It was 16 years ago this week that I met my children, Sarah, Gracie and Ginger. It was the culmination, almost a year to the day, of us beginning the process of adopting.
That meeting wasn’t what I’d expected; in my imagination I’d anticipated a Walton’s moment, gushing feelings, embraces, tears and joy. The reality was far different it felt more like a slap. An jolt of awakening that this is really happening and I was going to be a dad.
Those first few weeks were, terrible feeling like I’d lost control of my self, ruined my life but unsure how to make it all ok. Great fantastic kids but strangers and no gushing love. I felt an unbearable scrutiny, everyone seemed to be watching; Social Workers, foster carers, friends, family and the BBC film crew**. I just didn't know how to raise my doubts so I embraced my attachment style, locked down my rising fear and kept going.
I was pretty sure I was ruining, not only my life, but the lives of these three little strangers. Too afraid to say, ’I’m not sure about this, could someone help me’, after all hadn’t I fought hard to prove I could do it? Questions about my age*, readiness, faith and motivation to take a sibling group of three had all been answered convincingly. But now perhaps it had all been a magnificent deceit of them and myself?
The next few weeks and months are a blur, new experiences and a slow shift from baby-sitting to parenting all set against the knot in my stomach.
Slowly, hour by hour, day by day and week by week I eased into this role of father. Riding the turbulence good and bad and at times hour by hour. Developing unique relationships with three little children. At difficult moments I’d think how today was easier than yesterday and this week was easer than last so perhaps tomorrow will be ok, perhaps in a year it'll feel ok. The knot eased the fear dissolved.
We did get there. I have grown into the role of dad, from early embarrassments of not even turning when my children shouted dad repeatedly to now,16 years later, still not sure what to do but probably good enough. Of course there are things I'd have done differently but that's the path of dads.
Not a week goes by when I don't see in a twitter feed news of someones impending introductions with their child and I confess to feel the icy fingers of terror and fear as well as the warmth of the blossoming love of 16 years ago.
*I was 27 years old.
**That's another story