There we were, waiting to hear about some children that we were interested to hear about, when a phone call came for us to have the three little boys that social services wanted us to do them a favour for (the boys I talk about in Adoption at Heart, The Beginning). The phone call says that they are bringing them round the next day.
I panic and nearly shout into the phone that they can’t arrive the next day as we’ve got nothing for them, no cots, bedding, utensils, clothes, bath stuff, bottles, food, nothing, nothing, nothing.
That afternoon, cars start arriving in my driveway by the multiples – laden down with buggies, cots, bedding, some clothes, bottles and nappies, highchairs, the works. Boxes and boxes of stuff on the driveway. I could see the neighbours window curtains twitching, as I hadn’t told ANY of them what we were doing, or why I had stopped working.
Emptying the big spare room at speeds that Max Wall would be envious of, we decided to put the three of them into the same room to start off with so that they would have each other for company. You live and learn, but we didn’t know any better back then.
Something or other happened and the boys couldn’t come for a few days. I breathed a sigh of relief, and we had the weekend to ourselves to organise everything before the boys arrived, which is just as well, as I now know that there is no way I would have managed to get everything set up and organised and cope with three little boys as well.
On the Tuesday morning, a loud knock at the door in the morning was the signal that they were with the social workers. Three boys under 3 years old. I said goodbye to looking for my forever children hunting on the internet for the time being and had to buckle down to looking after the boys.
The first day didn’t go too badly, but bedtime was horrendous. They didn’t sleep. Children don’t sleep in our world. Everyone knows that you bathe children, get their jammies on, read them a nice story, put them into their cots, sing them a lullabye, say goodnight and they go to sleep – that’s right, isn’t it? The boys weren’t interested in what grown ups want, oh no, no, no.
That night, middler cried, and cried and screamed. I slept by the side of his cot and he screamed and cried some more. Littlest did eventually fall asleep giggling about midnight, and eldest dropped off about 1am. I needed sleep, I wanted sleep, I didn’t know these children, and I was already exhausted.
After eldest fell asleep singing nursery rhymes with me, I lifted middler and put him in a buggy. I walked the floor for two hours and he eventually fell asleep about 3- 4 am. I put my head down to get some sleep, and at 6am it all started again. He wanted up, and no-one was going to persuade him that it wasn’t morning. I’m sure lots of you can identify with that one, it’s what most toddlers seem to do.
For the first time in my adult life, I didn’t have a shower, I didn’t wash my hair. Actually, I didn’t even brush my hair. Multiple toddlers at once certainly keep you on your toes.
I found myself up at the field behind my house at the end of the first week, walking the dog in the evening to give myself a break from the chaos that had taken over my home. I had called a friend who met me in the field, with a pack of cigarettes. I had stopped smoking, but that night I had 10, one after the other. So much so that I vomited on the way back with the dog. I had sat on the wet grass in that dark and dirty field for a few hours, and the tears streamed down my face.
I was doing all this work for children I didn’t know. When these children walk into your house, they are strangers. I convinced myself I could cope with that.
Somehow I did.
Somehow we also had fun.
There is something just so delicious about being able to jump about, and wave your arms and hands like a jellyfish wobble in time to a never ending nursery rhyme. And the faces, well, there is no excuse for making silly faces quite like having kids around.
Social services asked us to keep them longer, and we put off looking for our own children for a while longer, as I just didn’t have the time to look. I kept trying to keep the kids memories and meetings with birth parents alive to prepare them for the eventual handback if things all sorted themselves out.
Time passes very quickly when there are multiple children, and middler was enough work to count for 20 children on his own as a toddler. I kept my feelings for them at arms length as they were not my children, and would be moving on. They called us by our first names, and not mum and dad, as that is what I felt their birth parents would be more comfortable with.
Contact was difficult for them and their birth parents. Sometimes they would turn up, and sometimes they wouldn’t. When they didn’t show, the disappointment was hard to watch on eldest.
After about 9/10 months I began looking on the internet for children, and approached a few places about adopting children from oversea. It’s a slow process, but because we were approved in the UK already, it wouldn’t be too bad. We were looking at finances, and how much it would cost to go through procedures in three different countries, and I had started searching through the BAAF magazines again to see if there were any children on there that might fit in with us long term.
I did tell you adoption is a very clinical process once you get going. Many potential parents have to look long and hard to find their children.
The day came, well over a year after they had arrived, when we were notified that the social services had decided that the children would be put up for adoption, and would not be returning to their birth parents.
We had to make a choice. Did we start preparing the boys for a new move to another home with another set of adults to get used to, or did we want to take them on? It wasn’t as easy a choice as people might think. Going from fostering children to being responsible for them forever is a very big step to make.
We talked it over, and decided that they were in our home, and if they weren’t going back to birth parents, that they should stay with us if we were allowed to have them. The social workers applied to Court for the freeing order and we put in our request to go to matching panel. Both were approved. After the freeing order was granted, the boys birth parents appealed it, and it was overturned on a technicality, so the process began again through the childrens panel system.
At the point the freeing order had been granted, and the matching approved, we began to plan for the future, organising the boys staying with us, school moves to suit us, replacing social services equipment with our own and returning theirs etc. When the order was overturned, the potential of having the boys living with us permanently, which I had allowed to creep into my feelings after it had been legally decided, took a huge blow.
We were suddenly faced with the position of having let the kids in further than I would have feelings wise, and had begun planning a future with us. We suddenly faced the possibility that we might not have a future. It was an awful time for everyone involved.
It was over 2 years that the boys had been with us before we became a legal family.
That day, when the papers were stamped, my boys began to call me mum after a lovely judge told them to look after their new mum.
I am mum.