We had been given a matching panel date of April 9th. This was the day we'd meet in front of the people who would decide whether our son was going to be our son.
Looking back now, i don't know if i was ever nervous or scared. I probably was, but we had so much to do it was like your mind would not let you focus on the nerves. In my head all i could keep thinking was that in a matter of weeks we'd be meeting our little boy and the rest just didn't matter.
The birth parents.
About two weeks before panel, it was arranged for us to meet the birth parents. So many people are surprised to hear that this is actually a thing. And i guess if i hadn't gone through the adoption process, knowing nothing about it, no idea about all the training and learning, i would've thought it sounded nuts. But to us, it was a thing we definitely wanted to do. Our son's social worker had told us they had 'concerns' around him being adopted by two men. So we definitely wanted to meet them. Not to put their minds at ease, because i almost felt angry and like i didn't need to prove a thing to them... but i'll get onto that later.
In my blog, i wont be talking about why or how my son was in foster care and placed for adoption. But he was lucky. He never experienced harm or abuse. From birth he was with his foster carer who is now like family. She will be in our lives forever. He'll know her as another auntie. She raised my boy for the first year of his life, there aren't enough words in the world to explain how grateful and overwhelmed we are for her being there for him. She was all he had that year, she has done the most magnificent thing.
So we met the birth parents. Like this whole journey, we felt we just rode that wave. Yes it was incredibly strange. Never in a million years would i have imagined myself sat opposite these people. We were about to adopt their son and raise him, for the rest of his and our lives. But, speaking freely, he wasn't their son. There was no bond. No connection. That currently belonged to the foster carer. And we saw that. Again without going into too much detail, it would've been wrong for us to be angry with them. Or disrespect them. At the end of the day, their path had led them to this, and without them, we wouldn't have our baby boy. In the end, i felt something so different towards them than what i thought i would. I don't know what they thought of us. I didn't really care. It wasn't my job to turn their minds around into why we're right for that little boy. The decision ultimately lies with the child's social worker, and she knew we were the right match. We were his daddies. We did ask them for stories and the reason for his name etc... we didn't leave with much. But we were so pleased we can tell our boy we met them, and that is was pleasant. The meeting ended with handshakes and 'thank yous'. I was very emotional about it all. It's all so draining on your mind and heart. Despite any negative feelings for each other, it felt like an honourable acceptance of what was to come. It almost had to happen. We had to honour them for bringing this boy into the world... and for us to have our baby.
The foster carer.
(Referring to this wonderful woman as 'the foster carer' by no means diminishes her importance or the love and respect we have for her. But out of privacy i probably shouldn't use her real name)
A few days later, we were back in the area to meet the foster carer. This, to us, was the biggest deal so far. We were about to see where he lived. His room. His high chair. His toys. Even typing this now i feel that absolute sense of wondrous anxiety rush through me. It was literally the most insane position to ever be in. We arrived and parked outside her house. We looked at each other, we knew we got this. We got out, knocked on the door, and was greeted by a petite, smiley, lovely woman. I instantly had a love for her.
Our sons social worker was there too to make all the notes from the meeting and make it all official. The foster carer was amazing. She had BOXES of things prepared. Photo albums from all the amazing things they had done in that year. We saw so many pictures and videos of him. The tears that flowed in this meeting was nothing like else i've ever seen. She had done so bloody amazing and really had recorded every moment of his first year of life. His first Christmas, his birthday... all these moments that we weren't there for... we had evidence of. She is truly an amazing woman. What made this so hard was that he was her first foster placement. I can't begin to think how she went through the early months with a newborn... to then pass him onto us. But she said in that first meeting that we were the ones... we were his dads and that when we met him we'd see that he the perfect fit for us too. I guess everyone could see it, which made us feel so good about it all. It felt like the whole universe had aligned for us three. That this path was supposed to happen. It was never going to be any other way.
The meeting went on for much longer than planned. The foster carer had to go and pick him up from her mums (he wasn't allowed to be there of course, we were not 'approved' and matching panel was in a weeks time). The meeting ended. We got in the car. Cried our eyes out and made our way home. Absolutely surreal.
The day had come. All the family were texting/calling. We didn't sleep a wink the night before. And we were ready to head to matching panel. We met our social worker, Sarah, there too. It was all very quick and to schedule (something you NEVER usually get with adoption *cough cough*). And there we were, in the room with about 10-15 people. All of whom would be deciding our fate. This was bigger than approval panel. This was deciding the rest of our lives.
I don't really remember the questions. I just remember nailing the shit out of them. Every single one, i answered as if my life depended on it. It did... this was for my son. I had never been so ready for anything. WE had never been so ready. I wasn't sure what to expect at the time, but everyone on that panel was rooting for us. They should. Why would they not? It was lovely. And all over so quickly. We left the room after all the questions. Hearts in our mouths. To then be called back in twenty minutes later. We were told it was a unanimous 'Yes'. He was our son. That was it. Like we had always known how it was meant to go. We had done it.
The panel said they loved how we had already 'claimed him as our own'. Of course! He was my boy. No other option. There will never be words for how we felt that day.
I don't know what happened next. It was a week of pure fear, excitement, reality. Knowing it wouldn't be just us two again. Ever.
Not quite sure words could do justice what you go through in the week that is called 'introductions'. I'll try my best though.
The time had come. We'd packed up our bags (there is lots of travel involved if your adopting outside of your area and we had a few nights booked in a hotel as well as coming home and travelling back and forth too). Intro's work quite simply. Day one you meet your child. You stay for a couple of hours. Day two, you build up more time. Maybe take them out to the park and do a meal time or two. Day three you get there for wake up so they are learning you'll be doing this forever. You will stay for meal times too. Maybe even bath time. Then bed time. Then day five, they come back to your house for an hour or so. That day was insane... there we are, with our boy who doesn't really know us in our own home... not knowing what the hell to do apart from doing everything we could to make him comfortable and to fall in love with us! Day six, he came to ours but for longer. Day seven (for us, its sometimes longer for a lot of cases) was the day he comes home. Forever.
I know i am making light of it above, but it's just so intense i don't think anyone would ever adopt if they knew what you go through emotionally. We were so lucky. We had given videos, books and pictures to the foster carer a couple weeks before so he could hear our voices and see our faces. We even gave her some of our clothes for him to sleep with. Did any of it help? I don't know. All i knew was, this was our equivalent of labour. The morning we first arrived to meet him, we sat in the car. Still. We were about to knock on this lady's door. We were about to walk into this house and meet our son. That face was going to be the face i see and love and kiss every day until my last day. I am surprised we didn't pass out from the sheer enormity of it.
We knocked on the door. Saw the foster carer again. We were all so nervous. There we were, laden with toys, our own pushchair, our own car seat... having zero clue about how to actually be a dad. And we sat down. Where was he? We couldn't see him. But then we heard him. I just heard my son playing in the kitchen. He poked his head around the corner. He knew. He knew who we were. Deep down.
He gave the cheekiest, sly grin i have ever seen. And then you couldn't make it up... he crawled over to us, laughing, and got on my husbands lap. Right there and then, he took our hearts and none of our lives would ever be the same .
It was of course not easy. We had no idea what we were doing. This poor boy all of the sudden had two men trying to do his pooey bum instead of one lovely lady he was used to for a year. Looking back i cannot believe how amazing he was. How he took it all in his stride. If he was phased by it, he didn't show it. We were terrified, emotional, tired wrecks the whole week. But every day got a little bit easier. So many highs. Hardly any lows. Were we doing ok? Does he love me yet? All these things just swirling around... your mind is a mess. It was hard for us being in someone else's house too. We weren't 'at home' and a trip to the local park was good but we just didn't feel as settled as we would've if we were at our park. Our fields. Our streets. We were gagging to get him home. All i will say is though, it just works. It might be days, it might be months... We did everything we could do. We were on the floor going crazy trying to make him laugh, singing, dancing, blowing bubbles (which was actually the first thing he pulled himself up onto me to do and laugh and i instantly cried like a lunatic). He made it so easy. I think we've been a family in many lifetimes, over and over. And he knew it.
There is so much to consider as an adopter regarding bonding and attachment that it is way too deep to cover off in this blog. But if you are going through the process you will receive training and guidance. It is so different for every child. Depending on what they have been through, their age and so many other factors. I thought we were doing well and i look back at the early days and yes we did good... but now the bond is unreal. I might be alone in this, but when he's clingy, i absolutely love it. He can hold onto me for as long as he wants.
I don't know what else to say. It was hard. It was crazy. It was ultimately the most amazing and insane week of our lives. He came home with us on the last day, the car packed with all of his bits. I think i had tears in my eyes for the entire journey home. We were absolutely terrified. But it was no longer about us. It was about making sure our boy was happy, comfortable, and secure. That this transition was as easy as it could be on him. That was my new job. To make him happy. And it is hands down the best, most important role i will ever do. Being a dad. And really... this was just the beginning of our jouney.