Monthly Archives: September 2013

Bringing the baby home

I am sure every adoptive parent will have a story about the moment they brought their child or baby home for the first time. We had to bring the baby back by train from London to Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  The trains were quite slow in those days.  This is our story.

We adopted Sam long ago, but I can remember every detail of our emotions, although not the legal details.  Technically I suppose we were Sam’s foster parents.  It would be a few months before the actual adoption order could be granted.

Once we had signed the legal papers, our social worker bundled us into her car.  She was anxious that we should be able to catch the 2 pm train to Newcastle.  The traffic was horrendous and we nearly did not make it.  She helped us clamber onto the train before the whistle went.

We sank down at a table, where a young couple were seated.  The woman had a scarf round her head.  I was dismayed to hear that she was suffering from mumps and was going home, to bed.  Since baby Sam was delicate, we thought we should search for somewhere else to sit.  The train was packed but in the end D. found us somewhere.  We had to walk through the train with the baby, the carrycot and all the paraphernalia.  After about four carriages we reached the vacant seats.

The next challenge was feeding Sam.  The foster mother had given us very careful instructions and notes about his feed. She had provided us with two made-up bottles.  I had always breast-fed our babies but I imagined that bottle-feeding would be easy.  Not so!

We had been told that Sam would have to be woken up to feed – nothing like the feed on demand routine we had always adopted.  Apparently premature babies might need a lot of coaxing to drink and of course they needed the full and correct amount. We woke Sam at the appointed hour but it was disheartening at first, because each time I removed the bottle, the milk was still up to the same mark.  How to get the milk from the bottle into the baby?  That was the question.

The process took some time but was eventually successful. Phew!  I leaned back, exhausted.

Even more imprinted on my memory is when we presented our two daughters with their new baby brother.  They approached him with awe and kissed him gently.  They were amazed at his tiny dark curls and tiny fingers.  They stroked his little brown cheeks.

We were about to be a family of five – a multiracial family.  And each one of us was at the start of a new and wonderful chapter in our lives.

On first seeing our baby son. And three cheers for short-term foster parents!

I imagine that most adoptive parents fall in love with the baby they hope to adopt from the first moment they set eyes on that baby.  We certainly did.

We had arranged with the adoption society that we would travel down from Tyneside where we lived, to London.  If we “took to” the baby we would have to sign several legal papers and would then be allowed to take him back with us.  Perhaps a more positive way of saying this was that if we felt we could bond with and love the baby, then we could proceed.  We certainly felt that we bonded immediately.  It was a long journey from Newcastle upon Tyne to London in the 1970s, because there were no really fast trains, so quite an adventure lay ahead of the three of us.

We travelled down by coach the night before, carefully stowing a collapsible carrycot in the luggage section of the coach. We had done as much preparation as possible back home.  An important part of the preparation was to explain everything clearly to our two young daughters.  We hoped to bring back a baby brother for them.  We would send a message via their babysitter if everything had gone to plan and if we were indeed coming home with a baby.

We had been told that the foster mother was one of the most experienced that the adoption society used.  She had been taking the baby up to a Central London hospital for check-ups several times a week, as he had been born many weeks premature.  He was now declared fit to travel and join his new family.

I felt quite nervous as we neared the house, but the sun came out from behind a cloud and everything suddenly looked bright and cheerful, so I began to relax.  Then we saw somebody standing outside her front door. She was holding a tiny bundle wrapped in a shawl and it was baby Sam!

We marvelled at the baby’s tiny curls. He had a lovely little face.  He was eleven weeks old but still very small and still looked premature.  I felt for his young birth mother who had decided that the best thing for his future was to have him adopted.  We knew that we would love him and do our best for him.

The foster mother showed us where two cots lay side by side.  She said that she often had two babies at a time.  However, when a baby had been born prematurely, she just had one, as they needed more careful attention.  She let me hold the baby.  It was a most moving moment to feel him in my arms.  Eventually I handed him over to D.  Baby Sam was very sleepy.  He did not open his eyes for more than a minute, but we both felt that he looked totally adorable.

In another blog I shall describe our journey back home.  At this point however I just want to sing the praise of short-term foster mothers, who fulfil such a vital function in the life of many babies and children in the care system.

Our foster mother said she had already fostered over four hundred babies and was trying to retire, but at the moment, the adoption society wanted her to continue with babies that needed special care.  We were able to visit her some years later, when Sam was about five years old.  She was lovely to him and pleased to meet his big sisters.  Foster parents like that are the salt of the earth.

Our History of adoption

We adopted two children in the 1970s. Social work policy has changed over the years, so why am I starting a blog about adoption today?

I read a statement recently by a successful author.  He said “When you write it is important to do it while you have enthusiasm for the idea”.  I have enthusiasm for discussing multiracial issues and the subject of adoption.

Not long ago the issue of adoption was discussed at length in the media.  There has been renewed concern that black and ‘mixed-race’ children are still finding it hard to be placed in adoptive families. I was shocked.  I had been busy getting on with life and assumed that black children were now being placed with black and mixed-race families.  I had seen advertisements over the years appealing for adopters. I had met a black mother who has adopted a black child, but of course that is only a sample of one.

I have written a Memoir about our family and I am hoping to get it published.  In the Memoir I have recalled our struggles and joys and felt grateful that we had such excellent social workers.  They were especially helpful in aiding our second adopted son to move in and settle into our family. He was nearly four years old at the time.

We now have four grandchildren.  One of them is black.  We are all part of a multiracial family and this enriches our lives.