Part 3 – Bringing our girl home and the first nine months
To read Part 1 – Our adoption story, up to approval to adopt, click here.
To read Part 2 – Our adoption story, finding our girl, click here.
Introduction week to our new daughter was without doubt a roller coaster. Despite all involved being lovely, trying to develop a relationship with a three year old who very much knows her own mind, under the watchful eyes of social services was enormously stressful.
I had no idea how to be a mum and felt like I had absolutely no maternal instinct. I was terrified about how I would cope. No change there from natural birth parents – but imagine being handed a fully formed three year old.
Same, same but different.
We travelled daily back and forth to foster mum’s house. It was physically and emotionally exhausting.
Bringing our girl home
Up until that week I’d never seen Frozen, let alone heard any of the songs. But eight days later with the last of her things packed into our car, we drove away from foster mums for the last time to a sound track of ‘Let It Go’! At a time when I was looking for significance in everything, it seemed appropriate that we should be blaring out ‘the past is in the past’ as we drove home.
Nine months on, like many mothers I’m now bloody sick of it. But let’s not ruin a beautiful moment!
Hitting the ground running
I’d managed to create a life over which I had complete control, so spent the first few months of motherhood greatly mourning its passing. While it’s true that I’ve had one of the world’s longest adolescences, I found giving that all up really hard.
In the mean time, our girl was busy going through all the developmental stages we’d missed with her at warp speed. We had a week of her being a baby, a period of separation anxiety where she would literally sit on me so I couldn’t leave her unless I was dismissed.
I couldn’t even go to the loo without an audience!
We had another phase which was a complete inability to decide upon anything – and the tantrums! I don’t come from a shouty family and I don’t have a shouty relationship, so to one minute be chatting away beautifully with this very articulate little girl – and the next to be faced by a raging banshee purely because her socks were wrong turned me into a nervous wreck.
A Summer to get to know each other
Thankfully we had a glorious summer, so spent a lot of time exploring the parks, playgrounds and soft play centres of Greater Manchester. Turns out I’m a lot braver than I thought on climbing frames – though needs must when your new child (parental responsibility of whom you still share with social services) is stuck half way up and screaming.
What else have I learned?
Pushing a child on the swings is great for bingo wings.
Ice cream vans ……. why are you always where I don’t want you to be?
Mister bloody Tumble gets everywhere!
I’m too fat to get through the tunnel in Head Over Heels.
Why does everyone else’s child seem to eat hummus and carrot sticks?
What is it with children and balloons?
Why do all her toy snakes have to be called Keith?
The toddler diet is by far the most effective I’ve ever tried.
I now live in leggings!
Highs and lows
For the good stuff I’ve been looking back at my Facebook status updates from the last nine months (as it’s clearly illegal to share the bad stuff!).
Here are some of my favourites to give you a flavour:
Tris and our girl dancing to sisters are doing it for themselves! Priceless!
I have a daughter who likes to head bang to the Kaiser Chiefs! Result!
Lovely to see our girl cheering on her Daddy at her first park run. Sprinting down he home straight together.
Stuck in tunnel! Can’t go backwards as string of toddlers behind. Can’t go forwards as can’t bend leg around enough. Trousers at half mast and thong on full display. I’m 45 I should know better.
It’s remarkable how much happier a toddler is after a big poo. Why did nobody tell me this! Turns out she doesn’t hate me after all!
Took our girl to Media City and introduced her to the Daleks in reception. ‘Daleks’ she said. ‘Like Dalek bread!’
To top it all as I tucked her new school top into her new school skirt I got a kiss and my first ‘I love you mum!’
Daddy is delighted that our girl would rather watch the third round draw of the FA Cup than Abadas! Daddy “Do you want to watch Pingu?” Reply “No, I love this (FA Cup)!” #DaddysGirl
School nativity today. She was a little star – literally. She sang all the songs and was word perfect. It’s times like this when I get a split screen moment. One eye sees our girl now – the other sees her old life. It made me just a little bit teary!
We’ve gradually introduced her to her new family – she’s so excited and happy to have grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins.
We’ve built memories with holidays and family days out.
She’s started pre-school – and is doing really well. Our walk to school is fantastic. We call into every shop for her to say hello ….. in return they all love her to bits. None of them know her background, and none of them know the important job they are doing in helping our girl settle into her new home.
We’ve had her birthday – with a party for all her new friends, and we’ve successfully negotiated our first Christmas.
We sing, we dance, we laugh. She throws herself into absolutely everything. She’s a strong character and she knows her mind, but we are enormously lucky to have her in our lives. I am so proud of how she’s dealt with so much change in her short life and embraced her new life.
We can’t change the past – but we can change the future
However, it’s not all been a bed of roses. Through the summer she grieved enormously for her foster family. And until recently, the door to memories of her birth mum, which was very firmly closed, has started to open. While traumatic for all of us, it shows that she trusts us enough to go there and to let us help her.
She’s now legally ours and one day I’ll have the conversation with her about everyone’s story being different. I never thought in a million years that I’d adopt a child for example – and we’ll see where that takes us.
The dilemma that we will always face is trying to decode whether certain behaviours are purely age appropriate, or whether there is something deeper going on. We’re never going to know for certain because we weren’t there for the first three and a half years of her life. We’ll just have to do a lot of wondering and try to fill in the gaps while not over thinking things.
Five years ago I was very unlucky to be struck down with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. But I was also very lucky to defy the odds and live. When I was so ill and struggling to see the point in anything – well the fact I survived must have been for a reason.
Our girl was that reason.
Alison x (your 4Manchester Women Editor).
Photographs: Alison Staples
To read ‘Our adoption story – part one (up to approval to adopt)’ click here
To read ‘Our adoption story – part two (finding our girl)’ click here