In the Club

In the club.jpg

I absolutely love this ridiculous BBC drama in its second season. It’s about a group of random women (with very bizarre stories) who had nothing in common except pregnancy. They met at antenatal classes and have loved and cared for each other ever since. They share each others worries and joys, they laugh together and cry together. There is something so powerful about shared experience. Sometimes there aren’t words for how we feel, but there is great comfort in a person who just knows.

I’ve never been pregnant, and while I’m told a lot of the emotional and hormonal experiences of adopting can be similar, there’s also a lot of differences. It’s easy to feel alone. Our social worker tells us stories of other adopters, and tells us what we’re feeling is normal, but it’s not the same.

Halfway through Stage 1 we spent four days at an adoption preparation group. For the first time we were meeting people who were going through the same thing as us, who were feeling the same things as us! A bit like the TV show, we were completely different people, with very different life experiences, but one thing in common. We were all longing for our children. We enjoyed those training days immensely and are still in touch with two of the couples we met.

I recently joined Twitter when I started blogging about our experiences. The main reason being to meet more people who were going through the same sorts of things as us. I log in every day and read tweets about parenting successes and failures, I read about the pain of caring for children who hurt, as well as the joys of the little victories. I read blog posts about the big events, and the small. Of all my Twitter friends I’ve only met 2 in real life, and yet I cry and rejoice with them all as they wait for their children, and then parent them through ups and downs.

Today was a Blog Day, but nothing big has happened, I couldn’t think what to write about. And then I realised something big has happened. I finally feel like I’m in The Club. There are actually people who are feeling the same joys and sorrows that I am feeling and will feel! I realised we’re not alone, and it is wonderful.

And so today, on a grey Friday, to all my Twitter and blogging friends: Thank you!

The Blessing of Childlessness

Believe me, those are not two words I ever thought I’d put together.

All I’ve ever wanted is to be a mother, to look after my family, and then to be a grandmother. And I was going to be really good at it. I’ve always been involved in children’s work at church, and it was something I was good at.

I was pretty sure I would be a very good mum.

Soon after we got married we decided to try and conceive naturally. We’d just joined a brand new church plant and most of the team were young married couples. It felt like everyone was having babies so we didn’t want to be left out! We read books about parenting, we planned how on earth we’d fit a baby into our one-bedroomed flat, we wrote a list of baby names. Every time we visited a family with young children, we’d talk about how they parented and what we would do the same and what we would do differently. We were pretty ready.

But God had other plans.

DSCF4785.JPG6 months. 1 year. 18 months. 19 months. 20 months. We were getting impatient. People were having their second babies, their third! People would say things like, “just you wait, you don’t know the meaning of tired!” “Are you free to babysit? It’ll be good practice!” “Drinking wine? You mustn’t be pregnant!” “Going to the cinema? You lucky things – make the most of it!” Well we didn’t want to wait anymore, we didn’t want any more practice! And we certainly didn’t feel lucky.

Soft cheese and wine are not a good trade off for a child.

We knew we were becoming a bit obsessed and we knew it wasn’t good for our marriage. We needed a strong marriage in which to raise children, and on which to build a life when the children grow up and move on. We purposely decided not to pursue medical advice for lots of reasons and so we decided to stop talking or thinking or trying, and just to enjoy each other, enjoy being married. To an extent it worked, we grew closer and more in love, but the desire for children of our own never went away. Last summer we decided to move on with Plan A and apply for adoption. We’d just bought our house and inherited some money, we were in a much more sensible position and much more likely to be approved!

The closer we get to meeting our children, the more we appreciate our years of childlessness.

Recently we’ve been listening to The Valley of Vision by Sovereign Grace, and it’s helped me to vocalise some of the things I’ve learnt:

  1. Motherhood had become my idol. I longed for my children more than I longed for my Father. “You stripped me of everything I would depend on, so I’d depend on You.”
  2. My bitterness was not other people’s fault because I’d been wronged, it was deeply rooted in pride. “And though my humbling wouldn’t be my decision, it’s here Your glory shines so bright. So let me learn… that my losses are my gain, to be broken is to heal, that the valley’s where You make me more like Christ.”
  3. Jesus suffered much more than I ever will, in order to bring an end to my suffering. “You knew darkness that I might know light. Wept great tears that mine might be dried.”

Although it still hurts deeply, we thank God for our time of childlessness. For how He has grown us and cared for us; for the time we have had to serve others and to learn from them; and most of all we thank God that He gave up His only child for us.

“He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD!” – Psalm 113

Our wonderful social worker (and the cake she never ate)

After a confusing rejection from our local council, we contacted Home for Good (a Christian charity that promotes adoption and fostering) to find out what next. They pointed us in the direction of Adoption Matters (our adoption agency) who straightaway arranged to have a social worker come and visit us in our home. We were so nervous! We’d had a home inspection when we adopted our second cat from Cats Protection, and that was bad enough!

We cleaned the house from top to bottom, we considered in great depth the placement of every cushion, every photo frame, every coaster. We told ourselves our story over and over to make it sound as good as possible. We meticulously planned who would open the door, who would sit where, who would make the tea. We baked the cake. It was the most carefully baked Victoria sponge in all of history. I made the blueberry jam from scratch that sandwiched it together and then we displayed it on my beautiful cake stand on the kitchen worktop.

SCake.jpghortly before she arrived, I started to worry it looked like we were trying too hard. Should we just hide it and give her biscuits? Eventually we decided the best thing would be to eat some of the cake. Then she could still be impressed by my marvellous baking, but wouldn’t know we’d baked it just for her! She’d think we were the sort of family who have fresh, home baking casually!

Well when she arrived I was completely knocked off guard – she was nice! She seemed to really want to help, to really get to know us. It didn’t feel at all like we were being judged or tested, she didn’t mind the cats trying to get into her bag. And she was so young! Now, I watched Tracy Beaker as a child so I thought I knew what to expect, but this was not it!

Then came the big moment, “would you like some cake?” And then, so simply, so casually, my last wall of defence, my last big pretence came crashing down with three words, “no thank you!”

Well, apart from feeling a little bit devastated, somehow my need to put on a Desperate Housewives type performance left.

I realised it was OK to just be ourselves.

Throughout the process, our social worker has worked so hard to get to know us, how we think and feel. And then to use that to help us be the best parents we can. We’ve never felt like she’s trying to trick us or trap us. It genuinely feels like she wants us to succeed! This has really helped us to be open, which means we’ve learnt more about ourselves and each other and have been able to really think through how we can be a more effective team.

I always thought that once we were approved we would sign up to all of the magazines and websites and trawl through profiles until we found our children. Now, after months spent with our social worker I feel so differently. I trust that she wants the best for us, and for our children. I am confident that she is very competent at her job and knows much better than us. I know she has worked and will keep working really hard because she believes in what she does. And so we trust our social worker completely to find our children for us, and this, I think is one of the best compliments we could give her. We thank God every time we think of our wonderful social worker.

Even if she didn’t eat the cake.

Adoption was always Plan A

Since telling people that we’re on the road to adoption, one of the questions we get asked most frequently is “why aren’t you having your own?”

This hurts because we are! The children we adopt will be absolutely ours, our very own.

But it also hurts because the assumption behind the question is that adoption is somehow less than biologically conceiving and giving birth to a child.

Growing up, adoption was normal – my aunt was adopted before I was born. My parents did a lot of work with families where drugs and alcohol ruled. I saw firsthand how destructive these were, as well as spending time with children who were neglected as a result. And so from a young age, Adoption was always Plan A. When I met my husband we talked about this from the beginning, and he was always in agreement.

As Christians, adoption is a massive part of our faith.

The Bible tells us that we have been adopted by our Father God, that he has made us heirs with His Son, Jesus Christ. This is a massive deal! God, the Creator and Ruler of the world chose us in His great love to be His children, to share in all the good things He gives His Son (Ephesians 1:4-6, Romans 8:16-17).  And the Bible tells us that this was always God’s plan, we weren’t an afterthought, it says He chose us before the beginning of creation! Adoption was always Plan A!

DSCF4748.JPGOn our hearth we have a framed quote, it says:

“It’s important to realise that we adopt not because we are rescuers. No, we adopt because we are the rescued.”

Like all children, we mimic our Father.

Now this doesn’t devalue the beauty of conceiving and giving birth to a biological child. The Bible speaks very highly of this. It’s another way we can mimic our Father, who created people in His own image. There is something so wonderful about growing a child from nothing. Another beautiful picture of our God who created us.

When we got married we wanted to try and start growing our family straight away.

We started trying to conceive and contacted our local council to enquire about adoption within the first year. The council said that as we planned to have both biological and adoptive children, they would prefer for us to have the biological ones first. And so for three years we put our adoption dreams on hold and concentrated on that. How long do you wait before you wonder if there’s a problem? We didn’t know. But after three years we decided to stop waiting and to carry on with Plan A.

We haven’t had tests, we don’t know if we can conceive naturally or not. All we know is that so far we haven’t managed to, and that’s OK! We won’t be any less parents because our children are adopted. Adoption isn’t the consolation prize, it isn’t the last resort. It’s how we always planned to grow our family because it is a powerful and beautiful thing. Later we may adopt again, or we may continue trying to conceive. We may decide we have our hands too full to consider more children, or we may be rejected at panel and never be parents.

Ultimately, whatever happens to our plans we know that we can’t miss out on God’s Plan A for our lives. And so as our loving Father, we will trust Him with the future, whatever it brings.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
    but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” – Proverbs 19:21

“What can I get you?”

So this week we had to choose our criteria for our future children.

It felt a little bit like going to Subway: I’ll have a six inch Hearty Italian with tuna, NO cheese. Toasted, but with the onion on first, and then peppers and cucumber added after with a little bit of BBQ sauce, and a little bit of mayo. Yum.

When it’s children, it’s not so fun.

Questions like: what is your comfort level with a child who uses sexual behaviour to respond to stress? a child born of an incestuous relationship? a child with experience of physical abuse? a child who has cerebral palsy?

How can we opt to choose an ‘easy’ life, when these children never had the choice?

DSCF4741cWhat if we had a birth child born with Downs Syndrome, or Autism, or a mobility impairment, would we send them back?!

But as we filled in the forms something that the social workers have been saying all along, clicked! The adoption process is not about getting the parents the best children, it’s about finding the best families for the children.

They’re not asking us “what can we get you?” They need us to ask “What can we give you?”

Are we strong enough, equipped enough, able, to provide the love, boundaries and care that these children need? Alongside the therapeutic parenting all adopted children need? Ticking yes, yes, yes because we feel guilty saying no is NOT in the best interests of the child. These children deserve the absolute best love and support. NOT parents who are barely coping just to avoid feelings of guilt.

After a long, hard afternoon we have completed our form ready for the social worker tomorrow. We will hand it in guilt free knowing that we have not asked “what do we want?” but “what do they need?”

Not “can you meet our needs?” but “can we meet yours?”

And then we will carry on waiting, and trusting, that our children are on their way to us.

What am I?!

Our road to adoption has been a rollercoaster of feelings so far. A lot of people have remarked how similar it is to pregnancy, I’ve never been pregnant but I sort of think they’re right.

Waiting. Nesting. Preparing. Worrying. Dreaming.

At first we weren’t sure if it would happen so we didn’t tell many people, the more sure it got the harder it was to hide and so we made ‘the announcement’. Friends and family have been so supportive, they want to know if there’s any news, anything they can do.

DSCF4734We started getting ready, nesting. We had a loft conversion built to add another bedroom and bathroom onto our house. We’re getting bedrooms ready, childproofing stuff, making  our concrete yard into a family garden. We have, in our weaker moments, bought a t-shirt and a dress that we keep in our wardrobe until we need them!

We’ve been reading all the books, going to the training, desperately trying to prepare now so we won’t be taken by surprise when it happens(!) We worry that we’ll let them down, that they won’t like us.

We often find ourselves saying things like “this will be so much better when our children are here,” “this time next year it could all be very different!” We find ourselves daydreaming about the things they’ll like, the places we’ll take them, the kind of parents we will be.

We are Expecting.

And yes, it is very different to pregnancy too. I haven’t had to give up my uterus for 9 months, and all the trauma that comes with that! But the emotional turbulence has taken it’s toll on me still. (I have found myself crying before at the sight of baby wipes in the supermarket.)

We won’t be getting a newborn baby screaming and covered in goo. But that doesn’t mean our children will come quietly! And the messiness they’ve been through on their way to us will stay with them much longer.

We don’t have much idea at all when our children will arrive. But we know that God does, and we trust His plan and His timing because He knows us and our children better than we ever will.

There is one big difference, that I think may make this harder than pregnancy. It isn’t the paperwork, or the long meetings or having to explain to people why you’re not having ‘your own’ children. When you are pregnant your child exists but you’ve never seen them. You love them unconditionally before you’ve ever met them. Our children exist, God has already chosen them for us and they are out there somewhere; we love them so much even though we’ve never met them. But unlike a pregnant mother I don’t know if my children are safe, and I can’t do anything to keep them safe. Pregnant mothers can obsessively watch what they eat, what they lift, wait to feel a kick. Every night they go to bed and they know their child is where they should be.

Every night I go to bed and I pray that my children are safe, because that’s all I can do until they are here, where they belong.