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…….