The first day

This time of year stirs up a lot of memories in our house. You see, on this day, three years ago, Mrs S and I were waking up knowing that we were going to meet our sons for the very first time. After jumping through every hoop that social services had set for us, passing every test they challenged us with, and waiting, we finally got to meet our children.

I remember the nerves, the excitement, the sheer terror, as if it were only yesterday! That first day, we went to the foster house and spent an hour playing with them, just an hour, and then we had to go to a meeting with the social workers and foster parents and actually say out loud whether we wanted to proceed.

The whole process of adoption pulls at your emotions in ways you can’t really imagine. For instance, prior to being “matched” with a child or children, you have to complete a checklist of things you would accept – or conversely, NOT accept – disabilities and such, or different life experiences, such as the different types of abuse a child may have experienced. Our social worker was really supportive and encouraged us to be practical about it, for example by pointing out that our house isn’t really suitable for a wheelchair, but I remember feeling absolutely heartbroken about the whole thing, and saying that I would love my child regardless; that if I were to give birth to a child then none of that would matter, they would be perfect to me, so why would it matter because we had chosen to adopt?

Before meeting Norman and Marvin for that first time, we had to make them each a book with pictures of our house, so that they knew where they would be living. We got them each a teddy bear, and took pictures of their teddy bears around the house. We then sent the books and the teddy bears to them a week or two before we met them, after the adoption panel had approved us again. That’s one of the hoops. You go through all of the assessments, the financial stuff, the health and safety check of your house, they unpick your personality and your life experiences, and then they finally approve you as adopters! You wait to be matched with a child… and then they have to approve you again, for that particular child, or in our case, children. The nerves build each time, because for them it’s about making sure they get everything right for children who have already been through so much, but for you, you’re emotionally attached, this is about building your family.

We arrived at the foster house on that first day, and I remember seeing both boys clutching their teddy bears. Norman was bouncing around, excitedly saying “mama” and “mummy“, while Marvin was a lot more closed off and nervous, very quiet. I know now that they were both very anxious, it’s how they display it still. Norman still gets very giddy, very loud and very physical when he’s getting worried about something, Marvin sometimes does that but can also become very clingy when he’s worried. I do wonder what on earth was going on in their little heads that first day, what their understanding was of who we were and what was going to happen. We had no involvement in their preparation, except for sending the bears and books, and in hindsight it seems that they weren’t prepared especially well at all really. We spent an hour playing with them, I remember doing a jigsaw with Norman, whereas Marvin just watched suspiciously and didn’t engage much.

It seems remarkable to me now to think that there was a time when Norman and Marvin weren’t there, when our family wasn’t a four. Recently, if they wake up early, they’ll come and snuggle up beside me in bed and it feels to me that they’ve always belonged. I think my deepest hope is that they also feel like they belong here too, that despite all of the difficulties they’ve faced, and we’ve faced as a family, and continue to battle, that one day they’ll look back and know deep down how much they were loved, and how much they were wanted.

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