One of the things I found especially difficult when Molly arrived were the comments from other people who we knew in passing through school, nursery or playgroups. I lost count of the number of people who said 'I hadn't realised you had another one' as if I had kept Molly shut away for the first 13 months of her life. Besides the surprised reactions people would give when I explained that we were a foster family, everything in me wanted to scream 'we did have another one; her name was Emilie' but I knew that this was not an appropriate reaction. Instead I explained as little as I needed to and left people to come to their own conclusions. The most asked question was 'will you keep her'. 'Keep her'....as if she was a stray puppy. I found it incredibly difficult to explain to people that Molly was a short term placement, that she would be looking for an adoptive family and that that adoptive family would be very closely matched to her and her needs to avoid placement breakdown. I explained that, if asked, we would always talk about caring for a child long term but that we had been advised to expect Molly's placement to be about 6 months old, that we would care for her and love her like our own for as long as she was with us and would support her to move on to her adoptive placement when one was found for her. Often people would mention that they would be unable to foster as they would not want to see the child go. At first I wondered if we were hard hearted because we were preparing ourselves for Molly to move on at some point. But as I stood in her room cradling her as she fell asleep, watching her mouth open and close gently as she breathed, feeling her close her hand around mine and finally start to relax as I held her, I would find myself praying - begging God - not for Molly to stay but for the strength to be able to move her on when the right family was found. I realised through experience that we desperately wanted to do what was best for Molly and that if this involved moving her on we would trust that the strength and courage to do so would come. We knew it would hurt.
While Molly stayed with us we had to get used to a seriously reduced amount of sleep. She really struggled with attachment and was terrified that we would leave her. She would cry on and off throughout the night simply testing that we were still there. She would relax as soon as one of us went into her room and placed our hand on her chest. This would even make her smile and all through this her eyes remained tightly shut as if she had never properly woken up. This would play out throughout each night until we went to get her up in the morning. Although the amount that this happened reduced as she became more secure in the placement here, her sleep disturbances still continued and we often would have shocked baby sitters asking us how we manage to sleep through it every night. My answer? Ear plugs! We also invested in a Sleep Sheep which was, without a doubt, worth every single penny. It was a white noise machine nestled inside a toy sheep. Molly could occupy it herself and choose from one of 4 sounds. Unfortunately for us, her favourite sound was the sound of a heart beat which took a lot of getting used to and a lot of panic control on my part!
I was juggling monthly social worker visits and facilitating parenting courses. Once again I felt like my time was structured around something constructive other than just being a mummy. Although I felt incredibly busy and at times overwhelmed, I felt like I had a purpose again. I spent what little free time I had researching how to build secure attachment bonds with Molly and learning about how best to support her. I even started running again - something that I had always enjoyed but had been unable to do whilst trying for babies, being pregnant and undergoing fertility treatment. I felt like I had a new lease of life. None of this came without burdens, however, and I found being open and honest with social workers, when I wanted to come across as professional and capable, difficult. Fostering is an incredibly emotional profession and you take on all of the 'emotional baggage' of the child you are caring for through allowing yourself to be the emotional outlet for the pain they are suffering in addition to dealing with feelings of your own that arise through the challenges of caring for a vulnerable child. I hadn't prepared myself for how valuable supervision with our social worker (and my ongoing counselling) would be.
In addition to adjusting to being foster carers, we were also still coming to terms with our lengthy decision to stop trying for a baby. This, like everything else, was a process and is not something that can be accepted over night. In February 2013 I was seen at the recurrent miscarriage clinic where a large number of tests were carried out to try and investigate what was happening. A number of weeks later I was due to collect my results and see my new gynaecologist. I did not sleep the night before and was incredibly anxious. Amazingly, on the morning of my appointment I received a text message from a good friend who had also experienced recurrent pregnancy loss. She was in the area for some training which had been cancelled and wanted to know if I'd like to meet up. She agreed to come to the appointment with me as a extra listening ear and we went for lunch together before hand...enjoying the delicacies of the hospital canteen. My gynaecologist explained all of my results to me and we discussed the prognosis. They were unsure exactly how to prevent me miscarrying due to very inconclusive results but thought that by trying to regulate my menstrual cycle to help prevent the premature or late release of egg(s) at ovulation, timing ovulation very carefully and then giving me progesterone in the second half of my cycle and HCG injections in early pregnancy I might stand a chance of carrying a healthy pregnancy. The next step was to increase a medication I was already on, metformin, which had been proven to regulate menstrual cycles in women with PCOS. Once my cycle had returned they would introduce clomid again in the hope that I might respond to it with the additional metformin as well. We would then go from there .... Trial and error. None of this, however, could prevent the clotting problems and placental abruptions I was suffering in later pregnancy. I was due to return to see the consultant three months later.
As I was taking all of this in I started to cry.....a mixture of being totally overwhelmed and being utterly relieved at having a plan.
I returned home to relay all of this to John and to try and process it. I was so relieved to have a plan and to have the date to return to the hospital in my diary. I was relieved at being properly listened to and being given the increased dose of metformin which I knew had already started to make a difference since I'd started taking the lower dose four months earlier. However, there didn't seem to be a solution to the problem and neither John or I were happy with the uncertainty and the fact that there was no real way to prevent me from miscarrying again and certainly no way to prevent another late loss. The more we talked about it the more we began to wonder what the right decision was. John was terrified of losing me and we were both very uneasy at the thought of putting Sam, Molly and any other foster children through the pain and trauma of me experiencing another pregnancy loss.
Over the next few days, weeks and months I prayed that if this was it for us; if we were to put the dream of having another biological baby on hold that this would be made very clear to us and that the desire would be taken from me.
And I waited.....