I longed for the first night Acorn came home. Before we were approved, before we’d even started the process, I used to lie in bed imagining what it might be like to have a little person in the house. I used to indulge my own romanticised view of what that would be like by thinking about that moment when we quietly pulled the nursery door to, inside there being a content, gurgling little one who would go on to sleep soundly and wake up all smiles and sunshine the next morning. Of course, I did know that’s not what many children do, let alone those whose adoption might have meant multiple foster carers, disruptions to attachment, trauma from the loss of all that was known and familiar. But it didn’t stop me dreaming about it!
In actual reality, Acorn came home after week-long introductions which had been hampered by snow and poor weather. He came home having visited once with his foster carer, and then suddenly, we were on our own. It was a strange feeling, one of there being a visitor in the house, of immense responsibility and a deep sense of privilege.
We played quietly at home with him for the afternoon, fed him fish fingers or something equally familiar and finger-foody, and had our first go at the bath and bedtime routine in our own home. We’d done it two or three times at the foster carers, but it felt totally different to be doing it in our own place. One of the strong recommendations in our training had been to keep routines, smells, foods, even washing powders and bed clothes the same for at least the first few weeks- even so, it was tempting to begin immediately modifying ideas and ways of doing things to suit ourselves.
And then, we put him finally, full of anticipation and nervous excitement, into his bed. We sat downstairs staring anxiously into the baby monitor and listening to him babble away. It wasn’t really as I’d dreamed it might be, but because it was real, it was better.
He did sleep soundly that very first night; knowing him how we do now but didn’t then, it was likely that he was just so so overwhelmed by everything he’d been through that day that he crashed. He does that sometimes now.
He didn’t actually show a huge amount of emotion generally for the first few weeks he was with us. We didn’t see tantrums or frustration or sadness, but equally, with the benefit of hindsight, know now that we didn’t see much happiness or excitement or joy. These things- all of them- have come slowly. And now, 18 months after he came home, he has just had a real meltdown at bedtime. He’s hugely clingy to me, often asking to be a baby and- I feel, though as any parent, I am only guessing what’s going on- showing some of the effects of his early experiences and loss. He clings onto me, and begs with tearful eyes that I stay- and although he may be able to state that factually he knows we’re a family for ever, his feelings and emotions suggest they are listening to a different story at times. It isn’t the rose-tinted idea I knew wasn’t true even when I thought it, but it’s our reality.