The first few days went like clockwork. We were not allowed to introduce her to friends or family yet, as she had to get used to us and her new surroundings first. Although we were desperate for her to meet everyone, we understood the reasons behind it. We knew there was still a chance she would be returned home to her birth mother, so we tried to manage our expectations and think only about Billie.
Caring for a toddler means you get into a rhythmic routine pretty quickly. Change, eat, play, sleep, repeat. We were so lucky: Billie was super cute and so very easy to look after. She was always chatting, using a language that she had made up, mixed with a few real words and sounds, always pointing to things and asking what they were. It was a sigh of relief to have the whole weekend with no phone calls or social workers. Just us.
Monday came all too quickly and suddenly we had to get ourselves and Billie ready and into the car for a meeting, as well as something called a ‘looked-after child review’. That first morning seemed like a military operation, with the alarm sounding and us all having to be ready to leave the house. I suddenly realised the amount of ‘stuff’ you need with a toddler and I didn’t want to be caught out by not having something crucial with me, especially as this would be the first time everybody had seen us together.
I’d checked and double-checked the bags, but hadn’t had time to eat any breakfast, so was ratty and nervous in the car. ‘Must be more prepared,’ I thought to myself.
The social workers (ours and Billie’s) met with us to go through what had been happening and to raise any pressing points or questions they needed to ask. This was really just a meeting to see how we were all doing now that the care plan had been carried out and Billie was starting to settle in with us.
Billie ran around and happily entertained the whole room, used to being on display from such an early age. I had to change her nappy in the middle of it and I felt like all eyes were on me as I picked up the changing bag and we headed to the loos. I didn’t want to seem too anxious, but I also didn’t want them to think I was cocky about it all. After all, she had only been in my care for a few days. I felt like they would be judging everything.
Angela had given me a brand-new changing bag that she had been given (and hadn’t used) and I was scared that they would think that I hadn’t listened to anything they had said about being very low-key and keeping everything the same. It was just a bag, but I had really wanted to use it; filling it with nappies, wipes, a change of clothes, snacks and a book had brought me so much joy. Yet here I was, almost covering it up so that nobody saw and thought I hadn’t kept to the rules. Nobody did see. Nobody batted an eyelid; there was too much paperwork to get through and too many questions to be answered concerning Billie’s wellbeing. I would get used to these meetings and they would become almost second nature over the coming months, but for now, it was all so new to me and I was terrified to put a foot wrong. I didn’t need to worry, everyone had confidence in me – I had confidence in myself somewhere too, I just needed to find it.
This is an extract from Meant To Be by Lisa Faulkner, out 26 June 2019.