Pressure

I’ve been reflecting on the huge amount of pressure to be a ‘perfect’ mum that I put upon myself, and how this is not good for my self esteem and confidence….

I’ve been a mummy for nearly 8months now, and I think the thing I’m finding the hardest at the moment is the self-imposed pressure I put myself under daily. Yes, my daughter’s behaviour is challenging at times, but it’s fairly normal for her age & circumstance/history, and it’s manageable. I struggle way more with my feelings of failure and inadequacy when things don’t go right.

I’ve been trying to think about why I’m struggling so much with these thoughts. I think it’s partly due to feeling that because my daughter had such a difficult start in life, that I have to make up for that and be a super-mum and get everything perfect. Of course I’m human and it doesn’t go perfect at all, so I’ve set myself up to fail straight away. Maybe it’s because I feel like I have to prove to myself and others that I am a good mum, and any slight hint of not  being a good mum makes me feel a failure, again making me believe that I am not doing a good job. Maybe it’s because I passed al those interviews and tests, and theoretically proved I would be a good mum, but in reality I struggle to be patient, empathetic and loving all the time. I promised to be better than ‘good enough’ in my parenting, but sometimes I know that i don’t even make good enough. Do I feel that I’m not living up to what I promised? Maybe it’s because I’m naturally quite a perfectionist, and love for things to be ordered & predictable. having a child has turned this upside down, and it’s taking some time to come to terms with this, almost a loss of control on my own life. Maybe I spend too much time on twitter and instagram where I see supposedily perfect looking families and parents who appear to be able to therapeutically parent 24/7. I know deep down that neither of these is the reality, but it doesn’t hep my fragile parenting self esteem. Maybe it’s because I’m scared of damaging her more, and causing her to be unhappy.

On a bad day, when I know I haven’t been the best parent I can, my little girl can (seemingly) get over a disagreement almost instantly. (although I do worry that she stores all her memories of my less than perfect moments), it can take me a long time to calm down and move on with the day. I feel an over whelming sense of self disappointment and shame that’s difficult to shake off. It’s physically and mentally exhausting.

So, what am I (trying) to do to improve the situation? I think the 1st thing I need to (continue) to do is recognise that some of these feelings are actually a good thing as they demonstrate that I do care deeply, and want to get it right. However I need to learn to maybe tone them down and not be so negative. I am trying to be more like my 3year old, to forgive (hopefully forget) and move on quickly. Instead of being physically distant I’m trying to be more physically available for more cuddles etc. I’m trying to talk about whats happened more with both my daughter, and later with my husband. This way I can reflect, and give space to voice the feelings rather than let them get stronger inside. We’re trying to work on recognising and naming feelings with our daughter, and I think it helps that she see’s that adults do have feelings too. I make sure I say sorry to her if I have done wrong, to acknowledge that mummy was wrong, but she’s sorry. This helps me to stop, reflect and move on quickly. I need to remember that social media is just a snapshot of people’s lives, and they are not all as rosy as they might appear.

I’m trying to remember that in 8 short months since placement we’ve come so far, and our daughter is (all things considered) doing amazingly. We all feel very settled as a family, and she seems really well attached to us. She is growing up very quickly, learning lots of new things every week. She is liked by everyone she knows and is gaining confidence in all areas. She clearly loves me and wants to be with me. She is happy to see me again when we’ve been apart. Everyone has said how well we’re doing. I need to believe this more, and to believe that she wouldn’t be doing so well if I wasn’t a good mum. I must be doing something right.

Today was a good day, minimal tantrums (that’s from either of us) so it was quite easy to reflect on how I’m feeling and try to be positive, I just need to remember my own advice to myself when things don’t go quite to plan. I also need to remember I am a great mum!!!

Joy

Yesterday the Adoption Order was granted, and it prompted lots of emotions and feelings….

Yesterday we had news from our daughter’s social worker that our Adoption Order had been granted in court that morning. It was apparantly very straight forward and there were no contests.  I am delighted that our daughter is finally officially and legally ours. I think it’s still sinking in, how did we get to here, through the process and out the other side? It was 2years and 1 day exactly since we attended our first adoption info evening, and now here we are,  a real little happy family. I am relieved that no one could take her away from us. I am excited about moving forward as a family (all with the same surname), and starting the next phase of the rest of our lives together.

However, it also felt a bit strange, almost a bit like and anti-climax as it felt like nothing had happened, and actually it doesn’t change much about our everyday lives. We weren’t in court, and at the moment have nothing to prove she is ours (paperwork will be coming). Our experience of Social Services in her placing LA has been mostly great, and even though it will nice to be ‘free’, it also feels a bit daunting stepping out on our own. Our agency social worker has also been amazing, and we’ll be sad to say goodbye to her. However, they are a voluntary agency, and have said they’re there for us as long as we need them, which is reassuring.

Our daughter (just 3years old) is currently unaware of what a life changing day yesterday was for her. We decided not to tell her as we felt she wouldn’t understand what is actually quite a complex concept. We did however want to mark and celebrate the occasion in some way, so today we bought a special edible treat and said that it was because we wanted to celebrate the fact that she is ours and she will stay with Mummy and Daddy forever. She chose the doughnut with sprinkles on the top, and enjoyed eating them only, haha. We will celebrate more at the celebration hearing (to be held locally to us), and hopefully this occasion will enable us to explain to her about the significance of the Adoption Order a bit more.

One of the things I love most about the Adoption Order, is the fact that we got to name her. This is a right and and enjoyment that all parents have when they have children, and was something I was a bit unsure about before we adopted. What if I didn’t like my child’s name? will I feel they’re less mine if I didn’t name them? Anyway, our daughter’s original name is so made for her, so thats why we kept it. Also, she very much has a self identity with her name. We were fortunate to meet Birth Family who explained why she was named what she is, and so we felt it was very important to keep those names. She will learn later that her names have meaning, and hopefully will be grateful that we kept them. We did also add an additional name, Joy. It’s similar to my middle name, and I always thought that if I had a little girl, her middle name would be Joy. Yesterday my wish and dream came true, I have a little girl, and her middle name is Joy. Also, she so suits this name, and is (mostly) a total Joy, to us and many more. She has given us so much joy and purpose in life, and will continue to do so.

As usual, with anything significant and adoption related, my thoughts were with her Birth Family. Although it was a day of great celebration for us, I am aware that they will probably had very different emotions. I imagine it will have been a day of great sadness and loss for them. They didn’t contest, and we don’t know the reasons for this (as I’m told it is encouraged these days). As always, I hope they are reassured that this little girl is so loved by us. I hope that they are reassured that she will know about them. We will tell her how we met and what we discussed. We will continue to write to them as agreed.

We have started to talk to our daughter about how she came to be with us. I was dreading this as I want to get it right and say the right thing (hopefully life story book/later life letter will help). It’s heartbreaking watching her process it all and seeing how confused she is. It’s also reassuring that she appears very settled here and well attached to us. I hope that frequent informal chats will help to build a story and make the conversations more natural. I am adopted, and can’t remember a time when I didn’t know I was. I hope this will be the same for my girl.

So, now life continues with our little bundle of Joy, and we can start to look to plans in the future. I am so thankful that she is ours and that we get to have the privilege of being her parents.

True Love ❤️

This week I’ve been thinking about loving my daughter….

They say that true love in adoption does not always happen at first sight. I have been thinking these last few days about whether this was true for me or not.

From the first viewing of my daughter’s profile on LinkMaker I was drawn to her cheeky, infectious smile before I’d even read her profile properly. To be honest, once I read her profile I wasn’t sure, and took some time to really believe we could be compatible (I do think this may have been because I still had another child on my mind, and I needed to mentally and emotionally move on from them before I could commit to another). As we found out more about her, the good feelings grew, and I was falling for her. The videos and photos we saw really brought her and her beautiful personality to life. By the time we got to the matching panel I was fully committed to her, but did I love her? Difficult to say as unlike giving birth to her, I didn’t grow and nuture her inside me. I remember being quite emotional in the matching panel, and I think this is where I first realised I wanted to love and protect her as if she was already mine.

I loved her from first meeting her, who couldn’t though? she was amazing. But did I really love her? Intros was a strange time, with all the emotions and exhaustion. I think it was only just dawning on me that I was going to be responsible for a little girl, and would be her mum for the rest of my life. We were lucky and had a problem free intro week (whilst she was still at the foster carers), so we had a lovely time going out for days out and playing. However, this was not real life, and when real life hit for sure, I found it hard. There were tantrums and testing behaviours. I really really missed my ‘old’ life with friends and work. We had long days to fill with an active toddler who didn’t nap. There were many tears from her and me, and at times I did wonder did I really, truly love her? this sweet but at times challenging little person? I sometimes felt that if I really loved her, I’d be a better mummy and be more gentle/understanding. But there were times of pure joy, seeing her beautiful smile, watching her achieve something new and being so proud with herself, and I was emotional with pride, and I knew I was really an truly falling in love with her. She is such a loving and forgiving little girl, that I feel that she’s taught me how to love so much more.

This week has been a good week, I’ve tried really hard to be patient and relax a bit. It’s really helped, and it’s made me realise that she is so mine, and I love her so much. Of course there have been less easy times this week, but I think my desire to show her how much I love her has helped me to be calm and more loving. I realise that when I don’t get it right, that feeling of failure (still working on trying not to feel a failure all the time when it doesn’t go to plan) is in some ways a good thing. It shows I care, and am doing what every parent does, in that they love their child so much they want to strive to get it right.

I think the point at which I knew I really & truly unconditionally loved my precious daughter was the other night (7months after placement) when she was terrified of being taken away from us. I was almost crying myself as I could’t make it better for her. All I could do was hold her, cuddle her and reassure her that she was going no where. My heart broke for her, and I knew then I absolutely do love her, and will do anything I can to protect and nurture her. She did eventually settle and fell asleep next to me, and it was the best feeling in the world. I was a Mummy who’s child loved and trusted me so much she (eventually) felt safe to go to sleep.

So, to my sweet, precious daughter, I Love You! ❤️

Happy Birthday!

It’s my daughter’s birthday this week, so I wanted to write her a little letter….

Happy Birthday to my darling girl, you’re 3 now and getting to be such a big girl, but as we always say (and you love) ‘you’ll always be my baby!’

It’s your 3rd birthday, and also your 3rd with a different ‘family’. I’m not sure if you really understand what a birthday is or how much you remember from previous ones. Maybe it makes you a bit anxious because you don’t know what to expect as each one has been so different. Don’t worry my darling, we’re keeping it simple and low key. we have all your favourite food planned (lots of cheese), and some of your favourite people will be coming to help you celebrate.

So much has changed for you since your last birthday, and I’m so proud of how you’ve coped  with it all, you’re such a strong and resilient little girl! I’m so proud of how well you’ve settled here. It totally melts my heart when you’re excited to see me when we’ve been apart and you shout ‘Mummy, Mummy’ with a huge smile. I love how much you love your Daddy, and are so ridiculously excited when he comes home after work. You’ve achieved so much since we’ve known you, you continue to amaze me everyday. You’ve certainly grown so tall, and your hair is so pretty too. I love dressing you, and much to daddy’s dismay, I’m slowly building you a collection of shoes to rival mine. I was so proud when you ran your race last week, and even though we came last, that didn’t bother you in the slightest as you got that medal you wanted. You inspire me to be a calmer, more forgiving person, thank you.

I wonder how your birth family is feeling on your birthday? It may be hard for them knowing that you’re 3 and they can’t celebrate with you. I hope they can remember your beautiful smile, and I hope they can imagine you smiling as we celebrate you and your wonderfulness.

I’m sad we missed out on the first 2 1/2 years of your life, and I wish we could have been there to love and protect you. However I’m grateful for the people that did look after, love and protect you. I’m grateful the social workers took their time to find us, as you really are our perfect match.

This next year is going to be full of new adventures and challenges I’m sure, and I want you to know my darling that we’ll be there with you every step of the way.

Lastly, I want to say thank you for letting me be your Mummy, I know I’m not always the most patient or empathetic mummy, but I want you to know that I’ll always love you, and always want to do the best job I can. It’s my Birthday  this week too, I’ll be 31 (old I know, haha). I always dreamt I’d have children by the time I was 30, and I want to thank you for making my wish come true . My 30th year was certainly a year to remember, and you my darling coming home was the best thing that happened.

So, Happy Birthday sweetheart, I hope you have a wonderful day, and an amazing year ahead.

Lots of Love,

Mummy xx

Mother’s Day (a few thoughts)

It’s my/our first Mother’s Day tomorrow, and although it’s a great feeling being finally able to celebrate be a mum myself, it’s brought up lots of mixed feelings in me….

Joy: I had dreamed of being a mum for many years, and as those years went on the dream got stronger and the disappointment and sadness did too. So, this year I am a mum to a gorgeous precious little girl and I couldn’t be happier or more proud. I heard her and her Daddy working on something together this morning, it sounded so cute and I can’t wait to see what they’ve created tomorrow.

Determination (and self doubt): I am determined to do the very best for my little girl, and to try to be the best mum for her. I think I feel that because of her start in life, I need to be supermum to make up for what she may not have had. However, I’ve realised these last few days that this is probably not very helpful for either of us. yes, I need (and want) to be a good mum, but I’m putting too much pressure on myself to be perfect. When I’m predictably not perfect it makes me feel like a really rubbish mum, and I really doubt myself. Everyone around me is saying I’m doing a good job, but sometimes I really don’t believe it. I think I need to remember more that I can’t be perfect all the time, and that what my daughter needs most is a warm, loving mummy. Yes, the theories, therapeutic parenting and other influences are really important, but I can’t do that all the time, and I need to believe that thats ok too.  I need to try to relax a bit more, and enjoy the joy that parenting can be. I need to learn from my daughter and smile and move on when something doesn’t go to plan.

Sadness: Mother’s day makes me think of people who are longing to be mums, have lost their mums or who have lost their children and are no longer mums. I know people who have experienced all of these, and I hope that they know I grieve and are angry with them. I really hope and pray that even though tomorrow will be painful, that they have supportive, understanding people around them.

I am particularly thinking of my little girl’s Birth Mum. I know that some would say ‘she’s not for you to worry about’, but I am probably too sensitive, so actually, she is. I know that she was given notification of the application for little one’s adoption order this week (great timing!), and all I can think of is she’s probably not in a great place now. She actually told us she supported the adoption, but now it’s (hopefully) about to actually happen I wonder how she feels?. I hope and pray that somehow she has some peace, and that she is comforted by the fact that she knows that we will/do so so love little one.

My daughter is too little this year to fully understand adoption, but I do wonder how Mother’s Day will be in coming years, and how I’m going to help her understand her story. I expect that in the future Mother’s Day’s will stir up some big feelings, and I hope I can help her discuss and explore them together. I will make it clear that her Birth Mum will always be an important part of her, and her story.

Excitement: I am about to become an aunty to my first little niece. I’m so excited, and can’t wait to meet her. I hope she grows up to become a strong woman, and I hope I can be the best aunty to her. I hope I can support my little sister as she starts her journey of being a mum, and can be someone she comes to whatever she needs.

Grateful: lastly (but not least) I am so grateful to my own Mum (and of course Dad too). As I am adopted, she already knows what it’s like to be an adoptive mum. her support and advice have been invaluable to me, I couldn’t have got through the adoption process (actually my whole life up till now) without her. Whenever I need a some encouragement she is at the end of the phone, and I often come away feeling so much better. She is simply amazing!

So, lots of feelings at the moment, that won’t go away when Mother’s day has ended, but for tomorrow I’m going to enjoy the day, and hug my precious girl tight because I am so grateful to have her, and honoured to be called her Mummy!

I wonder……

This last week we have attended a feedback session from a theraplay assessment we had at home, and I attended some brilliant PAC-UK training at our adoption agency. The main take home message for me from both for me was ‘I wonder…..”

What I am about to discuss may seem obvious to some people, and in adoption, it should be, but I am just starting to understand the importance of it, and hope that someone reading may benefit from this knowledge too.

A few weeks ago our daughter’s social worker came to do a MIM (Marschak Interaction Method) assessment with the 3 of us at home. This is a theraplay based assessment which is used to observe and assess the quality and nature of the relationship between the caregivers and the child. It consisted of play based activities that we completed each on our own with our daughter, and also the 3 of us together. The social worker filmed it, and it was sent to a therapist to analyse. We went this week to have the informal feedback.

The good news was that the therapist said that our daughter has a good attachment to us, and clearly wants and likes to be with us. This was encouraging and we feel this is due to lots of hard work on our part.

The more challenging news was that even though she appears to be engaging well with us, this can be quite superficial and the deeper attunement (non verbal and ‘in the moment’) needs to be developed and encouraged. being told that your child is disengaged to you is pretty hard to hear actually as we thought we are doing well. Then I realised we are doing well, it’s early days, and to have that determination to get it right and learn how to parent better can only be a good thing. If we can get this right it will help her recognise and manage big emotions, and will help in every area of her life as she grows. No pressure then……

Some ideas that he gave to increase that attachment/attunement to create a non-verbal connection of togetherness are:

  • voice her thoughts, e.g. does it feel like….. I wonder…..
  • She can be quite hyperviligent and anxious, and will ask lots of questions (e.g., who’s that man?, what’s that noise?) He suggested we create stories so that she understands in the moment, and knows that we acknowledge how she feels. It voices that you are thinking the same as she is, and creates that togetherness. He suggested that she will use the feelings to go back to a time when she felt them before, and we need to help her match those feelings to current experiences. (e.g., ‘that man is just going for a run, maybe he’s going to get a medal. I wonder if sometimes when people run around and surprise you, it makes you feel a bit anxious and scared. Mummy and daddy will keep you safe so you don’t need to be scared.)
  • match her emotion and shift, e.g. if she is frowning, frown, then smile. This can be done as a game, and she quite enjoys this. It encourages positive eye contact.
  • do lots of non-verbal contact (theraplay games can be useful here)
  • narrate lots, it’s what you’d do for a baby, and she may have missed out on this stage. It enables her to understand emotions/feelings and make sense of the world
  • don’t ask questions, just lead, she’ll follow & learn to internalise.
  • if you ask questions, this may lead to stress and panic, and she won’t actually be able to process and remember. Questions put her under pressure.
  • she needs to know that you know, it encourages trust because if she believes you don’t know that answer, that’s stressful to her.
  • she needs lots of feedback that she’s a joy to be with, otherwise she’ll internalise that she she is not worthy. Just a frequent smile helps with this, everytime she looks at you. Give lots of encouragement.
  • blank or disappointed faces can be interpreted as anger.
  • always respond with empathy first. (e.g., ‘that must be really hard’)
  • Once you disconnect from her, she will stay disconnected for 2hours, so any chance of progress is gone.

I also attended some training about ‘managing difficult behaviour’, and really the message was very much the same. The trainer also said that being sensitive to emotion ( and the reason for them) is one of the most important concepts. She said that naming and exploring emotions with children is so valuable because it means that they feel heard and listened to. Their emotions feel valid, and they learn that there are ways to manage emotions. It reassures them that you know what you’re talking about, and then trust increases. she says always think before you respond. Like the therapist she said avoid questions. She talked about ’emotion coaching’, which uses empathy and specific ‘scripts’ that you can adjust as you need. She also said using ‘I wonder….) is the best thing you can say.

So, after all this training (and driving to them), I feel exhausted with all this new information, and disappointed in myself for not getting it before now. But, I have the knowledge to make positive changes, and it makes so much sense to me. I’ve already started to use some of the techniques, and it seems to be helping, even if it just prompts me to think first before I respond to my daughter. I think it’s helping me be more empathetic, and calmer. I know that the tantrums and difficult behaviour are not going to disappear over night, and that it’s a work in progress but I’m hopeful that it will make a positive difference to my daughter, and that can only be a good thing…..

 

Predictably Unpredictable

Over the last few weeks I’ve come to realise that our life now can only be described as ‘predictably unpredictable’ 

The last few weeks in our family have been so up & down that sometimes I’m not sure whether I’m coming or going. One thing I do know however, is that we never know what to expect from the day ahead when we wake up

I know that life with children (particularly toddlers) is unpredictable at the best of times, but I know that life with adopted children is even more unpredictable, as I’m slowly discovering for myself.

Each day when we wake up, we’re never quite sure what to expect for the day ahead. Some days are calm and we can get through without any (or minimal) tantrums. Other days are not so calm and we have lots of screaming, crying and tantrums as well as quite physical behaviour (hitting, kicking, biting, spitting). I find these days exhausting and draining, so can only imagine how much more traumatic they are for my little one. I wish I could do more to help her with her anxiety and distress, but sometimes I do the same things each day & yet she behaves so differently so I’m at a bit of a loss.

We try to manage this challenging behaviour as therapeutically as possible, and include lots of praise and encouragement. However, we’re finding it hard to try to distinguish what may be trauma/adoption related and what may be typical toddler behaviour (not listening, defiance, tantrums when not getting what she wants) as we know that these need to be managed differently.  We do tend to assume trauma and have been trying to identify the underlying cause of the behaviour, but we find that we tend to overanalyse everything, and then I think I forget to actually just stop and enjoy the precious little girl I have. My confidence and self esteem are so up and down, it’s such an emotional rollercoaster. What we are experiencing is actually quite low level compared to some of what I read, so I do worry how I’ll cope if things get harder as she grows up. However, I know that she is my daughter and I’ll try everything and anything to help her.

What has been really helpful is twitter and reading other people’s blogs as they give such good ideas to help their children. What they say makes sense and it helps me to know that what we’re experiencing is not unusual (in the adoption world) The adoption training tells you all about the type of children you might adopt and what behaviours they might have, but I don’t really recall much about how to parent these children. I now realise that we were quite unprepared, and we’re doing some very urgent catch-up. We’ve found that some very basic theraplay techniques may be helping, and assuming that she may have missed out on some of the baby developmental stages, so making sure we do lots of basic nurturing. We try to remember that she is (most of the time) probably not being deliberately naughty or difficult, and try to respond to her patiently and calmly. This, like all parents we don’t always manage, but we do try hard to.

After a weekend like we’ve had in which she has not tried to hit or kick me once and has not had a tantrum with me, I hope that we are getting it right and my confidence takes a little soar. However, I have no idea what tomorrow (or tonight, praying for sleep) will bring. Here’s to another week of unpredictability and learning to embrace and try to enjoy it……….

 

Contact

We sent off our 2nd letterbox contact letter today, and it got me thinking about contact in adoption.

When we were being assessed to adopt, the subject of contact (with birth family) was discussed. It was explored both in our home study with our social worker, and in our group sessions.

I think that contact (whether direct or indirect) is a strange concept to people who don’t know adoption. Some people may think why should you continue a dialogue with (sometimes, but not always) the very people that the child was removed from. Surely in adoption all links to birth family are cut? What’s the benefit of continued contact? What form can contact take? I’m sure that all these questions were once on my mind too.

Because there was already adoption and fostering in our family before we were approved, we could see firsthand the benefits and challenges of several different types of contact. We’ve seen how occasional direct contact in one case was actually not very beneficial, and caused stress and anxiety (and associated behavioural challenges) for the children involved. This also had an impact on the wider family who experienced the challenges second hand. In another case, regular direct (in that it is Skype) between siblings is really beneficial, and it helps those children have a sense of identity and understanding of where they have come from. They can share joint experiences as they grow up and can be a support to each other (if this is what they decide they need). In another case letter box contact between siblings (well their adoptive parents) is about to start, and again, this will hopefully be helpful for both the children and their families as they grow up.

In our case we have yearly letterbox contact with two birth family members, and once yearly direct contact with one. This arrangement although not court appointed was discussed very early on during the match as the social workers needed to know that the adopters would be in agreement to it. We thought quite a lot about whether we would be happy with this. We decided that as long as it was beneficial and not causing our child to be harmed/hurt, we would at least agree to start it and see how it goes. We thought that hopefully it would help her to understand more about where she had come from, and help her to form a strong identity in herself. It may help her to understand about her adoption, and she would know that we didn’t want to erase this other vital part of her life. We felt that the direct contact was more unusual, and more a risk, but we were reassured that it was low risk. Again, we felt that for now it was really important we keep links to birth family, and when our child is old enough, she can decide for herself what she wants to do. This person was significant in her life before (and also whilst) she was in care, and we didn’t want to take this relationship away. We are clear though that we agree to this as long as its in her best interest, and not just to appease others.

We had the opportunity to actually meet members of the birth family, and for me this was such a valuable experience. It helped to bring these people that we’d read about on paper to life, and it enabled us to think of them as people who have thoughts/feelings rather than just those people that the child wasn’t able to live with. What we learnt and heard from them in that hour is so important, powerful and helpful. We have photos from the meeting, so can show her and talk about it when she’s ready. What could have been a very difficult meeting was actually very positive for us as well as them (I hope). I think they were relieved to see who their precious girl (and she was (still is) loved by them) will be equally loved by us. We were able to tell them about some of our hobbies and interests, so they could know what sort of life she will have, and how her interests would fit right into what we already enjoyed doing.

So, to our letterbox contact, I’m so grateful we met who we are writing too. It really helps me to think back to that meeting, and to try to imagine how they might be feeling when they receive our letter. It means that we’re writing to real people, and not just names we’ve read about. Its strange writing about and sharing our child with people who are still strangers really. Sharing milestones, photos and achievements makes me very proud, but also sad (for them) that they are missing out on watching this gorgeous girl grow up. It’s helped me realise just how well she is doing, how well she has settled and how much she has changed. As I write, it’s 5months today since she moved here, which makes it about 6months, a whole half year since they saw her for the last time.I can’t imagine how they feel about this. It also makes me feel very privileged and honoured that we do get this experience (to raise this child), and it makes me determined to do as good a job as we can.

Now we wait (hopefully) for a reply, which I’m sure will bring up another who set of feelings and emotions (whether we get a reply or not).

 

 

Memories

15th February 2016, the day we were approved to adopt! I  remember this day like it was yesterday, and it got me thinking about some of the other big memories and thoughts/feelings of the last year. So much has happened in 12 short months, it’s definitely been a year I’ll never forget. Below are some of the memories/thoughts/feelings I’d like to share.

  • Waiting more than an hour before approval panel & then them asking some really strange questions, not really appropriate to the panel & not the questions we had thought they’d ask.
  • Being nearly crashed into on the way home from approval panel.
  • Being cryptical as to what we were celebrating when we went for a meal to celebrate approval as we only told a few people about adoption.
  • Endless checking of LinkMaker & hoping each discussion might be ‘the one’
  • Seeing her smiling face in her profile on LinkMaker & asking our family finder to enquire. I was out of the country at the time in holiday. When I landed back in the UK I had a conversation with our social worker & and read her CPR in the car. As soon as I got home husband & I talked & agreed to take it further. From there everything happened so quick.
  • Making lemon drizzle cake & the social workers taking it with them, they didn’t eat anything else, maybe my baking persuaded them to say yes?
  • We watched a DVD of her & because it was really hot that day we had the windows opened. It was also bin day, so the noisy rubbish trucks were going up the street. I remember not being able to hear the DVD properly & now every Wednesday when I hear the rubbish trucks coming I think back to that day.
  • Waiting the whole day at work to ring our social worker because I was too nervous to do it alone at work in case they had said no, i needn’t had bothered, apparently they’d decided on the train home after seeing us
  • Being exhausted that weekend, all that nervous energy
  • We just happened to be matched and needing to attend a meeting with the medical advisor & foster carer (4hrs drive away) in the two weeks that I was the only qualified OT in the Ward. Luckily I had a very supportive manager who said I could be off on the day I needed. After all, it was only me who was going to be picking up the pieces the next day anyway. Typical that everything was happening at once when work was really stressful
  • Social workers loved our intro video book, they got so excited
  • Choosing & building  furniture & decorating her room. Hoping she’d like it & hoping matching panel would say yes after all that effort. We only had about a month to do it all, and this included emptying a room full of computer equipment.
  • Almost being late to matching panel, the most important meeting of our lives and we were nearly late. Struggling to park & knowing every minute that ticked by was another minute we might be late. It was also the hottest day of the year which added to the stress. We got really grilled at matching panel, even the social workers say the level we got was unusual. I remember feeling quite emotional as I knew she really would fit well with us, and I felt it was my job to make the panel agree this, and to show them how much I wanted this.
  • Enjoying a night in a posh hotel to celebrate being matched & our last treat to ourselves. We were exhausted, so slept most of the afternoon.
  • Training for the GNR before & after being matched & how it provided a welcome distraction during quite an intense time
  • Actually running the GNR, just the weekend before we met her. I raised money for our adoption agency. It was emotional as I was really doing it for a cause so very close to my heart. On the day it felt like every step towards the finish line was a step closer to her
  • When we bought her car seat & got it fitted in the car, it felt more real, but it was strange driving round with a seat but no child for a few days.
  • The placement planning meeting, where we talked about the details of intros, think it all felt much more real then. This was really going to happen.
  • Meeting her birth family, such mixed emotions there, but I so admired their bravery and strength to do it & will be forever grateful. Can’t wait to tell her some of the things they told us.
  • Meeting her, standing at the foster carers door & hearing her run up to let us in. She had her favourite doggy friend we have you & she knew it was mummy & daddy.
  • Getting to know her those first few days. Getting soaked through that first day. Her walking between us holding both our hands & just grinning.
  • Her finally coming home for good in our wedding anniversary, it was like it was meant to be.
  • Lots moments of real joy with her, but also lots of really hard times too. feeling like every time it doesn’t go right, that I’ve failed because she deserves better. Also realising that I’m never going to be perfect, and I’m certainly not going to have it all together just a few months in. Learning to relax a little more and enjoy being a mum at last.
  • Struggling to come to terms with the huge life change, particularly around loss of work and change in role. Feeling a bit alone and lonely at times, but so very grateful for supportive family, some good friends, and an amazing church. Grateful for an amazing husband who is just great, we work so well as a team. Our social worker is also amazing & we really feel she’s looking out for us. Grateful we went with a voluntary agency who will be a contact for support post adoption order.
  • Being grateful for lots of outdoor space nearby, and some fab free activities to do locally. Our children’s centre is amazing, just what we needed.
  • Loving watching her get to to know our families, they adore her, and she adores them.

So that’s a bit of a collection of my memories and thoughts/feelings of the last year, and today, a whole year later we finally completed the paperwork ready to send the application for the adoption order off, so February 15th is yet again a significant day!

My thoughts for National Adoption Week 2015

I wrote the following reflection for National Adoption Week 2015. This was before we were approved and a year before our daughter came home. She is mixed race (although not actually a mix of our ethnicities). Our vey mixed family was certainly seen as a positive factor in our match to her and didn’t disadvantage us with her. As I had hoped, she has turned our world upside down & has given us so much  joy, love and fun.

 

I am 29, nearly 30 years old. I am currently nearing the end of stage 1 in the adoption process. I am married to the wonderful E, we’ve been married for 3 years now.

So, why did we decide to adopt you may ask, not married long, and not yet 30, isn’t that too young, too soon? Why not try to have your own children first? try a bit longer maybe?

Well, my answer is that I can tell you firsthand that adoption is a truly amazing thing & well, why wait to welcome a much wanted child into a family who can be the loving family they so desperately need. Yes, the adoption rates are going down, and yes, there are seemingly less children for adoption, but we do know that there are children out there still waiting. Why produce another child, when there is hopefully one already there waiting for us. Our case is a bit different as we are not coming into adoption after the heartache of infertility. Yes, we tried naturally for a while, but didn’t want the medical tests and interventions. So, we don’t know why we didn’t conceive, and at this time, we don’t want to take it further. We like the fact that for us, adoption was the 1st option, a very much wanted option, and hopefully one day our child/children will understand that it was a conscious decision to choose to find them. I think you’ll agree this is a pretty amazing thing to do.

This is my story, I am myself adopted, at 16months. My parents worked in Asia, and whilst they were there they adopted my sister and I. I know that adoption changed our lives. I love the fact that my parents chose me, loved me & have given me the best upbringing any child would want. I know that without my amazing parents, I wouldn’t have made it through school and university. I wouldn’t have become a successful therapist, and I wouldn’t have developed my own christian faith which is so very important to me. They have taught me to be myself, and have supported me every step of the way. I don’t know what I’d do without them, they inspire me so much, and they have inspired me to adopt a child myself. As any family, we’ve had ups and downs along the way, but it’s been an amazing adventure too, with many laughs and much fun. All my siblings are also adopted, and we’re just about to add another little sister to our family when my parents adopt an 8year old. We’ve lived in several countries, homeschooled whilst abroad, had some beautiful holidays & had many additions to the extended family as my parents also foster.

I know that things have changed since I was adopted, and that it’s difficult to compare my own adoption with the journey that we’re on now to adopt my own child. However, I can’t help thinking that some things these days are over analysed and thought about. Take inter-racial adoption for example, I’ve experienced it, I live it and I’m all for it! (my adoptive parents are white British, I’m not) I don’t particularly remember it being a problem for me when I was younger. Yeah, we got strange looks when we were out as a family, but then again we are a larger family with people of all sorts of colours, so of course we were going to attract attention. I don’t remember any nasty comments or remarks. I think that it doesn’t matter what your colour is, as long as you’re safe, loved and have all your immediate needs met, thats all a child needs. I think it’s sad that there are so many loving families out there who are not given the chance to adopt a child in need just because they don’t look the same, or won’t fit in. I do however totally get that the child’s identity is important, and this in part will come from discovering who they are and where they came from. As long as the family can demonstrate how they will support the child in exploring and forming their own identity, then race/colour should not be a barrier to adoption. We discussed this at our stage 1 group training, and I think that we challenged the social worker to think about her views on the subject. I was surprised that even these days it’s still a very debated subject in adoption, and I wish it wasn’t.

The adoption process is hard work, very hard. I naturally like to be in control, like to be organised, and like for things to happen when they should. The adoption process has challenged me greatly in all these areas. I think it’s preparing me for adoption and the rest of my life when a child joins our family. Im going to have to get used to contact with social services and the endless waiting and chasing involved in health and social care services (I know, I work in & with one!), but it will be a different experience being on the receiving end this time. I know that when a little person comes into our lives, they’l turn our world upside down, and I’m ready for the challenge (and hopefully joy, love and fun) that they’ll bring.