How do you know…?

In the Disney film Enchanted, the main character Giselle sings a song called That’s How You Know. It’s really good. She’s explaining to Robert that he has to romance his love everyday so she knows he loves her. By the end of the film, she realises that love isn’t about romantic gestures, it’s about mutual respect, trust and commitment. She also learns that it isn’t quite so clear cut as finding ‘the one’.

While we were waiting to be matched, I was very conscious that our children were ‘out there’ somewhere and we needed to find them. I was also aware that there were a lot of children who fitted our criteria, and who we could love for the rest of our lives. We weren’t looking for ‘the one(s)’, we knew whoever we ended up with would become our own. We knew once we found our children, we would love them wholeheartedly. We would commit to them, no matter what. That is how we would know.

The question was, which ones should we commit to.

We kept our criteria broad, mostly to improve our chances of a quick match! Before we were approved, we decided that we would say yes to the first offer we had, unless there were any serious red flags. We also agreed with our social worker that we would leave the search to her. She knew our criteria, she knew us, and she knew the system. She could also be led much more by her head than we could. However, once we were approved, we had to set up a Link Maker account so that she could look on our behalf. This was lethal. Once we were on the website, how could we not look?!

We looked at every profile we could find on there. We imagined them as ours, in our house, with our family, in our arms. We talked about how their names would sound with ours. We wondered how we would manage certain health or development issues. We considered if we could actually take three, or four… We flagged up several profiles for our social worker to look at and pursue for us. We also started to get messages from childrens’ social workers.

There were a lot of children who fitted our criteria, who we could have loved forever. There were some profiles we preferred based on little things – names, ages, hair colour. How else are you supposed to choose between them?! Our social worker followed several leads for us, all very different profiles, all very real possibilities. At one point we were in the top two for some sisters who we were very keen on. They went with the other couple because we were too white. I sobbed in the M6 toll service station for a while after that phone call. It was a ruthless, brutal process. 

One day in the summer holidays, when we were decorating the loft, our social worker rang to say that a family finder wanted us for two little boys. She gave us some details and asked if we would like to read their CPRs. I felt numb. We were completely blindsided as we hadn’t seen them on Link Maker, and at this point we had several profiles in our minds that were at different stages of being explored. Our social worker explained to us that if we decided to meet with the family finder and social worker, she would have to suspend all of our other inquiries. It felt like a big step, to cut off all those other options.

That same day we received the CPRs and read them on the loft floor while my in-laws carried on decorating. It was hard to take in all of the nitty gritty details they don’t include in the Link Maker profiles. We’d never read a CPR before, and it was a strange experience. We decided straight away that we would pursue these little boys as far as we could. The professionals thought we were the right match, and we knew we could care for them and love them. We were excited because we might have found ourchildren. Would we have felt like this if it was a different CPR? I don’t know. Probably.

The more likely to happen it seemed, the more certain we became that we wanted it to. We looked at their photos all the time. We talked about what they might like. We decorated their room and imagined them in it. The social workers chose to give us these boys, and so we chose to love them.

How did we know? I don’t think we did. How do we know? I know because I think about them every waking moment.  When they are afraid or hurt and need their Mum, I know. When the punch and kick and bite me, when they spit and swear at me, I know. When they wake me up, when they cuddle me, when they set the table, when they ignore me, I know.

I know they are mine, I know that I love them because I choose to. Sometimes it’s easy. As I write this, Spiderboy is playing X-Box with his Dad. I keep stopping to watch him. He is just about perfect in every way. His little knees sticking out of his shorts, his gorgeous eyes magnified by his glasses, his blonde hair combed over to the side, his voice and his fingernails and the way he keeps rocking on his chair and driving his Dad mad. I keep welling up when I look at him because Iam overwhelmed with feelings of love.

But sometimes it’s not so easy. Sometimes he presses all my buttons on purpose. Sometimes his pain and trauma spill out of him, and it causes me pain too. Sometimes I’m just too tired to play, or to answer questions, or to say the same thing. Again. These are the times I really know. Every time I choose to sacrifice my own comfort, wants, happiness, safety for the sake of my boys, I know they are mine. I wouldn’t do it if they weren’t.

I suppose the moment we ‘knew’, was the moment in matching panel when they said yes. We left the room and I cried. I knew then that I was a Mum. And I knew I had the best little boys in the whole world.

This is just a recreation of me coming out of matching panel.

Everybody wants to live happily ever after
Everybody wants to know their true love is true…

His heart will be yours forever
Something everyday will show
That’s how you know…

That’s how you know it’s true.

 

So near, yet so far!

Three weeks ago, we attended a Life Appreciation Day. I’m not sure why it’s called that because every time I hear it I think of a funeral. Anyway, this certainly wasn’t a funeral. After being matched with our boys but before going to Matching Panel, the Life Appreciation Day was to give us as much information as possible and fill any gaps so everyone could be absolutely sure they wanted to proceed.

We knew it would be a long and emotional day, and so we traveled the night before and stayed over. We had a lovely dinner out at an all-you-can-eat buffet and then tried to relax, not easy when you’re suddenly in the same town as your children who you’ve never met. The next morning we had an all-you-can-eat (spot the theme!) breakfast at the hotel before setting off for the foster carers (Mike and Marion’s) house.

We knew our boys would be at nursery, but driving down the street was such a strange feeling. I kept looking at things – houses, cars, bins – and thinking, ‘my boys have looked at that too.’ Somehow having that house or car in common just for a second made me feel closer to them.

When we arrived at the foster carers house the boys’ social worker and family finder were already there, but our social worker hadn’t arrived yet. We didn’t really know how it would go, or if there was a structure to the meeting. There didn’t seem to be as everyone just started chatting, mostly about the boys. As soon as our social worker (Kate) arrived we felt a lot safer. She always seems to know what to say!

Mike and Marion are clearly very attached to the boys, they’ve had them for almost two years after all. It was obvious that they were very emotional and this made it hard. It felt like we were taking away their children. They were very professional and kind though, they kept saying things like, ‘it’s all part of the job!’ with a laugh; but it was clearly very hard for them. We could see how loved the boys were from the way they talked about them, and that was a great comfort to us. They kept pointing out things around us – that’s his blanket, he likes that cushion. Everytime they did my tummy went all funny. They boys were becoming more and more real. Then they showed us their bedroom.

At that point it all got too much for me. The feeling of being so close to them, without them being anywhere near was strange. We’ve grown to love these two little boys who we’ve never met. Seeing where they slept, their clothes hanging up, teddies on their bed. It was so happy, and so sad. Happy because we felt close to them. But sad  because we weren’t. I also felt incredibly guilty for taking these two wonderful boys from these two wonderful foster carers. Marion gave me a big hug. Although I don’t know them, I do love them, because they have loved my boys, and my boys have loved them. They’re part of my family’s story. And knowing that my boys have been in that hug too was wonderful. When we came downstairs, all the social workers were sat with diaries out discussing Introductions. My head started spinning, it was all becoming very real. Fortunately Mike and Marion wanted to show us the garden and so we quickly left the room again!

3450585089_7f017e8be6_o.jpgAfter leaving the foster carers, we went to (you guessed it!) an all-you-can-eat carvery pub to meet the adoptive parents (Gary and Joan) of our boys’ half brother (Josh). We were nervous about this too. Part of the adoption arrangements is that we will have direct contact with Josh at least once a year, as well as sending Christmas/birthday presents. By adopting our boys, we’re also gaining a sort of extended family, so we wanted this first meeting to go well!

It did, they were absolutely lovely. They are completely in love with their son and that was lovely to see. As they had fostered Josh while our boys were with Mike and Marion (sorry, hope you can keep up!) they knew the birth family well from contacts. It was really helpful to be able to get more information, especially from people who are adopting a child from the same home as we are. We were disappointed to hear last week that we probably won’t be meeting with birth mother; but we are glad we will always have Gary and Joan to fill in gaps. As the boys get older I hope they will see Mike and Marion as an uncle and aunt, and that they’ll be able to chat to them about their birth family.

After this meeting, we headed for the boys’ nursery. Only Kate was coming with us as the boys’ workers had other appointments. She went ahead in her car and we arrived a minute or two behind so headed in to find her. As we walked up the path, I had the same feeling as in the boys’ bedroom. I looked around greedily, trying to drink in all the things they must have looked at too. I noticed a little blonde head that reminded me of our youngest boy. I imagined it was him playing at nursery. Then my husband nudged me and whispered, ‘don’t freak out, but I think they’re here.’

Somehow the boys were at nursery when we were due to go. We’re still not sure how it happened, but we’re so glad it did! People keep asking me how it felt to see them, and I just don’t know. My first reaction was to turn around and run away. I felt like I’d give it all away if they saw me, or that we’d get into trouble. Fortunately my husband was behind me so I couldn’t, and we kept walking towards the door. I tried not to look at the boys, it felt like I wasn’t allowed to! But I couldn’t help myself, especially as our youngest had stopped scootering and was staring right at us as if he knew! My head was spinning, my ears were ringing, I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

I’m not sure how we got inside, but we did. And as soon as we did I burst into tears. I was so confused how that had just happened, and so overwhelmed. Kate apologised and checked we were OK, then she let us sneak around a corner where we could watch them playing for a few minutes! They were the most wonderful few minutes. Somehow, we stopped looking and composed ourselves. We still had to sit through a meeting with the boys’ key workers.

My head was still spinning, and sitting at a tiny table on tiny chairs drinking water out of pink, plastic wine glasses didn’t help the situation – it all felt a bit Alice in Wonderland! Fortunately Kate asked lots of questions while I mostly sat stunned. To be honest, I can’t really remember what we talked about, but we took photos with the key workers so we could tell the boys this story one day!

Finally, we drove to the hospital to meet the doctor who has done regular medical checks on the boys since entering care. she was another lovely person, and so helpful! She explained a lot of things very thoroughly, but in a way we could understand. One of the boys may need a simple procedure, and the decision was due to be made the week of introductions, so she was able to advise us on this. We were so grateful to have this meeting, it was really valuable. But it was also the end of a very strange day, and my husband kept dropping off! As we were saying goodbye, she told us she would be on the Matching Panel! I asked her if she would please say yes, and she said OK! That made me feel a lot better!

Well, that was a long post about a long day. We came home feeling more sure that these were our children, and with their faces in the playground etched on our hearts.

N.B. I have changed everybody’s names!
Image: Jeremy Brooks (2009)

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)

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.’

 

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.

 

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.

Out with the old, in with the new?

It feels like all my blog posts at the moment start with ‘recently I attended a training course…’ and this one is no different! I am very grateful for our excellent adoption agency who provide so much training, and also for my part time job that means I have plenty of time to attend said training courses!

Although the most recent one was actually on a Saturday anyway. It was Support Network Training for our friends and family. This time we took two of our best friends who wrote references in our PAR, and we’re going again in September with our parents. The training day was a great idea, and really valuable. It summed up the main information we’d been given at our prep groups about what our children have experienced and how it might affect their behaviour. It referenced Helen Townsend’s book Before I Arrive – which we love – to help friends and family think about the adoption from the child’s point of view.

DSCF4881.JPGProbably the most helpful part for me, and I think for our friends, was an illustration with a ball of wool that we’d already seen at prep group. However, on the other side of the process now, it was very helpful to see again, and both my husband and I found it quite moving.

One person plays the child, and sits in the middle of the room. Everyone else is around them as different characters – birth mum and dad, social worker, foster carer, foster carer’s dog, swimming instructor, adoptive mum and dad etc. A course leader then read out the child’s story. Every time one of the other characters was mentioned, the wool was passed from the child, to the person and back again, representing the relationship, the bond of trust, developed. By the end of the story, the child was connected to all of the other characters by a piece of wool. It was a great visual of the web of relationships the child had formed in just a few years.

The end of the exercise was when the child moved in with his adoptive parents – happy ending, right?

As adoptive parents, and the friends and family of adoptive parents, it’s tempting to feel like this is the start of the story.

A fresh start for our children, a new life. We weren’t part of their old life, and it’s easy to forget that they were! But there will be people who we have never met that our children will love and trust deeply. More than they love and trust us when they first arrive.

After reflecting on the web of wool, the course leader then went round the room with a pair of scissors and cut every piece of wool except the two that connected the child to the adoptive parents. All of those relationships were severed. That child would never see their birth parents again, never stroke the foster carer’s dog again, never play with their best friend at school again. They were left with their new mum and dad, relative strangers to them, who it seemed had snatched them away from all they’d ever known and loved.

Now, as the adoptive parents, this is our happy ending. We’ve longed for our children for so long, and suddenly they’re home! And we know that this is the best thing for them – a safe, permanent home. But what we need to understand is that they need time and help to grieve for what they’ve lost, if they’re going to be able to celebrate what they’ve gained. As adoptive parents, I can imagine this is very hard. I can imagine feeling hurt and rejected when our children cry for their foster carers or ask to go back to birth parents. I can imagine feeling like a failure.

I love my children already, I think about them constantly. We have been preparing for them to come home for months and months. But this is not the case for them. When they arrive they will have suffered much more loss in their few years than I have in my 25. It reminds me of the bit in Annie when Mr Warbucks gives Annie a new locket to replace her old broken one. He wants her to think of him as her new Daddy. Annie loves him and loves her new life with him, but to accept him and his gift means giving up on her hope that one day her birth parents will come back to rescue her. Loving him feels like a betrayal to them.

Now please don’t panic, I’m not expecting our adoption story to be anything like Annie! But I do know that the story is going to look very different to our children than it does to us. Those early chapters will always be part of our children’s stories; and instead of trying to tear out those pages, somehow we need to help them make sense of them so that they can enjoy the rest of the book.

I’d love to know your experiences of this. How have you helped your children grieve? How did it make you feel and how did you deal with those feelings?

 

How will we know?

In 11 days we go to panel to be (hopefully) approved as adoptive parents. Then comes the matching process. Our Social Worker seems confident that we will have profiles to look at straight away because our criteria is fairly open. Throughout the process we’ve tried not to think past panel day, we really wanted to take it one step at a time and not get ahead of ourselves. In fact, as someone who gets excited about Christmas in January, I have been incredibly self-controlled!

However, there is now very little to distract ourselves with, no forms or meetings or training days, and so inevitably our thoughts and conversation have turned to post July 5th. Aside from wondering when our children will finally be home, and desperately hoping they’ll be here for Christmas, our biggest question has really become ‘how will we know?’

DSCF4869We are very confident in our Social Worker, she knows us really well, she has so far worked really hard on our behalf, and she is genuinely concerned with the best interests of the children looking for families. And so when she starts to bring us profiles to look at, we’re confident that all of them will be sensible, good matches for us. And so now we’re wondering ‘how will we know?!’ And if all of them will be good, sensible matches, what would make us say no to the first one we see?

Should we be waiting for a fuzzy feeling? Or holding out for a child with less ‘issues’? Should we narrow our criteria? Should we look for profiles with cute photos?! How on earth will we know?!!!

When we were looking to ‘adopt’ our cats I looked at loads of websites with photos and descriptions. Both times I knew as soon as I saw the cats that we ended up adopting, and then did everything I could to make them ours.

Adopting children is quite a lot more complex and serious than adopting cats. I don’t think we can operate the same method.

When our Social Worker asked how we’d like to go about the matching process, we said we’d like her to do all of the searching, and bring us the profiles she thought were good matches. We knew if we started looking ourselves we’d fall in love with every face we saw, and we’d talk ourselves out of our original criteria that was decided with very sensible reason. We didn’t want to risk getting attached to photos of lots of other people’s children, and we didn’t want to risk pursuing matches that would ultimately not be approved because they weren’t at all sensible.

And so if we are only going to see profiles of children that fit our criteria, and that have been selected by a professional who knows us well, understands the system and cares for the children, why would we say no?

If you’ve adopted, I’d love to know your thoughts. How did you go about the matching process? How did you finally know? Or maybe you’re in the matching process now, has it been what you expected? Please leave a comment!