Happy Homecoming Day! One Whole Year!

Yesterday we made it to one whole year as a family of 3!

In my family ever since I was little each of us has always had Homecoming Day. This was when we celebrated us coming home to our family forever. We normally had a cake, card and a small gift. It was always a family only event, which made it special as it felt unique to us. I don’t know of any other families that celebrated adoption in this sort of way.

Ever since we decided to adopt I had looked forward to eventually celebrating our child’s own homecoming day. Yesterday that longed for day finally came and we celebrated our daughter’s very first homecoming day. It was lovely to be able to pass that special family tradition down to her. She seemed to understand that we were celebrating her coming to us a whole year ago, not that she really understands what a year means. She enjoyed the fuss we made of her, the cards she got and especially the cake we ate. She declared it was the best cake ever (thanks Tesco). Hopefully we’ll be able to build on yesterday’s celebration each year, and use it to celebrate who she is, where she came from and who’ll she’ll become.

So, we’ve been a family for a whole year now, and what a year it’s been. Lots of ups, some downs and everything in between. It was a massive learning curve, and continues to be. We’ve all had to get used to big changes in our lives at the same time as getting to know each other. New roles have been made, old ones gone or changed. New routines have been forged. We’ve learnt how to parent, and on top of that, to attempt to therapeutically parent to some extent. We’ve questioned everything, (are we doing it right? does she behave like she does because she’s a toddler or because she’s adopted?) We’ve had social worker visits start and stop. We’ve been to court. We’ve had contact. We’ve explored the child friendly areas of where we live. We’ve spent hours in the parks shivering with frozen toes. We’ve had lots of fun and laughter, and we’ve become very well acquainted with nursery rhymes and CBeebies!

Our relationships have changed, and this was maybe one of the hardest things to come to terms with. We’ve changed as a couple, but I think that this experience has brought us closer. We’re such a good team and compliment each other so well. Those who were close now seem distant, and some of those who were distant are so much closer. We have been incredibly blessed with some great family and friends, and I honestly don’t think we could have got through the year without them.

Everyday I’m amazed by our daughter, we took her away from everyone and everything she knew, and she done so fantastically well. She has shown reliance and strength of character some adults don’t have. She has got through it all with that beautiful smile on her face. She has achieved so much in 12 short months and we’re immensely proud of her.

Of course it’s not always been easy and we’ve all had our moments, but that’s life and I think they only make us stronger as we learn from them. I think we’ve come out the other side of our first year settled, happy and ready for the next year to begin.

So as we go into the next year we can look forward to new challenges (hello formal education!), lots more learning and a whole lot of fun too…….

And so it begins…..

This week sees the beginning of a new phase in our lives. Little One has started her full days at nursery, and I’m back at work too. It got me thinking about the past year, and how my thoughts have changed over time….

Little one has been home almost a year now. This week I keep thinking about the week before we met her, (this time last year) and thinking about how life has changed.

I remember having just finished work for adoption leave, and having a few days off before to do last minute prep, as well as run the Great North Run. I remember it feeling a bit surreal, and I was at a bit of a loss of what to do with my time. I remember wondering round the shops but not really being able to buy anything as we didn’t know her size or really what she liked or disliked. The house was clean, her room was ready so there wasn’t a lot to do.

I remember buying her carseat, and then it feeling really strange driving around for a few days without a child to put in it. We had a pushchair, and a highchair, again, without a child. We had all the toys, but no one to mess them up and not tidy them away. We had all the story books, but no one to read them to. I know all parents do this before their baby is born, but our ‘baby’ was already born but with someone else at the time. Oh how I wished that week would fly by.

I remember meeting members of her birth family, and having the placement planning meeting. All those people had met our daughter, except us. It felt strange talking about someone we didn’t know, but planning the beginning of the rest of our lives.

I remember running the Great North Run, and feeling like every step was a step closer to the day I was going meet my girl. The training I did ran pretty much alongside all the prep we did during matching and getting ready for her to come home. Intros were even put back a few days so I could do the run. I was quite emotional at the end of the run, as I felt I’d done the run for her, even though I’d never met this precious child. I ran it to raise money for our adoption agency who had been great. It was a cause truly close to my heart.

Those early days of placement were tough, my poor girl was grieving so much for her old life (she did/still does adore the foster carer & family). Looking back on that time I realise I was grieving for my old life too. I really missed my work. I missed the team friendship and support, the challenge, the sense of achievement I got from work. I missed the routine. I missed the carefree life when I could come and go as I pleased. There were a fair few tears from both of us. I felt cut off, isolated from my friends. At times I felt forgotten about, and ‘out of the loop’ I am however very grateful to the friends who did keep in touch, to those who texted or who wanted to meet up, those are the people that kept me going. We kept our world quite small to start off with, and looking back I do wonder ‘how did we manage?’, ‘what did we actually do to fill those long days?’ I’m still not entirely sure what or how we did it, but we did, and we’ve come out the other side still smiling (well most of the time)

I took a year off, it was always planned that way, as I wanted to spend as much time with our daughter as possible. Luckily we could afford to, and the generous adoption leave arrangements from the NHS is one of the (few) perks of working for them. I knew that I would never get that quality time again with my little girl, so didn’t want to rush back to work. I’ve returned to work part time, and she’s at nursery. I didn’t go full full time because I still wanted some time with her before she goes to school next year.

It’s not always been easy, but I’m so glad I was able to take off the full year. I’m pretty sure it’s really helped our bonding and attachment. We’ve got to know each other so well. I know just how she ticks, and she’s knows just how to push all those buttons of mine, little monkey! We’ve been able to take our time exploring our world together, and have been able to build a really good predictable routine. I know now that she is really settled here and very much see’s us as her family. I’m sure this has made her start to nursery smooth and that makes my return to work easier. There were times when I wondered about sending her to nursery earlier, just for the break to be honest, but looking back now I’m glad we didn’t. We all needed that time to learn to be us. She still got her social interaction and learning from the groups we went to, and we’ve done some fun activities at home too. I am lucky to have really supportive family who looked after her for short amounts of time to give me a bit of space which was really needed. We did get questioned about if she was in nursery (by strangers and professionals), but I’m glad we stuck with our gut feeling and didn’t give into pressure. I still maintain that I didn’t take the time off for someone else to look after her.

So now we’ve started on the next phase of life I do feel sad that it’s the end of the previous one. I wish we had longer to carry on doing what we want when we want without the rigidity of work and nursery. I feel a bit sad that after only a year with her, I have to let her go a bit. However, I know it’s best for all of us to move on. I will hopefully benefit from the mental and social stimulation from work, and she I know will benefit even more from everything that nursery will give her. I’m probably too protective of her, so nursery will give her some of the independence I struggle to. She will be able to see her little friends every day. She is very bright, so will thrive with all the resources and activities they have there. So far she’s been very happy to see me at pick up time, and I’ve not had any reports of her not settling whilst she’s there so I know she’s ok.

My super girl has done amazingly well with all she has gone through, and makes me so proud. Her smile when she see’s me, and her happy exclamation of ‘Mummy!’ make all the hard work of the last year so totally with it……

Starting Nursery

Tomorrow my little girl starts Nursery. Her second time going (she went in Foster Care), but her first time with us, and her first time for over a year. Here’s a little little letter to her as she achieves this big milestone…

Dear Darling,

Tomorrow you start Nursery, you’re so excited and looking forward to meeting all the teachers and playing with the other children. We’ve talked about it lots, and read some books, so you know a bit of what to expect.

We’ve popped into the nursery, so you know where it is. The best thing is that it’s right next to where Mummy works, so I’ll not be far away. Please be a good girl and walk up the hill nice and quickly in the mornings. Hopefully the promise of breakfast when you’re there will help!

You’re going to have so much fun, and learn so many new things. They have lots of things to do and play with, including an outside area, and you’re favourite, a mud kitchen! Hopefully the ladies will be able to persuade you inside every now and then. You’re such a clever girl already, and I’m sure you’ll impress them with your newly learnt phonics. I’m going to miss experiencing new things with you, but at least we’ll have lots to talk about at the end of the day.

You’re such a smiley, friendly girl, I know everyone is going to love you. You’re so good with the little ones, and I’m sure they’ll all look up to you as the big girl. You’re the only child at home, so I’m sure you’ll thrive on all the interaction with others. Hopefully you’ll make some good little friends.

I know you might be a little bit worried about where Mummy and Daddy are, and wonder if we’re coming back. Don’t worry sweetheart, we’ll always come back. I’ll pick you up at the end of the day and give you a big cuddle and kiss. If you’re feeling a bit worried or sad, I’ll tell your teacher that you have a special book in your bag with pictures of us all, your house and your doggy friend so you know we haven’t forgotten you. You have chewy man if you need to have a little chew to make you feel better.

I’ll miss you lots, it’s going to be so quiet without you. It’s been a great year getting to know each other and exploring our world together. I’m so glad we’ve had this time, hopefully you are too.

I’m so proud of you, and all you’ve achieved and overcome in the last year. You’ve grown up so much from the little toddler who was just starting to talk, to a beautiful, loving little girl with the most lovely smile and pretty curls. You can now ride a bike and a scooter, and can jump so high. You can recognise all your letters and are pretty good with numbers too. You’ve coped with so many changes this year, and got through some stuff a grown up would struggle with. You’ve made our home so much more colourful and fun.

I know you’ll be just fine at Nursery, and it’s an exciting new world as you step out into the world of education. I want you to know that we’ll be there with you every step of the way. We’ll support you, and when needed, fight for you. You deserve the very best, and hopefully thats just what you’ll get. Im looking forward to seeing what you’ll get up to this year, and watching you grow up just a little bit more.

Darling, even though you’re a big girl going to nursery, please remember you’ll always be our little girl, our baby….

Lots of love,

Mummy x