So, all the boxes had been ticked. The day had finally come to meet. Quite frankly, I was a total mess. In a whirl of mixed emotions. Not sure if I was coming or going. I had that peculiar butterfly feeling in my stomach – like I was about to sit an exam.
Introductions begin to start the transition from foster home to forever home. This stage is planned to fine detail with the wellbeing of the child at the forefront throughout. Depending on the age of your child and how smoothly (or not) the transition is going, this stage typically lasts 1-2 weeks. You steadily build up more and more contact everyday as you grow and learn together.
We pulled up outside the house, hearts pumping at double speed. I was terrified it wouldn’t be how I’d imagined. How I’d dreamt it would be. That I’d reach out to my child and they’d scream and turn away. The pressure I felt was huge. It had taken me 10 years to get to this point. It was the most significant event, probably of my whole life. This was it.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. We were greeted with the biggest smile which melted our hearts forever. I genuinely think despite being young there was some recognition from the transition photos and voice recordings we’d put together. These things are recommended by social workers for very good reasons. They clearly work.
Our experiences of our separate foster carers was fantastic (I’ll talk more about adopting for the second time in later posts). Very humbling. But I think it’s fair to say that initially, it can feel a little awkward. They open their doors to you. Welcome you in to their home. But I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of uncertainty. Really silly and inconsequential things. Like where to sit. When to make a cup of tea. When to tidy up toys or make us all lunch. Not wanting to step in or take over. Waiting for the nod to provide comfort when the child – our child – started to cry. Holding back for fear of offending. Or getting it wrong.
The thing that surprised me most, was the amount of immediate close contact we got. Even on that first meet (which was around 2 hours long), we got endless hugs and kisses. Imagine that. I squeezed them so tight, totally lost in the moment. Oblivious to the endless clicking of photos capturing these priceless moments. Moments that now sit very proudly on display above our fireplace.
I hadn’t expected this level of interaction at all. I even gave a bottle, which was surreal -although I panicked I was doing it wrong and felt stupid when I couldn’t wind afterwards! I must mention that this scenario doesn’t happen for everyone. Your involvement will depend on things like age and degree of trauma they have experienced. They may not be so warm and welcoming. We were warned that we may not get any physical contact at all for a few days. You must prepare yourself for this. Pretty heart breaking after such a long wait, but you must be guided by the experts. Slow and steady is the best way forward.
Our introductions went really smoothly, but we were utterly drained – physically and emotionally. There were very early starts to be there before waking up. To be the first person they saw. Late nights to put them to bed and to stay to ensure they’d settled. A really key moment was when the foster carer brought our child to our home. They stayed close by for the first time for reassurance. But this was a really big deal – carrying our little one over the threshold. In to their forever home. In to the home where we would build memories to last a lifetime.
All in all, introductions lasted a week. I couldn’t decide if this was too long. Or not long enough. Were we really ready? We still had so much to learn. What I did know is that every day that went by, the dropping back got harder and harder. Having to say goodbye every night. Longing for the hours to pass quickly so we could return. Our love was instant and grew rapidly every day. It sounds such a cliché, but it really was love at first sight. It totally and utterly took my breath away. I’d never felt anything like it before. Ever. It was as if all the sadness we’d experienced washed away in that moment. That moment we saw them, held them, for the first time. Those big beautiful eyes. That cheeky smile. Those chubby legs. Those giggles. They mended my broken heart. Gave us hope for the future. Made all our dreams come true. It was nothing short of a miracle. We knew, without question, that we were going to do everything in our power to love, care and protect this precious gift. Forever.