We mostly fostered children with disabilities...moving on to adults after a while, though still accepting children...but then we were asked would we take a newborn baby who was up for adoption...
And never people to turn down a challenge we said we would and the baby duly arrived a couple of days after birth...he was a fat and cheerful baby who never slept. And I do mean never slept...he'd doze off for a while...about twice a day...but he was awake for twenty-three hours out of twenty-hour and I was plain knackered...
We had Sky TV then and I watched so much drivel in the small hours of the morning while the baby laughed and giggled and had a bottle...I'd make strong coffee and fall asleep through sheer exhaustion while the baby wriggled about and demanded attention...now.
He went for his six week check-up and the Doctor thought I was fibbing when I said he was only six weeks old...you've reared a good one he said...he's far advanced for his age...what's your secret? And I, with one hand propping my eyelids open and the other trying to stop said child genius from squirming out of my grasp...said gallons of strong black coffee and dreadful cops and robbers on Sky TV...
The baby's new parents came to visit...then they went to stay in a local hotel for the night before the official handing over the following day...we liked them immediately though they both burst into floods of tears on seeing their baby for the first time and I hadn't thought about a box of tissues and had to hand over a toilet roll instead...
The following day they came back with their Social Worker and then the baby's Social Worker turned up and we did the proper handing over and the new Mum wept so much her contact lenses fell out and all of us were grubbing about the carpet to try to find them before they were squashed...
They went away with the biggest smiles on their faces and the Social Workers and I had a coffee heavily laced with Whiskey and sat back with ciggies and decided that baby had fallen on his feet.
The next baby was altogether different. She was the tiniest scrap...we had to go to the hospital under a Police escort and were pushed down dark passageways from the back entrance so as not to be seen by any member of her family loitering at the front doors.
She slept...I used to poke her at regular intervals but she still slept...feeding her was a nightmare because she just wasn't ever awake enough...the Midwife came every day and thought she'd been affected by the drugs her Mum had taken and we watched her like hawks...I bought a sling and carried her everywhere with me and then we played pass the baby with the endless visitors to the house we had in those days...
Eventually she surfaced and began to eat and to cry and wave her arms in the air...we fell hopelessly in love with her. She put on weight and began to thrive...the ladies who came to do the patterning exercises with our adopted daughter almost came to blows as to who would have the first cuddle...people who were virtual strangers to our house would swoop her up and smother her in kisses.
But the time was passing and she was six months old and then she had her first birthday and no sign of new parents for her...there were legal wrangles in courts of law and solicitors letters back and forth and we had endless meetings. The day came when her Social worker called to say they'd found new parents and could they come and visit...
We didn't care for them much...and I told the SW so and she said they were the best of the people who'd applied and it dawned on me we were jealous at the thought of letting her go to others...
Her handing over process was truly heartbreaking...she was eighteen months old and had been a part of our family since the very day she was born. We had a card from her new family the following Christmas and they were all grand and the baby was doing well.
That odd little baby that we had to sneak out of the hospital with burly Policemen at our side is now twenty-one years old...
The week following her departure I was asked would we take a newborn from one of the London boroughs...we'd been recommended apparently and our isolated position would be a great help because the Father was known to be armed and dangerous and wanted his child back.
I said I was sorry...but no.