Firstly I met with the foster mum at the social services office where we planned when I would meet Rae and what we would do each day. I was so nervous meeting her but I shouldn’t have worried, she was so lovely and had thought of everything I might need to know. We planned that I would meet Rae on June 11th and after visiting her each day for ten days would then bring her home for good. I didn’t feel too nervous until I knocked on the door of the foster parents house, when I then had to remember to breathe. Maggie answered the door and showed me to her living room. She told me the social worker hadn’t arrived yet and she wasn’t sure if she could bring Rae down to me until then so I had to wait. It was so surreal. I could hear Rae babbling away to herself upstairs but wasn’t allowed to see her yet. The social worker arrived only 5 minutes later but it felt like hours, and Maggie went upstairs to get Rae. On her way back down I heard her say ‘Mummy is here to see you’ and it hit me. This is it. What if she doesn’t like me. What if I don’t like her (yes this does go through your head) and then she was here, sitting next to me on Maggies lap. And Rae just stared at me, no smile, just stared. I’ve since learnt that this is something Rae does all the time whenever she meets someone new so I now know it wasn’t personal. She likes to suss people out before she decides if she likes them and no amount of me coaxing ‘Say hi Rae’ ‘Smile Rae’ ‘Do SOMETHING Rae’ will make her be any different. Anyway, back to our meeting. The social worker didn’t stay long and left not long after, which I was relieved about because you feel like everyone is watching your every move and emotion. Maggie got a bottle ready for Rae and asked me if I wanted to feed her. I hesitated but then held my arms out. This is when we had our very first photo taken. Rae is wide eyed staring and I look a bit like I’m about to throw up. Eventually we relaxed and sat on the floor playing. I was only there for about 2 hours which was plenty long enough for my first visit. It’s an extremely emotional experience and it’s safe to say I spent the rest of the day switching between being on cloud 9 and wanting to cry in to a (very large) glass of wine. The next day was a lot more enjoyable. The sun was out and we went to the park. Maggie took photos of me pushing Rae on the swings and we both have the biggest smiles on our faces (so these are what I show people as our first photos together, the other one is tucked away in a box). Because we were getting on so well the initial plan of 10 days was reduced to 6 days as the social workers and foster parents felt we were ready for the transition of Rae coming to live with me.
One of the most common questions I get asked is ‘Did you fall in love straight away?’ Or ‘did she feel like yours from the minute you met her?’ And the simple answer is no. Yes she was cute and lovely and yes I felt different to how I feel when I meet my friends baby’s for the first time but it takes time to build a bond and I defy any adoptive parent to tell me they felt exactly the same at the first meeting to how they felt a year later.
So on June 16th, after me visiting Rae and her visiting my house, it was time to bring her home. This was the first time I cried. I’d been in the foster parents house for 15 minutes when the social workers said it was time to leave. They like to do it quick and not draw it out, I think for the benefit of the foster parents. Raes foster parents, by the way, are the most amazing people. It takes a special kind of person to be a foster parent and I think I might have had the best out there. They both work full time as well as fostering and also have 4 kids of their own, so in my eyes they are saints. It was very tearful and emotional. I felt like I was essentially taking their baby off them. They had raised her from birth to 8 months old and now she would never sleep at their house again. If someone tried to take Rae off me now there’d be blood shed so I can only imagine what they went through but like they said, they know what’s involved and its part and parcel of being a foster parent but I still don’t think that makes it any easier. Maggie came to the car with me and we strapped Raes car seat in and put all her stuff in the boot. Both of us were crying as we hugged and said goodbye. I got in the car and drove off, telling Rae ‘It’s just me and you now kid, let’s do this’