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Becoming a mother doesn’t always mean giving birth. Some take a different, but equally transformative, empowering and arduous journey into parenthood. This week is National Adoption Week in the UK. Having worked extensively as a therapist with children in foster care I’m happy to do anything I can to promote this cause. I really hope the following story encourages those of you for whom the circumstances are right to explore the idea of fostering or adoption.
Paul and I met in 1997, at the church we both attended. He was the youth leader and I was the youth! OK, so that’s not entirely true and sounds a bit sinister…he had been the youth leader and at 17 I was the youth! The usual comments about the 12 year age gap followed but we ignored them and married in 1999. We were both keen to have a family and started ‘trying’ for a baby shortly after our wedding. I had never been particularly ambitious and my only goal in life was to be a Mum so we thought we would get on with it…although ‘it’ didn’t happen and after a year we both went to see our doctors and were referred on to the Assisted Conception Clinic. I was found to have Polycystic Ovaries and Paul a low sperm count and we were told, in no uncertain terms, that our chances of having children together was a big fat zero (although the consultant did point out that we would probably be fine if we were both with different partners!!).
So that was that. A relief, in some ways, to know one way or the other and time to focus on something new. We decided against IVF or other things we could have tried as we both agreed that having a ‘birth child’ wasn’t what was important for us, being parents was. We applied to adopt through an agency and after our training courses, medicals, references and assessment we were set before a panel of 13 people to be told whether we were fit to be parents or not-defiantly the most terrifying hour of my life to date! Anyway, we were successful so then started the search for ‘the one’! I found this bit of the process really hard. I fell in love with every child I looked at and would then be presented with a file, some of which were HUGE, with every detail the child’s Social Worker had on them and their families. Some of them were harrowing to read to begin with but as we read more and more we managed to close off a bit, I think it’s the only way to be able to make an informed choice about the child you choose. After about 6 months of looking we found O. He was 4 at the time and the first picture we saw of him he was sitting on a swing, with a face like thunder and his wellies on the wrong feet! After meeting with his S.W and foster carer we were ready to meet him! I will NEVER forget that day for as long as I live and still feel emotional now when I think about it! We were sitting downstairs in his Foster carers split level house and she had popped to get him from nursery. We both felt sick with nerves…what if he didn’t like us? What if we didn’t like him? What if, what if, what if…suddenly the front door banged above us and this gorgeous little voice shouted out ‘where’s my new Daddy?’ and he stomped down the stairs! The rest of the two weeks of introductions went by in a blur and before we knew it we were on our way back with him!
O is, and always has been, a lovely, kind hearted child. He has global developmental delay and is currently working at a level 7 years below where his peers are. He has a little bit of lots of things going on really (dyslexia, ASD, Attachment disorder, PTSD) which has made it hard to get him help in school. His main issues are, and always have been, his lack of confidence and massive anxiety, both of which he has due to hideous early experiences. *just had a little break to refill my wine glass and tell O to get in the shower…he came in and asked what I was writing about so I told him briefly…he has told me to write that he is good on his scooter, that he has a tortoise called Raff and that he is quite good looking :o)*. He has had fairly extensive therapy and has just changed schools. He now has 70% of his lessons in a nurture group and is coming out of school with a smile on his face for the first time in what feels like forever!
O’s sister and brother were both placed for adoption around the same time as him and we have maintained contact with them twice yearly since. It was during one of these contacts with his sister (and their second newly adopted daughter) that her Mum mentioned in conversation that their new daughter’s birth mum had had another baby that was also going to be placed for adoption. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could have her? It would make contact very easy! We didn’t even know if it was the right time for us to do it again. We had discussed it at various times during the last 6 years (since we had had O). Well, don’t ask, don’t get so we fired off a letter to the head of Social Services, praying that she would remember us from when we had O, and then kind of forgot about it! All seemed a bit too good (and easy) to be true. We had a phone call two days after posting the letter to say that they thought it was a fab idea and wanted to come and see us with more info! After a very quick assessment, panel (no where near as scary the second time round) and meeting with her foster carer we were introduced to our little pocket rocket, (A) then 13 months. She arrived two years ago and has turned our lives upside down, but in a good way! Whether she will have any future issues remains to be seen. She is doing everything she should be at the moment although she was subjected to massive substance misuse before she was born and we were told she ‘would not come out of this unscathed’…we don’t really care to be honest, we will deal with whatever life throws at us.
A came to us in the October and by January I was exhausted! She was (and is) a full on toddler and I assumed my lethargy and extreme tiredness were down to parenting her…I was wrong! After chatting with a friend about my ridiculously itchy boobs she convinced me to do a pregnancy test. I have done literally hundreds in my lifetime, all of which were obviously negative and I should point out, not that I expect you will really want to know, but since we found out 12 years ago that we were infertile as a couple we have never used any form of contraception. Anyway, I did the test, put it on the sink and started sorting the washing! I totally forgot about it, I was so sure there would be nothing to see. Wrong again…there was the word ‘pregnant’ (I got the expensive ones rather than the blue line ones!). I collapsed and hyperventilated (not exaggerating) and Paul swore about 30 times in a row when I told him! We were shell shocked and if I am honest it took some time to sink in! Why was it happening now when I already felt like I was struggling to adjust to having a two year old? How would O cope, going from being an only child to having two siblings in less than a year? Could we afford it? Did we need a bigger car? The week after we found out I went to the doctors, then to the midwife who found the heart beat (we both sobbed…me and the midwife!), then for a scan which revealed I was 21 weeks by this point! By the end of that week life was great, sod the money and the car, we were growing a baby :o)
Ez was born in September 2010 and is beautiful, cheeky and a little bit stroppy! We feel so so blessed to have experienced the joy of having a birth child but are eternally grateful that he didn’t come first as then we wouldn’t have had O and A. Adoption is an amazing way to become a parent. Of course there are hard times and uncertainties but our children bring us so much happiness that the hard times are still hard and the uncertainties become irrelevant.