And so we are four
For a number of reasons our progression towards the adoption of our daughter proceeded at something of a canter from the point at which we had agreed, as a family, to be matched with her.
Reports about our suitability as a match for the little girl were completed and we found ourselves very quickly attending the Adoption Panel once again.
There the atmosphere was relaxed but the questioning probing, focussing on our approach to the uncertainties caused by the gaps in our daughter's history. How we'd manage a little girl joining our all male household. How we would juggle the demands of a much younger child with ensuring our son continued to have the support and attention he needed.
Again we waited in an ante room for the outcome. Again approval was unanimous.
A few days later we arranged that I should meet the foster parents with whom our daughter was living. The little girl wouldn't be present. This was just a 'get to know you' meeting to prepare us to work together as we transitioned our daughter.
They were welcoming, clearly extremely proud of the little girl they were caring for. Very experienced, having overseen the transition of many children from their care to new adoptive families and having fostered very many more.
There was one thing they had never dealt with before, however. That was organising transition to a same sex couple. Additionally they were confirmed, active members of the Salvation Army, an institution not known for it's acceptance of homosexuality.
To top this, when I arrived, they had not been told that we were a same sex couple.
Having been given our names they had assumed J was the husband and that 'Nick' was short for 'Nicola.' They were therefore expecting 'Nick' to be the willowy wife of the nice middle class couple they assumed had been chosen as adoptive parents for their foster daughter.
So when they opened the door they didn't expect to see a 6' bald bloke in front of them.
"Hello, I'm Nick," I said, holding out my hand.
There was a slight hesitation from the foster mother. "Oh, hello!"
"You were expecting me? I'm not early am I?" I asked, concerned.
"No, no, come in. We were just expecting someone else." The foster mother covered extraordinarily well.
I have to say, all credit to them, our daughter's foster parents pulled things together in a totally professional, indiscernible and friendly manner. Indeed, I only found out that they were expecting 'Nick' to be a woman as I left, after an hour of coffee, detail of how to prepare for our daughter's arrival and a myriad of photos of the little girl.
Arrangements for J to start his adoption leave from his job at the local hospital were more fraught.
When we adopted our son there had, unusually, been some weeks between our being matched with him and our transition week beginning. With our daughter the whole process took less than three weeks. Giving us little time to prepare and much less time than he would have liked, for J to confirm the commencement of his leave from work that they, or he, would have wished.
Supersitiiously I had refused to buy anything to prepare for our daughter's arrival until our match with her had been confirmed at Adoption Panel. Consequently those three weeks saw a welter of activity.
Our daughter's foster parents were extraordinarily kind and helpful providing details of what items she had and additionally what we would need to buy.
Our son had been the first child his foster mother had transitioned to an adoptive family. Our daughter;'s foster parents had completed this task very many times before. Their experience showed.
Emotions ran high as we reached the last few days before the week of transition during which assumed care for our daughter and moved her to our home.
I've described the truly heart rending conversation with our son just two days before we met our new family member for the first time elsewhere. He was concerned that her arrival would signal his departure from our family.
J was stressed as he rushed to complete his handover of patients and ongoing work to colleagues who had little time to prepare themselves for taking on the tasks. I was stressed as I frantically made sure we had everything we needed.
One final, relatively last minute and additionally taxing event was our daughter's birth mother exercising her right to request that she should meet us. We approached that meeting with enormous trepidation. The detailed description deserves a post all of its own, which I'll write in the next few days, suffice it to say it was a tremendously emotional and sad occasion.
J and I met our daughter briefly for the first time on a Friday morning. Returning to collect our son from school and tell him a little about his sister. Over the weekend we took our son with us to spend more time with his sister, slowly assuming her care and taking her out on her own for the first time.
Our son's reaction was amazing. Kind, gentle and generous. The full story is told in a blog post elsewhere.
After the first few days our daughter spent increasing amounts of time with us at home, we returning to put her to bed at the foster parents' home at the end of each day. She was remarkably docile, passive even, during that week. Accepting the move and change of surroundings and carers with little outward sign of concern.
The final morning for her to move to us came. We collected her from the foster parents' home, effusive in our thanks for the remarkably well prepared package of items for her.
And so we became four. Four who have grown together remarkably quickly.
I sometimes look back on those early days of our daughter coming to live with us. Docility. Passivity. It all seems so long ago. A different country.