For a start off I should say that Introductions for us seems like a distant memory….. It’s now 3 months since we brought the boys home and our life was completed up-ended so updating this blog has felt like a near impossible task! But fear not, I shall endeavour to try and complete it with as much detail as possible.
So the agency decision maker signed off the match on a Monday and on the Tuesday, the boys’ foster carer was able to introduce the boys to us via the laminated photos we’d sent over (God I hate laminating – so tedious) and the welcome video we’d made with our friend. I call this day 0 because it was the day before we actually got to meet the boys, which to us felt a bit weird. As in ‘here’s a picture and a video of your forever family……… They’re arriving tomorrow.’ Talk about short notice! But anyway, that vital part of the process must have been done REALLY well by the foster carer, Sue, as on….
….. The door was opened just after 11am by Sue and we were greeted by Cooper with a very excited “Daddy! Daddy!” which clearly made our hearts jump for joy! The journey down to the boys’ foster carers had passed reasonably quietly, like the calm before the storm. In fact, if I remember correctly, Ethan even had a little sleep!!! I guess, like a lot of the process, it’s all a bit conceptual until it’s actually happening and you’re in the thick of it. We were met outside the house by the boys’ social worker who stayed with us for thirty minutes or so before making herself scarce. We spent around three hours there in all just getting to know the boys: interacting with them, playing with toys, reading books and dancing (which Cooper LOVED, just as we’d been lead to believe). We had lunch with the boys and Sue was kind enough to feed us on this and EVERY day, which was a Godsend. One particular memorable moment was when Cooper picked up a Batman mask and I said, in a low growl ‘Batmaaaan’. This became something of a theme over the whole introductions period a refrain that Cooper would repeat to check in with us from time to time or remind of of that first special day together. We left after lunch, having changed our first nappies and fed our first meals, looking forward to the days to come and to getting to know our boys better. We made the longish journey home before packing our bags ready for our forthcoming three day stay in the provinces but not before our appointment to meet the boys’ birth mother. Ethan will talk about this in detail in a separate post.
Again we arrived at 11am after our journey down but this time we were staying up until Cooper and Kit’s bedtime. It was a long day but it went quickly. People told us regularly how exhausted we would be in the introductions week but actually we felt fine throughout – the hardest thing about the whole thing was spending so much time as a guest in someone else’s home. It’s a very weird and intense experience. On this day, Sue encouraged us to do more than perhaps the social workers had prepared us for, so even though we were not scheduled to take the boys out alone, she suggested we take the boys to the local soft play. It felt pretty nerve-racking to venture out for the first time with our children but the double buggy was packed and of we went. It was a bit of a mixed bag of an experience: Cooper was quite happy but a little manic, running all over the place and giving us palpitations and Kit basically just cried for the whole time. Ironically he had just started to attach to the foster carer in the week or two before intros started so he was basically distraught at being separated from Sue. But we managed it well enough and stayed for an hour or so before walking back. After lunch and a stroll by the water whilst the boys had their lunchtime nap, we went back for an afternoon of more play and shenanigans before having dinner (another meal provided by the foster carer). We then had our first bath time with the boys (with Sue in attendance), which was really special. We learned that Kit loved the water and took great pleasure in splashing about and getting the whole room wet, whereas Cooper was much more cautious and keen to keep his head as far away from water as possible. After the kids had been put down we headed off to our Airbnb (which was lovely) for a night of trash TV and reflection on the day.
So this day was not too dissimilar from the last, although Sue started to pull away, bit by bit, leaving us to get on with it, where she could. Again we visited the soft play centre, where Kit was far less distressed. It all went well here, right up until the person in a Giant Bumblebee outfit arrived to sing song to the assembled children, which left Cooper frozen in terror (we’ve since discovered he has a thing about large characters/figures which terrify him). Again, this was very similar to the day before with us taking an ever increasing role with the boys. This included giving the boys a bath on our own and putting them to bed ourselves, going home for a good night’s sleep before our arrival at the foster carer’s to wake the boys tomorrow at 7am!
Somewhat bleary-eyed, we rocked up at the foster carers five minutes late at 7.05am. She had left the boys sleeping for us and we each went to the boys (separate rooms) to wake them up. Surprisingly the boys seemed unfazed by our waking them up, as if they were expecting us somehow, allowing us to pick them up and take them downstairs, ready for their morning nappy change and outfit change. This was followed by the usual routine (which at the time of writing this in January is all too familiar) of breakfast and play before we took a morning drive out to a local park where we played on the swings and slides with the boys. They were both becoming increasingly comfortable and familiar with us, happy for us to go off separately with one or the other of them and able to enjoy the various fixed equipment in the park. The day passed quickly and we felt more than ready to move on to the next stage. It’s a peculiar experience to be meeting your children in someone else’s house and to have to experience this very intimate process under someone else’s roof. After these several days spending most of our waking hours in unfamiliar surroundings, we were very eager to introduce the boys to their new home and have proceedings on home ground, so to speak. After returning to the foster carers for lunch, the boys’ nap and an hour or so of play, we headed off a little early for our drive home to prepare ourselves for the boys visit to us the next day.
The evening before was actually spent at the cinema watching ‘It’ at the cinema! Perhaps strange preparation for having our children visit our home for the first time, but with time to do grown-up things sans kids rapidly running out, I pushed Ethan into going with me for one of our last nights of freedom! ‘It’ was good, if you’re wondering: perhaps a little long but it had a nice, retro ‘Stranger Things’ vibe which we both enjoyed. Anyway, I digress. Sue and her husband Simon were due to arrive with Kit and Cooper at 11am but made good time and knocked on the door at about half 1o, if memory serves. We then began showing the boys their new room, using the welcome books to help them recognise the kitchen and the garden, taking them outside to meet our three chickens and giving them (and the foster carers) lunch. This was actually the thing I was most nervous about: I had visions of them just refusing my cooking and screaming! Fortunately my fears were misplaced as they both ate LOADS and quite indiscriminately (this is apparently quite common with children who are going through this process – sort of the equivalent of comfort eating in times of emotional turmoil, if you will). The boys spent around 5 hours with us, Sue and Simon in the house the whole time but very much taking a back seat, and we had a great time together, exploring the house (Cooper was like a whirling dervish, running from room to room somewhat manically for most of the visit – this could have been excitement, anxiety or a bit of both). We read books, played with news toys, fed the chickens and ate an omelette – all in all, a very successful first visit by the boys to their new home. Oh, and Sue and Simon liked their omelette too ;-P
The final day before we brought our boys home for good was much like the former, though this time Simon and Sue dropped off the boys, had a quick cuppa and were on their way back home. We were to drive the boys back home in the evening, after lunch, dinner and a full day of getting to know each other on our home turf. I can’t remember what it was that I made for lunch but for dinner we had a nice mild chicken Korma, which again they wolfed down (these days they behave as if I’ve literally poured petrol down their throats after one mouthful – joy). We spent the day much like the one before, save for an exciting (and expensive) trip to a local soft play. This was interesting as Cooper showed a lot of indiscriminate affection to other adults there with their children, particularly another gentleman in his thirties who must have been very confused by this little boy repeatedly calling him ‘Daddy’ and trying to hug him. This made us both very worried and also made me feel sad for how confused and emotionally disorientated he must have been. After dinner we got the boys into their PJs for their final journey back to the foster carers. They stirred slightly as we took them out of the car once we arrived and put them in their cots but went back to sleep almost immediately. We then journeyed too far, frankly, to our hotel (I had a voucher, innit) ready to pick the boys up, once and for all, at 9am the next day.
We got up and headed to the foster carer’s house (via McDonalds for a quick sausage and egg McMuffin) ready for a 9pm car meeting (?!) with the boy’s social worker, Billie. We parked up outside Simon and Sue’s house and Billie came over to the car with two blue transparent folders, each containing a wadge of papers; one for Kit, the other for Cooper. In each were care orders for the boys, original birth certificates, reports from Cafcass on the recommendations for the boys, other court orders and a letter saying that the boys were ours, with parental responsibility shared between us and the LA. We signed a copy of the latter which also agreed to the fact that we wouldn’t do anything drastic (leaving the country, having the boys undergo any major operation, etc) without consulting the LA first. After we finished signing I felt a huge rush of emotion and felt quite overwhelmed; by the magnitude of what we were about to do but also a connection with Sue’s position. Cooper, in particular, had been with her for nearly a year and I just felt very sad for her sense of loss. I needed to catch my breath and gather myself before we went in. We had bought her a little gift and written a card for her and Simon and after my little moment, we went in to hand those over and collect the boys, taking them home for good.