For National Adoption Week 5 – 11th November, Alexandra Brown tells us about meeting her daughter for the first time.
I remember the day we met our daughter so clearly, it’s as if it happened just a few minutes ago, so vivid I can almost touch it. She was lying on a blanket in her foster carer’s sitting room wearing a vibrant yellow floral sundress, which looked beautiful against her tanned skin, it was summertime, the windows were open and a shaft of sun beamed through, giving the room a luminous glow, which I know sounds a touch mythical but this is exactly how I remember it.
As I knelt down to stroke the back of her tiny hand and say hello, she turned to me and smiled – she recognized my voice. We had recorded a selection of bedtime stories for QT’s foster carer to play to help smooth the transition from her care to ours, and I truly believe it was beneficial; it was as if QT knew us.
I picked her up and remember holding her close to me, stroking her forehead as I looked into her eyes, and when she held my eye contact and her foster carer thoughtfully left us alone for a few minutes, I whispered ‘hello’ and thanked her for choosing me to be her mummy. You see, a Buddhist friend had told me that we choose our parents, I haven’t worked out yet why QT chose us, I’m just so utterly thrilled she did.
We spent the following week, looking after QT in her foster carer’s home, travelling back and forth every day, a two hour trip each way, to be there when she woke up in the morning right through to when she went to sleep at night. We fed her, bathed her, changed her, played with her, read to her, bonded with her – it was intense, exciting, nerve-wracking, exhausting and completely overwhelming in equal measure.
QT was a wee dote, as my Irish husband would say, but being in somebody else’s home where you can’t relax for a single second, is truly exhausting. I remember going to the bathroom, just so I could lock the door and sit for a few minutes, alone, to think and breathe, without having to have a permanent smile on my face, or worry if I was ‘doing it right’. QT’s foster carer is a wonderful woman, kind, generous and patient, she literally taught us how to look after QT, from how to change her nappy to how to make her bottle and I will always be grateful to her for that. She adores QT, loved and cherished her from the very minute she was called to the hospital to collect her, a few hours after her birth, I’ll always be grateful to her for that too. Even now, just thinking about QT being alone for that time in between makes me cry.
Towards the end of the week, we were allowed to take QT out on our own and it was amazing, even if we did drive at around ten miles per hour, scared in case something happened to her in the car. All the while marveling at how we we’d been given such a precious gift, it took me best part of the following year to actually believe that she really was our daughter and that nobody was going to change their mind and say that we weren’t suitable after all, that’s how surreal it was. We went to the seaside, and I remember feeling so utterly content, and proud whenever someone stopped to say how cute she was, which happened a lot. QT loves being noticed, she’s a natural entertainer and even as a baby she liked to smile and wave at anyone who looked her way, progressing now to ‘hello’ or on occasion a cheeky ‘what are you looking at’ or even ‘don’t worry, everything will be OK’ said to a woman who looked sad by the deli counter in Tesco.
When the week ended, we loaded up the car, literally… QT’s foster carer gave us boxes full of clothes, toys, her favourite food, Calpol, Sudocream, formula, nappies, wipes, new bottles – just about everything she needed for the next few months. There were also presents, a keepsake box and a beautiful memory book containing information about her birth family, her hospital bracelet and photos of our first week together, QT’s foster carer had captured every moment, and I’m very happy to say that I was grinning like a loon in every single one of them…
Alexandra Brown is an author and columnist from Brighton. Her first novel, Cupcakes At Carringtons will be published by Harper (HarperCollins) on January 17th 2013 and is available now to pre-order from Amazon.co.uk.