Laying The Foundation
By Adam and Pauline
“…if we work towards laying a foundation for a relationship that is grounded in trust and transparency, then things will fall in place.”
The exact moment is etched in my memory forever. It was 2:45pm on 16 November 2014. As I was sitting at my desk in the office, intensely working on an important presentation, my handphone rang.
At first, I was inclined to reject the call so as not to disrupt my task at hand. But something prompted me to pick it up.
We were already familiar with TOUCH Adoption Services, having worked closely with them to prepare for our Home Study Report a year ago. So when the caller said she was calling from TOUCH, I sensed something big was in the works.
Destiny On The Line
In hindsight, that phone call was not just any call – it was my destiny calling and there was no way I would have missed it for anything in the world.
As it turns out, there was a potential match of a 10-month-old baby girl for us, but it was still too early to confirm anything. It was a “don’t get your hopes up just yet” kind of call to find out if we were interested.
We definitely were! My wife, Pauline, and I had been waiting eagerly to hear those words for over a year now. Externally, we had gone about our lives as normally as we could, but internally, it had been an emotional rollercoaster. From hope and yearning to impatience to mental resolve, all the spectrum of emotions ebbed and flowed within us every day.
At that moment, when I picked up that phone call, all those emotions came to a standstill. After a few cursory questions, I said, “Yes”.
The first thing I did after I hung up was to call Pauline to tell her the news. My mind was racing with excitement and apprehension. To this day, I have no idea what happened to that important presentation I had been working on!
The next few days were a mad rush of frenzied activity and decision-making. It was by far the biggest decision we had to make as a couple. It was critical to keep our senses about us and not succumb to the emotional enormity of the event.
We found an extremely helpful partner in TOUCH Adoption Services whose staff hand-held us through the entire process. They guided us on both the practical and emotional fronts, making sure we did not feel overwhelmed while ensuring we covered the legal bases and keeping us fully aware of what to expect at each step.
Love Arrived In An Instant
Exactly four days after that fateful phone call, little Nora was sleeping with us on our bed! Within hours, we had totally fallen in love with her.
There is a reason why nature allows a nine-month gestational period for the human species. Besides the obvious reasons of biological growth, this timeframe is crucial for parents to mentally prepare for a new member to live amongst them and come to terms with the fact that their lives will never be the same again.
While most parents had nine months, Pauline and I only had four days to prepare. Hence, it was head-first into on-the-job-training for us. We were determined to get it right from the start. The pre- and post-adoption talks that we attended, along with literature about adoptive parenting, gave us some key insights on how to proceed.
The first few months were as much as an adjustment for Nora as much as it was for us. Even though she was not able to articulate her feelings at that age, the sudden change in her environment would certainly have had a big impact on her.
As such, we focused on getting two key things right:
*Providing A Comfortable Environment
Our first priority was to create a physically familiar and comfortable environment for Nora, so that she would not feel too displaced from her known surroundings.
To do this, we did our best to learn about her habits and daily routine from her birth family and tried to replicate as much of those as possible. This included her favourite foods, toys, and music. We also placed her pictures around the house and started using some of the baby words she relied on to express herself. We wanted to show her that she could still communicate in familiar ways.
For my wife and I, this meant our daily lives had completely changed in an instant! Of course, we could not have been happier and considered ourselves fortunate to even have this opportunity.
*Building Unbreakable Bonds
We also recognised the importance of creating an immediate bond with her, as that would lay the foundation for our relationship in the future.
“Bonding time” became the most important part of the day. As the mother, my wife naturally took the lead in this, but I believe the father also has a critical role to play in making this new and wonderful relationship work.
Given Nora’s age, verbal communication was not an option, so the entire process had to be done behaviourally where she “felt” the bond more than she “understood” it. My wife (who took an extended period off from work) spent almost the entire day with Nora, taking care of her and essentially becoming the most familiar person in her life.
I, on the other hand, was her designated “fun partner”, ensuring that our time together was active and entertaining. We made the most of evenings and weekends. There was a different activity planned for each day, involving toys, colouring books, photo-taking sessions, playground activities and outdoor strolls.
Nora showed a special fascination for the swimming pool at an early age and thus the kiddie pool became out regular haunt. My personal favourite bonding time with her was when I prepared her for bedtime – 20 minutes every evening, carrying her, hugging her and singing lullabies until she fell asleep. Very soon, through the physical presence and the amount of time spent together, our little family started experiencing a shared state-of-mind and feelings of joy.
Creating New Memories
Six months later, we settled into a routine in our personal and social life with Nora. Being an adoptive parent is a blessing that few have a chance to experience, and Pauline and I are thankful to be counted amongst those.
The people around us – family, friends and partners (such as the staff at TOUCH Adoption Services) – play a very crucial role in determining the initial success of this life-changing event. However, at the end of the day, it ultimately boils down to the parents and child to make this work, with the greater onus being on the parents.
A part of the secret lies in having unshakable faith in the bond that has been created – one that is not defined by biology (nature) but rather, by nurture. This includes nurturing a sense of belonging and the ageless human spirit of kinship.
For our little family, we have just embarked on this incredible journey, which (I hope) will last a lifetime. We will certainly face challenges and pitfalls, as every family does (I am told that the tough questions start when the child hits three), but if we work towards laying a foundation for a relationship that is grounded in trust and transparency, then things will fall into place.
Through all of this, we must not forget to have fun and create happy memories as we go along. This entire experience has been an incredible blessing and we count every moment as a gift. We intend to plan for the future while cherishing the present.
In the words of master Oogway, from the Kung Fu Panda series: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift – that is why it is called the present”.
We most certainly got our present – our little Nora.
“Laying The Foundation” is one of the many stories from Our Very Own 2 by TOUCH Family Services, a compilation of stories written by adoptive parents, adopted children, birth parents and adoption workers. To find out more or to order a copy, please email [email protected].