“When Can I Go Back?”

Throughout the adoption process, we kept hearing about the “honeymoon period” that families usually experience shortly after little one has moved in. This essentially means that neither parents nor child know each other very well, so everyone are trying to be on their best behaviour to make the best impression. For the child there is also the fear of being “sent back”.

We always hoped that we would have as short a honeymoon period as possible. Sure, it would mean things are more difficult, but it also indicates that the child feels more safe and secure in the permanence of the new family. At the end of the day, what is a “honeymoon period” for the parents is a nightmare of anxiety for the child.

Well, in reality, we had no honeymoon period at all. In a previous post I described how the last day of intros went – we literally had to drag D kicking and screaming into our car. She cried herself to sleep that night, and it those first couple of weeks it seemed like every hour she would ask when she is going back to the foster carer’s.

In a way it was good that she felt safe and comfortable enough to express her grief, but it was very difficult. Not just because we were essentially being told that she doesn’t want to live with us (even if she didn’t really feel that way), but because by that point we had loved her, and it’s incredibly hard to see someone you love suffer the way she did.

There wasn’t much we could do about her pain. She wasn’t going back to her foster carer’s, and we had to remind her that over and over. The world that she knew, that she had lost again, wasn’t coming back. And it would be a while yet before she could get a chance to rebuild it.

At that point, all we could do is acknowledge her feelings and tell her that it’s all right to feel this way, and that we understand.

We said that it must be incredibly frustrating to her that nobody asked her if she wanted to leave her foster carer and move in with us. That she had lost her family when she moved in with the foster carer, and worked long and hard to build a new life at the foster carer’s. Now she had lost it all again.

And here she was, moving in with two people who she barely knew, missing all of the people who she did know, who loved her and she loved back. Of course it would be hard for her, it would be hard for anyone, and we are there for her. And her foster carer and family and her birth family still love her and think of her.

There was a moment when she would cry and we started speaking, and her crying subsided just enough for her to listen. And the more we said the softer the cry became, until she stopped crying, come out from behind the curtain or from under the table or from inside her closet, and calmed down.

The more time went by, the less frequent these episodes became. The grieving husband of Radio 5 Live’s podcaster Rachel Bland said that time doesn’t heal wounds as they say. But as time passes, there is more life around the big black hole of grief. When I heard him say that I felt that was so true for adoption as well. That grief will stay with our children forever, but the life they build with us will hopefully help them deal with it.

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