Adopting an Older Child

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“As young as possible please”. The exact words I remember saying during our adoption assessments. Like we were putting in an order. It sounds ridiculous now. And very short sighted. But at the time after spending 10 years trying for children, I could only see myself with a baby.

The truth was, we were very blinkered. Too focused on chasing a rainbow that had clearly passed us by. I wish we had been more open. Researched more. That our social workers had talked through more options.

I really don’t like the phrase “children harder to place”. Surely, there is a better way. A more encouraging description. In its very essence, those words could shine a negative light. Perhaps even make prospective adopters reluctant to consider an older child. Just like we were.

But how does your life change when you adopt an older child? Are there different considerations and challenges?

To tell us more about how it is in real life – the true reality – I am so pleased to be able to share with you Kate’s story (Instagram @katemateh)…

I adopted an older child, but the truth is, this wasn’t out of choice initially. I’d been trying to have children for 7 years – first birth children then when this didn’t work out, through adoption. This all started as a couple, but it became clear my husband realised he wasn’t really open to adoption. Wasn’t committed enough to make it work, or to take on the responsibility. This was a very difficult time, and we had a lot to work through. It wasn’t to be though, so in a nutshell – I divorced him, relocated, and had to do the whole process again as a singleton!

It took so long, and I’d been desperate for so many years. Eventually, I was approved for 2 children aged 0-6 years old. After I finally got approved there was a major slump in children available. This seems to happen in cycles, where the balance between children looking for homes and prospective adopters changes. At this time, kinship orders were favoured, and I fell into maybe a bit of depression. I think a lot of people in the same boat probably felt this way. Delay upon delay while children went back and forth through the courts, sadly, many ending up with placement orders to adopt which could have been granted years before.

I then found lots of profiles started asking for couples rather than singles. I didn’t go on link maker and didn’t really actively look. Maybe 8 months after my panel I heard about my daughter. She was 7 and had been removed nearly a year previously. She was one of many siblings, all to be adopted separately as their needs were all pretty extensive. I was asked by my Barnardos social workers to read her profile, which as I had done before – I agreed to do again.

Over the years I’d got my heart set on various children and had ended up mother to none. So, I guess in a way, it felt nice to be approached. I’d put myself through so much to adopt. Starting this chapter in my life happily married, then facing it on my own. But through it all my desire to become a mum stayed strong.

My main thought was I’m not “begging” for a child. Anyone could see I’d do anything to adopt. I wanted someone that needed me like I needed them. I’d seen a couple of other similar aged girls, but one was considered too local, and the other they’d switched and decided she needed two parents. More hurdles. More disappointment.

I heard my girl’s siblings were mostly being adopted by single parents and they wanted a high level of contact. I’d always wanted to have a big family so this seemed desirable. So, plans were put in place for initial meetings to start and I was met by the social worker and the family finder very soon after. I was also given the opportunity to read reports by the fosterers in more detail.

There was no additional training for adopting an older child. Maybe it would have helped. It’s probably fair to say the prep training was more geared around adopting younger children. Of course, my daughter was at an age where she was very aware of her start in life and how it had changed. Her trauma was always going to be easily triggered. Her memories of the neglect firmly on the surface.

Introductions took the same format as with other younger children. She heard about me at the end of May and I met her a week or two later. We kept it pretty brief the first day. Maybe an hour. I spent 6 days near her and the fosterers then they moved up my way for about 6 days before she moved in.

We talk about her birth parents a lot. At first, she made out they were great fun, and everything was fun and frolics. It only took a few weeks for the real tough stuff to be expressed. We were in a car, with her in the back and she broke down and told me all the names they’d called her and how they had wrecked her birthday. Unfortunately, police got involved and as you can imagine, this must have all been very traumatic for her to be part of. It was so hard to hear her and see her crying, but I know she told me when I was driving on purpose – so many children discover this as their safe place.

After all the heart-breaking things she shared, we went to my friend’s house and she ran off to play. But I was all wobbly.  It was so tough to hear and an emotionally draining time. It was clear we had a long road ahead. We used to spend a lot of time doing role play games. These sometimes started quite angry but over time calmed down. We used to play out house moves, and stress play around fulfilling babies needs. With her great imagination we moved on to happier events like going on holiday or pretending to go to the shops. This was great method to help her express her feelings. Helped to regulate her and calm her.

We definitely had a honeymoon period though, and about 5 months in – it ended. She’d started at school, and there was a lot to come to terms with. With hindsight, I would go back and change a number of things. I’ve learnt a lot since then, but we’ve worked through it. The two of us together. This has helped to build our bond and make us stronger.

No one really ‘gets it’. I’ve heard daft comments from people that just don’t understand, but maybe I didn’t know what to say either. I know I often said too much, and maybe some things were best left between just us.

Things are very different now. I didn’t know this adoption community then and didn’t have a point of support in the same way as I have now. These days, I will happily talk to anyone considering adopting older children. Even though there are difficult times – there are so many benefits. We make a great team as mother and daughter. Enjoying all the things we like to do – listening to music, beach trips, board games. She is funny, bright and a little daft…and I wouldn’t change her for the world. I am grateful every day that I get to be her mum. I took a leap of faith, and I am so glad I did.

This guest blog shows that however hard we try, things have a habit of taking a different turn. What I love about this is the strong desire Kate had to be a mum. To give a happy, safe and secure home to a child who really needed it.

It’s awful to think so many children are in care. All need the same things Kate gave, but many are lost in the system – overlooked – simply because they are older.

There is no denying that there may be challenges a plenty, but there always will be of some kind. Parenting in any way, in any form, comes hand in hand with difficult days.

Thank you Kate for sharing your experience and for letting us see a glimpse in to life adopting an older child. I love how you describe yourselves as being part of one big family. Nothing is more wonderful than being able to keep up the sibling contact in the way you do. This really is the wonder of adoption. It’s diversity and acceptance that we may all have different backgrounds or circumstances, but with a good sprinkle of love…anything is possible.

Through an Adoptees Lens

One thing that surprises me about our adoption journey is how much I am still learning nearly 10 years on. How much I still don’t know. And need to keep learning. It is safe to say there will always be things that come up that I need to think through. Research. What I had never anticipated is that hearing directly from adoptees would become a significant source of invaluable support.

Learning. Listening. Liaising. All things I have developed about my approach to adoption. One of my key knowledge avenues is following adult adoptees on social media. Of course, it makes perfect sense.

Hearing from those who have experienced what our children have can only benefit us as adoptive parents. Seeing it through a different lens. A real one.  A clearer one. Not based on assumptions. But based on how it really feels.

It is a real privilege to share this story from Nikita who I connected with on Instagram – @nikitamayhew94. It is without question one of the most powerful and poignant guest blogs I’ve shared. This is her story:

I was born at home, on my brother’s 3rd birthday. The 5th of an eventual 9 children, and yes, we all have the same parents. And they were married. Something people are often surprised at and assume wouldn’t be the case.

Things were bad before I was born and there was already some social service involvement. I was rushed into hospital by the social workers at 6 months old due to non-medical failure to thrive.  The truth is, I was near death due to this. A fact that is hard to know, but often the reality for children that find themselves in the care system. After a few weeks in hospital, I was placed on the child protection register, which I stayed on during my time in care.

When I was discharged from hospital, I was placed into emergency foster care with one of my sisters. Between the ages of 6 months and 4 years, I had 9 foster care placements, and some short stays back home. These were crazy times, with different sibling mixes and never knowing how long I would be in one place. Things were still not going well at home, and lots was happening which I wouldn’t wish upon anyone else.

Contact with my other siblings and birth parents happened at a contact centre and I loved being able to see my siblings, although I always hated when these sessions came to an end. As odd as it may sound to some, I wasn’t too keen on seeing my birth parents. Enjoying just sibling contact much more.

When I was 4, I was fostered for a year and a half by my eventual adoptive parents, with 2 of my siblings. This was great knowing I had my forever family, but unfortunately this came with the devastating blow that contact with my other siblings would stop.

Letterbox contact was all I was allowed with my 3 oldest siblings as they were long term fostered whereas we were adopted. We were allowed face to face contact with my two youngest brothers who were also adopted, however, this was reduced to only once a year.

This type of contact was ok to start with, and I always enjoyed receiving letters from my siblings, however this is limiting. I would have given anything to see them face to face. My youngest sister was born after we were adopted, meaning we didn’t get to meet her until last year. My adoptive parents divorced not long after we were adopted due to things already going wrong within the marriage. This was a scary time as I was unsure if we would be placed back into care or not, and unsure of what the future held. This meant another house move, and a school move which was also scary.

Thankfully we moved somewhere where everyone was lovely, and it was easy to make friends. Fast forward a few years later, and my mum met my stepdad. Things were going great, and a wedding date was set, which meant another move, and again another school. It also gained me four more siblings!

This was daunting as I was older, so settling into a new school where people had been friends for years already was harder. My adoptive mum and stepdad did an amazing job at bringing us all together, and I can’t thank them enough for all that they have done and continue to do.

When I was 17, I decided I wanted to re-connect with my oldest siblings, and spoke to my mum about this, who was thankfully happy for me to do so. Thanks to Facebook, I managed to find my oldest sister and older brothers. After lots of talking, I decided it was time to meet my sister and one of my brothers. I went alone and didn’t know what I was stepping into.

I hadn’t seen them for many years. Thankfully after a nerve-racking 20 minutes, I realised they were as crazy as me and we got along as if we had never been apart. This was amazing, and our relationship has grown from strength to strength. I am always proud that my family accept my birth siblings as their own, which means they can come to family events such as birthdays or just to visit without it feeling awkward.

I finally got to meet my youngest sister last year in the summer. We began talking early in the year after she reached out – thanks again Facebook. Unfortunately, we only met so early on due to one of my younger brothers passing away. This was a very sad time, but I will always be grateful that my sister was able to be at the funeral and I can’t wait to see her more.

I have always been keen to know about my life story and enjoy sharing this with anyone that will listen. I am always thankful that my mum answered my questions honestly when I asked them and was happy to help me learn more about my life. I did get in contact with my birth mum when I reached out to my siblings, however after a few months I decided that this wasn’t right to pursue as a lot of conversations turned into arguments. I decided I was happier without this.

I am glad I had the opportunity to make this decision for myself and I think it is important that adoptees are given this opportunity when they are ready. They need to be supported as this is a large part of their story after all. I love that I can have such a good relationship with my siblings and not feel like I am rejecting my adoptive family by doing so. My family isn’t normal, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I always wonder what life would have been like if I had stayed with my birth family, but I will always appreciate the opportunities and support I have been given by my adoptive mum and stepdad. I know for certain I wouldn’t be in the place I am now if it wasn’t for them.

There is no denying it – adoption is complex. Different family make ups bring different challenges. But also, an appreciation of however complicated it may be, you can’t break the bonds that stay firmly in our hearts.

Nikita’s story won’t be uncommon for many adoptees. There is often a web of siblings that take different paths. Some stay together. Some part. Some stay with birth parents. Some are adopted together. Some apart. Often when split, contact of any kind can be challenging. Often infrequent.

What strikes me about Nikita’s story, apart from her ability to recollect her story – her memories, is the bond she has with her siblings. Time passed by before she could reconnect. But their relationships stayed strong. Of course, I must add this isn’t always the case and wherever possible supported and controlled contact is encouraged. The reality though is social media can make it happen. One click of a button and there they are.

I am not at this stage with my children yet. If I’m honest it scares me a little. I hope we will do it together. I will support them in the same way as Nikita was supported. But I am a realist. I know the temptations – the pull – will be strong. So, for now, all I can do is answer the questions as honestly as I can. They clearly need this. Will benefit from it. We’ll always leave their life story open for them to work through. For us to explore together.

Thank you so much Nikita for letting us in to your life. I love how connected you are to your adoptive family. That’s what I hope will always happen for us. Whatever you do as adoptive parents, whatever you know – or not – about their life story, share it. Support it. Be there with open arms. Hold their hand as they grow and develop into young adults and move through the next chapters in their precious lives. Together.

Car Chats – The Big Questions

Where do your big life questions take place? Because they will be asked. We can’t avoid them. And we shouldn’t. But they do have a habit of coming our way when we least expect them.

It is so true that children often have no filter. That generally they say what’s on their mind. Of course, there are some that are more of a closed book. That struggle to be open. Find it difficult to articulate thoughts, so hide behind their silence. Often adopted children struggle with this. But I do love how sometimes children are the champions of inappropriate timing!

There is an awful lot to process when it comes to adoption. As a grown up, I find it hard sometimes. So how children get their heads around the complexities often baffles me.

Laura (Instagram account @laura_cromp) has had similar experiences. We are aligned in many ways. I used to joke to my husband that I’d had another “car chat”. A time when my daughter found a safe place to pose a question or two about her life story, and it seems I am not alone…

My daughter is 3 years old. We adopted her when she was 16 months and we’ve always enjoyed car journeys. A chance to catch up, listen to music and sing at the top of our voices. But my daughter has realised they are a place where she can ask questions that I have to answer. Ones I can’t distract her with puzzles, games, or colouring!

About 6 months ago car questions started. Those questions that make mummy’s heart beat a little faster as my brain scrambles to answer in an age appropriate way! The first question that made me feel like this was – ‘Mummy, when will I die?’

We hadn’t really talked about death much before. After taking a breath I went into a long explanation of how she doesn’t need to worry as she’ll live a lovely long life and not die until she’s a really old lady. In May this year we celebrated my mum’s 70th birthday. You can probably guess the car question that followed – ‘Mummy, Granny is very old now is she going to die? I don’t want her to go to the angels’. A reminder that children are very smart. And never forget!

In February we celebrated 2 years of being a family and whilst enjoying some cake we shared our daughter’s life story book with her. At the time she only seemed interested in looking at pictures of herself when she was a baby. But she spotted the one photo we have of her biological half-brother and asked who he was. We explained he was called * and lived a long way away with his adoptive family. We talked about how he grew in birth mothers tummy like she did so that meant he is her half-brother. Nothing else was asked or spoken about it, and to be honest, I forgot all about it.

Around this time our daughter was enjoying lots of imaginative play and often her imaginary friends would come and have tea parties or play with her at the park. She liked to tell us who was there, and we’d all play together. One day we were getting in the car, and she said -‘Mummy can my pretend friends come?’. I said of course and asked who was there. In her list of friends, she said * (bio brother’s name).

I was so surprised that she had remembered. It is clearly a piece of information she stored away until she felt ready to talk about. Now she often tells people that she has a brother, and he lives a long way away. It always surprises me how much our 30 second conversation whilst looking at that one photo impacted on her. One tiny piece of her life puzzle that to her, is so important. And rightly so. He is a part of her life and a piece that will grow as she understands more.

Recently, we went to her friend’s 4th birthday and on the way home in the car she asked another car question – ‘Mummy when it’s my 4th birthday will I still live with you and Daddy?’ This made my heart break a little. I replied – ‘Of course sweetheart, you’re with us forever’.

A couple of weeks later we were talking about rope climbing and I said maybe she could do it when she was a big girl, aged 6. On our next car journey, she asked – ‘Mummy will I still live with you when I’m 6?’ Again, I said of course and asked if she understood what forever meant. She didn’t. So, I tried to explain it better to help her grasp that she wasn’t going anywhere. That we would be together. Always.

On the surface she is so settled and confident, but these little conversations bring it home. She has so much to process and consider. A reminder of the challenges that adoption can bring.

Last week we visited a friend who’s had a new baby. On the way home came so many car questions. The visit was clearly a trigger. Got her mind working overtime. I was totally unprepared for them as they came thick and fast…

‘Mummy why was I chosen? I don’t think I want to be chosen’ ‘Why couldn’t * (birth mother) look after me?’ ‘Why don’t I live where I was born?’ ‘Can I see her?’ ‘Why did I only stay with my foster carers for a little bit?

Again, with my heart was beating at an alarming rate. I answered each and every question as calmly and age appropriately as I could. We got home played with Daddy, ate our dinner, and tucked her into bed just like normal. But once she was settled, I cried.

I cried that my lovely little girl has to process all of this information; most children her age have never even heard of adoption or foster carers. But I also cried with happiness that she feels she can ask me. I always want her to feel this way. I hope that by being honest and sharing her journey from such a young age that at 3, 13, 30, she’ll still come to me. Will ask me the questions she’s searching for the answers to. That she’ll let me help her find them as I hold her hand through it all.

She is so loved. She is wanted, chosen. She is awesome. And she can ask me as many car questions as she needs to.

This blog totally highlights the need to be open. To start life story work as early as possible. There is a fine balance to reach, but slowly and steadily – age appropriately – is the way forward. Too much information too soon, can be overwhelming. You must work with your child. At their pace and level of understanding. Their curiosity. Or their hesitance.

I love how Laura’s daughter has found her safe place. And that it’s the same as my daughters!  Over the years I’ve tried to work out why she opens up in the car this way. Perhaps it’s the physical sense of safety, belted in and secure. Maybe not having eye contact allows freedom of speech whilst providing an element of privacy. But I don’t really know.

I’m sometimes glad my children can’t see my face for some of those really tricky heart wrenching questions. I know I should look them straight in the eyes. But I can’t help but find it difficult to hold back the tears. Especially for those around why they can’t see their birth mother. The big question I find the hardest. That raises the biggest emotions. In us all.

There is an awful lot for little ones to comprehend. I don’t have all the answers, but what I do know, is that Laura’s approach and attitude is spot on. I got a little teary thinking of her commitment to helping her daughter every step of the way. Hand in hand.

Adoptive parents need many strings to their bow. Being open and honest is right up there. We need the understanding ourselves to help the understanding of our children. Our instinct may be to wrap them up in cotton wool. Redirect their curiosity. But that’s not our place. I am a firm believer that it is their story – their life – and it is a story to be told.

Thank you so much Laura…and don’t forget – you’ve got this.

For help and support around life story work, contact your local adoption agency or visit @adoptionuk.

Adopting With a Troubled Past

There are many myths when it comes to adoption. People often question if they can become an adoptive parent. If it’s even worth registering an interest and applying. Perhaps thinking they have insufficient financial stability, are too old, have health concerns. That being single or not owning their own home would be seen negatively. All things that in fact would at least be welcomed to consider.

But what about the more emotional aspects. What if you have experiences of a troubled childhood. Of fractured family relationships. Of breakdowns in support networks. Even of abusive or neglect. Does that make you incapable of being a good parent? Or perhaps it is quite the opposite.

What is certain is that social workers have a huge responsibility. They hold a life in their hands. Must do all they can to ensure love, care and protection is abundant. These elements are non-negotiable. They are not a privilege; they should be a given. Every child deserves a happy and stable home to grow and develop. Sometimes adoption can be the only route for these fundamentals.

But how does the adoption assessment process work if you have had a turbulent childhood yourself? I am so pleased to say that Chels from @roo.and.mummy.adventures (Instagram account) can help fill in some of the gaps from her own experience…

Back in February 2019, following lots of discussions at home, my husband and I sat in a room of a conference centre eagerly anticipating a Local Authority adoption information evening. We were excited and nervous and couldn’t wait to take it all in. By the end of the session, we knew instantly we wanted to register our interest there and then. So, we sat with a social worker, (who ended up being our stage 1 social worker), filling out the necessary forms. But there was one huge question hanging over my head – “can I adopt because of my complex history and family relationships?”

The answer I got was not an instant yes, but a “we need to explore everything in more detail.” I took this as a good first step.

As a child I grew up living with my non biological grandfather, but to me he was, and always will be, my grandad. I lived with him due to a family breakdown and drug addiction within the family. When I first lived with my grandad, my grandmother was also there, but this relationship broke down. After a grueling court case I was placed in the care of my grandad. I do not have the full details or reasons for this, but what I do know is all this happened by the time I was a toddler!

Throughout my life I continued to see close members of my family struggle with addiction, crime, and mental health issues through to my early adulthood. Along the way I became a sister to my younger siblings, who went on to struggle with their own issues. All the trauma and chaos led to strained adult relationships with some of my family. Often complex and distant. I had chosen a different life path to them.

I shared all this with social workers. Although they were non-judgemental, kind, and supportive, it felt like my life was picked apart piece by piece and finely combed over. All the information I gave about my past and my family was checked and double checked against Local Authority case records.

So many questions were asked over and over again. Unfortunately, my grandad passed away in 2019 just as we finished stage 1. That made it difficult for me to answer some things being asked. During stage 1 and stage 2 our case was often regularly reviewed by the social workers manager who contacted and visited us alongside our social workers. More checking of our complex situation.

Moving towards panel, extra risk assessments were carried out on certain family members and our relationships. This caused delays. We had to put in place action plans of how the relationships would be managed and difficult decisions had to be made such us; allowing certain members of my family to be involved in our child’s life. Or not.

It was emotionally grueling and stressful to say the least, but to us it was a no brainer. We knew this was what we wanted. From that minute onwards we started to make sacrifices and put our future child first. A child we hadn’t even met yet. But longed for.

The layers of assessment continued. We had to identify 2 people within our support network who were able to offer support with managing the complex relationships and risk assessments once our child came home to live with us. There was so much to consider but we knew it would be worth it.

All of this was difficult to tell my family and it put even more strain on our already troubled relationships. Our social worker in stage 2 and her manager contacted those family members to speak to them personally about the situation. They asked more questions and explained the risk assessments and decisions that were being made. Having this support from our social worker made this part of the process a little less stressful, but it did not take away the emotions. Nothing could.

Between stage 1 and stage 2 we took a 6 month break. I had counselling to help process my grief and talk through my history and trauma. Never in my life had I ever considered any part of my life traumatic, but the more I read and learnt about adoption it felt like I was opening up a wound I never knew was there. Having counselling and learning more about childhood trauma helped me to understand myself and my life more clearly. It helped me to open up, be honest and realise how my experiences would help me to become a good parent. How I could not only relate to and support a child with similar experiences, but also with birth parents circumstances and their life experiences too.

Finally, the long awaited arrived – “yes you can adopt”. It was all worth it. Everything that drove me to want to adopt also felt like it would stand in my way, but in the end, how I worked through it was seen in a positive light.

Since becoming a parent, I am very aware of my own parenting skills and making sure my little one always comes first. I’m very conscious of not letting her down. Not only because of what she has already experienced, but because of my own experiences and knowing what it feels like.

Having a very strong, stable attachment with a non-biological parent was a huge positive for me. I didn’t worry about not being able to develop an attachment or love someone who I was not biologically linked with. Of course, on the flip side, experiencing what I did with my own family has definitely made me very aware and critical of myself as a parent.

I am however determined to do better than I experienced. To be just as fantastic as my grandad was at being a loving, caring and protective parent. I am so lucky to have had him in my life and to pass on all he taught me to my own very special little girl.

This is such an honest and insightful blog. A reminder that life is not a bed of roses. It has a habit of throwing challenges our way. Some more than others. But this is a tale of how overcoming adversity can change a life. Forever.

How we work with the cards life deals us is the important thing. What we learn from it. How we use it to impart our own values and morals on those we love. How we do all we can for history not to repeat itself.

The adoption process for Chels must have been hard. Bringing up emotions perhaps buried deep. But that is the whole point of it. No stone can be left unturned. Bringing to the surface difficult situations. Allowing the professionals to assess how they have been dealt with. That is the key.

It sounds flippant but I used to think if you can open your heart and your home, then adoption could be for you. Of course, there is far more to it than that. This blog shows us this. But I still believe it is a good starting point. The message here must be – don’t discount adoption without finding out more. There are no guarantees, but speak to the professionals. They will do all they can to support you. There are children out there needing homes, and it could be you.

I have so much admiration for Chels sharing her story. For letting us in. What I love most of all is the life lessons she learnt. How she has taken her own experiences to make her the best mum she can be. What I do know, without hesitation, is that her grandad would be very proud of her indeed.

You can follow her on Instagram – @roo.and.mummy.adventures

An Age of Reflection

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I’m not one to dwell on the past. Fortunate I can seemingly move on with little effect. But as I get older, I’ve become more reflective. My mind drifts far more to the “what ifs” and the “whys”. Recent challenging events are certainly driving this thought process. I find myself having to pull back from the edge of the “why me” cliff.

There’s no denying it. Ten years of trying to become a mum was always going to take its toll. Ten years of heartache and pain – physical and emotional. Infertility sucks. End of.

Now, of course if you ask me if I’m happy now, the answer is unequivocally yes. More than I can find the words to say. I have all I ever wanted. The most beautiful children. Breath-taking unconditional love I never knew possible. My life is full.

But there are two main things that are driving my current reflective mindset.

Firstly…the menopause.

I am at the age where all this joy is just beginning. And it is far from pretty! For some women this may simply be an acknowledgement they are getting older. May even look forward to the other side of it. For me, it’s a stark reminder my body let me down in so many ways. That what I was put on this earth to do, I could not fulfil. Tick the fail box.

I never think about getting pregnant. Not for what feels like an eternity. I quickly went from monitoring every single second of my monthly cycle. To not even remembering when my last period was. The penny dropped years ago that I wanted a family not a pregnancy. I accepted the rocky road we’d been on and made peace with the world. However sad, it just wasn’t meant to be.

I honestly haven’t spent the last eight years since my daughter came home, hoping – craving – that I’d get pregnant. Quite the opposite. I thought it wouldn’t be right – fair perhaps – if we had a biological child after our choice to adopt. Writing that sounds very short sighted now. In days when there are far more varied family make ups. But at the time that’s how I felt.

Like many, I had my fair share of comments winging their way. You know, the ones that go something like “you know you’ll get pregnant now you’ve adopted as you’ll be so much more relaxed.” Not helpful. Intentions may be genuine, but the sentiment is not. I didn’t need, or want, to think like that. I didn’t need a pregnancy to be a mum. I was one. And a very real one. I have the most beautiful little human beings on the planet. Biology could never – not ever – replace my children. They are the best of the best.

If I’m honest, deep down I know the route of my unease. Nature is playing its part. Again.

The possibility of becoming pregnant, however remote, is being taken out of my hands. My body is speaking for me. It’s like I’ve lost my voice. My choices have gone. Again. I couldn’t get pregnant – and now I never will. Not ever. It’s just so final.

This is a hard pill to swallow. It is giving me an uneasy relationship with my body. And it’s proving to be an unhealthy one.

The second thing playing on my mind, is the unfairness our children experienced such loss at such a young age. That they have so much to deal with. Accept.

I don’t ever want different children. But I do wish I had given birth to my children. To have experienced it for me. But more for them.

However accepting I am of adoption. Our journey. However proud I am that our family was brought together in this way. It was our choice. Not theirs. They didn’t chose to experience the sense of rejection they may grapple with. The mix of emotions that comes with understanding their life story. The struggles they go through as the impact of their early trauma firmly takes hold.

I want to take away this pain. Their uncertainties. Nobody can underestimate the impacts adoption has on a child. They may be the happiest, smiliest, most content child. May appear to have the tightest of family units. Be enveloped with love, safety, and security. Just like our life together. But it will always be there for them. Entwining itself in our daily lives. And seeing this as a parent – as their mum – breaks my heart.

I am reflecting on it more and more as the years go by. As I, and they, get older. As their understanding, and curiosity, unfolds. I have found a new desire to research and understand their thought processes. Want to provide them with all the tools and support they need to make sense of the world. And this is a good feeling. Becoming more equipped with how to approach these challenges can only be a good thing. I am embracing the change in my approach. Welcoming insightful posts from adult adoptees, other adoptive parents, and the likes of Adoption UK. Reading books like “The Primal Wound – Understanding the Adopted Child” and “The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting – Strategies and Solutions”.* A case of knowledge is power. And with age comes wisdom…right??

I do wish I’d done it sooner though. I’m a bit of a late comer to this expertise. The truth is, I fell into the “they were so young” trap. That because they were with foster carers from birth they wouldn’t suffer the impacts of neglect in the same way. This now seems very short sighted.

Don’t get me wrong. They are happy and content. Funny and cheeky. Kind and thoughtful. Sociable and engaging. Endearing and captivating. Most days merrily go by without challenge. On the surface you probably wouldn’t even suspect what happens behind the scenes. The “you’re going to send me to another family” hysterics when they have done something they shouldn’t. The “you don’t want me to be in this family anymore I’ll be taken to a different one again”, when we say no to something. Total heart stopping moments.

The more I read, the more I learn. The more I understand, the more I can help them. Deal with these outbursts. It is hard to process. And it is so very sad. But there is no question, I’m in this for the long haul with hugs aplenty. Will hold their hand every step of the way.

I’m working hard to shift the sense of guilt that tries to rear it’s ugly head. A responsibility for something I am not responsible for. A life before us. I try not to read into their actions. Their emotions. Their struggles. These could all be just because. I know that any child could suffer in this way. But in my heart – and my head – I know it’s more. It’s driving my desire to explore the science behind adoption.

Having said all this, I am also fully aware of the impact perimenopause is having on me. To say my hormones are in turmoil is an understatement! I am emotional. Tearful. Indecisive. Irrational. The list is endless.

But it’s time to pull my socks up. To take charge of the next chapters in our lives. Reflect, but focus on the positives. Amongst the mix of emotions age is throwing at me, I need to be there for them. To support their emotions. For us all, I need to be the best version of myself I can be. Forever. And always.

*for information only, no affiliation to Amazon

Children’s Adoption Book Reviews

Books, Bookstore, Book, Reading, Writer

A lovely selection of reviews has been put together by Kerrie from @kezzabods (Instagram) who is a real advocate of reading to children. Here are some of her favourites that can help support adopted children with understanding their life story:

Love makes your baby’s brain bigger, and reading to your adopted child can help level the playing  field of their early childhood experiences. It will not only support their literacy and wider educational skills, but it will help them to develop closer attachments to you. Vital in those early days of placement, and continues to be important throughout your parenting journey.

Building a collection of books and stories is a great way for prospective adopters to prepare for a placement and for parents to build their attachment to their child. It can be difficult to know where to start, especially when you consider that the best way of talking honestly and openly to your children about adoption is through storytelling.

Thankfully, my love of children’s literature means that I have done the hard work so that you don’t have to! The market for children’s books about adoption is growing, but below you’ll find a mix of some older classics and newer releases that can help your child to understand their journey.

Elfa & The Box of Memories – Michelle Bell

Elfa and the Box of Memories

This is a truly beautiful story with lovely classic illustrations to explain in very simple terms the importance of a child’s life story. Elfa the elephant carries around a very heavy box with all of her memories in it. We know that sometimes our adopted children struggle with traumatic memories, and that even those that they cannot ‘remember’ are still there on a subconscious level. Elfa helps readers to understand how when we share our memories and experiences rather than keeping them locked away, the load becomes lighter. Many of our children will already have a memory box from their pre-adoption life, and this book can be a really great way to start exploring the contents – why that teddybear is so important, how little they were when they fit in those special pyjamas and how they needed protecting.

The Teazles Baby Bunny – Susan Bagnall

The Teazles' Baby Bunny

This is the only book so precious to me that it isn’t kept on my son’s shelf – but that may also be because it’s a really delicate paperback version! My little brother and his wife gave my son this book when he first came home, and I fell in love with it from the start. This tells an adoption story from the perspective of the parents going through the adoption process. Whilst I loved reading this to my son from a very young age, it definitely holds more meaning now that he is old enough to comprehend his own story, as it ‘levels up’ his understanding of my journey to him rather than just his journey to me.

The Family Book – Todd Parr

The Family Book

Todd Parr always pops up on these lists, usually with ‘We Belong Together’, but I’m going with ‘The Family Book’ for a good reason. I don’t want my son to feel that adoption is anything other than completely normal – and the way Parr so breezily mentions that “some families adopt children” as just one of  many ways that makes a family is important to me. It also helped to explain to my son the concept of stepfamilies and why his older brother has a family that he doesn’t share with my son, and also why me and his dad no longer live together. Again, the illustrations in this book are perfect for little readers and help make the book even more enjoyable.

I Wished for You – Marianne Richmond

I Wished for You: An Adoption Story (Marianne Richmond)

A fantastic story of a single adoptive parent explaining her journey to adoption to her child, and how they came to be a family. I’ll stop harping on about the illustrations at some point, but this is not that point, because once again this book has beautifully delicate illustration that conjure up a sense of nostalgia for adult readers and comfort and love for younger ones.

A Mother for Choco – Keiki Kasza

A Mother for Choco

‘A Mother for Choco’ holds a very special place in my heart, because I was not my son’s first ‘adoptive mother’. He was matched to another family, and it fell through at the very late stages of introductions, and so he had already started to bond with his ‘new parents’. This book explains why some parents aren’t right for some children, as Choco sets out to find his mum and encounters a whole host of potential mothers who tell him they are very sorry but no, they’re not his mum.

The Family Fairies – Rosemary Lucas

The Family Fairies

Last but by no means least comes my favourite children’s book about adoption, and the reason I’m such a big fan of Rosemary’s. Using language that children understand to explain how they came to be a family, and introducing the concept of the social worker’s role in this – my son understood from a very early age that he was adopted and that he had a birth mother, and I later introduced the concept of Foster Carers to him and explained their role in his life story, but social workers tend to get forgotten in the wider picture. This book is a fantastic reminder that there is a whole community of individuals who were looking out for your child to ensure they had the best life possible, and if that doesn’t warm your heart then I’m not sure what will!

This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are so many wonderful stories out there for our children to help them to understand their own story. I’d love to hear your favourites – drop me a message on Instagram (@kezzabods) to let me know!

This is such a thoughtful selection and I really love the personal touch to the reviews – thank you so much Kerrie. Finding a book your little one can connect to is so important. It may become part of their every day life, or sit patiently on a book shelf until they are ready to learn more. Either way, one thing is absolutely clear – you cannot beat the power of storytelling.

** please note Amazon links have been added but I have no endorsements or affiliations with them and wherever possible…support small local businesses!

Time to Say Goodbye

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There are some things I read that stop me in my tracks. Stark reminders of the complexities of adoption.

I recently spotted a post on Instagram by a lady I really admire. Just a year after adopting her daughter, she welcomed her twin full birth siblings. She was sharing her experience of final contact with birth parents. And this really struck a chord with me.

This possibility was not on the table for us. Not something birth parents wanted. Due to location proximities, even if they had, it was deemed too risky.

The truth is, I don’t know how we would have dealt with it. Would we have even done it? Hand on heart I can’t say we would have. Not fully appreciative at that time of its significance.

Things have changed since we entered the adoption process nine years ago. There is now increased emphasis on keeping more open channels of communication with birth families. Final contact appears to be more frequent. Of course, I see this. Understand the benefits. But I can’t help but wonder what experience this creates for the children. Does it add confusion? Or comfort? Sadly, I’ll never know first-hand.

To add some perspective, I am so grateful to Kirsty from @mamma_a_and_her_girls_ for sharing her story. Here is her honest account of how she approached it:

“When we were asked if we would meet birth parents again, we had to think about it a lot. I say meeting them again, as we had already met them a little over a year ago during introductions with our older daughter who is the twin’s full sibling.

Our adoption agency encourages adopters to meet birth parents as it can be beneficial to the children when they grow up. Hearing that you met can help them with their identity. Now I’m not going to lie, when I first started our adoption journey my thoughts towards birth parents in general were very negative. Why should I meet them? They don’t deserve my time; they had their chance. But the truth is, they all have a different story. My girl’s birth mother (BM) is far from perfect, but she’s always wanted the girls to be well looked after and importantly, kept together.

I won’t talk much about birth father (BF) as that’s a very different story. The first time we met was negative. So, this time although we did agree to see him, it was very short and heavily supported by both agencies involved.

Unfortunately, BM had stopped engaging in any contact with the twins after they were 3 days old. She said it was just too hard. But what she had agreed to, is this final goodbye contact. It was not straightforward though. Leading up to it, she wasn’t responding. Not having contact with any social workers.

I was really worried that she wouldn’t attend. Not for me, but for the girls. I didn’t want them in later years to question why she didn’t come and say goodbye to them but did for their sister Sass.

After speaking with my husband and our social worker, I asked the twins social worker if it would help me writing BM a letter. She thought it was a great idea. So, I wrote just a short letter asking her how she was, but also saying I was hoping to be able to bring the girls to say goodbye. Finally, she agreed.

The morning of final contact came around. The night before me and Sass sat making pictures to give her. She is still so young with so much understanding still to grow. But we were as ready as we could be. Although I was a bit apprehensive, I knew it was the right thing do.

We had been in the car about 30 minutes when the phone rang – she was cancelling. I was gutted for the kids. As we were having final goodbyes with BF the same day, we still carried on though and headed to the meeting.

Things got more uncertain as the day went on. She later rang to say she had changed her mind and that she would now come. We waited and waited but still no luck. She rang again, this time to say there were no trains available.

Of course, naturally there was more to it than this. The social worker could tell she was anxious and had over thought the situation. To help, I told the social worker to ask BM if she wanted to speak to me on the phone first. She did. She just needed a little support. Reassurance. I told her I would either stay in the room when she said goodbye, or I would leave. Whichever was best for her. Either way I would be what she needed me to be.

Her saying goodbye to the girls was a huge deal. It was for me too. But I had so many people supporting me through that day – my husband, my family, my friends, professionals, not to mention the whole online adoption community. So, if she just needed some support, then I could do that. That’s the least I could do.

She finally arrived. Three hours later than originally planned. But she was there. I took the twins into the room and popped them down, thinking she would go straight to them. Instead, she came to me. Gave me a big hug and told me I was “doing a grand job”. I can’t even explain how that made me feel. She asked about all three girls. About me and my husband. Showed a genuine interest.

She asked if I would stay with her. So that’s exactly what I did. There were two social workers there as well to offer additional support. But I knew it was me she wanted. Needed. We chatted about the girls. I then said I was going to leave her to have some time alone with them. I felt this was important for her. Although she was the one who asked me to stay, I did feel a little uncomfortable and like I was sitting on top of her. I knew she needed some space and privacy. To say her final goodbye without everyone peering on.

When I came back in, I told her I would bring Sass in for 10/15 minutes. She had been asking about Sass a lot and was really excited to see her. I know it isn’t normally something that happens – seeing birth parents after adoption. But in that moment, it felt right. For then. For the future. Everyone agreed. Sass is only two years old so didn’t really understand what was happening, but I know she will when we look back in years to come. I hope she understands the significance and that it helps her to piece together her story.

When we went back in, Sass walked up to BM and gave her the pictures we made the night before. BM asked her for a hug which Sass did. It was lovely to see. She only used her first name and never called herself mum. It was really nice of her to think of that. Not to confuse Sass. I have so much respect for her for that.

The first time we met birth parents I always regretted not getting a picture taken with them. So, this time I got a picture of Mammy, Birth Mum and our 3 girls. I think this is amazing for the girls to have. I won’t ever share that picture. It’s very personal and just for them. I’ve framed it and popped it in their room. Where it will forever sit proudly.

Time was coming to an end and I could sense BM knew this too. She started saying goodbye to the girls. I had to look away. Hearing a mother say goodbye to her children was heart wrenching.

She then came and gave me the biggest hardest cuddle I’ve ever had. She was squeezing me asking me to keep her girls safe. She was literally breaking her heart on my shoulder. I couldn’t help it; my heart was breaking too. We cried together. A moment I’ll never forget.

I pulled her away so I could look at her face and promised her she never needed to worry about the girls. That I will always look after them. She hugged me again and it was clear it was all too much for her. So she left. One of the social workers took her home and supported her. I must say the social workers were amazing. As BM hugged me and we cried saying goodbye, they distracted Sass so she didn’t witness anything. This was very important. To ensure she didn’t pick up on the emotions or upset.

I feel a huge connection to BM. It actually shocks me how much I do. Without giving too much detail BM didn’t look after any of the children when she was pregnant. I should feel negatively towards her for this. If I’m honest, there is a part of me that does. But the bigger part of me loves her in some crazy way.

The girl has no one. Sadly, the reality is she stood no chance. My instinct is that I want to help her. It even crossed my mind about adopting her. That’s how strongly I feel. She will always be a huge part of my children’s life. Without her they wouldn’t be here. And we wouldn’t be a family.

It took a couple of days to recover from that final meet, but I’m so pleased I did it. I say I did it for the girls and I absolutely did, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some part of it that was for me too. It gave me closure. It gave me a story to tell my girls once old enough. It was beautifully heart-breaking. If that sentence even makes sense. I’m guessing to the adoption community it will. Adoption is many things, but I think a lot of it can be summed up with this thought – it really is beautifully heart-breaking.”

I totally get this parting sentiment from Kirsty. What an incredible thing she and her husband did for her girls.

I love how connected she feels to BM. How she did all she could for the meeting to take place. Knowing it was the best thing for her girls. Another chapter to add to their life story book. One to hold on to. And cherish.

What strikes me about his story is that despite everything. Despite what she had been through. BM was thoughtful and appreciative. There are no words to describe how incredibly hard this meeting would have been for her. I hope it gave her the comfort and assurance she needed. Looking the women who her girls call mammy in the eye. Seeing how loved and precious they are to her. This is so powerful.

Thank you Kirsty, for being open about something so personal. Her hope – as is mine – is simple. To raise awareness of goodbye contact. That if the professionals deem it right, that adopters really consider it. Don’t just dismiss it. Think of the longer-term benefits. There is no taking it lightly though – it will be incredibly emotional and sometimes not as positive as this story. But it could just be the missing part of the jigsaw.

My daughter asks me all the time when she can meet her birth mother. How meaningful it would be if I could say to her…“I met her once…”

If you have any questions, Kirsty is kindly happy to answer anything she can. You can follow her and send her a message through her Instagram account  @mamma_a_and_her_girls_

My Boy Meets his Birth Mum

Sun, Sea, Sun And Sea, Water, Pebble

There are few stories as powerful as this one. I have been privileged that Kerrie has allowed me through the wonder of blogs, to join her on the journey she has taken to meeting the women that made her a mum.

If you haven’t already read it, I suggest before you go any further that you take a look at her first guest blog“Face to Face Contact with Birth Mother”. This is the start of the amazing and welcoming road she has taken to building a relationship with her son’s birth mother.

Since then, their connection has strengthened. Their bond cemented. So, I guess it was only a matter of time before Kerrie felt it was right for her son J to meet her too.

Now, this is not something to be entered into lightly. Involvement and initial mediation from social workers is essential. Receiving appropriate support is vital. Every situation is different and for some this is not possible or practical. Or safe. It needs careful consideration of both short and long-term impacts. The positives, and any potential negatives. This is exactly what Kerrie did, and this is what happened:

“I laid the picnic blanket onto the cold pebbles of the south-east coast and watched as my son’s life was about to change, once again, forever.

For a not-quite-four year old, J had been through more in his life than most could ever imagine. Born by caesarean section at 34 weeks, he was immediately placed in the care of a foster family. Before he was a year, he had what social services would call “Goodbye Contact” with his birth mum (renamed by her in this instance as “TTFN Contact”). He was introduced to the family he was placed for adoption with. At the very last minute, they had cold feet and changed their mind. Another chapter to his story. A few weeks after his first birthday, my husband and I were formally matched with the little boy who we had been fighting for months to be our baby. Introductions soon began and then we brought him home for good.

Not quite happily ever after. What followed was a rocky settling in period, an extended period of calm before the storm. Then the huge upheaval that COVID19 brought to families across the world. Add to that the separation of his parents this summer, and you might wonder what on earth possessed us to contact his birth mother just days after we agreed to split and extend an invitation for direct contact with our son.

The answer is simple – we had a good feeling. We met Charlotte at the start of J’s placement with us before he was legally adopted. We clicked instantly. The young woman we saw before us was intelligent, thoughtful, caring, and respectful. We walked away from the meeting knowing that when our son was able to make the decision for himself, he would undoubtedly want to know her.

All the preparation as prospective adopters told us how difficult it can be for adopted children, particularly teenagers, with access to social media. Despite it being a decade or so away, the thought of him reaching out to her in such a way had potential for disaster written all over it. You see, teenagers are not known for their control over their emotions.

Direct contact was not something we discussed for quite some time though. I met Charlotte again earlier this year (facilitated by Barnado’s), to discuss a project I was working on. It came to light that Charlotte was aware of what this was all about. Essentially though, it gave away details of our hometown. The meeting was to provide assurance that this new information would not be misused in anyway. For some, this would cause great distress, but in reality for me, it was just an opportunity to see a person I cared an awful lot about. And who I missed.

Before this meeting, I raised the idea of direct contact with my husband, who seemed as keen as I was. We discussed this with the social worker at Barnados, who fully supported our decision, but asked that we not raise it with Charlotte until they were able to determine whether it was something she would be receptive to.

Like most things, Covid changed everything. It put our plans for potential direct contact on hold, and threw up issues with letterbox contact. When my husband and I split up, I realised that Charlotte was one of the first people I needed to tell. I mulled over the decision for days, before finally reaching out via social media to apologise for letterbox being late and explain that my husband and I were no longer together. As expected, Charlotte took some time to respond, but when she did all my emotions came pouring out. I was reminded that she was a person I had always felt connected to, and I believed she brought a lot of value to my life. The realisation hit me – it did not seem fair to deprive our son of this same value.

A few weeks later, in July, my husband, his older son and I video called Charlotte. This was her first interaction with my stepson, and they hit it off instantly. I felt so proud that she was able to see what a wonderful older brother our son had. We agreed on a date at the end of August to meet as a family – us four, Charlotte, and her best friend. Until then we did weekly video calls between J and Charlotte so that he became more familiar with her. We had spoken to J about his adoption and Charlotte since he first came home to us, so none of this was news to him. In fact, we spoke so openly about Charlotte that her name was thrown around several times a day by us all. Her existence in our lives was already so prolific that it made sense to bring her to life for our son.

As I watched the boys play by the sea, I anxiously checked my phone – she was on her way and would be with us soon. Emotions came like the waves; I was scared, of course, but not for J. I knew that this is what was best for him – there was no chance we would be doing it if we had any doubts.

Despite feeling secure in my role as his mum, I feared how I would feel seeing him with his birth mother. Was worried about how it might affect both him and her. But I was excited to see her again and felt lucky that I was about to witness something beautiful unfolding. For each emotion that came to me, a wave of calm melted it away. This was right.”

And now, it is a huge honour that I can say…here is Charlotte’s story:

“I knew the judge was going to side with the adoption. I didn’t agree; however, for me it was not about admitting defeat, it was now about acceptance and doing what was right for the 6lb 7oz baby boy I gave birth to only 9 and a half months previous. My wishes were now of little importance, but I made it known that I would like to, if allowed, meet the adopters. Not to show any negativity, but instead, I wanted to thank them.

After being told that they wanted to meet me, I begun “planning” so many different conversations in my head. Thoughts came and went; did they hate me or held a judgement on what they had been told about me? Were they angry, or were they curious?

Then the morning came when we would meet. There was a lot to take in especially as I had only been told their name the week before.

From that first moment, it felt right. I distinctly remember saying “thank you for being his mum and dad, thank you for looking after “our” son. J’s parents sat in front of me, we smiled, hugged, and cried. I knew they loved him, and there was no resentment or judgement. These were two people who from that moment, felt and became family to me. I was grateful that they had given me a recent photograph of him. I had tried to give them what I could, photos of my time with J, a family tree, a set of books I had brought for J when I was pregnant. There was a gift given, but it wasn’t material, or even spoken words. It was the gift of a bond. A connection.

Letterbox contact followed at the end of the summer when I received my first one. I sat with a support worker from Barnardo’s, I was expecting just a letter and maybe a couple of photos, but as I read through the letter, and glanced at hundreds of photos that I had been so kindly sent. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of sadness. The format in which his mum compiled the letterbox allowed me to see and picture what he’d been doing throughout the year. The photos came with what the activity was and with whom. I know his mum had shown concern that it may be difficult for me, but despite the sadness, it was proof of everything I wanted for him.

When the contact agreement started, I was told by other birthparents and support workers, that I was lucky I had one letterbox a year, as some don’t get any. As much as I trusted, and cherished, his parents that they would tell him about me, show him the letters and photo, there was still that horrid thought of: would they really tell him about me, would he want to know me, and would I ever see him again, that made a cave in the back of my mind.

In February 2020, I had the delight of meeting his mum again. It came about after I was made aware, by pure coincident of a wonderful project she was working on. I mulled over whether or not to make it known that I knew. I did.

Again, she wanted to meet with me. Both fear, and gladness came from the though of meeting her again. Right up until I walked in the room. Thoughts of losing what contact I was allowed and if she would fear me crept into my mind. But I was over thinking. A rush of sheer happiness came at seeing her again. It was like meeting your best friend after years of being apart. After what was an amazing opportunity to catch up, I had hoped that we would soon meet again, and had expressed to the Barnardo’s worker that, if agreed, meeting with K and M could be a yearly thing. Little did I expect what was to come next.

Covid hit. I started shielding and then needed emergency spina surgery in June. All that kept crossing my mind was “are they all safe?”, “are they keeping well?”.

A little red dot appeared in my messenger on the 15th July “Hi Charlotte, it’s K….” I cried.  I cried a lot that night to a friend. All I saw was the banner of the message – I was too scared to read on. What if this was her telling me something had happened? What if this was them telling me they are not sending a letterbox anymore?  Was it sent in error? Was this the moment I was hoping for?

As a woman I knew how family’s mums/dads/brother/sisters of a child who had gone through foster care and then adoption might be viewed – sometimes seen as a bad person. Negatively stereotyped and shunned. As a birth mum, I truly believed the day I last had my contact (our TTFN) was the day I would last hold, kiss, cuddle and look into the eyes of my son. I trusted K and M, and I had then hoped that one day J and I would meet. I rested with the fact that wasn’t going to happen until he could make that choice himself. But that thought never goes from the back of that cave.

This “Hi Charlotte it’s K…” was the moment I held on to. What came next, is more than I can ever have expected. The conversation with K carried on via social media, videos and images were shared, as well as a video chat with K and M, and J’s older brother. We agreed a date in August for myself to meet them as a family. Video chats started as did the sharing of videos, photos and events. And then, it happened -I had a video call with J.

I promised myself I wouldn’t cry. The call was just so fluid and normal. It was as if it was an everyday thing. I knew they were open with J about myself, foster carers and the adoption, and I never once doubted that. But seeing his face (before the pizza filter came on), hearing him say my name, and then acting like any other 3-year-old. It was an incredible feeling. It was the cement that filled the cave in my head. I had a video chat with his dad and older brother a few weeks prior, and it was wonderful to see just how amazing they all are. I am so glad he has an older brother to grow up with.

I marked the days down on the calendar, there was no turning back. With a friend, I was about to meet J for the first time since I last saw him. I had kept K updated, and soon enough we pulled into the car park. Arms stretched out, the tears welling up, K came to meet us as we moved along to where they had set-up the picnic. It felt as if my heart was going to leap out when I first put my eyes to him. A whole rush of emotions came over me, much like how the sea had been crashing the pebbles the night before. I could not say much at first. I was just in awe of the family I saw before me. I tried to take in all the details – his eyes, his height, everything. I stopped and just took in the moment of us all sat, chatting, and sharing what was a beautiful and treasured moment of time. It felt natural, it felt normal, it felt that this was the start of a beautiful journey where two families were brought together by one special little boy.

I for one, cannot wait to see how the next chapter unfolds.”

I am blown away by this blog. It’s wonderful to hear how open Kerrie (Instagram account @kezzabods) has been about her gorgeous boys’ journey. But hearing directly from Charlotte is just so special. So powerful.

She sounds like a wonderful person. Her acceptance of the situation. Her longing to know that the boy she gave birth to is loved. Happy. Safe. I love how she constantly refers to J’s parents as his mum and dad. I don’t know why this gets to me the most – of course they are! But there is something quite poignant about how natural she finds this.

I can’t help but think of my own situation. I’m sure you are doing the same right now. Given the opportunity – would you do the same? Take these positive steps to direct contact. Encourage your child to meet face to face with their birth mother. I’d like to think I would, but the truth is I don’t know if I’d embrace it in quite the way Kerrie has.

This really is a tale of destiny. A sliding doors moment. Two women on different paths but who have been brought together by the love of one child. A child that will grow up knowing exactly who he is. Where his life began. How and why it took the turns it did. Above anything else, this is a boy who will know just how loved he is. By everyone.

Thank you both from the bottom of my heart for trusting me to share your precious story.

You can follow @rosemarylucasadoptiontales on Instagram Facebook and @rlstorytime on Twitter.

Forever Friends

Friendship, Hands, Union, Love

I wonder what it is like for a friend supporting someone they love through an adoption journey. Especially if they become pregnant themselves. How must it feel to share with a friend who has just had another failed IVF, that you are pregnant? 

It was always hard to hear someone else’s happy news. I really was genuinely pleased for them. But it was excruciating. I can’t lie about that. A sense of panic would come over me. I’d dig deep to find the false fixed smile I’d perfected over the years. I couldn’t bear the thought they might sense my…well, what was it…jealousy perhaps.

My best friend told me she was pregnant just as I started taking Clomid. I knew how hard it was for her. But at that time, I was bursting with hope. Thoughts of how amazing it would be when I would soon be pregnant too, quickly followed. How wrong this turned out to be. 

Going through fertility treatments and losses is hard on so many people. Not just us. Sending a message to close friends telling them of another sad twist to our journey was incredibly hard. But it must have been incredibly hard to receive too. I don’t think I’ve really thought about it like that before. 

I’m delighted to be able to share a story of a friend who gave the kind of support everyone needs. Here, *Felicity talks about how it felt to support a friend going through the adoption process, and how special it was to be part of a much longed for celebration hearing…

Through the tears, the lows, the deep deep pain, the dreadful guilt of becoming pregnant when that was all my best friend wanted in the whole entire world, there was finally a ray of hope. Absolute joy. My heart burst with pride when I heard the wonderful news she finally had her wish. Her path had been written as a parent – albeit slightly differently to what she had set out to achieve. But it was equally, if not even more, amazing – becoming a mummy at long last!

I wanted to make sure I held her hand through what seemed like an emotional roller-coaster of questioning and panels. Even though I could never truly understand the adoption journey, I could always be there to listen as best I could. Do whatever I could. Whenever she needed me. It seemed almost intrusive (even the dog was interviewed!), but the importance of all this was apparent. I watched on with amazement and intrigue as the process finally cemented her family in a very special way.

When I found out she and her husband had been matched with a baby, I was literally in tears . Over the moon. I was full of questions – when can you meet them, what do they look like, how old are they? I wanted to know everything and being a new mum myself it was extra special as it meant that our children would be the same age. Maternity leave, birthday parties, days out together. Watching them grow up was everything I could have wished for, and more.

Moving through the process the day finally came when their baby came home. There was so much joy, love, and happiness for their new family. It was a very special time to be a part of. I couldn’t wait to meet them and be involved in exciting new beginnings.

After a few months we were all invited to their celebration hearing. This was new to me, and if I’m honest, I didn’t really have a clue what it was all about. I understood that close friends and family we would all gather in a court and ultimately make everything ‘official’. In our eyes though it was as if the baby had always been part of our lives, and this seemed just a formality.

The day came and we met at the court and went inside. I imagined a quiet formal setting but as I watched, I witnessed something extremely precious. There was a vibrancy of emotions and the bond and love that had been established with this 10month old bundle of joy was instantly apparent. Not only for my best friend and her husband but her parents, siblings, and every single person in that room. We all felt the emotions. I honestly felt so proud and honoured to share that moment of solidarity with her, something my family are forever grateful to be a part of. It was a true celebration of their journey to becoming a family unit. What a proud moment. What an absolute honour.

We rounded off the day at a local pub, as always filled with laughter and fun. The journey has massively taught me that we all have different paths in life and we must all celebrate the special moments. Take in everyone’s happiness. Through the trials and tribulations there is great joy to be had and I am grateful to be able to be part of a very special journey that we will always be able to talk about fondly with our children as they grow up together.

What a heart-warming tale. It genuinely brought tears to my eyes. This really is what true friendship is all about. 

It was clearly very special for Felicity to be part of the celebration hearing. The emotions and poignancy of the day. Recognition of a difficult journey. But one with a very happy ending. 

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with ours either. Of course, the adoption order had already been granted and we were legally a family. So this really was a time to celebrate as a family.

I will always remember looking around me as we waited to be called in. We were surrounded by people attending hearings for non-payment of car parking tickets or trying to avoid eviction. And there we were, all dressed up. Grinning from ear to ear. Bursting with pride. A forever family full of love. It was a bit surreal. And the setting felt a little bit misplaced if I’m honest.

But it was a really lovely day – brief, but lovely. Very special. Above anything else it’s a great addition to a life story book. The Judge was all kitted out and was very welcoming to the group of proud people clicking away.  The room was full of giggles as our beautiful children stole the show with their cuteness. I was bursting with pride.

I count myself very lucky that special friends stood shoulder to shoulder with me. Well, when I would let them. I often couldn’t face anybody. I know I often shut them out. But they were always there for me. I find it hard to hear that sometimes friendships break down during difficult times like this. Well, let me tell you…these are not true friendships! Real friends stick together whatever. Through the tears and tantrums. Through the heartache and the joy. 

I think you’ll agree this is exactly what Felicity did. She is a very special friend indeed. A forever friend.

Mums the Word

To tell or not to tell. That is the question.

This is probably one of the biggest dilemmas I’ve faced as an adoptive mum. Do I tell people that my children are adopted? Or not. Do I share how we became a family and the rocky road we took? Or not.

The general consensus from our adoption training was we should be open and honest. Don’t hide it. Try to normalise it. I understand this, however, faced with the reality, the situation proved quite different for me.

Our social worker was less encouraging about the need to tell everyone. Discussions around the need to protect our children sat firmly in my mind. Protecting them and their identity is top priority. We had also adopted within the same local authority area and there was always the underlying concern of our proximity to birth mothers. This will never ever leave my mind. Ever. And is a key factor in some of our choices.

We have always talked to our children about how we became a family through adoption. But I am not a mum that has been all “jazz hands” that my children are adopted. Certainly not with people I don’t know. People that I may never build a relationship with. That I may never see again.

For me, it’s so important I don’t put this piece of our lives out there for all to see. If you’ve read some of my other blogs, you will know that I am very proud we adopted. The fact I don’t make big announcements, is not an indication I am trying to hide it. Or that I’m trying to mislead anyone.

There are three main reasons why I keep mums the word.

Firstly, I am a mum. I’ll say that again. I am just a mum. And that is that. I don’t want to be “that lady who adopted her children”. Or “that lady with couldn’t have her own children”.  And definitely not, “that poor lady”. Believe me this labelling does happen. And I am none of these things.

Secondly, my children may not want to tell people they are adopted. So why should we. I’m pretty sure this won’t happen as we talk openly and positively about adoption to them. However, you can’t undo a spoken word. So sometimes things are better left unsaid.

My main rule is that it is their story to tell – if and when they choose to. I firmly see this as one of my main responsibilities as their parent. To protect their story. Their history. This is one of the reasons I stay faceless on social media. Not just to protect them from prying eyes. But because they may not like me making our story so public. Especially the personal bits. The challenges. Being open may make it easier for me on a day to day basis, but maybe not for them.

Lastly, often people just don’t know what to say when you tell them. Some mumble. Shuffle awkwardly. Avoid eye contact. Their pitch gets higher – sometimes their eyebrows. Not all, but many. I take the view I can handle the situation far better than they can; I’ll have to for my whole life. That comes hand in hand with being an adoptive parent. Adoption preparation training has helped me with coping mechanisms and it’s for me to learn to use these in the most appropriate way. It would be unfair of me to expect this from others.

I don’t want anyone to feel awkward or regretful of a passing comment. Because they just didn’t know what to say. You know, the “that’s a lovely thing to do” comment, or the “they are so lucky to have you” comment. None of which are made with malice. Or bad intent. But all things I basically could just do without hearing. A win-win for both of us.

Of course, this has meant over the years I have had to worm my way around some very awkward questions – “where does that curly hair come from?” “she’s tall for her age, does she get that from her dad?”…and of course “how was the birth?”

To help with this, I prepared some standard responses. And generally told the truth. My husband is tall. He did have curly hair when he was young. These are true statements. We know things about the births. Factual information around weight, times, type of birth. All things in their profiles and medical reports.

I spoke no lies. I never said I gave birth or talked about a pregnancy I didn’t have. If I couldn’t avoid the question, I answered in a way that dealt with that topic. Then moved on.

At the time, I didn’t feel like I was misleading anyone. But the truth is I probably was. But I felt included. Accepted. Part of a group I had longed to be welcomed into for so long. And it felt amazing. Perhaps selfishly, I didn’t want anything to spoil it. I didn’t want any awkwardness. People feeling they couldn’t – or shouldn’t – say something in fear of upsetting me or making me feel uncomfortable.

So, I just went with it. I swiftly learnt to change the subject to more relevant things – “actually I’m just wondering how you are coping with teething/weaning/sleep regression”. Directing the conversation to one I could speak about with genuine experience.

I quickly noticed once babies where more than around 6 months old, people generally didn’t retell their births in detail. They become more consumed in the next challenge. So, I found it was never a real issue to navigate around.

I must add a very important point here. Both of my children were under 1 when they came home. This obviously made things easier. I could confidently replay many firsts because I had experienced them. It was feasible that it was first time I stumbled across a playgroup. That I hadn’t got around to joining anything until this point. I appreciate this is harder if children have been placed when older.

Having said all this, I can’t say I wasn’t a bundle of nerves the first few times I went to playgroups. I totally was! In hindsight, I wonder if I caused myself more stress deciding not to tell people, than if I had been honest.

Even to a group of people who I am now proud to call my “mum friends”, it was a long time before I told them we had adopted. We were just mums together. Dealing with whatever parenthood was throwing at us at that time. Enjoying wine nights and gossip. I absolutely loved it.

Looking back, it is quite incredible I didn’t tell them sooner. And very unintentional. Based on their unbelievably supportive reactions when I did share our story, I have absolutely no idea why I didn’t tell them sooner. I guess I just got caught up in everyday mum life.

There is no right or wrong answer to this. You must go with whatever feels right for you. Follow your instinct. My advice is share what you feel comfortable with when you feel comfortable doing so. Don’t feel pressurised into jumping in with the “A word” if it doesn’t feel right. People who become firm friends, should be there for you if you tell them everything. Or nothing.

Above anything else, remember you are a mum. Your journey to parenthood may have been a turbulent one. But you belong. You belong in a group of people fortunate to have the little ones they have. In whatever way your family was made. Enjoy every precious moment.