Starting Nursery

Tomorrow my little girl starts Nursery. Her second time going (she went in Foster Care), but her first time with us, and her first time for over a year. Here’s a little little letter to her as she achieves this big milestone…

Dear Darling,

Tomorrow you start Nursery, you’re so excited and looking forward to meeting all the teachers and playing with the other children. We’ve talked about it lots, and read some books, so you know a bit of what to expect.

We’ve popped into the nursery, so you know where it is. The best thing is that it’s right next to where Mummy works, so I’ll not be far away. Please be a good girl and walk up the hill nice and quickly in the mornings. Hopefully the promise of breakfast when you’re there will help!

You’re going to have so much fun, and learn so many new things. They have lots of things to do and play with, including an outside area, and you’re favourite, a mud kitchen! Hopefully the ladies will be able to persuade you inside every now and then. You’re such a clever girl already, and I’m sure you’ll impress them with your newly learnt phonics. I’m going to miss experiencing new things with you, but at least we’ll have lots to talk about at the end of the day.

You’re such a smiley, friendly girl, I know everyone is going to love you. You’re so good with the little ones, and I’m sure they’ll all look up to you as the big girl. You’re the only child at home, so I’m sure you’ll thrive on all the interaction with others. Hopefully you’ll make some good little friends.

I know you might be a little bit worried about where Mummy and Daddy are, and wonder if we’re coming back. Don’t worry sweetheart, we’ll always come back. I’ll pick you up at the end of the day and give you a big cuddle and kiss. If you’re feeling a bit worried or sad, I’ll tell your teacher that you have a special book in your bag with pictures of us all, your house and your doggy friend so you know we haven’t forgotten you. You have chewy man if you need to have a little chew to make you feel better.

I’ll miss you lots, it’s going to be so quiet without you. It’s been a great year getting to know each other and exploring our world together. I’m so glad we’ve had this time, hopefully you are too.

I’m so proud of you, and all you’ve achieved and overcome in the last year. You’ve grown up so much from the little toddler who was just starting to talk, to a beautiful, loving little girl with the most lovely smile and pretty curls. You can now ride a bike and a scooter, and can jump so high. You can recognise all your letters and are pretty good with numbers too. You’ve coped with so many changes this year, and got through some stuff a grown up would struggle with. You’ve made our home so much more colourful and fun.

I know you’ll be just fine at Nursery, and it’s an exciting new world as you step out into the world of education. I want you to know that we’ll be there with you every step of the way. We’ll support you, and when needed, fight for you. You deserve the very best, and hopefully thats just what you’ll get. Im looking forward to seeing what you’ll get up to this year, and watching you grow up just a little bit more.

Darling, even though you’re a big girl going to nursery, please remember you’ll always be our little girl, our baby….

Lots of love,

Mummy x

Give me back to Mummy!

A few days ago we had our first post placement reunion with our daughter’s foster carer and her children. It’s been about 11months since we last saw them, so I was quite nervous as to how it was going to go….

The good news is that it went really well, couldn’t have really gone any better actually. I’ve kept in contact with the foster carer, let’s call her Susan (not her real name) since placement last September. In the early days she was really helpful and I would email/text for advice/help on how to manage certain situations/behaviours. More recently, the contact has been more to share updates and photos of our daughter, as she was very much loved and part of their family whilst she lived with them. We wanted to keep the lines of communication open to facilitate direct contact if at all possible as we knew how valuable it would be to our little girl. Our daughter has not been fully aware that Susan & I email/text every now and then, we considered FaceTime/skype, but felt that it would probably confuse Little One. Susan and family live a few hours drive away, and Little One doesn’t really understand distance. Susan and her children happened to be sort of in the area, so agreed to pop in on their way home. Little One was told the day before, as like the contact with the family member, we felt that a little bit of time to let the news sink in would be beneficial. It worked well, and she went to bed and slept pretty much as usual.

Now I know there has been lots in the news about foster carers this week, but I just wanted to take the opportunity to say a huge big thank you to Susan and her family for being so amazing for our little girl. Thank you to them for taking such good care of her until her Mummy & daddy were found. Thank you for loving her as if she was their little girl/sister. For including her in their family. For giving her maybe her first taste of stable family life. For all the life experiences they introduced to her (holidays, birthdays, nursery, playgroups). I’m pretty sure her positive experience of foster care will have a life-long impact. She came to us a happy, confident, loving little girl, and this must have been in part due to their excellent care. I don’t think she could have been anywhere better.

Our little girl talks a lot about Susan and her family, always happy memories. However, it was clear from the visit that she see’s us as her family and where she belongs. There didn’t seem to be any desire to go back to them (even if she has said that a couple of times before). She seemed ok with them leaving at the end, appropriately missing them, but equally happy to be staying with Mummy and Daddy. She was very excited when they pulled up outside our house, but also appropriately unsure when they got out the car and said hello. She accepted and was comforted by cuddles from me initially, but soon was excitedly running around and talking to them. She was so proud to show them her house. She introduced them to Daddy which was cute, “this is my Daddy”. She had a great time playing with the children (all teenagers now I think) They were so good with her too. I can’t imagine it’s easy being a foster carer’s child, so they were amazing. I heard one of them say to the others ‘she’s still adorable’, aww, cute! We were able to take some lovely photos, which we’ll have available to Little One so that we can reflect and talk about the visit. She has photos of them up in her room, because they really are like extended family to her. We also finally got a better picture on Susan, and some of the two of them. We didn’t have a good photo of Susan & it was a big regret that we didn’t think to get one during intros as it would have been so helpful.

One thing we’d advise anyone about to go through intros is to ask for photos of the foster family and their home, as well as any significant places/activities they did with the child/ren. We have very few photos (apart from some in the excellent memory photo albums from Susan), and they would have really helped to be able to talk to Little One about what she did with her foster carers. Also, ask to spend some time with the rest of the foster carer’s family or significant people. I don’t think we properly met Susan’s husband, children, or the other foster children whilst on intros, and it would have been really helpful too. Little One talked a lot about them initially (actually still does), and we don’t know what they were like to really join in the conversation. It really was a big regret of ours, but going through it all, we just didn’t think about how important it would have been.

Anyway, back to the visit, it was lovely to see that Little One is clearly well attached to us, and well settled with us. I think this visit just highlighted and re-inforced both, and made me think, yes, we’re doing a good job and we’ve got something right. She demonstrated this best and most clearly herself when at the end Susan was giving her a goodbye cuddle. Little one said ‘give me back to Mummy’, and reached out to me to passed back. She clearly knows who her Mummy (and Daddy) are, and where she belongs. Also, we were expecting some fallout and unsettled behaviour afterwards, but several days later and it hasn’t really happened yet. It may well be still to come, but she seems pretty settled at the moment all things considered. She did ask if Susan was coming the next morning, but hasn’t seemed too upset when she was told she wasn’t. Hopefully the visit has helped to re-assure her that Susan and family are still ok, and that they still really love her too.

Hello! (And goodbye, for now…)

This week we’ve had our first yearly contact with a Birth Relative. Thankfully it went as brilliantly as we could have wished/hoped, but it did get me thinking about how complex post adoption contact all is….

When we were matched with our daughter we agreed to once yearly direct contact with a Birth Relative as they had been very involved in our daughter’s life pre and during care. They (lets call her Kate – not her real name), had actually cared for our daughter, but had decided it was not going to be right for either of them long term. Kate had also  (and continues to be) been a key figure in our daughter’s Birth Mum’s life. Kate wanted our daughter to have the best chance in life, and this is why she agreed for the plan for adoption. It was agreed that there was minimal risk of Kate having direct contact with our daughter. We thought long and hard about agreeing to direct contact, but felt that it if was hopefully going to benefit our child, then we couldn’t say no. It is not court appointed, so if we feel it’s not working, we can have discussions to change it. We hope that in the future it will help our daughter make more sense of who she is, her story, where she came from. We hope it keeps the lines of communication open, and she can choose when she’s older whether she wants to continue or not.

We knew about when the contact would be happening for some months before it was scheduled to take place. We thought about when we would tell our daughter about it, and decided to only do it a couple of days before. We normally only announce plans for the day on the day, but felt that this needed a little more prep and time, although not too much as our little girl is too young to understand time. Now Kate is already part of our family, in that we have photos of her up in the living room, and in little one’s room, as we do other family members. We don’t talk about her often, but her picture is there to prompt discussion if Little One leads it. We have been talking a bit about adoption and why she came to live with Mummy and Daddy, so naturally Kate is talked about as she was quite involved pre-care. I was worried how we would start discussions around birth family, but actually it’s been quite a natural process, and so far we’ve been very matter of fact, with simplified, but truthful explanations. The recent celebration hearing for adoption and the birth of my niece have helped prompt these discussions a lot. So, in the couple of days before contact we talked a bit about Kate, and what they used to do together. Little One seemed excited and happy to be seeing her again. She seemed reasonably settled in that we didn’t have any additional challenging behaviour or sleep disturbances. She woke up early the morning of contact and seemed extra bouncy, it seemed to be just excitement. she was calm and settled during the drive, but did ask if we were nearly there a few times.

The actual contact went really well, and we’re so grateful that our daughter will have hopefully  happy memories of this occasion. We have some lovely photos which will help with further discussions. She made a card for Kate, and enjoyed giving it to her. I know Kate will treasure it for a long time. We got there and they were already there, waiting in the car as we pulled up. For these few moments, no one really knew what to do, so we got out and said hello. I think little one was a bit unsure initially, excited to see Kate, but needing reassurance from us. She was briefly shy and clung to me. This was actually a lovely experience for me as it meant she needed me, and wanted me. It was an appropriate response, and an indication that she had transferred that attachment from Kate to us. (She hadn’t seen Kate for a year). She quickly started interacting with Kate and both seemed very comfortable and relaxed in each other’s presence. We had some time playing in the park. Again it was lovely to see the two of them enjoying each other, but equally lovely to observe how little one needed and wanted her Daddy to be with her in their play.

Kate handled the situation amazingly, she clearly loves our daughter, and also wants whats best for her, even if this means not seeing her grow up (apart from a yearly letter and yearly meet up) She said how glad she was that little one was away from the situation she came from, and how happy she was that little one had a Mummy and Daddy to give her what she needs. It was really helpful (although very sad, and not surprising) to hear about how Birth Mum was doing. Birth Mum didn’t respond to letter box, so it will be helpful to indirectly hear where she’s at if possible. Kate was able to give Little One space when she needed it, and let Little One interact with her on her terms, so it went at her pace. She was appropriate with physical contact, and let us do the parenting. She clearly found goodbye hard, so this was a quick process, which in this case was right.

Even though everything went well and as planned, and  I came away feeling encouraged that this could work long term, I also felt a lot of sadness for Kate and our daughter. I’m happy and grateful they have a seemingly positive relationship that they can continue and maintain to some extent, but really sad and almost angry that adoption has changed it forever. If adoption hadn’t happened, they’d probably have much more of a relationship than they have now. I’m sure there will be some discussions around this when Little One is older. However, I still think that adoption was the best option for her. The situation she was in pre-care was harmful, and long term foster care would not have given her the permanence and stability she needs. Kinship care would have kept her in contact with the people who were causing harm, so even though it would have allowed this relationship to remain the same, it would have also caused ongoing harm. I’m grateful that we can help to facilitate and maintain this relationship as long as it is beneficial. Although it went well this time, I am prepared for it to be more difficult as Little One gets older and questions and understands her story a little more.

Today (the day after) has been a normal day for us. I’m not sure whether to expect some fall out from contact as I’m not sure if our little girl really understood the significance of it. To her it was possibly just a nice time when she played with Kate, and ate cheese toasties and ice-cream. She may ask to do it again, and it will be difficult to explain that we won’t be seeing Kate for another year as she has no concept of time. There may be more questions once she’s had time to process it a bit, but currently her main concern is that Kate didn’t eat pudding.

Big thanks goes to the placing LA for being so organised and willing to work with us to arrange something we felt was best for our child. It was agreed to meet somewhere between us and Kate, which was great as we didn’t have to travel several hours with a 3year old. It was fully supervised, but the ladies were really good at giving space. This enabled us to spend time with Kate without feeling watched all the time, but they were available and would have stepped in if needed.

So, Direct Contact number one is done, a year is a long time, and who knows what might happen before the next one, only time will tell……

Thank-You!

Recently I’ve seen a fair amount of comments disheartened with social work/social workers. I know that these comments often based on horrible experiences from exhausted, hurting people and I’m not excusing poor practice. However, I think we sometimes have to remember that social workers are people too, and it’s not always solely their fault.

I’d like to think I have a fairly good grasp of what social workers do, but as with any profession, unless you do it, you don’t know. So I won’t pretend I really know what they have to do. I have worked with several social workers, both personally in our own adoption process and professionally in my own work. My parents were also both social workers, but have since moved onto other areas of work, they still use their social work skills daily.

I have to say, I massively admire what social workers do, they have a job that nearly everyone likes to have their say about, but yet still get on with it day in, day out. I don’t really know of any other profession that has to deal with so much pain. They see people at some of the most painful and stressful times of their lives, and from professional experience, this is not just in the child protection speciality. I can imagine they are frequently verbally and probably physically abused, for trying to do their job. They constantly pressured by budgets and ‘the system’ to get the job done with less time, people and money. They are often seen as the bad guys in ‘them & us’ situations. they are constantly chasing their tails as they race to complete the paper work to go with the practical job. I’m sure they frequently take their work home and struggle to switch off. Their families I’m sure suffer too, when I was younger and my parents were social workers I knew they were stressed, I saw them struggle.

We’ve been lucky to have some really good, supportive social workers during the adoption process from approval assessment to post placement support. I think the benefit of going with a voluntary agency is that they seem to have more time to really take the time and effort to get to know us and what we need. Their social workers have always been very approachable and responsive. We swapped social workers at matching, and she has been amazing, possibly one of the highlights of the process. It’s so vital to feel cared about, and to be encouraged that we’re doing a good job, even if we don’t feel like we are. The Local Authority social workers appear more pressured, but we have found them to all be very caring. They only want what is best for the child, and it’s lovely to share their joy when they see how well our daughter is doing. I bet these ‘success stories’ make their job worthwhile, I know they do in mine. I do think they are truly trying to do their best with what they have.

I know that we’ll have contact with social workers in the future, who knows what our needs will be. We’ll most likely come across barriers, and may have battles with social services, but I’ll try to remember that at the end of the phone, or behind the email address is a person. I’ll try to believe that they themselves want a good outcome, and they’re only human themselves.

So, I wanted to say a big huge Thank-You to social workers, to all social workers. I want to encourage them that they do do an amazing job, and that their hard work has changed many people’s lives for the better. I want to remind them that people do appreciate them, and wouldn’t be the people they are today without them. Yes, they don’t always get it right, but neither do we. Together we can work together to help those people who most need it,

Thank-You!

Child’s Play

I’ve noticed these last few weeks that my little girl is developing her play a lot more and this got me thinking about the importance of play for all children, but also about how a lack of play can affect children too.

We all know that play is a vital part of child’s life, whatever age they are. It can contribute to developments and learning in all parts of their life as they grow. There are physical, social, emotional, psychological benefits of play. It’s their way to explore the world around them, and it provides opportunities to develop lifelong skills. Although children can play independently, they do need adults to provide the resources and sometimes, show them how to play. The adults can provide appropriate challenges and reassurance.

Some children who are adopted may not have had the resources or opportunities to play. This may be due to lack of play-things, lack of a safe environment, or lack of adults who can provide the interaction children need. They may not have anyone to model their play on, as children do tend to copy what they see. Due to their experiences some of these children may be too anxious, or too hyper-vigilant to play. They may not be able to relax into the activity as their too distracted by trying to keep safe. Some children may have not been able to play as a very young child, so have missed gaps in their development.

Before adoption I knew that all these things can happen, but had never really seen what it really looks like. Since adopting our daughter, we’ve seen it to some extent. She is 3, and came at 2 1/2, so we’ve been able to make sure she has lots of opportunities for basic toddler play. We noticed that at times she seems to find it difficult to select something to play with. She’ll wander the room, but not really play with anything. We’ve found that a way to encourage her to engage is to make sure there a few toys left out, so that she does’t have to select something she can’t already see. We try to make sure there’s not too much out as it can be a bit overwhelming. We try to make sure we initiate the play, as she’ll nearly always join in this way. Her last foster placement was brilliant, and it did a lot of good for her, however it was a very busy house. It had a large, well stocked playroom, but we suspect that she didn’t get a lot of 1:1 adult attention, so her and the other children may have been left to ‘play’ alone.

She appears quite advanced for her age, but after getting to know her, we realised that this is quite a superficial observation. We don’t really know a lot about her care before the last foster care placement, so are not sure if she particularly missed any stages in terms of play, but we have  worked hard to do the baby-ing activities. (e.g. rocking, stroking, feeding etc) This is to help bond/attach and almost give permission for her to be/act younger. She came with lots of baby type toys, and we’ve kept them all. Partly due to keeping the familiar items that seem to be reassuring to her, but also again to signal that it’s ok to play with them and regress a little. We’ve bought a few toys that some would say she’s too old for, but have found these to be useful in helping to either distract from a tantrum, or to help maintain/restore calm. When we went to visit family, some of the children (who have also been in care themselves) were engrossed in playing with the toddler toys even though they are 8 and 10 years old. This made me wonder if they’d missed out on some of the play experiences at an early age, and it brought home how important trying to fill some of the gaps is. Our daughter has a baby cousin, and I’ll encourage her to play with the baby and explore the small baby toys with her as we don’t know if she got this opportunity. At playgroups she can be drawn to the baby toys. To others she may look too old to be playing with them, but I always let her and encourage her to play with them if she wants to. Some of the sensory type toys are her favourite. She loved the play/baby gym the other day, and I wondered, did she ever play in one when she was little?

She initially struggled with the logic/problem solving in the age appropriate puzzles, but has improved a lot now. However, now she’s older we still do those activities aimed at the younger child as it helps with her confidence and self esteem. We always make a big fuss and celebrate when she’s done it right, she loves it.

It’s been lovely to see more recently that she is able to initiate and maintain meaningful independent play for a lot longer than she used to. It’s lovely to watch her absorbed in her activity and really enjoy it. She is able to use her imagination a lot more now. She is able to do more advanced activities, and really loves it when we play along too, particularly with role play. She uses her favourite doggy friend a lot in her play, and he’s been great to help her start to understand some of her feelings and emotions. She loves reading, and it’s been great seeing how her world is opening up as we explore books together. She also really enjoyed colouring, and will happily colour for quite a long time. She particularly like us to draw pictures for her, and we’ve found this a good way to explore thoughts/feelings with her. We do some sensory play in the form of basic arts/crafts, cooking, baking, water play. I just have to remember she’s a toddler, and so it’s not going to be perfect, and thats ok!

We’ve encouraged as much physical and outdoor play as possible. I spent many hours wandering the local park in the freezing cold and rain because she loves being outdoors. She was a bit behind physically when she came to us, so it’s been important to find opportunities to catch up a bit. Its been wonderful to see her achieve new things at the playground, or run without constantly falling over. She can now jump properly, and she’s so pleased with herself. Her confidence and self esteem in her physical abilities has massively increased. One of my proudest moments as her mum was when we did the local mini race of 1.5km. She ran the whole way, we came last, but she didn’t notice or care as she had got that medal that she had wanted. She had wanted to be like Mummy and get a medal too (I have run quite a few races, so have quite a few medals). She’s doing really well on her balance bike, and with lots of praise and encouragement, she’s able to be proud of her achievements. Initially she was quite bothered by other people and what they were doing, and so found it difficult to attend/concentrate on what she was doing, but I’ve noticed that this is less of a problem now. She seems more able to focus her attention on her activity, and is less distracted, so is able to achieve more.

When I look back  to 10months ago when we first met her, I can see that she has changed so much, and I think a big part of this is down to her learning and experiencing play at her own pace, and in her own way. I’ve been lucky to have been off work for so long as it’s enabled us to develop a strong attachment, which has created the trust and safe environment for her to relax and learn. I’m really excited to see how she develops in the coming weeks/months, particularly as she’ll start her more formal education/learning journey at nursery in a few weeks. As they say, ‘the world is her oyster’………

Inter-racial Adoption

Recently there has been some discussion around trans (or inter) racial adoption, with people having varying views around the subject. I thought I’d try to put across some of my thoughts around the subject, and the reasons why I have them….

So, I have quite strong views about inter-racial adoption as it is a subject that is very personal to me. This is because I myself am interracially adopted (30years ago), and last year I adopted my daughter who does not share either mine or my husband’s ethnicities. My parents are both White British, and I am ethnically Asian. I was adopted directly from my country of birth when my parents worked there in the late 80s. I identify myself as British as that’s what my family is, and since I was adopted in the UK I have held a British passport. I don’t call them my adoptive family or adoptive parents because ever since I can remember they’ve been my parents, the only ones I’ve ever known. I have 5 siblings, all of whom are adopted from different countries (including the UK). My parents also foster carers, and have fostered children of different ethnicities. As you can see, adoption, and particularly inter-racial adoption are a big part of our lives.

I feel (from experience) that when done right, inter-racial adoption can be very positive and beneficial. It has worked brilliantly in my family because for us it seems normal, and I’ sure this was a big big plus point in our match with our daughter. She’ll grow up not feeling out of place in a family where we all look different. She’ll grow up, hopefully like I have, feeling proud to be part of a family that has celebrated and embraced differences. My parents have worked hard to achieve this. We did live in most of the countries we are adopted from, so do have that knowledge and experience of culture etc, so that helps with that connection. We have lots of shared memories of these places, and talk about them regularly. My parents also helped us to complete a project about our birth countries, which included a visit back when we were older. I think that my parent’s open-ness and effort to talk about adoption from the beginning has massively helped. I was talking to our social worker about how to help our daughter know she’s adopted, and I told her I can’t remember a time I didn’t know. She advised I ask my parents how they achieved that, so I did. They said they talked about adoption from day 1, and always presented all the facts, even if it was before we would fully understand, this way nothing was a surprise when we got to the stage when could comprehend our stories.

Adoption has always been celebrated in our family, with a ‘homecoming day’ each to celebrate the day we came home. I still mark that day now, 30years on, and can’t wait to do that for my little girl. Like any parent, they unconditionally loved (still do) us, and so we were very clear in the knowledge that we were very much loved, desired and cherished children. I think this has helped me shape my identity in our family, and I don’t think I’ve ever really questioned my place in my family. We did attract some attention, but I don’t remember this to be negative, just people being curious. In the UK we lived in a predominately white area, but again I don’t remember it bothering me, again I think this was due to the strong family identity we had, we knew we belonged together so not much else mattered.

When I was adopted 30years ago inter-racial adoption was unusual, my parents actually had to move to an area of the UK that supported it. I get the feel that even in today’s climate it is not as common as maybe it should be 30years on. During our assessment we had a social worker who seemed quite anti inter-racial adoption. I think she thought that any match should be an exact match. She left the agency half way through our stage one, we were actually quite pleased as we don’t think we would have worked very well together given our different views on the subject. I totally understand that inter-racial adoption should be done sensitively and always with the child’s best interest at heart. Adoptive parents should make sure that the child has opportunities to explore their ethnicity and origins, including culture, history etc. Families should be able to demonstrate how they might meet specific needs, or promote certain attributes, and how their support network can support them. For example, my daughter’s hair takes some looking after, no one in my family has hair like it. I was able to tell the social workers that I have friends’ children have similar hair, so I’d take tips from them. I have, and they’ve been a great help.

I know that in adoption love can’t fix it all, but all children need love, and if there are parents who don’t look like the child, but they are willing to love, nuture, and help the child discover their unique identity, then they shouldn’t be over-looked in a match. I am very grateful to the social workers (both ours and our daughter’s) as they were all able to see us for who we are, not just for what we look like. It didn’t matter that we didn’t exactly match as we were able to demonstrate how we will work hard to make sure our daughter has opportunities to learn about her background and personal story. I hope that as she grows my daughter can take some comfort from knowing that like her I don’t look like my parents. I hope that I can help her be proud to inter-racially adopted, and  have a strong self identity just like I do.

Happy Father’s Day

Happy first Father’s Day to our little girl’s Daddy!

This weekend is Father’s Day, and it’s the first one our little family will be having. To celebrate, I thought our daughter could help me write this post. (she is 3) So, 1st thing this morning I asked her to tell me some things about her Daddy, here goes….

1)What does Daddy look like?

He’s got a belly

He’s got a brown nose

He’s got a beard on his face

2)What do you like about Daddy?

He gives good cuddles and kisses

He plays with the toy fairground

He plays with the Duplo, and makes the huge tower with the rabbit on top

He reads me books

He gives me cuddles in the night (she loves the ‘out of bed’ cuddles when she gets out to sit on his knee to cuddle)

3) What is the thing you like best about Daddy ?

cuddles!

As you can see, she really really loves her Daddy, and it’s been lovely and such a privilege to watch this special relationship develop. She has never had a Daddy before. As far as we’re aware there was no father figure for her in her birth family, and the female foster carer seemed to do the majority of her care. She talks about the female foster carer a lot, but hardly ever the male one. She took to her Daddy from the moment they first met, she was fascinated by him on their first meeting.

We were very lucky in that initially her Daddy worked from home, so he was around in the day, and she could see him several times a day, this I’m sure really helped develop that strong attachment to him. Now he works away from home, she loves it when he comes back at the end of the day, to see her so excited and happy to see him is really cute. It’s him she usually calls for at night or when she’s unsettled before sleep. He’s much better than me at staying calm, and is able to help her calm down and settle when all I want to do is walk away and cry. He does give amazing cuddles. she’s one lucky girl to have him.

Daddy has grown into his role brilliantly, and I’m so proud of how he’s done. Adoption was always my idea and dream, and he supported me throughout. He was willing to go through the assessment because it was something I wanted to do, even though he’s a very private person who doesn’t give much away. During that time, he came to share this dream as something we would do together. He was the sensible one, and the voice of reason during matching, without his wisdom and head thought (I’m all heart thoughts), we wouldn’t have the fantastic daughter we do. He didn’t have much experience of young children, but somehow just knew what to do with our daughter, I think that’s called natural Daddy skills! He has supported me massively. He’s great at getting me to talk about things if I need to, or knowing that it’s better to just let me have some peace and quiet. He’ll give me a break if needed. He is doing all this around juggling a busy more than full time job as a self-employed ‘IT geek”

So, we just want to say a huge ‘Thank-You’ to an amazing daddy and husband for being you, we’d be lost without you!

 

Celebration ?

This week we have the Celebration Hearing of the Adoption Order in court, so I wrote a little letter to my daughter…

Dear Darling,

This week we celebrate you and all that you are. We celebrate that you’ve become ours legally and forever. We celebrate the journey we all took to get to this point. We celebrate the past and anticipate the future.

I’ve been reflecting on the last year, and thinking about all thats happened to us all. This time last year we didn’t know about you, didn’t know that you existed and didn’t know that you were going to become ours one day. Once we first saw your smiling face in your profile, everything moved very quickly, and you also very quickly wriggled your way into our hearts. We first met you nearly 9months ago. I can’t believe it’s only been 9months as it feels like you’ve been ours forever. I remember the 1st time we met you. We heard you before we saw you as you ran to the door to let us in. When I saw your smiling face looking up at us, and when you said ‘it’s Mummy & Daddy!’ my heart skipped a beat. Although we had little experience of small children we instinctively got down on the floor to play with you. We had a stacking toy, and I clearly remember you staring intently at Daddy whilst we played. You’d never had a Daddy before, and seemed fascinated by him. One of my favourite things is to watch you two together. To have seen your deep bond and love grow. It’s a special thing. A favourite memory of intros was walking with you hand in hand between us, and you just smiling and having a great time.

This week we celebrate how far we’ve all come since we became a family. We’ve had our ups and downs as any family does, but you keep us going. You are the reason we get up everyday, our desire to give you our best is what drives us even though sometimes we feel at a bit of a loss. At times we’re not sure if we’re doing it right, questioning if your behaviour is down to being a toddler or ‘trauma’ However, our love for you is never questionable or lessened.

You are growing into a beautiful little girl, with gorgeous twirly curly hair and the biggest heart melting smile. You are the friendliest girl I know, always happy to say hello to any passing person or doggy. Despite all you’ve been through you still have your positive sunny personality. We’re so proud of you, and all you’ve achieved in your life so far.

So, this week as we celebrate you, we look forward to the future and all it will bring. We’re excited to see who’ll you become and what great things you’ll get up to.

Thank you for making us Mummy and Daddy, and for being ‘our little baby, our precious loved little girl, forever!’

Happy Celebration Day sweetheart,

Lots of love

Mummy x

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.