Our Adoption Adventure
My husband Tom and I have always, up until recently, done everything by ‘the book’. We dated five years, married, bought a house, got a dog and the next obvious step was to start a family. Tom had assumed this part of our life would be straightforward as well, but I had other intentions for us. Even before meeting my husband I had always felt that I would choose adoption when the time came. The tricky bit would be to find a partner that would get on board with my plan. I had mentioned it to Tom at various points throughout our relationship but we had never delved particularly deep into the subject as it was always so far into the future.
In January 2017 we began discussing the prospect of starting a family. I knew I would have my work cut out for me. While we had not spoken at length about adopting, Tom had made it clear that he would prefer to have a birth child to begin with and that we could consider adopting later on - you know, after we had become seasoned parents who knew what we were doing (cue raucous laughter). While Tom had offered a compromise, he still had concerns - would he have the ‘Dad Gene’?; could he love someone else’s child?; there are so many unknowns about an adopted child’s past, how much could we handle?
So we left it for a few months, well, at least Tom did. I was quietly researching adoption in the background patiently waiting for the time to make my case. Oddly enough, it was Milo, our Border terrier puppy that swung it for me. One day, I found Tom and Milo cuddling on the sofa. As Tom gazed into Milo’s eyes quietly telling him how much he loved him, I struck. “If you love Milo this much and he’s not even the same species, just think how much you could love a human’. That same afternoon I was on the phone to the Family Finding Team in our borough and we began our adoption journey in August 2017.
The next few months went quickly and slowly at the same time. I had anticipated the process would take years to complete, but we became a family well within a year. We had a link by November 2017, met the children in February 2018 and they were home with us by March 2018. The whole process took seven months, less than a full term pregnancy.
We found the reaction from friends and family when we told them of our plans ranged from dumfounded to excitement for us. Many couldn’t understand why we would do this as a conscious first choice. I was asked a lot about my fertility and was reminded of ‘my child bearing years’ and how they were dwindling (which made for awkward dinner table chat). There was concern around whether or not Tom and I had thought this through enough and were we ready to parent children who had so much that we could never know about them. We knew at the time that these comments were made out of genuine love for us but they all fed into the exact reasons why we had chosen to adopt. Why should the only people that adopt be those that cannot physically have children of their own? I would challenge you to speak to any person that has adopted and they will tell you that the love and connection they have for their child is second to none, us included.
During the adoption process in England, prospective couples attend Stage 1 and 2 workshops in groups of about 20 people where we had the pleasure of meeting some truly wonderful people. Out of the 10 couples attending, Tom and I were the only ones there who had not had issues with infertility at both workshops. This was one of the most humbling experiences we have had to date. I have had close friends that have experienced troubles conceiving, miscarriages, as well as the gamut of IVF but had all come out with the end result they had hoped for, a baby (or two!). To be surrounded by people who had been through so much, emotionally and physically, and still be so open about the experiences that had led to this point in their lives and the positivity they felt about the future left me in nothing short of awe. I realised that first day that I had always taken my fertility for granted. I felt a pang of guilt for having the audacity to be there, but the guilt quickly fell away as we all became a room of prospective adopters excited about what the future would hold for each of us.
Roll onto November when we were told about our children. They were not technically up for adoption yet, but it was most likely that their care plan would end in placement being their next step. The only information we were given was that there was a boy and a girl, both under 5, both enjoyed the outdoors, were very engaging and super cute. We put our interest in writing and waited to hear back after their final court date had taken place. That five-minute conversation was effectively our pee stick. Whilst away in Palm Springs over Christmas (unbeknownst to us our last holiday abroad for awhile) we heard back from our Social Worker that the children were, indeed, going to be put up for adoption and would we like to read the information that was now available. Over the next few days we poured over every word and picture that the documents contained - we could not get enough, it was surreal to read about and see pictures of children that could be ours in a few short months. To be honest, we knew from the get go that they were for us and we were for them, similar to how I just inherently knew that Tom and I were right for each other all those years ago. We had a visit from the children’s Social Worker to sign off on the match, which she did. To continue the metaphor, I would liken this to the sonogram where the doctor says you can start telling a wider circle of people.
It was decided that Introductions would begin the first week of March, with us briefly meeting the children ahead of time in February to ensure the match was, in fact, a good one. Introductions started a few weeks after where we spent just over a week getting to know the children in their foster home, days out and then in our home. The days seemed to go by in a flash but dragged as well. We got home every evening exhausted but too excited to go to sleep straight away and would talk for hours about what had happened that day. Eventually the day came where we packed them up in the car and drove them to their new home. The days that followed were a complete and utter blur. I can look back now and say were just surviving day to day, we had brought two children into our lives who needed more help both emotionally, physically and academically than we could have ever imagined. It was so hard.
Our son struggled to regulate his emotions, which often led to the worst tantrums I have ever seen. Our daughter, who was two and half at the time of moving in, was like a baby. We only spent a week in their previous environment but from what we saw, a lot of this behavior had stemmed from the way they had been managed in their foster home. I’m so proud to say that they have come on leaps and bounds in all areas. What they needed, just like all children, was a stable home where they were given the attention and opportunities they needed to grow. I shudder to think what could have happened if they stayed in the system and continued to receive the level of care that they were afforded before coming to us.
I wouldn’t say my motherhood is much different from ‘the norm’ except that I try my best to radar for anything that could trigger them. Plasters in our house, for example, are not allowed and we may never know why. Other than that, my days consist of the school run, ferrying them to and from their various activities, arranging play dates, whining about my kids with my new mom friends, arguing over tidying up, balancing home cooked meals against fish fingers again, and all the other wonderfully mundane things that come along with being a parent. In fact, as I type my daughter is sat on my lap negotiating a place for her bunny at the dinner table, meal included.
It would be a lie to say we never stumble and there are things that trigger our kids that we may never get to the bottom of. A large part of adopted parenting is confronting the unknown, we will never be able to know for sure what has happened before coming to our home and there are certainly issues that could manifest from that. Around month three we recognised that one of our children was struggling with attachment issues. I suppose when you’ve had three homes in four years it would be difficult to make real attachments to two new adults. We pushed for support from the borough we adopted from and are already reaping the rewards through a wonderful program suited to families battling with attachment in some form or another.
We have chosen a particular path to get here, but I look at my children and the family we’ve created and I thank my lucky stars that I have an incredible partner who agreed to go against the grain with me. For a long time I felt like a bit of a fraud running around with two kids calling myself their mum, but one day I woke up and realised I didn’t feel that way anymore. It could have been the night I stayed up with my daughter as she projectile vomited all over us (good times), or our son’s Sports Day when Tom and I were so proud of how he smashed the bean bag toss (!), or the first time I successfully transferred a sleeping toddler from car to bed without them waking (winner). My motherhood is certainly different by definition, but at the very crux of it the love I have for my children is the same.