How can I explain those early days of introductions?
It is like a series of still photos in my mind, punctuated by video clips: some silent, some with sound.
Unable to sleep, ironing at 5 am (while watching Poldark on repeat – there is something comforting about the Cornish landscape, the sun rising and setting over the craggy coastline and the pounding sea.)
Meeting Star, her smile, her running to me and shouting “Mummy” sitting on our laps and we are drawing her pictures.
Star uncertain, regularly looking to her foster carer for reassurance.
She knows something big is happening; but not what.
Star pushing the boundaries. Running out of the building towards a road, I catch her before she gets too far but my heart is pounding.
Taking her out for lunch but not knowing how to ask her what she wants to eat.
Wishing that someone had taught her to sign.
Meetings and more meetings, being watched, being spoken about.
Desperately missing Hannah and Ben.
Watching her nursery key worker, and then her foster carer unable to control their sorrow at saying goodbye to her…..
They don’t think I am good enough.
I don’t think I am good enough.
I am afraid.
What if I let her down?
They say we are her best chance.
What if our best isn’t good enough?
What if we fail her?
Star is stressed and she doesn’t understand what is happening.
She won’t drink, her skin is dry, her tummy distended, she is in pain.
I am in pain.
We talk, we pray, we seek advice.
We decide: the next day we plan a day that is best for Star and for us.
I have packed Hannah’s old wellies and Ben’s puddle jumpers.
Hunting for muddy puddles and jumping in them. Eating a piece of cake at a tea shop.
Her last night away from us. DH travels home to Hannah and Ben, our car loaded with all her worldly possessions.
I wait for the foster carer to collect me, she delays, and delays again. I feel stranded in a Godless place. I pray.
I climb in the foster carer’s car, Star is in the back seat already, her foster carer says she doesn’t understand what is happening, which is like a knife to my heart……then that long drive home.
And we arrive. Hannah and Ben are bursting with excitement and kindness. Hannah has made cakes to welcome her sister home.
The foster carer leaves.
Star is home.
I tuck Star into her bed for the first time. It is as if I am watching someone else doing it.
I think Star enjoys it when I sing …. ‘She has never heard a song about Jesus or a prayer before
So I sing and I sign, I don’t know if she understands me and it feels as though my heart is overwhelmed and close to breaking:
“Jesus loves me this I know,
For the Bible tells me so,
Little ones to him belong,
We are weak, but he is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me,
The Bible tells me so.”
A new day and another.
Dream like and strange as if watching myself in a movie.
Me playing with a little girl who is not mine, singing, trying to sign. Wondering if she understands. My children playing with their new sister. Dressing up. Going to the supermarket together. Cooking roast dinner, the children playing with DH in the garden.
Bedtime: her third night with us, as I tuck her in, Star moves her right index finger along the index finger and thumb of her left hand.
She is signing “J.”
She is asking me to sing “Jesus loves me” to her.
So I sing. She smiles. I smile, we understand each other.
And I have sung that song almost every night since.
Three weeks later. The mist is lifting. The social workers allow me to take her to our Mum’s and toddlers bible study group.
She runs into my friend’s house to join the other children and the toys, as if she had done this many times before.
After tea and biscuits, I sign to her and say “Mummy is going to read the Bible now.”
Sat on the sofa, biscuit in hand, she turns to me and signs back:
“Yes, Jesus loves me.”
Yes, my dear Star, you are right. Everything and everyone around you has changed in the last month. And yet, you have managed to understand the most important thing of all:
“Yes, Jesus loves you, ……the Bible tells me so.”