Social Media and Me

I have a “love-hate” relationship with social media. I was very late to the party, only joining when I turned 40! I thought it was going to be fantastic. Keeping up to date with people when time and distance get in the way. Finding people that I’d lost touch with. Reconnecting. Connecting. Often it is all these things. But sometimes, I wish I’d never done it. The hold it has on me. I definitely suffer from the whole “FOMO” thing. If I’m honest, it’s become a bit of an unhealthy habit and I don’t think it’s always good for my mental health.

So, what social media considerations do I make as an adoptive parent? Do I need to approach it differently? Should I? Of course, decisions are individual. The following points are purely my personal views. I am in no way critical of people who do things differently to me. This is just how I approach my social media management. Some elements are possibly a little unnecessary, but I always air on the side of caution.

Essentially, I have come to dislike some elements of social media. Rather than sharing positive messages and joy, it’s often used as a platform for negative, sometimes abusive, opinions. I’ve been trolled myself. And it really hurt. I’ve been called a “fake mum”. A “pretend mum”. Been accused of being heartless at the joy I share. Selfish. It’s not a great feeling. I appreciate I’m supporting a sensitive issue. I try hard to be respectful of this. Adoption was wonderful for us, but others may have been hurt by its outcome. If I have a public presence and am open about my views, it would be foolish to think that I won’t upset some. I accept people will disagree with me. I just wish they could be more constructive and thoughtful in their responses.

So, I approach social media very cautiously. Especially when it comes to my family. I would love to show my children’s beautiful faces. To post quirky pictures of the cute – and naughty – things they do. But I don’t. I can’t. Once they are on social media platforms, they are potentially out there for all to see. Whether I want them to be, or not. Of course, accounts can be set up as private or public and this does help to a certain degree. But I need to feel in control of my children’s identity as much as possible. I’m very protective of it.

To help with this, I take some pretty standard steps. I rarely tag locations in posts. Try to be generic about where we are and what we are doing. Not always, but often. I’m careful with descriptions and details. Avoid posting pictures of venues we frequent regularly. Routinely. Like school. Weekly dance classes. Basically, things that could locate us. It is hard though, not to lose the essence of a story when being vague. But it’s a compromise I’m willing to take.

We’ve made sure that school know our children are adopted. We have not given permission for them to appear on any public communications, like their websites or promotional material. They can be in some group photos (without their names though). We have to allow this. We can’t let them feel totally excluded. Different. They’d be too upset, and they are too young to understand why. Thankfully our school takes children’s security very seriously. Reassuringly, before any school productions, an announcement is made that photos and videos are not to be posted on social media. Under no circumstances. I always squirm a little though. Knowing we’re partly responsible. We’re not the only ones, but we are some of the reason. Most parents would love to share how beautifully their little ones performed in their Christmas nativity. I’d love to as well. I feel bad that they can’t because of us. And, I feel bad for us too.

A really significant protection step I’ve taken and one you may have noticed, is that I am faceless – invisible! I made this decision after careful consideration. I didn’t write my book as a big money-making project. My primary objective is to support families that came together through adoption. However, I do need “The Family Fairies” to be a success. If it’s not, it’s unlikely I’ll get published the other adoption storybook ideas I have. So, I must consider myself as a small business. I have to self promote my book to build as much awareness – and sales – as I can. To keep my labour of love alive.

Faceless, invisible interactions are not sensible marketing moves. I am fully aware that it makes people less able to connect and engage with me. Less likely to follow me. Less likely even to buy my book. But, at this moment, it’s a sensible option for my family. This might sound very dramatic. Rest assured, my family are not in danger or anything serious like that. I won’t discuss the reason for this decision, but essentially our risk assessment tells us that it’s not appropriate to share my full profile. A personal decision based on our own adoption circumstances. Other adoptive parents happily show themselves, and their children. And this is fine. I wouldn’t want anyone you stop doing this just because I don’t. I’m certain they will have assessed it as safe to do so. Just as we have assessed it’s not.

To further support our social media approach, my husband and I have committed to never search for birth parents ourselves. I know some do this. I’m not criticising. However, please think carefully before acting on this temptation. It is inevitable that within minutes – probably seconds – of a search, you will appear on their feed as “someone you might know” “suggestions to follow”. That’s algorithms for you! A curious birth parent may just click on your profile as it pops up. And so, the cycle begins. Digital footprints become embedded. This is a risk we’re not prepared to take and I think it’s a sensible decision.

One of the main problems for me, is that technology and social media are progressing so rapidly. The constant advances scare me. You could be having a verbal conversation about something, then seconds later an advert for it appears on your feed. I hate this. Where will it be in 5 or 10 years time? What advances will be next? How will privacy settings change? Social media comes with a whole host of unknowns. It’s impossible to second guess how it will grow. I think it would be naive not to recognise that what we deem as safe to post now, may not be in years to come. It’s an element of my life that is out of my control and it probably won’t surprise you that I don’t like it!

Lastly, I wanted to just throw in a bit of a curve ball. Something a little controversial. A subject for debate. Adopted children are given life story books. They show their life before you become a forever family. Importantly, they include what is known about birth parents and extended birth families. This information is invaluable. It helps adopted child with their identity. I am fully supportive of the idea behind life story books and their importance.

However, I must admit that I felt – still feel – uncomfortable about some of the information contained in ours. Obviously, books will vary between agencies. Have different formats and content. Will differ depending on children’s ages and levels of understanding. Of their memories. But I had not expected our children’s to include full details of birth parents’ names, date of births and addresses. I was taken aback by this. I must reiterate that we are open and respectful of birth parents and we by no means want to hide this information. However, I have to question the appropriateness considering advances in social media.

We had in-depth conversations about this with our social workers, who tried to assure us that giving this information from the beginning was the best way forward. That it would actually reduce their curiosity and the likelihood of them trying to find it, because of course they already had it. I do get his. I understand it can help to build trust. I’m just not sure about it. I’m on the fence. Again, I must stress my concerns are purely around aiding possible unsupported attempts at contact. I really like lots of the books content. There are some nice phrases, thoughtful pictures. Lovely things to share to help us explain our adoption journey.

My mind works overtime though. 6-year olds are taught internet searches at school. You only need to be 13 years old to have your own social media accounts. A few clicks and inevitably – up would pop birth parents’ social media accounts. You don’t even have to be “friends” with someone to send them a message. Of course, there are certain settings that can stop certain accesses. But it still makes me lose sleep at night.

I hope that when our children want to find out more about their birth families, they will come to us. That we’ll do it together. I’d really welcome this. I want them to grow up knowing that we will support their decisions around their birth parents. Whatever they want to do. Including, trying to connect with them.

As their parents, we have everything there is to know in the reports generated through the adoption process. I’d like to pass it on when the time is right. When they are ready to learn it. But if they freely have key information, enough to attempt contact – why wouldn’t they? In theory – why shouldn’t they? It’s their story. Their identity. They have the right. Well my response is simple. Yes they do – but only when they are emotionally equipped to deal with it. When we can hold their hand and guide them through it. If not, it could be potentially traumatic. And dangerous. Adoption UK, are very clear that in their view, unsupported and unsolicited contact can have significant destabilising impacts on potentially vulnerable children. We have the responsibility to try and reduce the chances of this happening. The best we can.

Thankfully, from research I’ve carried out on my Instagram account, it appears this level of factual detail in life story books is unusual. Most have less specific information. So, my concerns may not be yours. But if they are, or if you have any questions, speak to your social workers or post adoption support teams. This is too important to get wrong.

To conclude, I think it’s fair to say that a common sense approach to social media is wise. Be careful not to share things about you and your family that one day you may regret. My gauge is this – I never post on my social medias, or my website, things that I wouldn’t be prepared for my children to read one day. Nothing that would ever embarrass them or that is too personal. Nothing that they could say to me one day “mum I wish you hadn’t shared that”. I’m a firm believer in their stories being their own for them to share – or not – when they feel ready to do so.

I do want to end on a positive note. Finding like-minded adoption based social media accounts has been fantastic. I am very proud to be part of a #ukadoptioncommunity. I thoroughly enjoy engaging with adoption accounts. I have learnt so much. Seen different perspectives. I have found comfort in them. Comfort I didn’t even realise I needed. I feel a deep connection to people I have never met. Probably never will. It’s very heart-warming. And very rewarding.

So, with this in mind, I guess it is possible for social media to do what it was originally intended to do. To bring people with similar stories and interests together. I am going to use mine in the best way I can. To share the honesty of adoption. But above anything else, I want to share the positives and joy adoption has brought us. How it made our forever family. How it made our dreams come true.

You can find the link to all my social media accounts on my Homepage, so please come and give me a follow!

Coming Home

Then their treasure came home, what a beautiful grin. Settle in,snuggle down, let the fun begin!

“Coming Home Day”. What an incredible moment for everybody involved. But you do need a seriously big supply of tissues. We were desperate to have our little one home; however, we were mindful this could be the last time we were all together. At least for a very long time. It is not always possible, or appropriate, to have direct contact with foster carers. Going forward it may just be letter updates and photos. All circumstances are different. Individual.

The goodbye was more emotional than we could ever have imagined. Understandably the foster carer was very upset. If I’m honest, it was really tough. I kept saying “should we give you more time?” “do you want another cuddle?” In that moment, I felt like we were breaking up a family rather than creating one. It was so hard to find the right words, but I’ll never forget the last thing my husband said to her as we walked away … “I promise I’ll make you proud”. And I knew deep down that he – we – would.

We drove away in tears, not quite sure how we would get over it. Couldn’t get our heads around how hard it had been. Despite the brave faces, there was genuine pain and this was hard to take in.

I was worried about the impact. The effects of separation. Unfortunately, I wasn’t wrong. After about a week of living in a wonderful blissful bubble altogether in our forever home, we were knocked sideways. The penny dropped that things were different. Where was that nice lady? Where had she gone? …she’s not coming back is she?

The eye contact stopped. Physically turning away when we walked in the room. There were no smiles or giggles. Some physical symptoms too. Our beautiful bundle of joy was suffering loss. Trying to process it in their own way. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with. I cried every night. Felt guilty that we were the cause of all this upset. That we’d taken them from her happy place. From the safety and security they were used to.

Generally, looked after children don’t go straight from unsafe or neglectful situations directly to adoptive parents. Foster carers have lovingly cared for them in between. Often for long periods of time. Of course this was going to be difficult. If I’m honest, very foolishly, we weren’t prepared for it. People used to say to us how “lucky” we were that they were so young and would have no memories. This was clearly not the case at all.

While you’re going through it, it’s hard to see that this is in fact an important part of the attachment process. We needed to fix it. Nobody else. Just us, as mummy and daddy. And we did. Slowly and steadily we built up trust. Let our little one grieve their loss. Attachments form in different ways. Take different periods of time. You must be patient and not push it. Showing loss is a good sign. It shows they have the ability to attach. But, it is really hard to watch.

After this difficult time had passed, things didn’t take long to settle. We were thrown headfirst in to being parents and all it brings. I was generally really nervous. Scared of doing the wrong thing. Making the wrong decision. But I think any new mum feels this way. We had the added angle of trying to stick to foster home routines. Not wanting to change anything for fear of upset and insecurity. This did make us pretty inflexible. But it is the right advice, Even if you feel that something different would work better for all of you. Don’t be hasty to change. It is hard to get the balance right.

I kept going back over all the copious notes I’d made in the meeting with the foster carer. We kept a detailed daily diary, probably for about 4 months. We recorded absolutely everything. All the basics like eating, sleeping and toileting, to moods and behaviours. If we were having a bad day, we’d look back to try and work out why. Reviewed the pages of good days and tried different things the next. It might sound a little “OTT”, but this totally worked for us. When the day finally came that I felt in control, the day that I decided I didn’t need the diary any more. This was a good day. I had finally gained the confidence that I could do this. I was becoming a mum. And it felt awesome.

Technically, this isn’t the end of our adoption journey – it will be with us forever. But it is the point in the road at which we became parents. I can’t express how amazing it still feels writing that word. Adoption made us a mummy and daddy. Yes, it was challenging. Yes, it was frustrating at times. But hand on heart and without any hesitation, it was the best thing we ever did.

I can’t find the words to express the deep love I have found. The sense of completeness I feel. I never really questioned if I would ever love them as “my own”. I wouldn’t have applied to adopt if I felt that way. You see, I can’t remember a time in my whole adult life when I didn’t dream of being a mum. I have always had a really strong maternal pull. That made it even more heartbreaking when I couldn’t become one. But to not become one at all, well, that was just not an option.

Of course, I have no real idea if the love I feel is the same as people feel for children they’ve had through birth. But I cannot imagine that it is any stronger than the love I feel for mine. I don’t think it’s humanly possible to love them any more than I do.

Thank you adoption for all you have done for me – for all of us. …”families come together in many ways, how truly splendid we all say”.


So, all the boxes had been ticked. The day had finally come to meet. Quite frankly, I was a total mess. In a whirl of mixed emotions. Not sure if I was coming or going. I had that peculiar butterfly feeling in my stomach – like I was about to sit an exam.

Introductions begin to start the transition from foster home to forever home. This stage is planned to fine detail with the wellbeing of the child at the forefront throughout. Depending on the age of your child and how smoothly (or not) the transition is going, this stage typically lasts 1-2 weeks. You steadily build up more and more contact everyday as you grow and learn together.

We pulled up outside the house, hearts pumping at double speed. I was terrified it wouldn’t be how I’d imagined. How I’d dreamt it would be. That I’d reach out to my child and they’d scream and turn away. The pressure I felt was huge. It had taken me 10 years to get to this point.  It was the most significant event, probably of my whole life. This was it.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. We were greeted with the biggest smile which melted our hearts forever. I genuinely think despite being young there was some recognition from the transition photos and voice recordings we’d put together. These things are recommended by social workers for very good reasons. They clearly work.

Our experiences of our separate foster carers was fantastic (I’ll talk more about adopting for the second time in later posts). Very humbling. But I think it’s fair to say that initially, it can feel a little awkward. They open their doors to you. Welcome you in to their home. But I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of uncertainty. Really silly and inconsequential things. Like where to sit. When to make a cup of tea. When to tidy up toys or make us all lunch. Not wanting to step in or take over. Waiting for the nod to provide comfort when the child – our child – started to cry. Holding back for fear of offending. Or getting it wrong.

The thing that surprised me most, was the amount of immediate close contact we got. Even on that first meet (which was around 2 hours long), we got endless hugs and kisses. Imagine that. I squeezed them so tight, totally lost in the moment. Oblivious to the endless clicking of photos capturing these priceless moments. Moments that now sit very proudly on display above our fireplace.

I hadn’t expected this level of interaction at all. I even gave a bottle, which was surreal -although I panicked I was doing it wrong and felt stupid when I couldn’t wind afterwards! I must mention that this scenario doesn’t happen for everyone. Your involvement will depend on things like age and degree of trauma they have experienced. They may not be so warm and welcoming. We were warned that we may not get any physical contact at all for a few days. You must prepare yourself for this. Pretty heart breaking after such a long wait, but you must be guided by the experts. Slow and steady is the best way forward.

Our introductions went really smoothly, but we were utterly drained – physically and emotionally. There were very early starts to be there before waking up. To be the first person they saw. Late nights to put them to bed and to stay to ensure they’d settled. A really key moment was when the foster carer brought our child to our home. They stayed close by for the first time for reassurance. But this was a really big deal – carrying our little one over the threshold. In to their forever home. In to the home where we would build memories to last a lifetime.

All in all, introductions lasted a week. I couldn’t decide if this was too long. Or not long enough. Were we really ready? We still had so much to learn. What I did know is that every day that went by, the dropping back got harder and harder. Having to say goodbye every night. Longing for the hours to pass quickly so we could return. Our love was instant and grew rapidly every day. It sounds such a cliché, but it really was love at first sight. It totally and utterly took my breath away. I’d never felt anything like it before. Ever. It was as if all the sadness we’d experienced washed away in that moment. That moment we saw them, held them, for the first time. Those big beautiful eyes. That cheeky smile. Those chubby legs. Those giggles. They mended my broken heart. Gave us hope for the future. Made all our dreams come true. It was nothing short of a miracle. We knew, without question, that we were going to do everything in our power to love, care and protect this precious gift. Forever.

Meeting the Foster Carer

A meeting with the foster carer was arranged. I hadn’t positioned in my mind how significant this would be. We sat there staring at the women who had cared for our little one as if they were her own. Knowing that they would never be. Knowing that one day they’d care for them no more. What an incredible thing to do. She’d been doing it for many years. Had been involved in many adoptions. Supported many children to return to birth families. What an incredible person. Reuniting families. Bringing new families together. A fellow adoptive mum once said to me – “without foster carers, there would be no us”. This couldn’t be more true.

She knew every tiny detail about our child. She talked lovingly. With joy. Certainty. Protectively. I felt an immediate pressure to get everything right. I couldn’t let her down. I wondered how on earth she did what she did. Worried how she would feel – cope – when the day came to say goodbye.

I kept thinking I hope she liked us. What if we were sitting there and she was thinking that we weren’t right. That we didn’t seem suitable to be parents. What would she do about it? Who would she tell? How would this impact matching panel? Might they say “no” now? Like I always do, I over thought it. But I couldn’t help but question how I could ever do as good a job as her.

Don’t get me wrong, the feeling was also incredible. We were talking about our child. Not just a hypothetical scenario. Not an “if you were approved”. Not an “if you were matched”. We were all these things now. Finally going to be mummy and daddy. But it was strange talking in such detail having never met. I found it a lot to get my head around.

I wrote absolutely everything down. Verbatim. Listened intently as she relayed their daily life together. Likes and dislikes. What caused upset. What to do to provide comfort. I remember paying particular attention to things like bowel movements! I was surprised that they seemingly lived such a normal life – going to singing classes, soft play, playgroups. Just like mother and child. Why wouldn’t they? I don’t know. Did I think they just stayed in 24-7 waiting for us to turn up to take over? They’d even been away on a holiday. Our child had 100% lived a full life there. It’s crazy to look back at these thoughts. At my naivety. But it really hit me that we had a very difficult time ahead. Amongst all the joy, there would be upset for everyone. Separation. My heart was bursting. But my head was whizzing.

I’d bought some sleep-suits and a book to give as gifts. For some reason I felt awkward about this – like I had to ask permission. Fumbling the words “would it be ok if” “are you sure you don’t mind…”. This remarkable lady of course very gladly took them. Our first gifts. The first of many.

We are still in awe at the role foster carers play in bringing families together. They provide love, security and safety. Often to traumatised and vulnerable children at the most difficult of times. A lot of adoption forums focus on the difficulties of separation from birth families. Of course, this is quite right and absolutely true. But there is a whole different separation to prepare for when they leave foster families. Foster carers often take the brunt of uncertainties and fears. Support children as they express their feelings, not just emotionally, but often physically. They may have shown these children the only stability they’ve ever experienced. Of course they are going to be upset to leave them. Will miss them. Foster carers steady them, until we – their adoptive parents – are ready to take over. And it wouldn’t be long before we could do just that.

Thankfully, everything went smoothly at matching panel . We had the same set of nerves as we’d had for approval panel, but uncharacteristically for me, I was actually much more confident. We knew so much more about our child now and already had a strong connection. We were able to talk about them with such certainty that they were “the one”. Because we felt it. Surely, we hadn’t got this far and the match would be rejected. I was right – we were unanimously approved. We were over the moon. At last, all the stars had aligned. Our dreams really were coming true.

Christmas as an adoptive mum

Christmas with adopted children

– is it any different?

Christmas is literally just around the corner. The countdown nearly over. Advent calendar doors nearly all opened. It really is the most wonderful time of the year. Truly magical. But is it any different for adoptive families? Surely, it’s the same. Christmas is all about the children – right? Regardless of how you became a family. Or is it?

The truth is that as adoptive parents we may have some extra considerations. Firstly, and possibly just a personal view, I grapple with the same thing every year – striving for total Christmas perfection. Applying huge amounts of pressure to myself. From the activities and adventures we plan, to the endless buying of present after present, after present. I finally have the children I always wanted. That I thought I’d never have, and so it must be perfect in every way.

I must reiterate that these are my own feelings. A personal perspective. Other adoptive mums may not feel the same. I wish I didn’t feel this way, so I really hope they don’t follow suit. Adding this extra pressure to themselves in the way I do. You see, as someone unable to have birth children. That endured years and years of trying. Had numerous IVF cycles and heart-breaking losses. Having children and seeing their Christmas joy is all I ever wanted. All I dreamed of. And now I’m a mum. An adoptive mum, and I need Christmas to be absolutely perfect. It has to be after everything we went through. We now have our happily ever after and I want to make it as special as I possibly can. Whatever it takes.

Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not saying that people who have birth children don’t do all they can to make Christmas special – of course they do!  I guess I’m just questioning the reasons behind my own actions. My feelings. Trying to fathom why I put myself under such festive pressure. Almost trying to justify it. To myself more than others.

I used to hate Christmas. Absolutely dread it. I found it unbearable – a stark reminder that another year was drawing to a close. Another childless year. I didn’t want to go out. Couldn’t face anyone. So, I guess I feel like I have 10 years of making up to do. I want to give them everything. Want to make the most of every second. But it does come at a cost. Not just monetary. I’m feeling the pressure more than ever this year. Finding it quite overwhelming to be honest. Trying to make it more than it needs to be. I know it’s not necessary. Of course, I know deep down, it will be totally perfect without any of these things – the extra stocking fillers or decorations. Such materialistic things. I get cross at myself for the trap I’ve set. We are together. We are a family. A forever family of four. We came together through the wonder of adoption and we are going to make the best memories that will last a lifetime. It will be awesome…and without all the extra “bells and whistles”!

There are however some other potential considerations that some adoptive parents may need to make. Things that might make adopted children a little unsettled at Christmas. Potentially, more than any other time of the year, they may wonder what birth parents and siblings, other birth family members, are doing. Question why they are not together or in each other’s lives. Letter box contact could well trigger this. It is rare for direct (face to face) contact to take place, but letters and written updates can happen at different times of the year. Christmas cards may be written and received if this has been pre-arranged in contact agreements. It is such an important part of an adopted child’s identity and can be a very positive experience. But it can also lead to uncertainties and extra questions. Curiosities. As adoptive parents, we may find ourselves searching for answers we often just don’t have.

Another thing to mention is that adoptive parents may need to be mindful that Christmas could be a negative trigger for their little ones. Generally, it depends on the age they were when they were placed and their life story – the reasons why they entered the care system. Already bad experiences can be exacerbated at this time of year and vulnerable birth families may have found things even harder to cope with at Christmas. This could lead to enhanced unsafe and unstable situations for children. We cannot ignore the fact that three quarters of adopted children will have come from these circumstances.

So, for some adopted children, Christmas could hold a memory of trauma that can never be forgotten. This is such an awful thought. As new adoptive parents, the instinct could be to overcompensate. Go all out. This is not necessarily the best route and could lead to more confusion and uncertainty. Being overwhelmed as they try to process how different this time of year used to be for them. Remembering only the bad bits as their primary memories. Difficult behaviours could be displayed as their defence mechanisms kick in. This is a difficult situation and needs to be thought through. Working with the child and their capacity to accept change, together.

I must stress that not all adopted children will experience these negative things. We count ourselves very lucky that our children didn’t. Most will be excited in exactly the same way as every other child. Jumping and dancing around the Christmas tree. Asking every 5 minutes when Santa is coming. Mesmerised by Christmas lights. Eating copious amounts of chocolate (usually before breakfast). The truly wonderful things that make this time of year so magical. All the things I dreamt of for so long – they all came true. Thanks to adoption, we most certainly have joy by the bucket full. Endless Christmas sparkle. I really couldn’t ask for more than to hear the screams of “he’s been” at 5am on Christmas Day…I genuinely cannot wait!

So, I started off by asking the question – is Christmas with adopted children any different? I guess it’s down to the individual circumstance of how and why the family was formed. For me, without question, children make Christmas. My children. They have turned my dark days in to light. I am forever grateful that I can now celebrate the very best time of the year in the very best kind of way.

A Mothers Love

Below are the words of a fellow adoptive mum. My “adoption buddy”. I count myself very lucky to have her in my life. She is strong and passionate. Patient and inspiring. My role model. The love she has for her children is unwavering. I often say to her that I couldn’t survive without her…and it’s absolutely true! We have such a strong connection and I am so grateful that adoption brought us together. Our paths would not have crossed without it. What a travesty that would have been. Her friendship is such an added bonus to our adoption journey and I am so grateful for this.

She is the one I turn to when I’m wading through the maze of having adopted children. When I need advice on how to explain parts of life stories. When I’m wondering if my children are behaving in the way they are because they are adopted, or just because they are…children. I trust her. Value her judgement. Confide in her about things that I don’t tell anyone else. Everyone needs an adoption buddy and I hope you are lucky enough to have one as special as mine.

I often question if it’s possible to love my children any more than I do. Would it feel different if I had given birth to them? Here is how she feels about the love of a mother, who just happened to have her children through the wonder of adoption…

“My children are growing up so fast, too fast. I often find myself just watching them, trying to absorb every moment, to remember every detail. The sound of their little voices, the cute ways they sometimes mispronounce things. Their laughs. Their little hands. Their morning hair. How did I get so lucky to have this privilege? To get to be the one they call Mummy?

They must say that word a hundred times a day and each time it’s like a little golden deposit into my heart. Every once in a while, I find my mind wandering down winding roads – “What if they had stayed where they were?”, “What if they had ended up with someone else?” “What if, what if, what if…???”

And while all I can do is continue to thank my lucky stars and be the best mother I can be to them, I can’t help but feel a daily abundance of gratitude to the social workers and child protection teams who intervened (in very specific and differing ways ) when my children were babies. Ensuring they were brought somewhere safe until the courts could decide their future.

Without social workers and foster carers, who work tirelessly and with little support, the entire system would fall apart. Without them, what on earth would happen to the thousands of children born into vulnerable or dangerous situations. Babies like mine.

There are currently around 4000 children in the UK waiting to be adopted. In some areas the number of children waiting outweighs adopters 3 to 1. Why? Perhaps misconceptions about eligibility? Perhaps the process seems too daunting? Perhaps fears around the challenges of parenting adopted children? Being an adoptive parent does come with challenges. We are parenting children who have, even in the best of circumstances, experienced some form of early childhood trauma. Some much worse than others.

As adoptive parents, we must parent our children a little differently – therapeutically and empathetically. Always from the perspective of building and maintaining attachment and keeping their base secure. As Sally Donovan says, it’s like the Olympics of parenting. But to be perfectly honest, in my opinion, all children could benefit from that style of parenting, anyway. Imagine a world where all children grew up in a Playful, Loving, Accepting, Creative, Empathetic environment.

Making the decision to adopt is/was/will always be, the greatest decision we ever made. Words cannot express how honoured, proud and blessed I feel every minute of every day to be an adoptive parent. My children are funny and sweet. Smart and curious. Absolutely gorgeous and as stubborn as mules! As brother and sister, they are fiercely protective of each other and I love their loyalty. My children are the children I had always dreamed of, exactly as they are. My love for them is overwhelming and my heart overflows with joy every day, even on the hard days (and of course, there are hard days – parenting certainly isn’t easy!). Over the years people have said utterly ridiculous (but well intended) things like, “those kids are so lucky to have ended up with you guys” and I shake my head vehemently. No, I am the lucky one. To experience this privilege of being their mother, I am the lucky one.

I often find myself thinking of the thousands of children in foster care – around 4000 in the UK, 400,000 in US and thousands more all around the world. My thoughts and prayers are with them now and always. And to my babies – thank you for being born, for finding me, for calling me Mummy a hundred times a day. I love you both infinitely”.

The Match

Everyone had agreed and the stars did align. With such caring people, this child would shine.

And then, only about two weeks after approval confirmation, it happened – the call. A possible link. A potential match. A child to make me a mum. My husband a dad. And yep I totally freaked out!

You see, we had been thrown a huge curve ball. We’d actually been approved for siblings. From the outset we were absolutely clear about this. It would be hard with two, but we could do it. The call we got, was for just one. What! Panic! We’d spent the best part of 8 months preparing for two. What were they thinking? Had they not read our report? We couldn’t change our plans now after all this time.

But it all became clear. The circumstances and history of this little one was as good as it could possibly be. That’s all I’m prepared to say I’m afraid. I’ll never say more. I’m a firm believer that it is our children’s story to share as and when – if – they want to. This is one of the reasons I keep myself faceless online. My children are too young to sit down and ask if they are ok with me doing all this. Sharing our story in this way. If I stay faceless, I’m hoping to not only protect their identity, but also their feelings.

Once we were over the initial shock, things seemed to move very quickly. An appointment to come and see us was made for the next day. A child needed a forever home and ours could be the one. We were given basic information in case we decided not to progress, or if the child’s family finding social worker decided we weren’t suitable. Some are faced with being considered alongside other prospective adopters, who may be chosen over them. I hadn’t considered this was even a possibility. I just assumed that once you had a link that was it. After such a long wait and knowing enough to want that child to be yours, it must be a real wrench if you weren’t taken forward. Really hard to deal with. Yet another set back on the rocky road to parenthood through adoption.

What we didn’t initially see, was a photo. The experts try to avoid people being blindsided by cuteness before knowing more about the life history. In theory, it needs to be a head over heart decision. For me, I think you need that initial reaction. That love at first sight moment. I think it’s powerful. It’s what makes you know they are the “one”.

When it was time for our photo reveal, I was so nervous and hid behind my hands unable to look. What if I felt absolutely nothing? No connection, no emotion. But oh boy, I did get that heart stopping, overwhelming feeling of joy. I said to my husband – “they look like you, they have your eyes”. This was the point our lives magnificently changed forever.

The next step was to see full details in the Child’s Adoption Report (CAR). Brace yourself if you have this to come; it can contain some upsetting details. Conversely, there may be big gaps in the child’s history. Either birth parents don’t know details or, they choose not to disclose it. There are often many unknowns. I lost track of the number of times the Medical Advisor said to us – “we can’t be sure of the possible long-term effects of that, but we have to make you aware”.

I don’t want this to sound flippant, but the unknowns never really concerned me. With birth children, you never know what medical conditions they may get. If they’ll suffer with mental health issues. I took the view it’s just part of being a parent and I was confident we would deal with whatever we were faced with. Together.

Time to Prepare

Lots of shopping to do, toys, books and teddies galore “Come on, hurry up let;s buy more!”

Once we had the official approval, we got on with the real preparations. Collating pictures of ourselves and our immediate family for memory and transition books and aids. There are some fantastic resources out there. Toys, teddies and books that can record your voice messages. We did a video for our second child. I walked around our house talking to teddy bears and reading stories to toys – I looked like I was doing an audition for a CBeebies presenter! I absolutely loved it and there is no doubt that these things significantly helped with recognition and familiarisation in the lead up to introductions.

It was really lovely for our families to start playing a key part. To make them feel more involved. Although they met our social worker, a lot of the assessment process was just about us. Generally, I think it’s hard for family to feel part of it all until this point. Part of this was down to us though. Well me really. Not wanting to get their hopes up. Not wanting to give them extra stress. Not wanting to let them down (again) if we weren’t approved. We should have given them far more credit. They have been incredibly supportive throughout our adoption journey.

We got on with decorating too. Giving our spare room an overhaul to become our child’s bedroom. It’s funny how at this point, I had firmly put the years of heartache and disappointment to the back of my mind. I hardly thought about the losses or feelings of despair. The emptiness. There was so much to do and so much to focus on. I got brochures from all the baby and child stores and spent my evenings circling things we’d need. Writing list upon list of what we needed to buy.

I chose cute animal prints for the nursery. I’ll never forget catching a glimpse of all the bedding and blankets dancing around in the wind on the washing line. My heart melted. A priceless memory. Those things were for our child. Our son or daughter. It probably sounds a bit cheesy, but I felt like I already loved them. I was going to be a mum. Hopefully very soon.

Approval Panel

All prospective adopters attend an approval panel where a group of carefully selected people, all with experience and expertise in adoption, decide if you should be recommended to adopt. Unfortunately, proposed panel dates often get “bumped”. Sometimes at very short notice. Sometimes even on the day. This frustratingly happened to us. Even more frustratingly it was due to incomplete paperwork. Quite commonplace I believe.

Social workers have large caseloads. They are stretched and have to juggle all sorts of very difficult situations. It was a real blow for us though. We tried our best to be patient. Our time would come. I’m not really an “everything happens for a reason” person – the awful things we’d experienced on our journey to parenthood, sucked. No other way to say it. The truth however, is that if we hadn’t experienced that delay, we would not have the wonderful daughter we have today. I just can’t imagine that. Writing it made me shiver. The timings would not have worked out. Her profile would have been given to someone else. I would not have been her mum. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I wish I’d had more faith that it would all work out.

Sometimes matching panels need to take your slot – placement of children is quite rightly a higher priority. Still hard though. You build yourself up to this significant milestone. Unfortunately, as panel dates are often infrequent, it can be months until you get another date. More waiting.

I was unbelievably nervous about panel day. Thinking I would totally mess it up by saying the wrong thing. This was the biggest moment of our lives to date. Our future lay in their hands. What if they said “no”? This was our last chance to become parents. There was no other way in which I could become a mum. It was all down to this day. People we’d never met, holding the key to the rest of our lives.

Walking in was a little daunting. I was surprised at how many there were – probably 12. It was however very relaxed, and they were very welcoming. We’d been fully prepped by our social worker so there was nothing too challenging. Questions were focused around the type of parents we wanted to be, why we thought adoption was for us, how we would deal with introductions and the settling in period.

My worry wasn’t justified and thankfully, we had a unanimous “yes”. Our dream to become “Mummy and Daddy” was finally becoming a reality. This was a fantastic feeling. It was hard not to get too carried away. There was still a long road (and lots of paperwork) ahead. All verbal recommendations must be ratified by an Agency Decision Maker (ADM). On average his takes around 2 weeks. Roll call the “what if they say no?” question again! It can happen, but it is unusual for positive recommendations to be overturned.

The truth was, it didn’t matter one of my referees had said we enjoyed a night out together drinking a fair bit of wine – that was my support and release channel. That I didn’t have a textbook answer to sleep training – no new mum does. That I had no real idea how I would cope if my child rejected me or one day screamed “you’re not my real mum” – I still don’t. I have come to realise that they weren’t looking for perfection. At the time I thought they were. I put a lot of extra pressure on myself as I tried to be “perfect”. What the panel had in us, was belief. They believed we could provide a safe, secure and loving home. Could competently work through the challenges we would face. It was time for me to believe in us too.

The Waiting Game

Dreaming of the perfect child, gazing at the clock. Pacing, yearning, hoping. Tick-Tock-Tock

I’m often asked –“how long did it take?” Obviously, this differs case by case. From the time I picked up the phone to our little one coming home, was 12 months. Not long at all. Not really that different to a pregnancy. But at the time, going through all these stages, it often felt like an eternity.

After assessments, it was very tempting to go full steam ahead and get “baby ready” but of course a) you don’t know if you’ll even be approved and b) what age your child will be if you are. Very different to preparing for a new-born. A reminder you are not on a “normal” path to parenthood. Panel do need you to be well prepared though in case of a quick match, so it’s a hard balance to get right. You do have to start the preparation process to a degree. I had pretty much waited 10 years to be a mum. I was desperate to buy cute outfits and to finally walk into the likes of Mothercare with a real purpose. I needed to be just a little more patient for this.

I did masses of research and read all sorts of adoption guidance books. Generally, I learnt a lot from these. But I must be honest; some of them really made we worry. Reading peoples accounts of their difficulties with attachments and having to deal with signs of trauma made me question if we had taken the right path. What if we couldn’t provide a child with all they needed? I knew deep down we could, but I got myself a bit worked up. It was time for a break from it all. From the intensity. I didn’t need much convincing when my husband suggested a holiday.  Our last one just the two of us.

Within a few days of arriving somewhere warm and sunny, I could feel the worries lifting from my shoulders. It ended up being the most relaxed holiday we’d had in years. This time we weren’t running away from all the disappointments. Despite all that was in front of us, we had a new sense of calm. Especially me. A belief, even if still a little cautious, that we would soon be parents. Finally starting to let go of anxieties I’d carried for so long.