Sunday, 31 March 2013

Velcro baby

Over the last week Jack-Jack has decided that he only wants me, and would happily be glued to my side every minute of every day. This is excellent news for his attachment to us, but isn't the easiest to deal with as it really excludes Esmeralda. He cries in her arms and reaches out for me, and if I'm holding him but attempt to pass him to Esmeralda he turns his face away and grips on like a limpet to my arm with both hands!

Once this had been going on a couple of days I was starting to feel really guilty about it, as I felt somehow that I was leaving Esmeralda out, so we had a chat about it. Esmeralda confessed that she herself was surprised that she didn't feel jealous as she realises that it's a huge positive step for Jack-Jack, but she is finding it a strange adjustment to feel like the traditional "dad" in the family - going out to work all week and coming home to find that the baby only wants "mummy".

We use slings and carriers a lot so that we can give Jack-Jack the closeness when he wants it but still have hands free to do jobs around the house (we also use them outside the house, and Jack-Jack definitely prefers the sling to the buggy at the moment), but there are certain things that whilst they may be possible to do carrying a baby (going to the loo, having a shower etc.) it just isn't appropriate as a foster carer.

We're giving Jack-Jack as many cuddles as he wants whenever possible to build attachment and trust, but it's tricky especially when Esmeralda is out at work. He doesn't like me to be in a different part of the room to him, and going out of sight even for a second is like the end of the world. Not even CBeebies can distract him from being distraught by the fact that I've nipped to the kitchen to wash my hands after changing his nappy or that I'm hanging out laundry in plain sight on the other side of the room. It's taking some getting used to, as he's spent much of the last 12 weeks being fairly ambivalent about us. I love him dearly, we've been working on this attachment for three months and all these cuddles are really lovely, but it does make me feel bad when he's dissolving into tears just because I have to go for a wee!

Friday, 29 March 2013

Holiday time

So, we haven't had a chance to speak to our social worker Jane about our decision to be open to another placement as she's been on annual leave, but Jack-Jack's move into his own room has gone very smoothly. The only slight negative is that it does take us slightly longer to respond to him in the night - I think having someone scream half a meter away from your ear wakes you up far more effectively than sounds through a baby monitor, but the positives far outweigh this! The purchase of a blackout Gro blind for the window has helped even more now the evenings and early mornings are getting lighter, and last night he slept nearly 11 hours before waking for milk! We're not kidding ourselves that this will happen every night, but the odd unbroken 5 or 6 hours of sleep is doing wonders for Esmeralda and me.

We've just booked our first trip away as foster carers - we're going to Center Parcs for a weekend! Jack-Jack will enjoy going for walks, watching the wildlife and going swimming, and we've booked him into a session of soft play for crawlers. There isn't much specifically for the under-1s, but we were really impressed with the list of activities (although gulped a bit at the prices...) for slightly older toddlers upwards - I can see us going back regularly in the future with whatever children we have with us at the time!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Onward and upward

It's now nearly 11 weeks since Jack-Jack was placed with us, and this week Esmeralda and I have tentatively decided that we would be open to another baby placement. When Jack-Jack arrived we knew that he needed to be our only focus for the first couple of months, but his attachment to us is gradually increasing day by day (his recent illness seems to have helped push this along a little bit), his physical confidence is growing and we think that a much younger baby (maybe 0-4 months) might be a good fit for our family. Even though Jack-Jack is still young, we think it's as good a time as ever to introduce a tiny one as we're still used to getting up in the night multiple times, we're still sterilising bottles and making up formula etc. and we don't have a busy schedule already in place. We also don't want to be chasing two children in two different directions just yet so pre-mobile is good! We'll discuss it with our social worker Jane before we call the duty team to let them know, and see what she thinks. It doesn't mean the call is going to come immediately, but we've got the space, and we have all the equipment ready in case we have another short notice surprise. The only thing we're not looking forward to is working out two different contact schedules, but that may be a bonus as when each child is at contact the other will have one on one time.

We're spending this evening and the next few days moving furniture around to turn our study into a bedroom for Jack-Jack so that he can move out of our room. A younger baby would need to sleep in our room and we wouldn't want Jack-Jack to feel usurped by a newcomer, and we actually think he may sleep better in his own room as he won't be disturbed by us coming up to bed or turning over in the night etc. Plus he's been congested with teething recently and has been snoring so loudly it's forced me to sleep in the spare room! Esmeralda could sleep through a tornado so is blissfully unaware. Lady currently sleeps in the study, and in order to move her giant crate downstairs we've had to shuffle all the furniture around there too - Jack-Jack won't recognise it when he wakes up in the morning!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Poorly baby

Jack-Jack has discovered how to roll his Rs, and it's his absolute favourite thing to do. Esmeralda finds this hilarious as I can't roll my Rs but she can, so the two of them have spent many happy moments together trilling at me gleefully. He also does it as he's dropping off to sleep, so it's like listening to a little bird on the baby monitor!

We're just coming to the end of Jack-Jack's first proper illness with us. We've had the odd congested nose and the mild case of the chicken pox, but this week Jack-Jack came down with gastroenteritis.  He's missed two contact sessions which his social worker wasn't at all pleased about, but Esmeralda was firm on the phone and just said that we weren't sending him - there was no way he was well enough to travel. We've felt so sorry for him - he's been utterly miserable with a high fever and has barely slept at all for the last 72 hours. I had D&V yesterday too which left Esmeralda in charge. It made us even more in awe of single parents/carers than we were already - I have no idea how I would have looked after a poorly Jack-Jack on my own whilst feeling so poorly myself!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Contact and dancing dogs

I can't believe that Jack-Jack has lived here over two months already - he'll be 9 months old next week! It feels like he's so close to standing up without support, so I wouldn't be surprised if he was an early walker. We'll have to babyproof up higher, but at least he'll toddle a bit slower than he can crawl to start off with, so he won't be quite as into everything!

We had a fantastic supervision session with our social worker Jane on Tuesday and told her about various concerns we have about Jack-Jack's progress and behaviour (mostly around reactions to contact, but also some general concerns) that we think it's important for the decision makers in his case to know about. As Jane said during the session, only foster carers see the child 24 hours a day, the social worker is never going to see many (if any) challenging behaviours during their visits, so they take our observations seriously as they're vital for court hearings/review meetings. We have a meeting with Jack-Jack's social worker on Tuesday, and she'll have hopefully spoken to Jane by then so that we can talk through things in a bit more detail. We do feel like some positive steps are being taken to improve the situation for Jack-Jack, they just seem to be happening far too slowly to have any effect yet.

Jack-Jack had his first "full" week of contact this week - all three arranged sessions went ahead for the first time. He had various reactions before and after the sessions (sadly none of them positive - our recording notes in the evening on contact days are huge compared to just a short paragraph on other days), and is completely shattered tonight.

We're all going to Crufts this weekend which will be good fun - Jack-Jack absolutely loves Lady, so I think the "discover dogs" section will be a hit, and we will probably try to watch a bit of agility or heelwork to music. It might inspire us to try and train Lady to dance with us, but it's more likely that we'll just buy her lots of treats!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Standing up for himself

We've had some tough times over the last few days and nights - Jack-Jack seems to be working through some very big emotions, a lot of which is manifesting as anger. We've had a fair few smacks, kicks and scratches to the face, as well as some extremely intense and prolonged screaming. Sometimes at 2am I feel guilty that we're probably waking the neighbours up, but then I tell myself that it's not like we can rationalise with an 8 month old, remind them to use their indoor voice and then ask them to draw a picture about their feelings.

Today we had a milestone - Jack-Jack pulled himself up to a stand! I missed it - he was happily sat by the stair gate in the living room, I looked away for maybe 10 seconds, looked back and he was standing up holding onto the bars! I thought for a moment that I must have stood him up there, but realised I hadn't, so I did what any loving, proud parent/carer would do - I squealed with excitement, and then immediately sat him down again to check that it wasn't a fluke. It wasn't! He even sat down and stood up a third time by himself just to prove the point! I then thought that Esmeralda should be sharing in this momentous occasion too, so I sat him down again, waited expectantly and had the video camera poised to record... but the moment had passed. He shot me a look, yawned, and crawled off to his pop-up dinosaur toy, where he proceeded to pop all the dinosaurs down for the first time, one after the other.

He fell asleep without any fuss at all at bedtime tonight - it's tiring work being so awesome.