We first met our son at 10am on 22nd March. When you go through the adoption process there are many significant dates that you see as valuable milestones, but nothing is quite so important as the day you first meet. It was surreal to say the least. We had seen many photos and videos of him prior to meeting and we had shared them excitedly with our close friends and family, but nothing quite prepares you for walking into a foster carer's flat and seeing a baby that you know will become your son. It had taken a while for us to get there by car and I was desperate for a wee and frustrated I needed one so badly, so when we actually got there my husband was the first one to meet him. I don't think I have ever gone to the toilet so quickly. I could hear happy noises coming from the living room so that was a good start. I walked in and there he was in Steve's arms, the most adorable baby with big blue eyes, a huge smile and wispy light brown hair dressed in the cutest dinosaur babygrow. He seemed relaxed, calm and happy and I reached out to hold him. It was a mixture of so many emotions; scared, excited, tearful, stunned, thrilled and anxious. I was holding our baby. My baby. Our son. There is a great photo of that first moment. To be fair there are hundreds of treasured photos of us together throughout that week, but this one photo captures the three of us as a family for the first time.
The previous week we had met with social services and his foster carer for three hours to talk through his routine and agreed a strict introduction plan. We would meet our son over the next eight days and slowly introduce him to us, understand his routine, start doing things with him and of course make him feel relaxed with us. The first day we were supposed to stay with him for an hour, just a gentle start to him seeing us for the first time. It was going so well that we were allowed to stay for 2.5hrs. The foster carer said he would normally be shy around new people holding him and want her reassurance, but he was perfectly content in our presence. We made silly noises at him to make him laugh, played with Paddington Bear (which was the toy we bought him prior to us meeting, so it had our scent and he could cuddle it at night time until we met), fed him some lunch and he finally fell asleep in my arms. It was a very special first few hours together. We were thrilled as everything had felt so natural and he was a super happy baby.
The next day we were due to take him out with us for a few hours. Yikes! This was more scary. We had never looked after a baby before and had no clue what to do. Of course we had read a few books but it certainly is nowhere near the same. We took him for a drive in the car to a nearby shopping centre and then quite quickly realised we had no clue how to connect the baby seat to the buggy frame. It was like something out of the Krypton Factor. We tried for what felt like forever and then sheepishly phoned the foster carer to ask how to do it. Easy peasy when you know how eh! We finally got over that hurdle so went for some lunch together. This involved high chairs and feeding. All was going well. Then it was the dreaded nappy change. It was hilarious and we have photos of both of us trying to attempt to work out how to put a nappy back on in John Lewis' family room. We thought we were doing fairly well by this point, until we got back in the car. The first lot of tears started as he dropped his dummy and it was hugely upsetting to hear him crying. It was difficult to navigate as I couldn't reach him, so had to unstrap myself to find the dummy again. Thankfully a few reassuring words and showing him Paddington Bear seemed to soothe him. From that moment on we knew that having a few spare dummies around would be a life saver.
The whole eight days ran smoothly. We followed his routine and some days we would be there when he woke at 6am and other times we would read him his favourite book The Gruffalo before putting him to bed for the night. Bathing him was the most nerve wracking as both of us were scared of doing something wrong. The foster carer brought him to our house and as the week progressed, we were spending more time with him alone for longer periods. Everyone was so impressed with how well it had gone. The last night Steve and I were alone together we were going to go out and celebrate in style. One last night just the two of us and we ended up in Nandos.
Reading this it may sound like introductions were quite straightforward, our son but in reality we were exhausted and running on empty. My husband was still working at this point as he didn't start his paternity leave until after the introductions, when our son would come home to live with us. When we weren't meeting with him we were visiting our new favourite shops, Mothercare and Toys R Us trying to make decisions on things we needed to buy for when he came home. There was such a huge list which just seemed to keep growing and we only had a week to get it all ready. We were planning and decorating his room, putting new furniture together and making sure everything was perfect for his arrival. I even got a local artist to draw a rocket mural on the wall. We had been scared to buy anything before we knew he was definitely going to be our son. We were told by social services that even introductions can go wrong sometimes, so we didn't want to tempt fate. Looking back, it was such a whirlwind and I can't believe how much we achieved in such a short time. Most people have several months to prepare; we had eight days to welcome our new arrival.