Adoption Introductions are something that you never, ever forget. Like giving birth, the myriad of emotions they generate are forever imprinted on your brain. I’ve been lucky enough to have done both and believe me they can be equally as painful in their own way!
We have been through introductions twice and had two vastly different experiences. Both however, have one thing in common; to put it mildly, although incredibly exciting, they were physically and emotionally exhausting.
So this is my guide to surviving one of the most surreal experiences I have ever been through:
Make sure the social workers take your needs, circumstances and logistical requirements in to consideration
It is tempting to let the social workers dictate to you. We were so worried everything would fall through first time around we went along with everything they suggested. Both our adoptions have been out of area. The first time we were put in a hotel for two weeks, 200 miles from home, without our son, who had just started senior school. He was timetabled to visit briefly, once each week. The whole situation was incredibly stressful for us. We had no friends or family around to support us, nowhere to go in the evenings to relax. A room in a Premier Inn is quite bleak after a couple of nights and you soon tire of going out for dinner to the Harvester next door. But most importantly we desperately missed our son. It also created a very unrealistic picture for our new little girl. She had a huge shock when she came home and realised she had to share us with a big brother.
And so second time around we insisted our children were a bigger part of the introductions. We were still 200 miles away from home, but we paid extra to stay in an apartment. My Mum joined us for the week to help look after the children when they weren’t involved in the intros. The whole experience was much less stressful. At the end of the day we were able to go home, relax and talk about the day with the people that we love. Most importantly our children felt involved and nobody had unrealistic expectations.
So the moral of this part of the story is, speak up. Nothing is set in stone. Plans can be changed! So let your social workers know what you think and how things are going.
Although exciting, introductions are exhausting for everyone involved! From the adoptive parent’s perspective it is not easy going in to someone else’s home and taking over the care of a child who doesn’t know you. My advice is make the most of those last few hours of freedom, day or night. Go out for dinner, watch TV, go for a walk, read books, but above all else get plenty of sleep.The more relaxed and refreshed you feel, the better equipped you will be to deal with whatever is thrown at you during those first few days of getting to know each other.
Stay in touch with your support network
Let them know what is going on. Be open and honest with them. If you are finding it hard, tell them. You will need them more than ever when you return to your new reality!
Eat and drink whatever you want
Obviously don’t overdo the wine as you really don’t want a hangover in the morning when you are looking after children, but have a glass with that pizza and extra cheese, followed by a big slice of Banoffee pie. You need to treat yourself as the days can be very long!
Don’t go armed with any expectations
It doesn’t matter how many books or blogs you have read, nothing can prepare you for the day you meet your children. I’m not saying don’t read them. Do! But just don’t go armed with any preconceived ideas or expectations. Go with an open mind and expect the unexpected. Let the children decide the pace. They will let you know when they are ready to come to you, to hold your hand, give you a hug, let you take them out and ultimately say those words you have been waiting for ‘Mummy’ and/or ‘Daddy’.
Contact the foster carer in advance
Get in touch with, or meet the foster carer before you go to their house for the first time. Walking in to a stranger’s house is undeniably daunting. Contact beforehand really helps to break the ice. First time around we met the foster carer and her husband in the pub the night before our first intro. Second time around a physical meeting wasn’t an option but we exchanged emails and photos in the weeks running up to the intros. Getting to know each other, even just a little bit, makes that first visit much, much easier.
Soak up information
Talk to the foster carers, ask them endless questions, listen to them. They have spent time with your children and the knowledge they have is priceless. They play a huge part in your children’s life.
Find your own way
Follow the foster carer’s advice, but ultimately find your own way. The days or weeks in which you meet your children are not real life. It is a bizarre situation for everyone. When you get home you will gradually discover your own way of doing things that suit you as a family. I can’t deny there will be a lot of trial and error as you get to know each other, but that is what parenting is all about. Just take it one day at a time. To quote one of my favourite mottos (again): “Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it is not yet the end” (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel).
The kids will be, and so should you! Don’t hold back.
Cherish the moment
Introductions really are a unique, if somewhat bizarre experience!