It’s hard to put into words the level of excitement, apprehension, anticipation and relief which I felt prior to meeting each of our daughters. The build up had been immense. We had gone through lengthy, detailed and sometimes rather intrusive assessments followed by Adoption Panel. Then, with our first daughter, whose story now follows, another long wait and the profiles of several children to consider. Each one captured a bit of my heart and we invested our prayers and hopes in them; I felt a loss whenever it was decided not to proceed.
Then the day came when we received profiles on two little girls, from two different agencies. It was a Friday afternoon and we were asked to make the decision over the week end! Two precious girls each needing a home. I remember climbing up to the boys’s treehouse (yes, really) from where I could see afar. I read through the rather scant amount of information given about a then unknown child, who is now our daughter. The love and affection of her foster mum shone through. After so many years, to have two little girls presented to us on one day, with a couple of days to decide, seemed rather overwhelming.
However, we had prayer. Once we had decided, we would be given more information, but in the meantime we had to go with what we had. I don’t know how we would have done this without prayer. We prayed ourselves and with friends. And then I phoned our social worker on Monday and asked if we could proceed with the little girl who is now our gorgeous eldest daughter.
We then had to prepare for Matching Panel, answering questions before another group of 12-15 social workers, council members or others with some understanding of adoption. They would decide if we would be a suitable family for this little girl. Our boys would not come to this, but I wanted to involve them. So, we made a big poster all about our family, community and activities. It was great fun, and Panel may have liked it too, as they agreed to the “match”.
Crazy days followed this; after years of longing and preparing our hearts, we now had but a few weeks to prepare our home and our lives! This was a fun time for the boys and I’ll write a separate post on how we involved them.
So it was no wonder we had “a washing machine full of emotions” when HWH and I, together with a social worker, knocked at the door of our daughter’s foster family. Despite all the build up on our part, needless to say, she was fairly unimpressed. I had bought a picture book along with me and as I sat on the floor and opened it up, she sidled over and started looking. Reading stories together has been a big part of our relationship ever since.
The boys came with us the following day, and we built up time with her slowly…trips to the park, the swimming pool, a day out with her foster family. Then her foster mum brought her here for a visit, and stayed with her. Then she dropped her off for a few hours. The whole process of “Introductions” takes about two weeks and its purpose is to gradually adjust the child to her new family, and thus allow attachment to be transferred from her foster parents to her adoptive parents.
For us as adoptive parents, especially with two other children to be most mindful of, it is logistically challenging and hugely draining. We had a “day off” half way through and I remember admitting to friends, with tears flowing, that I just couldn’t keep going. So nearly three, after so many years. Reminiscent of a moment during a long labour when I felt too exhausted to keep going. Fortunately the inevitability of the outcome propelled me forward in both cases.
As I have been writing this, I realise I’ve written very little about actually getting to know our new and much longed for daughter. I think there is a significance to this. It was an exhausting time, both physically and emotionally draining, after years of build up. I think we were both in survival mode, just to get through what we had to, before we could start to bond together in the peace and security of our own home.
Through all this, I want to pay great credit to our daughter’s foster family. They had done this many times before, but I don’t think it makes it any easier. They were kind, welcoming, practical and had given our daughter a home and love and safety for nearly two years. I have a huge amount of respect for them and will always be grateful. I believe they were just the right family for our daughter at that time of her life. We are still in contact, which is lovely.
As it happened the introduction period ended rather abruptly, through a decision outside of all our control. While this was lovely for us…there was nothing we wanted more than to settle into being family together, it was very tough for her foster family and, I believe, caused some deep trauma for our daughter.
But, finally introductions were over. The relief of just being ourselves was immense and freeing. I can honestly say that the weeks and months that followed flowed seamlessly. I’m sure there were some challenges (she had prolonged periods of screaming in the night…we wondered if this was to do with the suddenness of introductions ending), but generally it was just wonderful to have her. It was the summer so we spent lots of time outside; I wound down the boys’ lessons, HWH had a good amount of adoption leave and we played in the garden, went for walks, proudly introduced our beautiful daughter to family and friends, read stories, did lots of messy outdoors craft, enjoyed picnics and delighted in getting to know her. It really felt like a pressure valve had been released and it was truly wonderful simply to be together. Precious time. Time to establish new routines, a new rhythm. A good foundation.
She adapted amazingly quickly to being a part of our family, and much credit for this is due to our awesome sons, who were seven and nine at the time. I’ll write next about our journey with our second daughter.
And finally…each of the girls joined our family at the same time of year. For each of them, their first Sunday with us was Fathers’ Day.