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!