I have a baby, I have a beautiful baby girl…..
I’ve connected with her story, I’ve cooed over her pictures and videos and I’ve talked about her for months with friends, family and the kids. She has permeated my thoughts daily even if it’s just for a nano second. I find myself pausing multiple times a day to wonder where she is and what she’s doing and to cluck over baby parafanalia which she may or may not need.
I want to see her, touch her soft skin and inhale her baby smell, but she has never seen my face, heard my voice or touched my skin…….to her I’m a stranger.
My number one way of coping through this part of our adoption journey has been to distract myself, mainly by blogging and eating! Seriously, years ago the slightest whiff of stress and I’d drop a dress size but now I just seem to gorge my way through any of life’s little challenges. My office roomy has reassured me that it’s perfectly acceptable for me to be ‘eating for two’ as she wafts cake under my nose and encourages me to give in to my cravings of big fat burgers. Note to self: look into buggy fit classes.
I’m convinced the nesting stage is going to kick in soon but as I look around my shoe and toy littered house, I appreciate that I’m not quite there yet. It may sound melodramatic to some but it feels like a tiny little part of me is missing as I go about my day. Of course everyone expects you to be ecstatic at this point but just take a minute to consider what it may feel like to know that you have a baby but you are not allowed to spend time with them.
Thankfully my teenage daughter has been on hand to distract me with our first ever joint viewing of Love Island……picture me trying to explain what ‘The Mile High Club’ is during the first few minutes of it airing and reassuring her that despite my love of travel I am definitely not a member! This year has been a revelation in many ways and my new mantra in life (which is helping with my current situation’) is ‘it is what it is’.
As part of the matching process I’m actually able to ‘observe’ my baby. I have learnt various terminology for this meeting along the way. I think I’ve mentioned before that my fostering bestie calls it a ‘chemistry meeting’ however the local authority I’m linked with call it a ‘bump into’. This is a completely new concept for us as adopters and one that has seen me counting down the sleeps to go with my office roomy. Just a matter of days before my visit she suddenly stops typing and turns to me excitedly and asks ‘when do you have your blind viewing again?’ I nearly fell off my chair with laughter, it sounded as if I was going to view a house or something!
Fast forward a few days and I have now ‘bumped into’ my baby for the first time and she is every inch as perfect as I’d imagined her to be. As I walked in the house, I clocked the photos of her and her carer on the wall, I saw her beautiful belongings scattered round the house and later when I saw them together I could see their strong bond. What a lucky little bubba to have such an amazing carer who has clearly nursed her through a very difficult start to life. When I clapped eyes on her for the first time she looked at me and gave me the biggest angelic smile making me feel all mushy inside. All I wanted to do was give her a cuddle, but I understand why I wasn’t allowed.
After the ‘bump into’ we were whisked off to an appointment with her paediatrician. Of course when I saw my baby in the flesh I noticed her unusual features, they were actually quite prominent. I’m not sure if it’s because I fostered for so long that I was able to spot them or because they were so severe that it was just glaringly obvious. Either way, (despite it only being suggested in the paperwork) it still shocked me when the full diagnosis was presented to us. My baby had FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). The meeting was brutal but proved to be really useful as the consultant didn’t ‘dress it up’. It did however become Increasingly apparent that I’d been reading a very out of date CPR (child permanency report) which didn’t reflect some of the information being shared. ‘It doesn’t make a difference does it?’ the doctor questioned, looking at me and my husband intently. ‘No of course not’ I responded and to be fair it didn’t, I had emotionally invested so much and I knew our friends and family would accept and love her just the way she was.
Being the geek that I am I spent the days that followed researching FAS and spying on the online Facebook support group NOFAS. I read multiple extracts (courtesy of Google) like the following:
Fetal alcohol syndrome is a condition in a child that results from alcohol exposure during the mother’s pregnancy. Fetal alcohol syndrome causes brain damage and growth problems. The problems caused by fetal alcohol syndrome vary from child to child, but defects caused by fetal alcohol syndrome are not reversible.
There were pages and pages of information to be viewed and the negativity which enshrouds the condition was overwhelming. I wasn’t going to let this deter me, I had a baby with disabilities and I needed to make sure that she had the absolute best. So what would someone who works in Adoption Support do? Request to see the Adoption Support plan of course, as every match should have one even if it’s not worth the paper it’s written on (and in my opinion some of them really aren’t).
What would I expect from an Adoption Support plan? Well in an ideal world I’d expect the details of any local support groups that I might be able to attend in my area. Maybe to be linked with a buddy who has a child with a diagnosis of FAS. Perhaps an offer of attending some additional training. The consideration of an adoption support allowance wouldn’t go amiss and failing that the offer of help to claim any disability allowances the child may need to support them and us as a family as they grow. The response to this request……a blunt email to my social worker and a withdrawal from our matching panel (on the basis of the additional work load I’d created) without so much as an apology.
Weeks of meticulously planning a long distance match around a busy family schedule came crashing down around me. Child care arrangements needed to be cancelled, annual leave was retracted and my baby shower had to be knocked on the head. I’d organised a baby massage and reflexology course to aid with bonding and smashed my way through several back to back gatherings in order to clear my diary. I’m not sure that professionals realised the extent of effort required to prepare our children. The only thing enticing my little boy to school every morning was the fact that his new baby sister had scored him a week off school in the next couple of weeks. I was left dumbfounded and confused and if I’m entirely honest, I’m still not sure what truly happened. I didn’t stick around long enough to find out either as my heart allowed my head the opportunity to engage long enough to know that something didn’t feel right.
It’s funny how loss can conjure up all kinds of memories. As I sobbed my heart out at the realisation that I no longer had the baby I had visualised for months, I found myself thinking back to our fostering days. You may be surprised to hear that It actually became the norm for us to prepare for a child that would never turn up. Quite often I would find myself making beds and dusting off equipment only to find out that a court hearing wasn’t successful and the little one wasn’t coming after all.
One of these memories revisited me during my time of sadness, a forgotten story that I want to take a moment to share with you. As relatively newly approved carers It was our second placement in and I had just prepared the nursery for a baby who was going to be discharged from hospital imminently. On the day she was due to come home I took a call from the placement officer and she broke the devastating news that the baby had been born with a life threatening health complication.
Putting down the phone and traipsing round to my bestie’s house in the rain, I sat and blubbed on her for a good half an hour. She mopped my tears, poured me coffee and told me that whatever I decided to do she was right by my side. Needless to say, I researched the condition enough to know that it came with an extremely high risk of fatality. So what did I do? I got back on the blower and told the worker ‘it doesn’t make a difference, we’ll take her anyway’.
Sometimes in life decisions are taken out of our hands and that was the case for us and this particular little poppet (who I now know sleeps with the angels). With two small children, we couldn’t offer her the sterile environment she needed, making our offer a very easy one for the medical professionals to politely decline.
Last weekend, I spent some time with the same friend who wiped my tears away all those years ago. It was meant to be my last little bit of freedom before my new baby arrived. After drinking cocktails and playing bingo (I’m so rock and roll) we got caught in the rain and as the rain subsided a beautiful rainbow appeared which (in my tipsy state) made me so deliriously happy.
Back to my current situation of deep sadness – picture me moping on my sofa binging on cheese and chocolate (In between blubbing and blowing snot bubbles). Whilst Hubby is off throwing himself off a bridge (for fun don’t panic he’s wired very differently to me) my text message pings……. and there it was the picture of the rainbow alongside a beautiful message.
In that moment I realised I just needed to brave the storm as after the storm will come my rainbow.
Thank you to all my amazing friends, colleagues and family for their unfaltering support and for accepting me for who I am.