Two Years

This week will mark the second year anniversary of when our daughter came home. As I’ve written about before, we celebrate Homecoming Day’s in our family, so this is her 2nd Homecoming Day. There are so many adoption milestones to celebrate in adoption (panels, meeting each other for the first time, coming home), but because a Homecoming Day is familiar to us, and because when she came home for the first time, our daughter then never left, we decided to go for this one to be the main celebration. The date also happens to be the same date as our wedding anniversary, so we can celebrate two family ‘birthdays’ in one. It’s a very special date, the day we became 2, and 4 years later we became 3….. (see One Whole Year & Happy Homecoming Day for more about Homecoming Days)

I’ve been thinking about how we’ve all changed, and about how much we as parents have learnt in this time. We may not be quite the parents we imagined or pictured ourselves to be, but I think we’ve all done well to come out of the early days/years still standing strong. Below are some of the biggest areas I’ve been reflecting on. I’ve written about most of these before, so i’ve added links to previous blog posts if you want to read more.

1)  don’t expect to be perfect: In the very early days I think I thought I needed to always be perfect. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the perfect Mum, and of course I’d predictably slip up. I then felt like I’d failed, and it really knocked my self-esteem and confidence. I slowly learnt that it’s ok to be ‘good enough’, and no parent is perfect all the time. We’re human, and humans make mistakes. It’s good for children to see that parents don’t always get it right, but they always say sorry and make up. I’ve learnt that reconnection and repair as vitally important, and it’s helpful to model normal, natural relationships in families. Once I’d accepted I wasn’t perfect I was able to relax a little bit, and enjoy being a Mum.                                                                   (see more at: Pressure, )

2) You don’t have to love each other straight away: I think this is a really important one, and one that needs to be said more often. I think I did love her straight away (I mean who couldn’t?…), but it took several months for that love to really grow into what it is now. True love did come, but it wasn’t always easy at first. I don’t think she loved us straight away, she had just been taken away from everything she knew to live with two strangers so of course she didn’t. She called us Mummy & Daddy from the start, but I’m not sure she really knew what that meant. It was lovely seeing that love between us grow, and when she really meant Mummy & Daddy, and knew us as her’s, that’s when I knew she loved us too. Sometimes when it’s tough, and her behaviour is somewhat challenging, we tell that we might not like the behaviour, but we always always love her. I do try to see behind the behaviour, and assume that there is a reason behind it, and try to tackle that instead.                            (see more at: Love)

3) Believe in yourselves: I think sometimes I doubted if I was doing the right thing, or parenting in the right way, particulalry when others would comment or question why were or not doing specific things. I soon learnt that it’s ok to stick up for ourselves, we know our daughter and our family best, and we know whats best for us all. If we choose to do some things differently to others, there is normally a good reason why. We encourage her to play with toys that are aimed at a younger age, and we sometimes parent her at a much younger age (e.g. she sometimes has bottles and dummies). We still sing nursery rhymes each night and rock her. We normally dress her in the morning and at night. It almost seems wrong to ‘baby’ her, but if it gives her the nurture that she may have missed out on, and allows her to accept help and care, then this will hopefully help to fill in possible missed developmental gaps. This will hopefully set her up well to deal with the challenges that will come ahead. Getting that balance right for a very tall, very bright four year old can be tricky, but so far I think we’re doing ok                                       (see more at Balancing Act)

4) Continue to learn: I think parenting is a bit like learning to drive, you can train, practice and learn all you like, but once you’ve passed the test and can actually drive, you’re on a very steep learning curve of high intensity new learning. When our daughter came home, we’d read (some) of the books, attended extra training felt like we were ready. I don’t think we were remotely prepared for the reality of parenting a little person, who was also hurting and grieving. I think I was also grieving my old life to some extent.

However, I think since she’s been home I’ve learnt so much more. I’ve learnt about me. I’ve been surprised in some ways. I thought I was patient and I’ve learnt that I’m really not. I’ve also leant that I am quite creative, and have loved making some arty projects with my daughter.

I’ve also learnt more about adoption and some of the subjects surrounding it. I’d heard about therapeutic parenting before, but it makes so much more sense when you have a child to use it with. One of the things that has had the most impact and positive effect was learning that it’s ok to let some things go in parenting. It’s similar to picking your battles. It’s really helped me to relax a little bit, and enjoy parenting more. I’ve learnt more about sensory processing, and have successfully implemented some strategies which I think have helped. I’ve loved reading others blogs and experiences of adoption. I’ve used lots of their advice and experience to help me become a better parent. I’ve learnt about other adoptee’s experiences and views. I’ve tried to use these as preparation for parenting our daughter as she grows up. It’s not always been easy to hear what other adoptees have to say, but it’s opened my eyes to how she may well feel when she’s older.                                                                                              (see more at VoicesSensory Processing, &  Let it Go!)

5) Surround yourselves with support: Before you adopt they say that you need to have a good support network to help you raise your children. It made sense in theory, but I’ve since learnt that is is so important in practice. Our support network has changed and grown in the last couple of years. I’m really grateful for friends that ‘get’ adoption, but also for those who have nothing to do with it. I’ve learnt that its ok to use those who support us to help us, it’s ok to let them look after our daughter to give us a break. We’re all better people when we have a break. It’s only really in the last year that I really felt connected to new people in our support network. I think the first year was actually quite lonely, so having more ‘support’ has made a massive difference.                        (see more at Our Village)

6) Self Care: Again, this was something I’d heard a lot about before adoption, and it only really made sense afterwards. I have tried to make sure I do things for me. I make sure I keep my mind and body active. I also remind myself that it’s ok to just sit and relax too. It’s been helpful to set goals, and running a 10km (on a very hot day) was a massive achievement because it meant that I could still run. It was something that I’d enjoyed doing before I became a mum.  (see more atWhy I love being an OT &  Favourite Things)

7) Chase, chase, chase: We’ve learnt that if you want or need anything from professionals, then it’s really our responsibility to chase them regularly. They are so stretched that sometimes they need a little prompt to remember to do something they said they would do. We’ve been waiting now nearly a year and a half for some low level post adoption support. I think part of the problem was that we initially didn’t chase enough. We felt that we understood that professionals are busy, so trusted that they would get round to us, eventually. We’ve since learnt that it’s in our daughter’s best interests to get the support she needs and is entitled to. Regular (polite) emails seem to be helping, although it is hard not to get frustrated. I know that in my job if I kept people waiting without any communication as long as we have, that would be unacceptable and I’d be expecting a complaint to come my way. i guess we’re maybe reluctant to complain in case it delays getting what we need….Some professionals have been great, and I did want to acknowledge and thank them. (see more at Thank You)

8) Savour the time when they’re little: Our daughter has just started school, and it’s made me so grateful that we had two full years together before we’ve had to let her go a bit. The first year I was off work on adoption leave, and the second year I was back at work part time. Looking back it wasn’t always easy, especially in the early days, but now I’m so glad that we were lucky enough to have the time together. We were able to really take the time to get to know each other and strengthen our attachment. Husband initially worked from home, so was around the whole time, so we had 6months all at home together, learning how to be a family. Once we were more settled, we were able to get involved in some great local groups and more recently we’ve had some amazing days out. We’ve been able to play, to read, to explore, to learn together. Our daughter has changed so so much in the two years she’s been home, and I’m so glad we’ve been able to spend so much time together. Now she’s at school, I look back and I’m very grateful for what we’ve had.               (See more at Starting School & Starting Nursery)

9) Life Story Work: This is another area that you learn about before adoption, but again, it makes much more sense once you have to do it in real life. It’s always been our aim that it is not a surprise to our daughter that she is adopted. We want her to know from a young age the basics of her story, and to build on it as she gets older. We have been able to have some very informal discussions as and when she brings it up. we’ve talked quite a bit about her birth and foster families, so she knows why she couldn’t live with them long term. She’s started asking more questions now, so it may the right time to get her involved in letterbox contact. We have shared the Life Story Book, but she hasn’t asked to look at it again. so we’ve not pushed it. She has photos of both her birth and foster families, so they are always there to prompt discussion is she chooses. We talk about why we went to see the judge, and also about the significance of her homecoming day. I think that as she becomes more aware in the next couple of years, we’re going to need to do more work around this, and probably have some more support too. We have made an effort to keep in touch with the foster family and have had a couple of successful meet-ups. We’ve also had very positive meet-ups with a member of her birth family.     (see more at HelloGive me back to MummyLife StoryLife Story. Pt 2Family Meet Up, Take Two)




Starting School

Dear Darling,

Tomorrow it’s the big day, and you start school. We’ve been counting down to school for what seems like forever, and it’s finally here, I can’t quite believe it.

So, you’ve finished your year at nursery, and have had such a good year. I’m so proud of how you’ve got on. You settled in easily, and quickly made friends with the other children. I loved hearing about the day you’d had, and especially hearing you singing the songs you’d learnt. I don;t think I’ll ever forget the current bun song ’round and round with a cherry on top’ As usual food has been a highlight of yours, and I don’t think there was anything you didn’t eat. I was however very proud when your report mentioned that you no longer needed to eat seconds at lunch and all the snacks. I think this just shows how comfortable and settled you became, and how much you’ve grown and progressed these last few months. Your pictures, paintings and drawings have been amazing, and I’ve loved seeing your skills and imagination grow over the year. I’ve saved a few for your memory box to look back on when you’re older. Your nursery photo was such a good capture of your personality. We don’t share identifiable photos of you online, but these photos made me really sad we can’t, because you’re gorgeous and I want to show you off.

You’ve learnt to start to read and write, and it’s been amazing seeing you learn new skills. To see a whole new world opening up in front of you. I love that you love reading and writing, and I’m so excited to see you earn more. We’ll always have books for you to read, I hope you’ll forever enjoy reading.

Of course there have been a few memorable events, including ‘the big nursery escape’ Funny now we look back on it, but not so much at the time. Trust you to be the one child to outsmart the teachers…Also the hairbrush bristle in the ear incident. That ended in a trip to A&E, oops.

Thank you for putting up with me rushing you out the house in the morning, and hurrying you up the hill. But we made it through the year, and Mummy was never late for work, so the threat of “Emma (Mummy’s Boss) will be cross” must have worked, haha. I’ll miss the early morning sunshiny songs we sang, especially ‘you are my sunshine’, and your own ‘we’re walking in the sunshine’ you’ll always be my sunshine my sweetheart.

I’ve loved the day’s off that we’ve had together. I’m so so glad I opted to work part time. We’ve been up to all sorts, and It’s been great taking you to new activities and make new friends. You did so well ay gymnastics. It was lovely to see your strength and confidence grow over the year. Our Wednesday groups have been so beneficial to both of us. To finally feel like we belong somewhere and to get to know some lovely people a bit more. We’ve had the best summer. You’re such a sunshiny girl, so we’ve enjoyed some great days out in the sun. I’m so glad we got to experience some of the things we did, and I’ proud of us both for trying new things. I’m really going to miss our days off together, and particularly our lazier midweek mornings. I’m not sure how we’re going to get up early every weekday, but we will and it’ll soon become our new normal.

But, I think my favourite memory of the year at nursery has to be picking you up each day, and hearing you excitedly shout ‘Mummy!” with a huge big smile. I don’t think I ever saw any other children be quite so happy to see their Mummy. It made me equally as happy, and immensely proud of what we’ve made of us.

I’m so grateful that we’ve had these two years together. Although it’s not always been easy, it’s been so precious. I do wish we didn’t have to move on, that I didn’t have to share you quite so much. But, my darling, you need to grow your wings a little more, and you will fly. When you came home nearly two years ago, school seemed like a lifetime away, but there’s no denying it, it’s here now. You’re so ready, and you’re going to love it. You’re going to make some great friends, and all you need to remember to do is smile, and the other children will want to be your friend. I know it’s going to feel a bit strange at first, and it might be a bit scary, but thats ok, it’s normal. I’m pretty sure a lot of the other children will be feeling the same as you. You’ll always have Mummy or Daddy dropping you off and picking you up. School actually finishes a bit earlier than nursery did, so we’ll have more time together in the afternoon, which is great!. You’ll soon settle down, and get the hang of school, and then I think you’ll be just fine.

So, all the best my sweetheart, have the best time, and remember, although you’re our big grown up school girl, you’ll still be our little girl, our baby, always…


Mummy x

Happy Homecoming Day – To Me!

Today is my Homecoming Day, number 31. It’s the day we celebrate that on this day 31years ago, my mum and dad brought me home for good. The day I became their daughter.  It’s a day we mark and celebrate privately as a family, and when we were little it normally included a card, cake and often a small present. Now it’s usually an extra special text or hug. Although we don’t physically celebrate any more, it’s a date thats always stood out in my mind. A chance to stop and reflect, and above all to be thankful.

As an adopted person, and now an adoptive parent, I am very keen to listen to other adoptees. To hear their stories, to understand their thoughts and feelings. I hope it will make me a better parent for my little girl. I hope it will help me to support her as she grows up and starts to explore her own story. I have come to see that people’s adoption experiences are hugely different. I have heard some positive, but more often than not a lot of negative. Now, I don’t want to dismiss those seemingly ‘negative’, because they are those people’s stories, and their thoughts and feelings are very valid. We should listen, and we should learn so that others don’t have to experience and feel the same.

I also want to highlight that there are some ‘successes’, some ‘positive’, and I want to encourage everyone that adoption can be a hugely positive and worthwhile. I don’t really know how you would/should define ‘success’ in adoption. I guess it’s very subjective, as one person’s success could probably be seen by another person as their failure. I would say that my adoption has been an overwhelming success. I admit that this massively influences my view of adoption. I know that my adoption is very very different to most of the children adopted in the UK today, so it’s not fair to compare really, but I do see adoption as a positive option for some children. Adoption can give them the opportunities and permanence that not being adopted would never give them.

I want to show others that adopted people can and do turn out to be happy, well adjusted people. They are capable of having and sustaining meaningful relationships, and they can achieve just as much as the next person can. I know that saying ‘all children do that’ is really not helpful to say to adoptive parents, but I want to say to them, yes, really, all children do do that (of course we need to consider why they’re doing that, and the frequency/intensity for some behaviours). What I’m trying to say is that adoptees can and will behave like other children too. They will push our buttons, they will wind us up, but they will be equally lovely and charming too, just like other children.

I want to say to those considering adoption, and those being assessed, there are positive stories out there. Do read around, but don’t feel too disheartened. Do be prepared, and do try to understand the realities of modern day adoption, but remember as with everything, there is balance. To adoptive parents, don’t give up hope, be encouraged that there are and can be positive outcomes in adoption, so keep going, hang in there. Your hard work and perseverance now will be having an impact. You may not see it, or feel it, but maybe one day that child will be able to look back and see that you tried as hard as you possibly could. To professionals working with adoptive families, please please do try to provide the help that is so often needed. Parents will always try to do what they can, but sometimes they need a bit of help. As someone told me, the struggles they are having are not their fault, and it’s not that they’re bad parents, but they’re parenting traumatised children. It’s also not the child’s fault. These children are not ‘naughty children, and they come to adoption with the ‘damage’ already done, and sometimes only professional help will ease the difficulties. It could help the child develop their own sense of self and identity. It could help them be able to express themselves and come to terms with their experiences.

So today, we’re celebrating adoption. We’re celebrating the journey we’ve all been on, and celebrating the positive impact it’s had on all our lives. Today I’m grateful to be adopted, and thankful it’s made me the person I am today….