That awkward feeling - Transition I
The very positive, and kind, reception to my story about our first contact with our son, ‘SPD in emergency’, made me want to expand on that story further.
The prospect of a week of transition was, for us and I suspect most adoptive parents, one of the more daunting parts of the process of adopting our son.
Usually, the prospective adopters are thrown in to their transition only a relatively short period after their match with a child, or children, is approved. That was the case when we adopted our daughter, but not so when we adopted our son.
For a number of reasons there was a delay of just over a month between being matched with our little boy and the beginning of transition - plenty of time to worry about what would happen.
A meeting with our son’s Foster mother calmed our nerves a little, but just a little.
Held in the rather austere surroundings of the Adoption Services’ offices, B was clearly very caring and protective of her foster son. She was also open and honest and equally as new to the process as we were. As a new foster mother this would be the first time she had transitioned a child on to adoptive parents.
That period of time was one of both anticipation and angst. I’ve talked about it a little in this blog post, Sweet and Sour. My family circumstances were quite stressful due to my mother’s hospitalization, which culminated in her passing away in the early hours of the day prior to the one on which transition was due to begin.
We quickly took the decision that we should continue with transition as planned, no matter how many additional difficulties there might be. Most importantly, our son had been told to expect transition to start that day. Additionally, both J and I knew that this would be what my mum would have wanted.
Our son was 3 and had been counting down the days to his first meeting with us, his new ‘Forever Family’ using a brilliant ‘Adoption Calendar’. This was akin to an Advent Calendar, with windows that opened showing him photos of us, our families, home and pets.
The first few days of transition saw us travel to the foster home to spend increasing amounts of time with our son, becoming involved in his routine and taking over some of his care.
No matter how welcoming and kind someone is (and B and her family were remarkably so), you are still a stranger in their home. That therefore makes the situation awkward and our gut reaction was to take our son out so that we were not in the way
Our ability to go out and about was quite severely limited by the weather. It was bitterly cold and there was a thick layer of snow on the ground. Fun in short bursts, it wasn't really conducive to being out and about all day long.
We tried our best however. We were helped in the knowledge that our son's birth parents were no longer in the vicinity so we therefore could go anywhere we wanted in the town.
We visited a couple of local parks, went to one of the town's beaches and visited some of the tourist attractions round about. All went generally well. We had some upset in a local hypermarket, that's detailed in the blog about shopping, here.
Our son had been through a lot to reach the point of adoption. He was therefore enormously attached to his foster mother, despite the fact he had only been living with the family for around six months.
After being removed from his birth family he had been placed with a foster carer with whom his relationship quickly broke down. He was quite a handful and her inability to cope is entirely understandable, however the breakdown of the relationship with her was exactly the last thing our little boy needed.
It was therefore unsurprising when, on our third day, our son fell over while we were in a play area at the park. Although not hurt he was cold and muddy and became very distressed, demanding to be taken back to the foster home and B.
We realised quite quickly that he was not going to be easily consoled and so began the journey back to the foster home. I decided to try and distract him as best I could, so began to sing.
"Twinkle Twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are?
Are you bum bum, poo poo or will?
Are you Daddy 'cos he's silly?"
The first time around he just continued crying, no doubt because of the hideousness of my singing. The second time he calmed a little. After round three he cracked a smile and by the time we got to the fourth and fifth renditions our son began to laugh and sing along.
"Still want to go back to B? Or shall we go to the beach?" J asked.
"The beach!" Our son said.
After the first three days it had been agreed that our son would begin to come to our home. The first day he was to be brought to us by his foster parents, thereafter we would be collecting and returning him daily.
That morning B and her husband arrived with our little boy and a few of his belongings. He ran around the house excitedly, orientating himself while we all had a coffee. Our relief was palpable and probably, unkindly, obvious as our son waved happily as B and her husband left, leaving him with us for the first time.
We began to unpack the few items he had brought with him in his room and changed a few things around to suit the way he wanted them. We went for a walk, made a snowman, had a snowball fight and played in front of the fire with some of the toys we had bought for him.
Just after lunch our Social Worker rang. "So how did it go?" She asked.
"Great," I said. J's playing with him in the sitting room just now. There was a stunned silence on the end of the phone.
"Um, he's not supposed to be there, he's only supposed to have spent the morning with you, while B was there, and then she should have taken him home at lunchtime?" Our Social worker sounded concerned. "Is he OK?"
"Fine," I said. "He ate a large lunch, we've been out in the snow, he's completely relaxed. We agreed we would take him back to B in time for dinner."
That seemed to reassure our social worker, "That's fine, as long as he's settled. If he let B go without any protest that's a really positive sign."
We took our son back to B, he had dinner there with the other children and at his insistence we bathed him and read him a bed time story.
The following morning we had agreed to meet B and the social work team at the Adoption Services Offices for a mid-transition review. The purpose of this is to assess how things are going, make sure that the progress of transition is not distressing the child and if there is any cause for concern allow the plans to be changed if necessary.
We all agreed everything was fine and went out to meet up with our little boy who had been looked after by another member of the social work team while we met.
Congregating in the reception area our son ran out of the office upon seeing us. I squatted to greet him. "My Daddies, My Daddies," he shouted and leapt at me, knocking me on my back, giggling while I tickled him.
By the time I had fought him off and stood up the rest of the assembled group were all shuffling, sniffing and wiping their eyes. "What's wrong with you lot? I asked B, J and the hardened social work professionals.
"Oh, that was lovely," rasped our son's dewey eyed social worker as they all went their ways and we took our son to spend the day at our home for the first time.
to be continued..