Thursday, July 07, 2011

Sunshine and rain

The last couple of weeks have been hard at times, hence the title of this post. Not only have we had such contrasts in weather daily life has seemed to be just as extreme at times. My friend finally passed away and I found that having cold after cold affected my immune system resulting in feeling very low and sick. Antibiotics helped fight those nasty germs and suddenly I felt more able to cope, as we were able to spend some time in the summer sunshine after a lot of rainy days.

The funeral was very hard - it helped that there was a great group of the girls and chaps from Jo's and we gathered at mine for lunch before walking over - it was strange to be with these people that I care about and chatting away, dressed in bright colours to suddenly be at a crematorium and looking at a coffin. It was just as she would have wanted it - lots of music and friends, but so incredibly sad. I'd spoken to her about this eventuality, but there's a massive space in this world without her pragmatic way and wicked sense of humour and I am going to miss our coffees and nights out.

We also finally had a visit from the health visitor which was very helpful - it was good to talk to someone who is experienced with the children similar to Poppet, who is not a social worker! And it was about me and looking after myself so it really helped. Also as she is not a SW we did not have the same issues with Poppet's behaviour that we normally have after visits. We've had some behavioural issues that have been a bit worrying and they seem to have got worse since the last LAC review, and aimed at me mainly. It seems that the more we bond, which is really happening at the moment, the more she lashes out at me. Probably because I'm her mum and she is angry at "mum" - or at least at something that has happened in her short life.

The health visitor saw it happen and is going to come back in a month and if it is still happening she will get us some help. Which is great news. Honestly I think it will probably work itself out, but it's good to feel supported and that we can get it sorted.

And after that downer - well everything is actually feeling good and sunny (despite a lot more rain)! We've had our first trip up to Yorkshire and the in-laws which was lovely - a weekend of not having to cook, a very spoiled Poppet and time for some us-time thanks to Nana babysitting.

And she loved it - ate LOADS, saw her first steam train, had her first pub lunch, and behaved beautifully (well, mainly!).

And I have made some decisions - our routine has changed so she eats later and we eat earlier most nights so we can have dinner together and she has her bath in the evening. It means that we have a bit more time when she goes to bed and I cook one meal rather than two. There still needs to be some adjustment to make it work better, but it's more relaxing. And it's great us eating as a family. It might not happen every night but I want it to be more often than not.

I am also planning to go back to work. Just an evening and hopefully Saturday mornings, but I think that it's workable and I'm looking forward to it.

And all things considered, she is doing so well - she seems to be growing everyday and has gone from a size 4 shoe to a 5 1/2 in the time she's been with us. And her language is going from strength to strength - she is so desperate to talk. New words spill out everyday and she has little things that she says that sometimes it takes time to work out. Funny little things like saying "haies" which means hands and holding out her hand to me. This afternoon she was leading me around the house. And funny little things she does like nappy checking her toys (involving copious amounts of wipes every where). And announcing she's done a poo, and we check and she hasn't. And working out how to remove her nappy - 4 times in one night and resulting in a wee covered bed. And meowing loudly when we say the word tail (in Meg and Mog, Meg steps on Mog's tail and he meows) or when she eats blueberries (our cats are Blue and Berry).

And it's those things, and the millions more that make it worthwhile -even though mummy does get very cross with her unpacking drawers for the millionth time, seeing her cheeky grin and the way she hugs my legs when I head towards the living room and knowing that mayhem ensues means I can't be cross for long because she is exploring the world and wanting to learn and for the most part being a very typical toddler.

And we are all smitten (well the cats are still pissed off but Blue is happily purring on my lap so it's not all bad for them).

Z x

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

10 weeks and it feels like it has always been so

Poppet has been with us for exactly 10 weeks and in that time we've had 4 molars, 2 colds (us included), some tears and lots of laughter.

It has been an adjustment - it was 0-500 mph instantly and of course we have had challenges. The hardest thing is not knowing certain things about her background so there have been some question marks and worries. A few of those got answered or confirmed at yesterday's LAC meeting and suddenly things start to make sense. I'm pleased that our instincts were right, and that what we suspected was not normal toddler behaviour, is indeed probably the product of her early experiences.

There are also times when she needs a lot of reassurance and she is very unsettled - especially after meetings and contact visits, but we'll have less soon and she will hopefully realise that she is staying with us and won't be moving again.

That said, there's nothing we can't handle as it's not major stuff, but we do need to try and work through these things to knock them on the head. But the fact is she is thriving - she's grown, has much more hair, is healthy and is a hurricane of energy and mischief and is bright and inquisitive. She looks like our child, and feels like it too.

Her words are ever increasing and she's growing in confidence - quite able to boss Mummy (and Daddy) about.

And how are we doing? - well parenting is not brain surgery, it's a lot of common sense and patience but is well worth the rewards. There are times when it's not been easy - and I'm not going to pretend otherwise, but we are a team and are working it out. Currently it's full on because we can't use childcare or sitters so there's a lot of compromise to ensure we both get some space and breathing time.

But she's brilliant and we love her to bits and there's nothing better than hearing your child laugh or watch her explore and discover things or watch her sleeping. Or laughing at her way of saying things or singing "Wo Wo Wo" at the top of her voice.

And the cats? Well they are realising that she's not going anywhere and are adjusting too. Still a bit miffed, but cats do miffed so well and milk it a little bit.

Hopefully will be able to update this more regularly, but for now I need to go as she's woken up.

Z x

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Adoption - an altruistic act? This is not about charity.

Edited to add, as this post seems to have stirred some controversy that this is not aimed at my friends and family who have given so much love and encouragement - this is about well meaning strangers who have managed to day the wrong thing at the wrong time. Also this blog is about me and my little family and the ups and downs of our adoption story. There will be good and bad times and I will write about both. And if you do take it personally, please read this post twice, because honestly it's about Poppet and not you! :o)

Let's get this straight. We did not decide on adoption because we want to be admired or need self validation. We chose adoption because we want a family and it was a choice we made because we couldn't do it any other way. I find it really patronising when people tell me what an amazing thing we're doing because we are doing it for our family. Not because we want to HELP someone as an act of charity. We want our child/ren to reach their potential just like any other parents, we want Poppet to grow up enjoying life and to be able to explore the world with options for her future.

At the same time I also get frustrated with people, albeit well meaning, telling us that certain things are normal. Fact is there are some behaviours that are totally normal and age appropriate and certain things that are not. It does not help to tell me that when she hits the terrible twos it will get worse - it probably will do. Not because we've hit the terrible twos but because the honeymoon period ends. Ironically that will be during the terrible twos, so it will be age appropriate, but the fact is ALL adoptive children have this time. Many of them are stuck at the age they were removed and many regress to babyhood even when they are 8!

We have a child that has gone through so much in such a short time. She's lived in several different places, has had multiple carers and it is obvious that BM did not give her much attention when they were together - she hates me being on the phone or sending a text or Matt being on the computer when in the same room as us. She tantrums if I go out of the room, or don't pick her up, but completely ignores and avoids me when in a room full of people, preferring to go to anyone else. But this is what we expected because we've been through the workshops and read books and articles and so although it's hard we know that with hard work we can all get through it. But many adoptions fail and so we are mindful that we do need to work hard at this - and try and do the best for her, encourage and nurture her but without pushing her.

This is useful in explaining a little about how it is different with adopted children and this is a very helpful article (abridged) about how children reject affection

Things that I am doing to encourage attachment at the moment are using baby lotion and rubbing it into her skin after her bath; dancing with her on my hip and when she will let me holding her close and rocking her. This is also so new to the three of us - she has to do a lot more adjustment than us. Although our world is changed, she has to cope with new carers, new family, a new environment and her little mind has to adapt to all of it.

I don't want to be a neurotic mum - I'm happy for her to climb and play in the garden and explore, but at the same time I also have to manage her needs and I am learning to do that. She needs to learn that Matt and I are permanent fixture and that she is not going to be moved again and that it is us that will look after her and not other random people.

So this is the path we've taken and it's exciting and scary. And while things can go wrong with any child, we know that adopted children need a little extra to beat the odds. But we're in it for the long haul - we're a family and don't expect plaudits, just support and love and understanding.


Saturday, April 09, 2011

The pitter patter of tiny feet

So Poppet has been with us for about 10 days now. And of course the house feels different. And somehow at times it feels like it's always been like this and at other times I wonder how it all happened.

Bringing her home permanently was strange. We arrived at the designated time and of course the SW was late. Poppet seemed aware something was up - and was studiously avoiding everyone. But we went outside and played with her and then suddenly we were saying good bye to the fostercarers and feeling terribly emotional and then we were on the way home. We went to the shops, came home and had lunch and put her down for her nap and of course we didn't have to get her ready to go back and so just did our thing really.

And that's how it's been. Continuing with her routine, trying to work out what food to give her - her FCs are plain food people and that's what she's been used to. So we've had a few standby ready meals and jars at the the ready. Lunch and breakfast are quite straight forward but dinners not so much and I've been finding it quite stressful, but we're getting there.

And this week it was just the two of us as Matt went back to work and on the whole it's been good. She is a mini hurricane and it's obvious that she needs to go out of a morning so we are going to try out Tumbletots and explore what's on locally. Playgrounds are scary as she is fearless and will climb and want to do what the older children do! After lunch she naps and we have the Wiggles on and play and it's much more low key until dinner and then Matt comes home and they play and he puts her to bed. So we're finding our rhythm and we're all adapting to this new way of life including the cats who are getting more resigned to this noisy new thing and are finding their ways of coping.

I've been feeling very anxious - I think this is totally normal for any new mum - and not sleeping well, so went to the doctor's and have a high dose antihistamine to help me sleep and hopefully I'll get back into a decent sleep pattern. I'm not physically tired (I think my job has been very useful in that sense) but more mentally exhausted. Once I'm sleeping again I'm hoping that nap time will be more productive and I can start doing a bit of exercise.

It's hard to know when dealing with a small person how they are coping - she generally sleeps well and is a happy outgoing little thing - but she also may have attachment issues and as she can't express her feelings through words, and indeed probably couldn't anyway it's an unknown quantity.

We have a lot of laughs together and she loves to hug and kiss the cats and toys and even the weather girl on TV, as well as us. So one wonders if she's bonding. But there are moments that are lovely, like when she gives Matt a food covered kiss when he comes home from work, or when she comes and leans into my legs. And she takes turns in favouring one of us.

She also seems to want to test us with her behaviour - lots of tantrums when she can't have her own way and if one of us leaves the room. Of course a lot of this is age appropriate, but also we have to be mindful that it's also typical of adopted children - especially one where she's been moved around and removed from the people who cared for her - be it birth mum or various FC and even SWs. Of course she's going to feel insecure. And honestly? It's a good sign that she does feel insecure - I'd be more worried if she didn't.


Friday, April 01, 2011

Introductions - coming to our house and meeting the cats

I think the last few days have been the most emotional. It's hard to put into words the feelings that we have both been feeling. Apart from being exhausted! But it's been a mixture of delight and terror and sadness and joy.

On Sunday Poppet visited with her FCs - they stayed for tea and biscuits and this gave us an opportunity to introduce her to the cats for the first time. Blue, who is the most sociable, was the perfect choice to start with and he came in voluntarily. Berry stayed out of the way and went into a bit of a sulk. We showed how to stroke him gently and all went well. She wanted to see the house and explored a bit. After a couple of hours they went home.

Monday came and they drove her to us (as well as most of her toys). This time they didn't stay long, but left her so we were able to spend more time getting used to the new house, playing with her toys and the garden and terrorising the cats. We had our first "at home" meals and a nap in her new cot. The nap did not result in much sleep but she played happy and chatted away to herself. Although this was good in a sense, it also shows that she is almost too self sufficient - that she was used to being left on her own when she was with her mum in the mother and baby unit. After dinner we all got in the car and she tried out the new car seat which she seem to get used to quickly.

We took her back to the FCs and put her to bed. We stayed at Fawlty Towers again - this time in a better room as they were less busy. We ate there and no, we didn't have the Wardolf Salad, but actually surprisingly nice food. Both of us crashed out. I woke in the wee small hours having an anxiety attack - I have had them before, but not for a while. I managed to get back to sleep but in the morning I felt teary and stressed. It was all starting to feel more real. But also it has stirred all sorts of emotions - about my fertility, about me as a woman and a person. It's exciting but daunting and a huge responsibility.

That day we went to the FCs and had a meeting with the SWs (this involves a cast of 1000s). It was great to hear the FCs say that they felt that things were going well and all of a sudden it was agreed that we could bring her home for good on Wednesday. And signed and sealed! Eeek!

As her last part time day with us, we took her home to a house full of plastic toys (gah, some age appropriate and some not so much. Unfortunately she has a lot of things that had been given to her by her birth family, which are not wonderful- like the toy buggy which is designed for a much older child. She loves it though and we did laugh a lot when Blue decided that it was the perfect bed for him and he climbed into it.

Another long drive back to the FCs and then home this time. Was weird to this that this was the last night in the house just the two of us humans.

More about bringing her home for good soon

Z x

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Introductions - learning to fall in love and forming bonds

One of the things that people assume is that once you have been matched, that's it, your child comes home but these days it's much more complicated. In my last post I talked about how we provided the foster carer (FC) with a book, cd and pictures from us. She used them with Poppet (I am calling her this for privacy reasons) to get used to our faces and voices, as well as our house and cats.

Remember, this is a 17 month old who has been in this placement for 5 months and her background is complicated, and although she has been in care for most of her short life it's involved moving around a lot and many carers so it's likely that she has not formed good attachments to any one person.

It's important that she feels comfortable with us and can start to fall in love with us, and us with her. And this is different to having just seen pictures and video clips - I guess it's a bit like internet dating. Everything on paper seems perfect but it's about chemistry and building trust in order to build attachment. And "looked after" children need this handled very carefully because most of them have had trauma and neglect in their early lives and even pre-birth stress can cause brain development to be delayed, which can cause issues with behaviour, development and even some mental illness, sometimes later in life. Not to mention effects that alcohol and drugs may have had.

Poppet is one of the lucky ones - because she was in care very early - but even then we need to make sure that she builds attachment to us properly and appropriately. I've since realised that I know someone who had attachment disorder and it caused a lot of issues for her later in life with maintaining good friendships and relationships. Now I know that this is the case I have a lot more understanding of her behaviour, but it caused a lot of heartache at the time.

Most children form such strong bonds with their mothers, and fathers, especially these days as we have a lot of information and encouragement for that. Having not had the luxury of a pregnancy and baby bonding, we need to start from scratch.

Day 1 - Softly softly


We met with the FCs and what seemed like 3 billion social workers (SWs) to plan the next days - lots of paper work and discussion about how to handle various issues etc.

We had a break to allow her FC to go home and give her lunch and have a break and then at 2.30 turned up nervously to meet her for the first time. We were dressed, at the suggestion of our SW, in the clothes we were wearing in one of the photographs of us - rather loud shirts but very recognisable.

She was an absolute sweetie. We needed to hold back, for her to start to come to us and to build trust slowly. It is a temptation to want to give her a cuddle, but this is about her needs, not ours and we enjoyed watching her toddle around and play in a safe environment. She relaxed a little more when the SW left and started to interact with us more.

We only stayed for a couple of hours, and went home feeling happy and excited at seeing how bright and cute she is. It's an hours drive home.

Day 2 - emotional roller coaster!
We have another drive back to her FC's and had to be there by 9 as she had to go to the dietician with her. I think that this is when she started to realise that things were a little different with us and she started to pay us more attention, looking at us carefully, and starting to come up to touch us. We were able to play peek a boo and look at books with her and then we gave her lunch where we ate with her and fed her. She's a lot more comfortable with us. We leave after lunch, forgoing a planned shopping trip for me to visit a friend who is very sick and a both feeling absolutely shattered and emotionally drained.

Day 3 - nappy training today ;o) matt got the nasty one!
We were glad of a bit of a lie in and panicked a little when we realised that we were due to be there at 10 and not 11. But we got there on time and had more time with her - again feeding her and playing and starting to change nappies. Funnily enough, it's the thing that most people think is going to be difficult but in fact I don't think we found it too bad, it's part of life really and you just get on with it. And again, it helps to build trust and attachment when you do "parental" things.

We had longer with her, and put her down for a nap and stayed for dinner. As we wanted to give the FCs a bit of space we used nap time as time to get some shopping done - like the buggy and some other bits. She already has a pair of nice patent black Clarks but needed something for running around in so we got some Clarks trainers and I also got her some little outfits that are more my style. She loved the shoes and was happy to run about in them.

When we left she cried - hopefully a good sign, although that sounds odd!

That night we stayed at a local hotel (Fawlty Towers) which was an experience as it hadn't been renovated since 1979!

Day 4. Matt has another woman in his life who likes shoes. Especially pink ones with lights. And she can say the word "shooes". Oh oh

Unfortunately she had a bit of a dodgy tummy and so we got the full fun of dealing with a really nasty nappy when she got up and some sick after nap time. So we limited food and made sure she was drinking enough fluid.

But we still went to the park and she explored and just enjoyed being outside and looking at the horses.

She is very bright - has a lot of words and can babble away and even said "daddy" - as well as "shoes" and "wass that" and she is starting to put sentences together. She understands a lot too. And is wanting to learn and copy. She's allowing us to pick her up and will kiss and come to Mummy and Daddy (us!!). She also cried when we left which reinforced the feeling that she might (hopefully!) be forming more of an attachment to us.

Day 5 - Poorly poppet
The tummy bug (caught from the baby also at the FC's) developed and over night she was very unwell so when we arrived at 11 she was grizzly and had a temperature. I took her and after a while she settled in my arms and cuddle and eventually fell asleep. Poor tot had very little to eat but was drinking and perked up a bit after her nap and some capol. We played a bit in the garden and sang songs! I'm becoming good at Twinkle Twinkle and If you're happy and you know it (with added verse of "If you're happy and you know it wiggle your bum").

We stayed until bedtime, had stories and put her to bed.

The next day we all had a day off. She had perked up and we spoke on the phone I will continue in my next post and talk about her coming to us and meeting the cats!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

It's a Match!

Finally last night we went to matching panel - and it was a yes. We meet our little girl in less than two weeks.

We are feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, emotional but mostly excited and joyful.

This is a summary of the process that we've been through. I may have written bits about it previously, but hopefully this gives an overall picture of what we've gone through!

We have been quite lucky with the process - it was hard finding a local authority to take us (for various reasons not just cancer) but we finally found one and they have been brilliant. We went to an open evening, then had a home visit (in September 2009). They requested that we have early medicals due to hubby being diabetic and my cancer (I waited until I was 2 years clear) and then they put us on the waiting list for the preparation workshops.

Those started in January last year and were brilliant - very emotional at times but very well done and realistic. We got to meet foster parents and adoptive parents and we talked openly about fertility issues with other couples, and things like child development, birth families and trauma and loss - all things that we will be dealing with. Other issues too. It is a roller coaster of emotion, and really makes you question your motives.

After that we officially applied, were accepted and went through the approval process. We had about 12 meetings with our social worker on a weekly basis - they took 2-3 hours.  Sometimes individually but usually together. We also had A LOT of home work. It's very time consuming and you need to be flexible. We're lucky as both of us have jobs that allow working from home or time during the day. Social workers have lives too and do not want to be at people's houses til late at night.

What helped us was from the outset agreeing that we would be totally honest and open - no skeletons in the cupboards. That included admitting that we'd used drugs in our youth, and talking about family issues that were uncomfortable. I think that this is the bit that worries people, but remember this, social workers have seem it all. Literally. Whatever you have done in the past is never going to be as bad as some of the things that have seen, which is the tragedy of it all. If you are honest, good people who are emotionally mature enough to talk about things openly, they won't judge. They don't care if there's a little bit of dust in your house - they want to see a realistic picture, a completely pristine home is as much as a warning to them as anything else - how are you going to cope with a small messy person?

We didn't get asked about our sex life (we're pretty tactile so I think it was obvious that we are close) - they did ask others though. They didn't check our fridge (I have heard that can happen), but we lead a healthy lifestyle and that's pretty obvious.

We thought long and hard about our references - in the end we chose my mum and stepdad as our family one (just because they are closer distance wise), my good and old friend Clare (we spend a lot of time with her family and especailly their daughter) and the parents of Matt's best mate (have known him since uni). We were told that they were excellent choices because they were able to give different but positive and honest views of us individually and as a couple. The SW also met Matt's parents.

Once the report was written, we had a second opinion visit - we did get some curly questions then - and we were able to read the report. It was all very positive.

In November we had Approval Panel which was nerve wracking - I won't lie! We went into a room and faced about 13 people. I was so nervous I couldn't talk and Matt suddenly had verbal diarrhea. But they were lovely. Again we got asked less questions than we were expecting, but they were very complimentary about our SW's report. We were sent out of the room, and got called back later to tell us we were approved!

Next was the matching process - i have to say that we have been unusually lucky as it's been incredibly fast for us, but it's much more about the child and finding the right parents than finding the right child for us. We were not expecting anything to happen until after  we got back from holiday in January.

In December we were due to have a next steps meeting with our SW but she emailed us and told us that she was going to bring details of a child. We had her permanance report (a summary of her background) and a little DVD. And we knew she was right for us. Just before we left for Aus we were in the middle of packing up the kitchen and the SWs came again - this time with the SW who had known her since birth. She had to decide if she felt we were right and thankfully she did!

While we were away the SWs had a matching meeting. Now often there are several couples being considered but our circumstances were unusual - they had already rejected a couple of couples and another had opted out so it was just us, and again that went through.

When we got back we were dealing with no kitchen (still not finished) and had more meetings - with SWs, her foster carer, her brothers' adoptive mother, the medical advisor and also read more detailed records.

We also prepared her room, and got together a book of pictures of us, the house, the cats and grandparents for her fostercarer to give her if it was a match. Also placemats with our picture and a CD of us reading stories.

So last night we had matching panel - we had 3 social workers with us this time, and we found it a lot less intimidating - partly because we knew what to expect and partly because we had met some of the people, and recognised other's faces. Again we were not asked many questions but more were directed to the SWs'. They passed around the book which we'd done and loved it. They didn't even send us out of the room to deliberate, just told us then and there that it was a unanimous agreement that it's a match!

So the rest of our lives start here. And another adventure begins!

Z x