The road less travelled…

Recently we have spent a good deal of time with dear friends who are either pregnant, or parenting young children. This is a great joy, and we love imagining it is our own children making crumbs and chewing the coasters as we get ready to welcome them home. It also, at times makes me question why our journey to parenthood is so  different, and seemingly more difficult. From the outset, I know this is unfair. Every journey is different, and every hurdle feels insurmountable when we first face it, so I do not wish to belittle other peoples struggles, I’m just trying to be honest about how I sometimes feel.

The news of another pregnancy, or a casual remark about the ease of getting pregnant can trigger old feelings of shame, anger and guilt. There was definitely a stage when I grieved for pregnancy and the newborn child with my hair and my husband’s nose, this is not what I feel now. I have loved the highs and lows of our journey and I love our children-to-be, I would not swap them for 10 children from my own womb. But I have never quite shaken the shame and guilt I first felt when my body didn’t do what it was supposed to. We have never had any medical confirmation that one or both of us is infertile, or if we just have exceptionally bad timing! But I have always felt, deep down, that it is my fault. Somehow I am broken. And while I don’t dwell on this anymore, certain things will trigger that old shame and frustration that once overwhelmed me.

Today has been one of those days. And as I started up the stairs to bed tonight, I was reminded that our journey isn’t an accident. It’s not chance, or bad luck that led to our pain, frustration and finally to the joy of adoption. I have a Heavenly Father who knows me fully and loves me completely, and He has planned every day of my life. He has chosen this journey for me, for us, because he cares. Somehow, it is for our good, and His glory.

I cannot claim to know God’s reasons, but one thing I do know is that if we had conceived when we planned, we would not be adopting children for several more years from now. Which means that those two little boys that we have fallen in love with, would have been adopted by somebody else. If we believe, as we do, that God is in control of His world, then we must conclude that God brought them and us to this point and this time because He wanted us to be a family. And that is pretty special.

13067014944_0ea3967f8e_o.jpgGod didn’t forget about us when He was planning out the families, He’s saved 2 little boys for 4 years just for us. Yes, our journey to being a family has looked different to a lot of other people. Yes it’s hurt more than some other journeys. But it is the journey planned for us by our loving Heavenly Father before either of us took our first breath. We cannot compare our journey to other people’s. God knows all of His children, and He knows the right journey for them.

We trust completely that His plans are good, and we cannot wait to meet the children He has chosen for us.

Image: Wonderlane (2014)

Grrr, Radio 4!

This morning there was a short piece on BBC Radio 4 about female engineers. The woman being interviewed said how it was a great shame that there were not more women engineers in our country and how they were actively working to bring more women into the industry. The presenter concluded by urging all female listeners to consider a career in engineering. Well I have considered it, and here follows my reasons for not pursuing a new career.

I am a big believer that if you set your mind to something, with enough hard work you could achieve it. Certain social groups will have to work harder than others because of prejudice and inequality (anyone who isn’t a white, middle class, able-bodied male). But I went to a modern girl’s grammar school where we were taught to break the glass ceiling, don’t be the same as men – be better, and all that feminist malarkey. So my views that follow are by no means coming from the position of an oppressed, uneducated or indoctrinated woman.

Since my teen years, there has only been one career I have wanted: to be a wife, a mother, a homemaker. C.S. Lewis supposedly described ‘the homemaker’ as the ultimate career. And I do believe to make a home is a very noble task. A place to grow and thrive, somewhere safe from which to explore the world. A place to learn what love is, what it means to care for someone, to sacrifice for them. Somewhere to be valued and respected. Somewhere where there is joy and laughter, where sorrows are shared and loneliness is eased.

5113200859_377d4ec976_o (1).jpgMy (engineer) husband and I are a team. He works hard to provide our house – he pays the bills, provides food to sustain us and financial security so we don’t have to worry about tomorrow. I work hard to make that house a home – I try to make it a welcoming, relaxing place to be, somewhere where there is nutritious and delicious food(!), a haven where he can relax and feel safe and loved after being away from it all day.

Soon my job description is going to expand! I will have two little ones to care for who need stimulation, education, love and reassurance. My job will involve providing them with opportunities to learn and grow, caring for them physically, emotionally and spiritually, teaching them what love is through daily sacrificing of my own wants and needs for theirs. My job isn’t simply childcare, it’s child-training! Preparing them for school, for independence, for responsibility, for adult life, for marriage, for parenthood, for life!

As I write this, the photos we have of our two little ones are playing on a slideshow on the second computer screen. As I think ahead to this new stage of our lives, this new role in my busy and rewarding career, my heart swells in my chest with anticipation, with love and with frustration at BBC Radio 4. I do not feel I should pursue a career in engineering, just because I am a woman. If there are less female engineers than male in our country, is that a disaster? Could it be that those women just chose other careers? Telling me I have to consider a job in engineering simply because I am a woman, is as bad as telling me I should stay home with my children all day because I am a woman.

With full awareness of my options in the world, I am choosing to be a wife, mother and homemaker because that is what I want. If other women choose to be engineers – great! But let it be because they want to engineer, and not because society says they should in order to appear more equal. I do not feel any less than my husband because he engineers and I homemake. I couldn’t do what I do without him doing what he does. Likewise, he couldn’t do what he does without me doing what I do! That’s what makes us equal. The freedom to choose your own path rather than being pushed down the one that best suits others. That’s what makes us equal.

In my third year of university I took a module in Feminism. I used to come home irate  after each lecture and every time I vented my feelings towards my husband, he would respond with a smile, “grrr, feminism!” Well that’s how I feel today. Thank you very much for the right to vote, but please stop telling what to do in order to feel fulfilled and free.

Image: pbkwee

Santa Claus is coming to town?

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting colder, and tomorrow the new term starts. Before we know it, Christmas will be here (yay!!!) and it’s looking quite likely that this Christmas could be very different for us with the possible arrival of our 2 children! This has got us thinking about how we want to celebrate Christmas as a family, what traditions we want to start and what ground rules we want to establish.

One thing we’ve both always felt strongly about is that we don’t want to encourage our children to believe in Father Christmas. Please don’t condemn me until I’ve explained why.

  1. We don’t want to ever lie to our children. It’s not just the untrue claim that Father Christmas exists, but it’s all of the pretence that goes with it. Sending letters, visiting a man in fancy dress, sprinkling reindeer food and leaving out a mince pie and carrot. Parents often have to work hard to convince their children that Father Christmas IS real! And that results in quite a lot of deception that we aren’t comfortable with. We want our children to know that they can always get an honest, frank answer from us. We want them to know that we have never misled them. As adoptive parents, we are going to have to work extra hard to gain our children’s trust, we don’t want to make it harder. And as Christians, we don’t want learning about our Heavenly Father to be overshadowed by or confused with stories of a mythical ‘Father’.
  2. We want to teach our children grace. Father Christmas expects boys and girls to earn their gifts, but that’s not what gifts are. Gifts are given freely without condition or clause. Gifts are abundant and loving. If our children think they need to earn their Christmas presents by making it onto the list, how do they know anything good we give them isn’t conditional? How do they know our love isn’t? How do they know God’s love isn’t? Now of course children need to learn the value of hard work and reward. But not in the context of gifts. At no other time in life are we expected to earn gifts. The shame that is often attached to adoption means our children may find it hard to accept that we love them unconditionally. They may often feel they need to earn it, or that they never can. We don’t want to reinforce this through scaremongering tactics.
  3. Parents should be their children’s main authority. It drives me mad when I hear parents say things like “if you keep making a noise, the policeman will come and get you,” “if you don’t go to sleep, Father Christmas won’t come.” First of all, neither of those things are true. Second of all, do we want our children to be afraid of policemen?! And thirdly, why can’t we say, “don’t do that because I said and I’m your parent?!” When did being a parent not be enough to expect obedience?!
  4. We think the truth is more exciting! Christmas is the time of year that Christians celebrate God becoming human in order to be a  sacrifice by which we could know Him. That’s really exciting! It means gifts beyond any Christmas List that Father Christmas could ever bring.  Furthermore, Saint Nicholas, on whom the myth of Father Christmas is based, was an excellent man! He fiercely defended the gospel and apparently even punched a heretic in the face(!?) We want to teach our children the truth about Saint Nicholas, and still enjoy the myths, but knowing that they are myths. Most of all, we want Christmas to be about celebrating the real hero of the season, the greatest gift ever given, Jesus Christ.

3120969316_6ecdb66f97_o.jpgAs we’ve talked about this recently, we’ve realised that it is very likely that our children’s foster carers won’t have felt the same, and so it is likely our children will already believe in Father Christmas. We don’t want to shatter their fantasies as soon as they walk in through the door, we equally don’t want to go against our principles in order to keep up the pretence. We will probably try and play down Father Christmas, whilst having a really great Christmas, and eventually fade him out until he is just a nice character in books and films.

I hope, if you are big Father Christmas fans, that you won’t be offended. I love Christmas, and I always love it when people are enjoying the season, I do also quite like Father Christmas as an idea and I especially love all the films about him (Miracle on 34th Street, Santa Claus: The Movie, The Santa Clause…)  This is what we have decided after a lot of thought and discussion, it doesn’t mean it’s right for all families.

If you have any experience of this in adoption, or if you have similar or different views on Father Christmas, I’d love to hear them and to know your tips in general for surviving Christmas with kids!

Image :kennedyrox (2008)

One year on…

Well, a year and a day ago was a very special day. That was the day we first met our social worker and our adoption journey officially began with Adoption Matters. A year and a day later (today) we met with another social worker and a family finder to discuss two children who will probably very soon be our children.

What a year!

At times it has been frustrating, exciting, exhausting, mostly all at the same time. Looking back I can see that the process has helped to prepare us for what is to come in lots of deliberate and undeliberate ways. Here are three big things I’ve learnt:

919395814_b86b34dee2_o.jpgFirstly we’ve had to practice patience. I am not a patient person, I hate having to wait for anything (especially Christmas). But the nature of the adoption process involves a lot of waiting – waiting for forms to process, waiting for appointments, waiting for letters, emails, phone calls, waiting for social workers to come home from (well deserved) holidays. There is a lot of waiting for other people to do things. Often it can be frustrating because to you, your case is the only thing that matters; but for a social worker, they must balance several cases, while making decisions based on experience and knowledge instead of emotion. Learning to let go and not need to be in control of everything will help us in the chaos of parenthood. Learning to be patient while people do things at a different pace than you would like will help us step back and allow our children to grow. Learning to trust God’s timing and plan will help us parent with joy instead of anxiety, knowing there is a loving heavenly Father in control.

Secondly we’ve developed persistence. We’ve heard stories of people who gave up on adoption because the process was too hard. Often people remark how this is a shame, but I’m not sure it is. Parenting will not be easy. It will certainly not be easier than the journey to get there! But I do believe that if it is something you really want and are committed to, you can get through much more than you know to get there. We’ve stuck at it because we want to be parents. And once we are, we will not be giving up, despite the challenges that will come. I think in this past year we have learnt that it is easier to give up, but not as rewarding. We’ve learnt that if something is worth having, it’s worth hurting for. We’ve learnt that a parent will sacrifice and suffer to protect their child, just as our heavenly Father gave His own Son to make us His children.

Thirdly, this year has been a great time to work on relationships. First and foremost our relationship with each other is stronger. We’ve been through quite a journey together this year and we are closer because of it. We’ve learnt to lean on and support one another; to talk more honestly about our feelings, our weaknesses and our fears; and to care for one another better. We’ve also begun to discover the importance of relationships with others. Before this year we had kept our struggle with childlessness quite private. But this year we’ve been able to open up and draw strength from the wonderful family and friends around us, growing relationships that we will no doubt need more as we become parents.

We are very thankful to God for this year of waiting, of trusting and of growing. We know that he has been preparing us for the wonderful job of being parents. We know He has been guarding our children, and preparing them to join our family too.

Most of all, we look forward to what this next year will bring!

Image: mat_n (2007)

Let your yes be yes…

lmI’ve struggled to know what to write over the last few weeks, hence the Blog Silence. Since being approved we have been on a complete emotional rollercoaster. Looking at profiles on the website Link Maker was both exciting and upsetting. Every profile we looked at we wondered if they might be our children. And yet as we looked at more and more we began to despair at how many children were looking for forever families, and how on earth we would ever find ours. We are constantly aware that the fact that we have the privilege of adopting means that there is something very wrong with the world. And as we read profiles, phrases jump out like ‘non-accidental injury’, ‘inconsistent care’ and ‘used drugs and alcohol daily during pregnancy’ that make your blood run cold.

But as we looked over profiles and discussed whether or not we could offer the home those children deserved, it all became a lot more real. During the approval process we often talked about ‘our children’. We talked about taking them to school, playing Lego, sleepless nights, pretty dresses. We talked about everything, because we had no idea what to expect. Boys, girls, black, white, babies, toddlers, children, twins, big age gaps. We had no idea. And so we talked, and we imagined, and we dreamed about them all. Our criteria was two siblings under 5. That didn’t limit it too much!

Last week we had a phone call from our social worker to say a family finder had identified us as a good match for two siblings under 5. She quickly sent over their CPRs (Child Permanence Reports) and we read all 100+ pages. As we did we got more and more excited. We thought it was a good match too! We decided that we’d like to go ahead with this profile and suddenly we had an appointment to meet the children’s social worker and  dates for matching panel were being batted around! Like I said, emotional rollercoaster.

Anyway, on Friday our social worker, their social worker and family finder are all arriving at our house to discuss the match further and decide whether or not to proceed. We are unbelievably excited, we talk about ‘our children’ all the time. Only now they have names, and faces. They are specific ages and genders. They have particular likes and needs. They are real children. And now the dreaming and imagining is so much more exciting, scary, and in a way, sad. Because when we said yes to this profile, in effect we said no to all the others. We said, we want to commit to these two children for the rest of our lives, to love them, nurture them and sacrifice for them. But that means we’re saying no to all those other children we talked about and imagined.

Now, that’s not to say at all that we aren’t happy with how things are proceeding so far. We are unbelievably excited and we really hope that they will still like us on Friday! It’s just that all of the feelings that come with this process have taken me somewhat by surprise. And I’ve realised that the nature of saying ‘yes’ to one, means you are saying ‘no’ to everyone else, a little bit like marriage.

And that makes the ‘yes’ all the more special.

Whether this match is The Match, or it is another profile we’ve not even seen yet, I can’t wait to meet them, and to say ‘Yes, we want you. Yes, we love you. Yes, you are ours.’

 

Book Review 2: The Otter who Loved to Hold Hands

20152312This week’s book review is one of my new favourites! We got it from The Works online, where there is currently an amazing offer: 10 kids books for £10!!! Some of them were classics that we recognised and some we’d never heard of but took a gamble, because you can’t really go wrong with £1 a book!

This was one I’d never heard of, but even reading the blurb brought a tear to my eye! It’s by Heidi and Daniel Howarth and it has really beautiful illustrations.

The story is about a little otter called Otto. Every night his family all hold hands when they go to sleep so they don’t drift apart. In the morning, they let go of hands so they can go about their business. But Otto is too scared to let go. He knows he will float, but he’s too worried he’ll drift away and get lost.

Many children who are adopted (and many who aren’t) can find it really scary to be away from their primary caregiver. After all, that is their source of food, comfort, shelter and love! Children who have been removed from their first parents and had that bond of attachment broken may well have repeated this experience with one or more foster families before finding their Forever Family. And so it is understandable that these children may often be afraid to be away from their parents, or even out of sight.

Poor Otto misses out on a lot of fun – he can’t play with the other little otters if he’s holding his mum’s hand. He can see what he’s missing, but he’s torn. The very nature of fear and anxiety is the separation of rational thought from our emotions. What Otto knows and what he feels are very different. It’s only when Otto’s mum helps him to see himself swimming on his own, and smiling, that he realises he can do it!

My favourite bit of the book is the end, when Otto and his family come back together to hold hands again when they sleep. Gaining a bit of independence doesn’t mean he’s any less part of the family, or that he has to miss out on the things he enjoys.

I think this book is a brilliant opportunity to help anxious children think about when they are afraid and to talk about their own anxieties. And particularly in relation to separation. At the back of the book is a section of conversation starters and activities to help parents explore the story a bit more with their children.

Attachment issues or not, I can’t wait to read this book with our children. In the meantime I’m reading it a lot to myself as I think I need to stop crying everytime I do before they arrive!

Paper Pregnant?!

I do not like this phrase. I’ve read lots of objections, and none of them are the reason I don’t like it. I just don’t. If we have to have a label, I’d prefer ‘expecting’ or ‘parents in waiting’! But recently I have started to feel pregnant. Not paper pregnant, but actually physically pregnant. (Don’t panic, I’m not.)

We were approved as adopters earlier this month, and then on Friday we met with our social worker for the first time to discuss the next stage. She had already been working very hard to find us matches and showed us several profiles of children whom she was ‘pursuing’ on our behalf. It was a very exciting and stressful meeting. Exciting because we may have seen the faces of our children for the first time. Stressful because we don’t know! There was one profile in particular that we can’t stop talking about, and are praying might be the children God has chosen for us.oblivion16

Since Friday I have been overwhelmed with excitement and nerves at the same time. Years ago I went to Alton Towers and there was a rollercoaster called Oblivion. At the start you get to the very edge of a vertical drop and the car stops, you are left hanging over the edge for no longer than a couple of seconds before the car drops into ‘oblivion’. Those couple of seconds feel like hours, you hold your breath and brace yourself for what’s coming.

I feel like we’re hanging over that edge at the moment.

But when we have massive feelings in our hearts/heads, our bodies are affected too. And the effects of the excitement/nerves looks more and more like pregnancy! I’ve found myself needing to rush for a wee more and more, I think because my body is so tense. I find these big feelings sometimes leak out of my body in tears, so I seem to spontaneously cry for no reason. Sometimes I feel so nervous and excited I think I might be sick. I’m physically tired, not from growing a human but because I can’t switch off my brain at night to get enough sleep. I’m eating more to try and feed the butterflies in my tummy which often feel like hunger, and so now I’m starting to look pregnant as I grow my tummy with cake!

The difference is we don’t have a due date. I don’t know if this will last for weeks or months or years!

And just because my children aren’t physically in my tummy doesn’t mean I don’t carry them everywhere with me. They are constantly in my thoughts and my heart as I love them more each day without having met them.

There isn’t a word I like to describe what’s happening, and I hope and pray that it doesn’t last long enough for someone to come up with one!

In the meantime we are praying that God will be preparing us and our children to be a family; that He will help us to trust Him and His plan more each day and that we manage to get some sleep before they arrive!

Showered with love…

When we first began telling people we were adopting, we had no idea how they would react. To us it was as exciting as the news, “we’re pregnant!” But we didn’t know if other people would feel the same. And certainly, some people asked why we wanted to look after other people’s children instead of having our own, some people asked if we got paid, some people told us horror stories of a friend of a friend who told them about a friend of a friend who adopted and then was murdered by the child. But on the whole, people were generally interested in the process and excited that we were going to be parents.

We were really touched by relatives ringing up to offer stair gates and by friends asking regularly if we had any news. In fact, as we approached panel, we spent most Sunday mornings at church answering questions about when and where the panel would be and receiving prayers and best wishes. We were actually quite overwhelmed by how excited our church family were to meet the latest members!

But it wasn’t until this Friday that I realised how many people were behind us. Friday was my surprise Adoption Shower! I’m not sure if that is a thing, but it is now apparently! I had absolutely zero idea that it was going to happen, but later found out that it had been planned for a very long time, before we even went to panel for approval! Most of the ladies from my church family were there, as well as relatives – some of whom had travelled 6 hours, with a 6 month old baby in tow!

It was a little bit different to a baby shower in that nobody discussed childbirth (phew!) but otherwise we played games, ate cake, talked, laughed and prayed together. I don’t think I have ever felt so loved as I did on Friday night. Surrounded by my dearest friends and family, celebrating my children. For a long time, I had thought that might never happen.

It was certainly not the reaction we were expecting when we first started telling people. The way we have been completely embraced in our journey so far reassures us that our children will be too, whatever their needs. And the support and prayer we have received so far gives us comfort that we won’t be on our own when it’s tough.

We are so thankful for our three families – his family, my family and our church family – and I don’t know how we would manage without the love and prayer and support. The importance of a good support network was really stressed when we began our journey and it has made such a difference to us so far, we don’t even have our children yet!

DSCF4910.JPGThe highlight of Saturday evening was opening two blankets. It has become a tradition in our church for all the ladies to knit squares which are crocheted together and given to whoever is pregnant. We’re not having a baby and so I never expected that I would get a special baby blanket, but I have two! They will be treasured in our family forever as will all of the people who created them.

End of soppy post.

 

Book Review 1: God Made All Of Me

Now we’re approved we’re really excited to get ready for the Big Arrival. The trouble is that we can’t buy clothes or furniture or start decorating because we don’t know what age or gender to be preparing for. One way we’ve found to start nesting is to start buying books! Books are fairly neutral and suit a wide range of ages. And so once a week I’m going to review a book that we’ve added to the shelf!

66675.jpgThe first one I’d like to share with you is called ‘God Made All Of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies’ by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb. It’s recommended for 2-8 year olds. This isn’t a story book that we’d leave out on the shelf, it’s more of a resource to help parents talk to children about their bodies, and how to keep them safe. It is written by Christians, and the message throughout is “God made every part of your body and God called every part of your body good.” But even if you are not a Christian, I do think this is an excellent resource, and a beautiful book.

It opens with an introduction to parents: “children need to know about private parts.” It explains how giving children the language and confidence to communicate about their bodies can help protect them. As I read this book, my eyes are full of tears – tears because this book has had to be written, that we have to teach our children to protect themselves from adults. And tears because our children, who we haven’t yet met, may already be bearing the pain and shame of being mistreated by adults. As adoptive parents, how we use this resource may be slightly different; if we know of sexual abuse in our child’s past, or can’t be sure, we will need to think about how we use this book alongside other therapy and discussion.

The book is overwhelmingly positive. The narrative is of a family talking openly about their bodies. I feel strongly that this is where children should be having these conversations, rather than in a classroom, and so I love that this book is set in a family home. The family are relaxed and warm towards each other, and their conversation celebrates their bodies, and their ability to protect them. We don’t want our children to feel embarrassed or ashamed of any part of their body, and this is the message of the book – every part of your body is wonderful. It uses anatomical words for ‘private parts’ instead of childish nicknames to empower children to know and own their bodies, and to give them the words to use to ask for help if and when they need it.

It goes on to say “some parts of your body are for sharing and some parts are not for sharing” and uses the swimming costume illustration to explain about sharing parts and private parts. One thing that struck me was a part about sharing hugs or high fives. At our adoption prep groups we discussed acceptable and unacceptable parenting. One of the examples we were asked to discuss was ‘is it acceptable to make a child hug or kiss a relative if they don’t want to?’ At first I didn’t see a problem with this, I imagine for parents it can be embarrassing when a Grandma wants to kiss their darling grandchild who refuses to be touched. But letting our children decide how their bodies are touched empowers them. It lets them know that they’re in charge of their own bodies. The book suggests just to say “no, thank you,” and as parents to respect our children’s wishes immediately. This will teach them that they can say No, and people will listen.

I used to work as a martial arts instructor, we went around schools teaching self defence. The first thing we always taught children, from 4 years old, was to say with confidence: “stop, please leave me alone.” Now we were under no illusions that a molester would turn around and walk away, but using your voice helps to regulate your breathing and so keep control of your body which might otherwise become frozen in panic. It also means that somebody nearby might hear and be able to help, as attackers often rely on their victim’s silence. If our children see this works in non-threatening situations, such as a tickle fight with Dad, or a big kiss from Nan, then it means they are more likely to use their voices in threatening situations. We want to teach our children: “you are in charge of your body.”

The book talks about safe touching – at the doctors, or parents helping young children to bathe. And it asks children to think of safe people who they can go to for help: “Who makes you feel safe and strong?”

The book also talks about the different between secrets and surprises. We should never keep secrets if somebody asks us to, especially from our parents. But sometimes it’s OK to have surprises – surprises are always revealed, and always bring joy. “Secrets make people feel confused or sad.”

The book finishes with the family talking about how much they love each other, which is a great chance for parents to tell their children how special they are! “That is why we talk about our bodies so we can help keep each other safe.”

Then there are 9 tips to help parents protect their children. I think they’re all great, but if I tell you everything in the book you won’t buy it, and I might get into trouble! There were two that especially made me. “Don’t ask your child to maintain your emotions” – that’s not their job! If our children feel responsible for how we are feeling, and we ask them to use their bodies to cheer us up (hugging or kissing) this might leave them open to abusers who could use similar language to manipulate how our children use their bodies. I’d never thought of this before, I thought using cuddles to cheer each other up would always be a good thing. But even on a less sinister level, I don’t want my children to feel responsible for my emotions, that’s not fair!

The second helpful tip was to “clarify rules for playing Doctors.” Children often use their own bodies in these games to be the patient, this is so normal and innocent. But teaching our children that we don’t play games with our bodies, they’re not toys, could protect them from an abuser who would use this same language or a ‘game’ to hurt our children. Again, I’d never thought of this before, but playing doctors with dolls or teddies is just as fun, and helps children to understand boundaries with what they do with their own body.

In summary: I love this book. I hate that it is necessary though.

This is a massive post, sorry, but I feel really passionate about this subject, and I really believe this book is a very powerful resource. If you’d like to get your own copy (I haven’t done it justice, and the illustrations are gorgeous) you can get it  here or, of course, on Amazon!

I’d love to know if you’ve read this book – or any others on this topic – or if you have any other tips for talking about bodies in a positive way with our children.god-made-all-of-me-holcomb-01.jpg

APPROVED!

Yesterday we went to panel. It was scary. A roomful of strangers read every detail of our lives and then sat and talked about us. We were invited in for a few minutes to be scrutinised before sent back outside to wait while they decided whether or not we were allowed to be parents. I would like to say it was actually quite fun, but it wasn’t. Or that it wasn’t as bad as I expected, but it was.

We planned to set off really early and have time to compose ourselves in a nearby Costa. Instead we drove around for a long time looking for somewhere to park, and then we walked around for a long time looking for the door! It was quite a helpful distraction, however, from where we were actually going. When we arrived we were shown to a room where we could wait. From there we could see our Stage 1 Social Worker at her desk; we were brought a cup of tea by the Social Worker who ran our prep group; and then The Lady who came to our house right at the start to fill in paperwork came to sit with us and distract us. It was nice to see all of these key people again at, what felt like, The End Of All Things.

After forever, our Social Worker came in with The Chair. It was a relief to see SW who we knew had been in with the panel fighting our corner. I suppose it was a big day for her too, she was recommending us to the panel and that is a big responsibility. The Chair introduced herself – she seemed friendly – and then made small talk for a while. I think it was to help us feel at ease, but it just felt like a test!

When we were left alone with SW, she told us that the panel were feeling really positive about us so far and that they’d struggled to think of questions to ask us, which I suppose means she’d done her job well and written a thorough report. She said their main concerns had been around my history of Anxiety, and our age – did we understand the enormity of what we were doing?  I quickly mentally deleted any jokes I could possibly be tempted to make. I don’t think she stopped smiling the whole time we chatted, I’m not sure if it was her nerves, or an attempt to relieve ours. Either way, it was comforting to be chatting with her. The questions they wanted to ask us were:

  1. How would we cope with the stress of parenting two children?
  2. How had we come to choose our criteria?
  3. What were we looking forward to about being parents?

As we read them I was sure I wouldn’t be able to say a single word, and so my husband jotted down notes as SW reminded us of all of the things we’d previously said that would be helpful. My mind was completely blank.

Then The Chair came back and we were led through windy corridors, outside, back inside, and finally to The Room. The Panel did their best to put us at ease, they offered us water and introduced themselves, which gave us time to adjust to the new environment. The Panel were a mix of social workers, adoptive parents, adopted adults and a doctor. I instantly identified the most intimidating panel member (The Doctor) and did my best to make eye contact with him the most.

As they asked each question my husband would start answering from the notes we’d made; and as he tailed off I would add anything that he’d missed, or that I suddenly thought of. I found that the chance to fight for our right to be parents meant I could speak after all. I tried to talk honestly, without being over the top. To say what I thought they wanted to hear, without sounding like I was. I wanted to shake each one of them by the shoulders and somehow make them realise the enormity of what they were doing.

I don’t know if it’s normal, but it felt like they laughed a lot, that was reassuring. At one point The Doctor commented on my ironing and I thought he was being sarcastic so mumbled a long defence about how my husband had actually ironed his own shirt and I’d told him it wasn’t OK to wear, on and on I rambled. Anyway, apparently he was trying to be nice.

Finally it was over! We were taken out of the room and The Lady sat with us again to offer distraction. Eventually SW came out and straight away said it was good news! I’m not sure what reaction she normally gets, but we just sat stunned. I didn’t quite understand what she was saying, or what it meant. We are actually going to be parents. A roomful of strangers trust us enough to give us children. SW said one of the panel members had said she’d like to live with us herself. Slightly weird, but a compliment I’m sure.

IMG_20160705_212538900.jpgAs we were leaving, still in shock, SW gave us a big hug and told us she’d be in touch soon. And that was it. As we walked out of the building it felt like we had a big rubber stamp across our foreheads: APPROVED. We wandered around the shopping centre for a while, every so often I lost the ability to walk and we’d just stand for a few seconds as the realisation washed over us. We tried calling each other Mum and Dad – my husband tried Mother but it just reminded me of the film Psycho. After a coffee in Costa and a quick ring around our family, it seemed the only thing to be done now was Nando’s.

Panel Day was a scary day, a special day. I’m thankful that so many people care about the wellbeing of our children to put us through that. I’m thankful that our SW believes enough in us to stand up for us. Most of all, I’m thankful that it’s over.