Chapter 35 – How am I going to cope by myself
There’s only a week to go before Rich goes back to work and although it has been amazing having him home with us, to enjoy this special time together as a family, which has included introducing the boy to our parents, siblings and even our grandparents, there is a little part of me that sort of wants to fast forward to him going back to work now. I love having Rich home but part of me is realising this isn’t what it is going to be like on a daily basis and I am starting to feel very anxious about doing it on my own. I feel like it’s best to start as we mean to go on and test the waters out today, as Rich has gone into work for a touchdown day, so I am putting on a brave face but inside feeling so scared that I will fail, but continue to pretend that I have everything under control. Rich gives the boy his breakfast and I can see he is getting very upset about leaving him and clearly worried about what he might be thinking while he is out of the house for such a long time. I’m sure he doesn’t really have to go in, but he is rather a perfectionist when it comes to his work and I know that he has been worrying about not being in the office, to ensure everything is going fine, even though it usually always does. I starting thinking to myself while Rich puts his suit on, “Lew you have run children’s holiday clubs for years and know all the moves to silly dance routines, you have abundance of craft and colouring games and for goodness sake you were Big Bird from Sesame Street, you will be fine” but somehow I do not manage to convince myself. Rich is now dressed, ready to leave and the boy is just staring at him probably thinking “what are you wearing” so I picked him up and in a very ‘Mr Tumble’ style voice say “give Dad a big kiss as he is going to work now”. Rich now has very watery eyes and is clearly sad about leaving him, but he will get used to it I am sure. We wave goodbye to Rich and stay outside till he drives away and then come back inside the house and go and sit on the floor in the front room.
Looking at each other and probably thinking the same thing “what now?” It was too early for his nap, bottle or lunch, so it looks like we have a couple of hours to just play. The routine is written out on the kitchen chalkboard with the exact times to complete each task but it was the first time I thought I haven’t planned all the in between slots, as up to now it has been just been me and Rich going with the flow. The boy is playing with his ‘stack of cups’ which you can pile on top of each other to make a tower, I begin to put the cups together and ‘whack’ the boy has knocked them over. Laughing I say “how am I meant to build the tower if you keep knocking them over”, I begin to build the cups for a third time and the boy not smiling but again knocks them over, “ok maybe we won’t play this game anymore” checking the time and only five minutes had past. “Omg this is going to be a very long day” with no other adult to talk to and an eleven-month-old boy who I have been practically looking after but secretly thinking “he doesn’t really like me, he prefers Rich”. Although going through the adoption process and learning all about adoption and the potential problems that can occur after placement, I didn’t think I would have trouble bonding with the child I never thought I would have. My phone then goes off and it is a text from Rich asking how the boy is and if he cried when he left or seemed like he was in distress, as he would come straight home if this was the case. I replied saying everything was fine and we are just playing with toys to which he responded “aww I bet he is loving having you all to himself”. I empty the box of toys all over the front room floor and spread them out giving him so much choice and his eyes light up a little which feels nice, like I have made him excited. I shake everything, press all the buttons to make the noises and even attempt a puppet show with a glove puppet but the boy is just playing with a toy henry hoover and eating the pretend plug. I again check the time and thirty minutes have past and feeling very guilty, I put the TV on and select comedy central which basically has repeats of ‘Friends’ on which I have seen so many times I didn’t really need to follow it. The boy crawls to the TV cabinet and pulls himself up and starts to push the television and making it wobble on its stand “Oh my goodness, stop” I shout as I am so scared it will fall onto him, as knowing my luck I would have to rush him to hospital and explain that it was all my fault and everyone will think I’m not watching him properly. I pushed the TV back as far as it could go and switched it off, so my concentration could be fully on him and attempt to entertain him with another set of toys.
My mind is currently in two places, one part of me is super excited to get so much one on one time with the boy, to build the bond that Rich seems to already have and obtained so easily with him and the other part of me is worried sick about how hard it actually might be and what people will think of me as a parent. Although I am a very confident gay man, I do feel more pressure to show everyone that I can be an amazing parent and this is totally out of my comfort zone. Until now, we also do not know many other same sex parents and are a little unsure what people will really think about us and our family set up when we are out, so the thought of taking the boy out on my own fills me with worry and I am happy I have the settling in period as backup. I also haven’t yet been out with the boy in the car on my own and I am already feeling so physically sick about this, as I have sort of shared the burden and responsibility so far with Rich that it hasn’t really affected me, but in seven days’ time it will be just me and him, so if anything happens or goes wrong it will be all down to me. I will have Rich there by my side to help me, but I must not keep worrying about this I know, as there are plenty of amazing single parents out there who do it all and they do it so well. I can’t help but think this is completely different though, I have gone from being responsible for nothing, to being responsible for an eleven-month-old child, with no real experience of properly being responsible for them and I haven’t even had the baby stage to get used to it all. It was so much easier in holidays parks, as you only had to occupy and keep them safe for an hour at a time, before their parents came back to resume full responsibility. It feels like I have been slightly cheated with the baby stage, as we could have gone for a park stroll while he laid asleep in his pushchair with no risk of climbing out, attempting to walk, trapping his fingers or falling down banging his head but I need to quickly get used to this, as all of these things are what I am up against already.
Me and Rich like to tackle all of life’s problems together as a team and we usually smash them all with the end results being what we have set out to achieve, so the thought of asking for help is completely out of the norm. We have learnt everything you could possibly know about adoption, the process and all of the potential outcomes but we do not have clue about being an actual parent, yes of course we can look after a child but being an actual parent feels like a whole different thing. The process does not teach you at any stage be a parent and it does make sense, as there isn’t a manual you can follow or even a guide to the best way to do it, as every parent and child is different, but it’s safe to say that right now I feel like the pressure is on. We are still having weekly social worker visits which will be even more stressful now, trying to show them that they made the right decision choosing us to be his parents, when at the moment I am feeling a little useless. I mean what if they take him back because I am doing such a bad job, all of these thoughts are flying through my head, when deep down all I want to do is give this boy the best life possible. I feel bad for even thinking like this to be honest, as what the boy has been through in the past eleven months is much worse, so if he wants to knock over a cup tower a hundred times in a row then he can, I just need to sort out my stiff British upper lip.
It’s now only 9:40am and time for his morning bottle and nap, so I put him in his highchair whilst I prepare his formula as just to be extra safe in case, I turned my back and he hurts himself, but he is happy sitting in there studying my every move. He knows what is coming and he does love his ‘BOT BOT’ the term we have decided to use. Checking the temperature, a good few times and even tasting it, which makes me feel sick as I can’t stand milk on its own, I lift him out of his highchair and carry him back into the front room. I do love giving him a bottle as it’s the only time he will sit on my lap for more than five seconds, so I do try and hog giving him these, maybe thinking if I feed him, he will decide I am the one who looks after him. His eyes start to open and close so he is definitely ready for his morning nap and as soon as the last drop of milk was gone, he was fast asleep in my arms. The first time this has ever happened and no one was there to take a photo, but I am so happy and carry him up to his bed and just lay him down without putting him in his grow bag, as didn’t want to risk disturbing him. Monitor on, dummy in and his comfort blanket gripped tightly, I make my way downstairs feeling happy that I put him down solo with nobody else in the house, this may not sound like anything special but after all the worries going on in my head right now, this to me is a real achievement and it feels amazing.
I’m now downstairs holding the monitor, which was on the highest level possible, I finally decide to make myself breakfast and a much needed coffee, the house is pretty clean so I am going to just chill on the sofa with Nutter and enjoy the fact I am not on constant risk check. Checking my phone which I hadn’t really touched in case the boy hurt himself while I was distracted, I have three unread messages, two from Rich and one from my mother all asking “how’s it going?”. Still feeling proud of myself I replied very cheerfully that he had just gone down for his nap without any trouble. Rich text back straight away saying he is coming home at lunchtime as he is not really needed after all of his work worries and that he misses the boy so much. My mind is not really concentrating on the TV, so instead I google toddler groups in the local area, as we will need to fill these days with fun things to do or I expect we will both go crazy with cabin fever. It’s been an hour and twenty minutes and the boy is still sleeping after checking him constantly in total paranoia, to just make sure nothing was wrong and I repeatedly pleased to just hear him snoring away making the cutest sound.
Knowing that even when I do get a break when he has a nap that I will still feel like I am walking on egg shells worrying about him, I realised that this is going to be more challenging than I ever thought but totally worth it. I expect moments like him falling asleep in my arms today and the loving feeling it gave me will strengthen in time and the feelings will come, hopefully along with the bond that I am totally wishing for. In my head, I am petrified that I will fail as a parent but I take one look at him sleeping away in his bed and know that he is right where he is meant to be, at home with his Daddy that already loves him so very much.