Four days from hell

The small boy charges at me with arms outstretched…what will it be this time? A shower of fists raining down on my legs, my arms, my stomach, my arms? Nails clawing and scratching my wrists and hands? Fingers to pinch and twist my skin? Or is he coming to grab me to better aim his kicks at my legs and shins. Or possibly its my all time favourite…is he heading for the spit in the face? Every muscle in my body tenses for the assault, whatever it may be. My brain whirrs for the ‘correct’ or ‘therapeutic’ response…but nine times out of ten it just simply draws a blank.

The rages come out of nowhere. What used to be a normal conversation or request suddenly spirals out of control to a place I cannot fathom. I can simply say, ‘its time to brush your teeth’ or ‘what story would you like?’ or ‘no, sorry I didnt see that red car’ and suddenly the world is crashing down around us.

Objects that were once toys, items of cutlery, cushions, pads of paper and colouring pens – things that made our home comforting or fun – are now weapons waiting to be lobbed or kicked at me in the middle of his rage.

In the quieter moments he sits and stares at the TV, a wild vacant look in his eyes. I get hissed or growled at like he has retreated to some deep animalistic state…but I’ll take that for the quiet and a break from his shouting.

I am exhausted from trying to avoid certain tones of voice, lines of questioning, phrases, saying ‘no’ – anything that might just trigger the next tantrum. He wont let me close enough to ‘wonder’ with him. He just agrees with anything I say to shut me up. At one point he physically turns over in bed to block me out and end the conversation. He is also clearly exhausted. Unknown to him he is being sent to bed early and his sleep comes within minutes rather than him singing or talking himself to sleep as usual.

But the night brings no real peace for either of us. I wake to hear him crying and whimpering in his sleep. He tells me that I left him, he called and called but I didn’t come…why didnt I come? And I tell him that its just a dream, I havent left him – see I am right here. But the truth is, it feels like he has left me…something has taken over him and  am fearful my lovely boy will never come back.

There is of course the advice, given in love and out of concern – ‘You should put your foot down, you can’t allow him to hurt you. If he is behaving like this now, what is he going to be like when he is 15?’ I smile and nod and despair.

In the end, I do the opposite. I give him what would be seen in some peoples eyes as a ‘reward’, a ‘treat’. His emotions are so out of control that when I tell him what we are going to do he tries to bite me on the arm.

But that time, just me and him, somehow allows the connection to be remade. My outstretched hand is offered and thankfully he takes it and allows me to reach him. That night we talk again…this time he finds the words to tell me all the things that are worrying him. Things that to you, me or even a child who has always known safety and security, might seem silly things to cause this level of fear and anger. I offer him my assurances of unconditional love…and tell him what I will do to try to help.

Something shifts.

This morning the small boy charges at me with arms outstretched…my body tenses, my brain whirrs…but this time his arms wrap around my legs in a giant hug.

 

This is a description of the last four days in my home. It feels like a hell of a lot longer. Peace today seems to have descended – my boy appears to be back. What we went through felt like hell…and it was only four days. I realise the place my boy descends to when he is scared is a place some children live in the whole time. There are some adopters who post regularly about their childrens struggles and I don’t often reply. Not because I don’t want to, but simply because I don’t have the words to say. I can’t say I know what they go through because I don’t. I might get a tiny snapshot like this, once in a while, but I do appreciate it is nothing like living it 24/7 for years relentlessly with little or no support. I write this not for sympathy as I realise my situation doesnt even compare…(at the moment, I am not naive enough not wonder if there might be a day my boy cannot be reached and he descends to that place forever). It is written simply with a greater appreciation of the love and dedication those adopters have for their children – you are incredible.

 

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On love

Three years ago this week a tiny 21 month old ran into my life. It was love at first sight. I could not believe how lucky I was to have been blessed with such a gorgeous little boy and spent most of our first meeting just staring at him in disbelief. I am not sure why there was this instant connection between the two of us, but I am pretty sure the feeling was mutual. Two days into introductions I put him down for his nap and then went home as required by the schedule. When he woke he scoured the FC’s house room by room looking for me inconsolable and calling out, ‘Ummy? Ummy?’. May be it was because he never really connected with his foster carers (his SW apologised about how negative his FC had been about him after I met with her for the first time) or because of the way they dealt with his attachment difficulties (“don’t pick him up or cuddle him, you can give him a cuddle before bed at night, but don’t cuddle him or pick him up if he cries at any other time, you’ll make a rod for your own back – he’ll never want you to put him down”), may be he was crying out for a bit of love and physical affection and I was desperate to shower it on a child of my own. Or may be it was because it had been explained to him, he knew a new Mummy was coming and was expectant…even if he didn’t fully understand what that meant.

Anyway, it wasn’t until I went on training to adopt again that I found out this sort of instant love and connection is highly unusual… Not realising that I did have this kind of experience, we were told that adopters who do say they feel like that are either lying or very strange. I realised that this time around things may be rather different, that my relationship with my new child could be very different but I never once doubted that I wouldn’t feel the same kind of love and affection for my new child…I felt it last time, I would feel it again.

But of course I didn’t. Who knows why. May be this time it was because you can’t explain to a baby what is going on. May be it was because he wasn’t ready to be removed from the first people who had briefly been able to provide him with the care and attention he needed and had missed out on in the months before. May be it was because I saw the love written on his face as he gazed up at his foster carer and couldn’t believe he would ever look at me the same way. May be it was because having already met him on a kind ‘try before you buy’ meeting, the first day of introductions were no where near as emotionally charged. May be it was because due to every thing I had been through in the two prior sort-of-matches that did not work out I did not have the cast iron belief that my SWs knew what they were doing as compared with the total faith I had in my SW the first time around. (By a mysterious total fluke during the first week the baby was home, we went to an attraction in the local area and came face to face with the little girl I had been considered but rejected for & it really didn’t help with this line of thinking at all!). May be it was because I was being asked so often, ‘so how do you feel?’, ‘how’s the bonding going?’ or constantly being told by his foster carers how gorgeous they thought he was, that in turn it made me feel terrible for not ‘feeling it’ as I felt I should have been. May be the extended visits after placement with the Foster carers that I did not have to have first time around affected his ability to settle properly or/and my confidence that I was doing things ‘right’. May be because I already had another child’s needs to consider my brain couldn’t just give way to a tidal wave of emotion. Who knows? I definitely thought he was cute, I liked the fact he was so smiley and giggly but honestly I felt little or no connection.

My new son has been at home with us just over a month. He is quite delayed in many areas of his development, but in these weeks he has made significant physical progress. Five weeks ago he was a baby who could only lay on his back and turn over to his front (not back again). He did not do much at all. He could just lift his head up off the floor for short periods, he certainly could not sit up, if you held him up for him to take is own weight on his legs then they would just crumple under him. He did not make many sounds or babble much. And he was not being weaned.

Now he eats everything and anything – we are currently on to chunkier purees and some finger foods. He can lift his head and shoulders off the floor whilst simultaneously bouncing his legs behind him, he can sit unaided for at least ten minutes before getting bored, he can push his legs down on the floor and use a bouncy hanging seat and actually bounce! He can roll the length of the living room in any direction he chooses (including to try to bite the IROs shoes during the LAC review!!!), and he tries to ‘talk’ to me, chuntering, babbling and sometimes a sort of singing. He is still behind but it undeniable that he has progressed significantly. When I tell people how much development he has made, generally the retort is ‘its amazing what a bit of love can do’ and I have felt a fraud. Because it was not love that helped as I wasn’t really feeling it – time, structure, routine, predictability, equipment, toys, space, opportunity…I think all these things helped but not the emotion and bond of love. And besides if love was enough to help him develop then he would never have been removed from his birth mother in the first place.

However, over the last week or so something has shifted in both of us. Up until now he has been a very quiet baby. He honestly never seemed to cry. Smile, laugh, giggle…yes. Cry, barely ever. And if I’m entirely honest a quiet ‘happy’ baby is quite easy to not fully engage with as its easy to presume they are fine as they are…but although he’d been promoted as ‘an easy baby’ and ‘so chilled’ and ‘he’s quite happy just sitting in his bouncy chair watching the world go by’, I had a nagging doubt that this quietness was actually as ok as everyone was making out.

However this has started to change. First he somehow managed to roll over in his cot and twist his sleeping bag around – without his legs free he couldn’t work out how to get back on to his back and so face down on the mattress, for the first time in desperation he cried out for some help. I was so shocked to hear him cry that I have never moved up the stairs so quickly! Once I came to his aid he quickly settled again. Then a few days later he choked himself on a sticker that I somehow had not seen and failed to remove on an item of new clothing. The shock, horror and relief when it was all over was just overwhelming for both of us. And again he cried. Well, actually this time he properly screamed…but he let me comfort, soothe and calm him. Then he started teething…and crying…and would only stop when I picked him up to cuddle and try to soothe him. This sudden clinginess took me by surprise. But it appears that he has realised crying brings comfort which means he seems to be crying more – so over the last few days he has also now started to cry to let me know he has woken up (before he would just lay in his cot and play with his taggies until I came through to see if he was awake and get him up, or I heard movement or noises on the monitor), he cries to let me know he is hungry (along with a weird high pitched ‘dee-dee dee-dee’ noise too) or not feeding him quickly enough, he cries to show his displeasure if I remove something from him that he wants. Yesterday one of the dogs pulled a baking tray off the side and onto our stone floor – the resultant clang was very noisy and made us both jump, again he cried until I picked him up and cuddled him. Today the HV weighed him on her scales, to begin with he looked confused, then looked at me and his face just crumpled. Two seconds after I picked him up he was fine. And of course, the more he wants me to comfort him and allows me to do so, the more I feel a bond between us growing. Before I could take care of him physically as best as I could, but I didn’t feel attuned to him emotionally, I realise now partly because he was unaware, due to his previous lack of care, how to let me know what it was he needed. And he has now discovered he rather enjoys comfort and has become quite cuddly. He snuggles his little head into my neck when I pick him up. He also grabs our heads and pulls them to touch his head and closes his eyes and smiles. He didn’t do this a week ago.

When the HV said to me today it was so lovely to see the connection between us I didn’t feel like such a fraud.

Baby X

Today my SW visited…and it turned out to be the weirdest visit ever.

She said she wanted to be honest with me and that my PAR had gone to a child’s SW and that she was waiting to hear back from them, she couldn’t see why the SW would object to us but you just never know. After the match-that-wasn’t I said under no circumstances did I want to see a profile until a SW had seen mine so she assured me that wouldn’t happen. She said what she would like to do was look at a baby’s profile to get me in the ‘baby mindset’.

I thought this was going to be a hypothetical baby – a pretend CPR, but no. So she starts telling me all about baby X (She actually told me the child’s full name) and their history. She says things like ‘Baby X had the same carer <then> as <then>, so that would be really good because they will be able to fill you in on what they were like <then>’ and ‘Oh I know the FC Baby X is with, they would be really great with <your son> as they have done another baby adoption where there was another child about <your son>’s age’ and ‘We know Baby X has <complex ethnic background> but you’re quite happy about that, aren’t you?’ and ‘BM has specifically asked that Baby X be placed with adopters with the same religious background as you – and that was what caught my eye about the baby in the first place, so you’d be able to meet that requirement’ and then at the end ‘so how do you feel about Baby X?’ So I mutter something about there being nothing that put me off and how Baby X’s background was actually more straightforward that my son’s. She asks me if I have had any thoughts about how we would work intros with my son (erm no, seeing as I don’t have a match yet…!) so she makes some suggestions. So by now I am thinking that Baby X must actually be the child she has enquired about and I’m ready for the big reveal…

But what she actually says is, ‘Well that was just to give you a flavour. Baby X isn’t even through the court system yet. I’ll let you know when the other baby’s SW is in touch, ok?’

She asked to see ‘the baby’s room’ again. At the moment this is a bare room with a book case and a dismantled cot bed in it as when I went through the process last time I wasn’t allowed to do anything until just before matching panel, certainly not until I had met the child’s SW. So I didn’t really think anything of it, plus she’d only seen it a few weeks ago.

‘Right, well you know a child’s SW would not be happy with this?’ She says. ‘You need to get this sorted quickly. They’ll want to see books and toys and a cot! If a baby’s SW agrees to you they won’t want to hang around, everything will happen really quickly. You need to get nesting!’

And then she left. And now my brain is reeling. What on earth was all that about?! Why tell me all about a child that can’t even be placed with me? Why did I need to hear about a child’s profile to ‘get in the baby mindset’? Was she playing mindgames? What was the point?

You think its all over…it is now.

After over 6 months of waiting, this week I was told the news that the SW of the child I had hoped would be agreed as a match had said no to us. The reasons given were valid – the lack of age gap (which was always the major factor) but also the fact I am not a man! Had I been a single man, or married to a man, I have been told it would be quite different.

So far I have been the wrong colour, religion and gender/or marital status to adopt the two children I have been considered for…and there isn’t a lot I can do about any of that!

These first few days since being given that news have obviously been difficult. My emotions have swung all over the place. From being totally pragmatic and philosophical to blubbering all over a terminally ill friend when I was supposed to be going over to visit to support him! People IRL have been sort of sympathetic in a quick ‘oh I’m sorry to hear that now lets move on’ sort of a way or have been quick to list all the reasons they thought it would never work anyway. Cheers for that. No understanding for the depth of emotion involved on my part at all. No appreciation of the fact this child is a friend of my son, a child at the moment I see twice per day, every week day. No appreciation of the fact that this decision means in all likelihood, in a few months we will never see this child again.

My SW has tried to offer me hope. I realise the SW was trying to say ‘there are other children out there’ but actually I’m not sure it has made me feel any better. In the course of the same conversation as giving me the news she asked my ‘permission’ to look at a couple of children that could be ‘potential’ matches and pass on my details to their respective SWs. She also told me I am ‘next on the list’ which means that any child who comes up in my age category I have to be considered for first (though the idea of this makes me uncomfortable – I thought it should be who is the best match rather than who is first on the list!). I am also not sure why my ‘permission’ was needed – to honest I would rather not know about these ‘possibilities’ as they are just that…and I have heard all this before. There is every chance the respective social workers of these children will say no again, or that their histories and needs mean that they are totally unsuitable for us. But though I try to feign total disinterest, I obviously can’t help but be intrigued a bit…could one of them be the right child for us? There is still that tiny bit of hope left but every time it rises to the surface now I force it down. I do not really believe anything will come of these ‘possibilities’ sadly because I cannot let myself wonder…hope just leads to more disappointment. Yes, as someone said on Twitter, one day a SW will say yes, but I still don’t believe that will be any time soon.

And now due to feeling caught in this downward spiral of sadness, disappointment and rejection, I am not much fun to be around (I imagine this post is not that much fun to read!) so I am avoiding Twitter due to all the newly approved people who are already allowed to join Linkmaker and appear to have a gazillion matches lined up already. Its rubbing salt in my already open and pussing wound and I don’t feel I have any emotional capability to rejoice with them in their joy. I will probably come back eventually, I always do…but a break is needed to mope, wallow in my grief a bit and then hopefully get my sanity together to be happy with and for others!

You think it’s all over

I hoped by now I would know the answer to whether or not I could be considered to adopt a child who is friends with my son.

After some confusion this week where I recieved some second hand information that turned out not to be correct, I discovered that I am going to be considered. But far from the stuffy meeting whereby Social Workers and managers got together and discussed all the pros and cons (which is what I was led to believe would happen by my former SW), I have actually been told that my son and I will have to undergo further assessment as the main part of the ‘consideration’.

Whilst being extremely happy that they have agreed to consider us, I am definitely not looking forward to being assessed further.  My new SW has been quite negative about the situation. She made some rather negative comments about my son saying he was ‘over excitable’ and that I needed to imagine what that would be like with two of them and how dreadful this would be if he acted like this during introductions during what is a tense time for all. I pointed out that he was over excitable because he was nervous about meeting her for the first time as she is a stranger. The FCs, their home and the child in question are all places and people he knows well – he doesn’t act like that around them…but she didn’t want to hear it. She had also fixated on the fact that my son said he needed to have the first turn of a game because ‘he was the youngest’. ‘His identity is clearly bound up in the fact he is the youngest, how will it be if a child comes into the home of a similar age and he loses that status?’ she says. Erm no. He was simply repeating the rules of the game that I read to him earlier in the day because he was trying to impress you with what he knows. He knows how old he is and how old his friend is. He knows he is the oldest. He has proudly said several times ‘I’m 4! He’s only 3! He can’t go to school, he’s too little’. At the moment it feels like she is going to jump on every tiny thing he says which really worries me. She even said we were doing this to ‘rule the situation out’ and ‘put the situation to bed’…whilst at the same time saying whilst the assessment takes place she will not be looking for any further matches for me.

After the assessment there are still no guarantees. She may decide the situation is not worth pursuing as a match. She might come to the conclusion that actually this can work and be a good match. Then she would present ‘my case’ to the little boy’s SW. That SW would then make the final decision…which of course might be a ‘no’.

My feelings right now are all over the place – I swing from hope to despair, to being philosophical to being fairly angry. I know I have to jump through these hoops and do whatever is asked of us. I know I have to have faith and trust that everything will work out for the best, but its so difficult having to let others decide the course of your life and your family and future.

 

All change!

When I adopted my son I had a great SW. She and I ‘clicked’. She saw me right through from the very first initial chat through to three months into placement. She was lovely but she liked things done ‘by the book’. At the time I resented that a bit, but actually I totally knew where I stood – like the day she called me and told me she’d found me a match, there was no doubt it was going to work out.

My SW this time was nice but we haven’t ‘clicked’ in the same way. There are things she has said and done which I know my last SW would be spinning about – like showing up at only panel minutes before we were due to go in. When I said I wasn’t even sure we were waiting in the right building she just kind of shrugged. It took her weeks to reply to emails, if she chose to acknowledge them at all, and she never gave me any other way of contacting her.  I took to nicknaming her ‘Queen of Cliches’ as my goodness I’ve heard them all – ‘sometimes people wait for a reason’, ‘what will be will be’, ‘if its right it will happen’. But she seemed to be very short on telling me facts or realistic outcomes. When she told me she was leaving I really wasn’t surprised, nor was I sad like with my last SW, I was actually a little relieved. But then came the worry of not knowing who would be my new SW and when they’d start on my case.

Thankfully this week I got an email from a new SW, giving me her text number and offering me some dates to meet. Within an hour of reading the email and responding via text, an appointment was set up. And then it happened, I got another text saying, ‘it will be good to chat properly and find out how you both are’ Complete with smily face emoji.

Find out how we both are? Wow. Though I’m not sure she’ll actually like the response…

Frustrated – that I still don’t know what is going on – that I have heard so many different messages coming from so many different sources over the last few months – even in my last meeting with my SW – that I don’t know what or who to believe any more. I’m not even certain what match criteria they are working to!

Disheartened – because the ‘failed match’ was presented to me at approval panel, I don’t look back at that day with any real joy, as the excitement I felt at being approved became bound up in the excitement of finding out they had found me a daughter…only actually, they hadn’t really. So approval now holds painful emotions. And now with 3 months of waiting I just feel like we’re in it for the long haul…this may just be the tip of the iceberg of waiting – no one really knows. The day I found out the whole thing wasn’t happening I stopped even the tentative beginnings of sorting out the junk room that I started. And I can’t bring myself to start again because what’s the point – it may be months, years even? And though my SW tried to assure me I should never have been shown the profile, a SW somewhere still judged me, my family and what I felt I could offer a child and found me more than wanting. That still stings however you dress it up.

Anxious– a question I first asked 6 months ago should in the next few weeks finally be answered. What the answer will be I don’t know. Because I am feeling so disheartened, I am struggling to believe there is genuinely going to be any good news for us any time soon. Sadly not only do I suspect it will be a ‘no’ to a potential match with another child, I suspect the reason it will be a ‘no’ is because although I have been told I will be considered, I suspect actually I won’t be.

Apprehensive – when she visits I will be at the point I can join adoption link. This sounds like a great idea but in practice users report that it can be quite painful – reading profiles and falling in love with children only to find out their SW isn’t interested in you or has gone with a couple instead. By the point I have to make a profile I will have had quite enough of that!

Getting on with things – mostly I am trying to just get on with stuff…with life and my job. Spending time enjoying being able to lavish my attention upon just one child. Still trying to create memories even in the waiting. In fact there have been one or two times where I have actually wondered what I am doing – why do I want to spoil what I already have? Why am I putting myself through this when I have an amazing little boy already?

It is a weirdly tiring and emotionally draining time. I am hoping a new SW, a new pair of eyes, possibly some enthusiasm and some clear information might help pick me up a bit and carry me through for a while. The first indications are positive.

Limbo

I wake up and its the first thing on my mind – I wonder if today will be the day I hear something.

Every time the phone rings.

Every time my computer beeps to say I have a new email.

Its in the back of my mind in almost every conversation to do with my job.

A constant rumbling. A longing. For the child I am yet to meet. For any kind of news.

I think: May be today will be the day I hear something. Or may be this week. God, I hope its next week, if not.

But its never the call I want to get. Or the email.

Time ticks on.

And we stay in this limbo.