Our Village

There is a saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. People have been posting about it on Instagram recently (I do do things other than browse Instagram, honest). I didn’t get involved this time, but it has made me think about who’s in our village? Who is helping and supporting us whilst we raise our child?

The other day I posted a photo on Facebook because our daughter came home 18months ago. One of my friends replied ‘She’s certainly adored by a lot of people!”. I loved this comment, it’s so true, and it made me so very grateful for all the people who are helping and supporting us along the way.

When we had our adoption approval assessments, one of the things we had to discuss was our support network (our village I guess). I’d heard it said that for some people their ‘support network’ looks very different pre and post placement of children. Some relationships just naturally and gradually fall away, whilst others are more abrupt. Of course, there are often relationships gained and made because of adoption too. For us it was a mix of both, we gained some, we lost some. Of the ones we had, their dynamics changed, their purpose evolved.

So, who is currently in our village? I think the people in our support network can loosely fitted into groups. Some of these people may appear in several groups. Some might be there for the long haul, and others just for a short time. It doesn’t matter, I guess the important thing is that they’re there at all. Here are some of the ways in which our village is currently supporting us:

Family: We both have very supportive families, who have been there every step of the way. They were the first to know of our plans to adopt, and the first  to meet our little girl. She is so loved by them all, and she knows it. She is their first grandchild on both sides, and its lovely to see the joy that she brings to their lives. They offer a listening ear, as well as the practical day to day support. They were the first people we left our daughter with, and the respite they’ve provided to give us time together, or just the house to ourselves has been invaluable. Our siblings, are growing into their roles of aunties & uncles beautifully too.

Her Birth Family: Some might think it’s strange to put this group as part of our support network, but I guess in an indirect way, they are. Without them, we wouldn’t have our daughter. One person in particular is very supportive. They actively participate in both letterbox and direct contact. They have information and insight into our daughter’s life before she came into care. They do really love and care for our daughter, and we are really grateful they are still in her life despite the sadness and pain it must cause for them

Social Services: Again, to some, an odd thing to add to a support network. However, without them, our daughter wouldn’t have been matched with us. They actually did a really good job pre-pacement and pre-adoption order. I’ve heard really bad things about life-story books, but that particular LA produced a really good one, that in time should be a really valuable resource to use to help our daughter learn about and make sense of her story. However much we were glad to be free of social workers and social services, we do still need them to assess for further support now and probably in the future. If they could do it a bit more speedily, it would be nice though! We had a great experience with our adoption agency, and they continue to provide training sessions and social meet-ups for families.

Church: I joined our church a few months before we formally started the adoption process, and having that time to build up support and friendships was great. When she came home I was really touched how inclusive the support felt. The leadership team were aware of what was planning, and provided regular ‘checking in support’ We were offered the meals, just as any new family would be. We were officially welcomed during a service, again, just as any family is. Our daughter was welcomed into the Sunday school and has thrived there. Little one loves church, and particularly dancing. One Sunday she stood on the stage and danced, unprompted and alone. I had several people come up and say to me how much that had made her day. She feels so happy and at ease there, its wonderful. The church run a toddler group weekly, when we went it was a highlight of our week. It was a great opportunity to get to know young families a bit more.

Local Adoption Support Group: We eventually found our local adoption support group. Because we were assessed and also placed out of area, we didn’t really know many other adopters where we live. It was so nice to have found more local people who have trodden the same path that we have, who ‘get it’. We currently go to a weekly stay and play group, and it’s been great to get to know some new people. Although Little One doesn’t really understand adoption, I hope it may be helpful to her when she’s older, to know other children who are also adopted. The parents share resources and provide mutual support.

Twitter: It has been such a great resource for me this last couple of years. It’s a strange concept, being in contact with people who you don’t know & have never met, but you really feel you do know them. I’ve learnt so much for other adoptive parents on twitter, their experience and advice has been invaluable. It’s where I found many blogs to read, and where I got the inspiration to write mine. We nearly went on holiday with people that I ‘follow’ on twitter (only didn’t because the trip was cancelled due to the snow). Me in a previous life would have never have dreamt of going on holiday with strangers, but this somehow just felt right. Twitter has been a lifeline during those days of being a new parent stuck at home alone, and feeling quite isolated at times. When times are tough, knowing you’re not the only one going through it is reassuring. When times are better, celebrating the good, however small is wonderful too. Those other adoptive parents ‘get it’, and sometimes just an acknowledgement of ‘us too’ is all thats needed to keep going.

Work: I am very fortunate that I was able to take a year off work for adoption leave. My employer has been very supportive, and that has massively reduced the stress at times when added work stress could have pushed me over the edge a little too far. One of the best experiences I had was introducing my daughter to my old manager when she came back to visit after retiring. She was such a support during that assessment and matching time. She retired just before I went off on leave, so for her to see the ‘happy ending’ was really special. I tweeted the other day that ‘now `i know why parents say ‘I go to work for a break, at least no one screams at you there…” Someone replied that they see work as ‘self-care’ I think I agree. Although I love my daughter and spending time with her, I also love my job. I love the satisfaction and sense of achievement it brings. My colleagues are amazing, and I’m so lucky to have them. They make what is a tough job bearable. It’s also really nice to meet up with them socially, and spend time with them just being friends without the pressures and stresses of work.

So, that’s how our village looks at the moment, it’s big and varied, but at the same time, compact and specific. For anyone who is looking to adopt, I’d say make sure you have a really well built village/support network around you. It may change, and thats ok, but the important thing is to have it there when you need it, and you will…….

The Most Precious Girl

To the most precious of girls,
with the most beautiful of curls.

We love you lots & lots, 
just like jelly tots.

Mummy & Daddy are so lucky to have you ,
you stick our family together just like glue.

You bring lots of laughter and fun,
you are our special little one.

Although you’re growing up now and very nearly four,
you’ll still be our little baby girl forever more!

Becoming Mum

This is week it’s Mother’s Day, so of course there is lots around to remind us of it. On Instagram at the moment women are sharing about #whenibecameamother and it got me thinking about how you know when you’re a mum.

To be honest, I’m not sure I can really pinpoint an event or moment that I felt I was a mum. Most of those photos I saw on Instagram were of women and their new born babies. My little girl came to us when she was 2 1/2. The photo I put up was her asleep in her new bed in our house the very first night she stayed over. It was indeed a significant milestone in the journey to become her mum, but thinking about it made me question if this was the moment I truly felt her mum.

I think maybe becoming ‘a’ mum (to an unknown child), is different to becoming ‘their’ mum (to a specific child) So, when we were approved to adopt, in someways I probably did feel like a mum, or at least like now I really could (and hopefully would)  become someone’s mum. I felt like I had the qualities and skills to be a mum, and had done a good amount of prep to parent a child. It was only when I saw her profile and started to ‘get to know’ her, that I possibly felt like I could be ‘her’ mum. It was her gorgeous smile that drew me to her, and from that moment on I started to fall in love. That love took time and effort to develop, but there was that initial spark and connection which helped me think about what I could offer to her if I was to be her mummy.

As we progressed through the linking and matching stages and then finally met her, all of those events and focus did help me start to feel like I was becoming a mum, but I don’t think I felt I was hers yet. When we took her out on our own during intros it was the most surreal experience ever. To anyone else we looked like a ‘normal’ family, but I kept thinking, they don’t know that we only met yesterday, and we don’t know how to be her parents yet.  It didn’t feel real.

Once she came home, and we settled into our routine I started to feel more like a ‘proper’ mum, her mum. But it still felt very strange calling myself ‘mummy’, or her ‘my little girl’ I don’t think I called her ‘my daughter’ for quite a while, but it gradually became easier and more natural.

Before  we had the adoption order I had expected to feel more her mum once it had been granted, as by then I would be legally her mum. However I don’t remember feeling any different. Maybe because it was a bit anticlimactic, and maybe because by then I was doing everything a mum would/should do for her child. Nothing practically changed. Although we were finally bound by surname, we were already bound by a continually deepening connection and love. We didn’t need a court paper to tell us we were mother and daughter, we were already living it.

In conclusion, I think the thing that made me feel most like a mum, was actually being called ‘mummy’ by my girl. She said it from that very first meeting when she ran to the door to greet us. I don’t think she knew what it meant really, but I’ll never forget that moment. Once she started saying ‘mummy’ because she knew what it meant was when I truly felt hers.

M-U-M-M-Y was the second word she learnt to spell (after her own name), and that makes me very happy. I think she summed this topic up perfectly herself when she introduced us to the postman at nursery by saying ‘I’m her daughter’. Yes my darling, you are, and I’m so proud to be your mummy!