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.