk away, and to put my own selfish needs of being Little Pink’s one and only before anything else. But I’m not, and am so very glad I didn’t. We are a success story and Tim and Sandra hold a special place in all of our hearts.
When you adopt a child you have to share them, they will never truly be all yours. But if you can, embrace that, celebrate the people who stepped into your child’s life in their greatest hour of need. The ones who were there when mummy and daddy couldn’t be. After all, you can never be loved by too many.
Love from Lauren x