Chapter 36 – Settling in Letters
Rich has now been back at work full time for the past three weeks and it is safe to say that being a parent is the hardest job in the world, even harder than dancing inside a very heavy big bird costume. The routine we set out which has already had some adjustments and is working more smoothly but the boy is changing on a daily basis, which of course we knew this was going to be the case. Dawn the boy’s social worker came around yesterday to see how he was settling in to his new home and if there were any situations or incidents that she needed to know about, but all was good and she seemed very happy with how it was all going. We have registered him at our doctor’s surgery and have taken him to be weighed with the health visitor, who also has no complaints about his current heath and wellbeing. We have ticked all the boxes and done everything which is required in the weeks after placement and being a parent is now becoming clear. We have summed it up into three bullet points, one – you will never sleep, well not like before anyways, two – his needs become number one priority over everything and three – in addition to point one, you will simply always feel tired. I know number three is the same as number one but this really feels like the reality. We used to have conversations with our friends who were already parents, they would say to us “make sure you take advantage of the sleep in’s now” or “you will only light sleep now in case you miss hearing them call out”. We agreed with them but secretly like most soon to be parents thought our child would be amazingly behaved and will sleep through the night no problem. Even though this is partly true as the boy is sleeping so well, it doesn’t mean we are. I must wake up and check the monitor at least three times a night and go into his room to make sure he is still breathing. The system we have been working on, is that we take it in turns to have the monitor on our bedside table so the other can attempt a night’s sleep, however whenever he makes a noise, we both wake up to sort him out.
On Dawns visit she mentioned that we will need to write a ‘settling in’ letter to the boy’s birth parents, so they know how he is and to give them a sense of relief that he is happy and well. This is the first time we have had to complete a letter like this and it did feel slightly weird to be writing it. Writing a letter to two complete strangers telling them all about how their birth son is settling in to his forever home with his Dad and Daddy, is really quite a difficult thing to do but at least we have met our boy’s birth father before he moved in with us, so we sort of feel a connection with him. We were told to keep it factual and not to put any exact details of places we go to have fun or activities that we do together, as not to give away any locations which could potentially lead to some difficult situations. Rich took lead with the letter and we sat down together to finish it, both feeling like this would be great to receive if we were in their shoes and that it read well. All we really want to achieve with this letter is to make his birth parents feel a bit better, knowing that he is being well looked after and is very happy. The letter will be sent to the office of his social worker Dawn, they will read it and ask us to change anything they felt might be a safeguarding issue or just not appropriate. We also have agreed to have letterbox contact with some of his birth family, which we will have throughout the year but not now at this settling in period. Before sending the letters off, Rich read it out loud to me and we very happy, so send them off for Dawn to approve. We will now wait in anticipation for a reply and keep a copy for ourselves on file for when the boy is old enough to understand.
The boy is now becoming very confident walking along with his walker and letting go and smiling thinking he is a big boy. Rich is in panic mode, as he thinks he will be going around soon thinking he is the boss of the house, which in fairness he already probably is. I do feel that he is now a proper toddler and not a baby anymore, which in a way is sad, as we didn’t get to experience that so much of him being a baby as he is nearly one years old. Everyone says children age fast and this is so true and with that comes the climbing, jumping and fascination of opening every single cupboard possible, not forgetting the tiny tantrums. I still feel secretly overwhelmed and the thought of being responsible for a mini human and all his needs is giving me anxiety, not because I have changed my mind at all but the responsibility is massive and so it should be. I often say to Rich that people who choose to be parents at young ages are incredible, as most of my twenties I fluttered about the world with jobs in entertainments, going out most nights and never really having anything else to worry about, other than ‘what time do I need to get out of bed’ and ‘what am I eating today’ so the reality of what being parent is really like is a little bit of a shock to the system. I constantly doubt myself and worry that I haven’t built the right attachment compared to Rich, while worrying that this feeling was to do with the fact that the boy isn’t biologically mine, or that we didn’t have him from birth to have all the cuddles to build from. Also, the fact that we have gone straight in with a toddler has made it harder, we haven’t been able to build up to this, but instead overnight it feels like a storm has arrived and taken hold in our house. On the inside, I really hate to admit this, but I feel like a glorified babysitter who is under a heap of pressure to become the perfect parent with all the stress of worrying what family and friends will think if he is naughty or has a tantrum. I have been practically planning the days down to a tee in the hopes that it will limit the chances of something not going to plan and then going wrong. I check his day bag a few times before leaving the house just to make sure nothing gets forgotten, really putting my concentration into the very practical side of things, again forgetting the fact that we need to bond together. Rich is of course such a lovely doting Dad and when he comes home from work, the boy’s face lights up and immediately, he crawls over to be picked up. I thought maybe it’s because I am home alone most of the day and he is getting bored of just seeing my face or I’m not as entertaining as Rich. I cannot bring myself to tell Rich about this and don’t know why, but it may be because it’s all going well for him and I don’t want to ruin this feeling he must have coming home every day.
A few days have now gone by and it’s now Friday, which means tomorrow is the weekend and we are taking the boy to meet Richards Grandparents, so Rich has got him his first smart polo top and styled his hair and he does look adorable. After taking what seems like a hundred photos, I make sure we have everything we need, bottles, food, formula, wipes and nappies. “We can’t forget anything Rich, can you imagine how bad that would look” to which he replies “we are fine babe, we have everything he could possibly need and if we don’t we will survive”. The boy enjoys the car but it does put him to sleep within minutes, which is perfect as we leave just as I planned in time for his nap so there is no chance, he would be moody with tiredness once we get there. As predicted after getting onto the motorway, he is gone, mouth open with his dummy hanging out. Obviously, the perfect time for me to get at least another hundred photos to send round to our family group.
This is the first time Richards Grandparents will be meeting the boy, so Rich is beaming with pride and I can tell how excited he is by how hyper and silly he is being. I normally get called “babe” loads when he is in a happy proud mood and it’s a bit over the top today. This is another moment Rich didn’t think would happen, so I am so very happy for him. After being in the London traffic for over an hour we finally arrive and the boy is still sleeping, I said to Rich we will have to stay in the car until he wakes up, as we have seen a couple do once on a comedy television programme, where they actually ended up all eating their dinner in the car just to avoid waking up their baby. Rich didn’t agree and said that we will have to wake him, as he is going to need to get used to this, otherwise we will be forever sat in our cars, which is true, so I agreed and anxiously call his name gently. After a minute or so, he was raring to go, so Rich got him out of the car, straightened him up and carried him proud as punch to his Grandparents front door speaking to him saying, “we are going to meet your Great Grandparents today” which to watch is so sweet and lovely. Rich knocked on the door and his Grandmother opened beaming ear to ear saying hello to the boy and telling us all to come in, I brought in my three bags and she made the comment “did you bring the kitchen sink as well” while laughing to herself, but I did think to myself I probably would have if it wasn’t attached to the wall. I love Richards Grandparents as they are what would expect Grandparents to be, sweet, kind and so happy to see us and finally meet the boy she has been waiting for all these months. She gets straight down on the floor and has already prepared a selection of toys she thought he may like including big lego bricks, wooden puzzles and musical instruments. You could just tell that she was loving every moment and we haven’t even been here for a minute. While smiling and saying his name, she introduces herself to him “I’m your Great Nan” and it was honestly the cutest thing you could ever see and with no concerns at all, they hit it off and all of my worries of his reactions were gone. I think this approach was actually the best way, as he crawled straight towards her as if he had known her his whole little life and I am sure this made her day. I could tell this was an amazing feeling for her and of course with cameras at the ready from both of us to capture this special moment, we took a few snaps and then put the cameras away to just enjoy the moment. The rest of the afternoon was easy and he had so much attention from both grandparents, he was spoilt for choice and the day was actually a massive success. It was getting to the time we have agreed to leave, or as I say “entering danger nap territory” so we packed up all of his stuff, changed his nappy and said our goodbyes. The journey home was filled with every nursery rhyme which has ever been created, in the effort to keep him awake and I may now need physiotherapy in my neck, from constant turning to make sure he was still awake.
We get home and its all action stations to get the dinner ready for him but we could see how tired he was from all the playing he has been doing, so Rich says to the boy “early night for you today Mr” before he then tells me to have a sit down a relax, as he is going to do the bath and bed routine tonight, so I can just have a chillout which was lovely. The has his current favourite dinner spaghetti bolognaise, blueberries of course and a yogurt, most of which is around his face but I am not worried as Rich is responsible for all the cleaning tonight. Rich takes him upstairs while I have a sit down in the front room and check my phone, on which there are a load of messages that I haven’t read, but there is one that immediately jumps out at me as it’s a text message from Dawn to say the letter to the birth parents were really good but not to expect a reply, as the previous settling letters were never responded to and actually not even collected from their offices. I felt so good to hear that the letters were good, but have a massive feeling of sadness and am quite annoyed, as we made so much effort to get them right for the birth parents. I also cannot stop thinking about our gorgeous little boy, because he hasn’t done anything wrong is his little life and deserves a response of some sort. It feels like my emotions are starting to appear in terms of that bond and connection, these thoughts aren’t just practical, I am actually hurt. I’m not hurting for me, as let’s be honest I don’t know these people but I know that one day I will have to explain to him that we sent these letters and nobody ever responded, which I already know will break his little heart. I know we are going to do absolutely everything we possibly can to give him the best life, but these sorts of things are out of our control and are typical of anyone parenting a child through adoption. I felt so bad for him that I decided to join Rich upstairs for the bath and bedtime routine, so we could do it together and show him just how much we love being with him, as let’s face it, I can catch up on sleep and rest another time, right now I just want to be with our boy and make sure he knows he is loved so much.