It was in the spring of 2003 when we met our two toddler boys for the very first time. The nervousness we felt the night before meeting them for the first time, was paralysing. We knew this was the biggest life changing moment in our lives - going from zero to two children overnight. At this pivotal point, we found ourselves going through the motions of suddenly questioning absolutely everything:
- were we doing the right thing?
- were we truly ready/equipped?
- what if the children did not like us or settle?
- would we make good parents etc….?
Weeks before we met the boys be had to prepare and provide a small photo album for each of them, along with an item of our clothing. The albums would hopefully help familiarise the boys to our faces and the clothing for our scent. We had a lot riding on this technique delivering, what it was meant to!
The introduction schedule consisted of five consecutive half day visits. The visits were to take place at the Foster Carer’s house. The visits were centred around the boy’s meal, bedtimes, and bathing times.
When the day finally arrived it was truly MAGICAL, we saw them on the first day at breakfast time. The boys seemed to take to us almost instantaneously. They were simply beautiful. We could not believe that these tiny, sweet boys were going to be ours. All the waiting, frustration and red tape did not seem to matter anymore, as we were about to have our very own adorably sweet boys!
We stayed in a hotel for these five days, which passed by so quickly. Every one of these days, we simply could not wait to wake up and be with them again, it was like our fairy tale had begun. At the end of day five, we could bring the boys home. As the fifth day approached a hundred and one worries whirled through our heads: “How would they react?” “Would they miss the foster family too much?” “Would they be tearful and inconsolable?” “Would they reject us and simply want to return to their foster home etc.??”
To our surprise the boys did the exact opposite they seemed to settle in straight away, running around our home from room to room, exploring each and very inch. Intrigued by the vast array of ‘hand me down’ toys and books, friends and family had kindly given. Thankfully, they were happy as can be! Within the first two weeks, we on the other hand were completely and utterly shattered, even lost some weight without even trying! Our home resembled something out of ‘Supernanny’. The boys were hyperactivate, extremely challenging at mealtimes and physically fought with each other the second, they were left alone. Even going to the washroom proved difficult once my husband returned to work (after his paternity leave). Despite everything we were determined to work together and overcome the challenges faced.
After these first two weeks, there is one moment that is still engraved in our minds! One afternoon after having lunch our eldest suddenly said,
“I wanted to go.”
“Go where?”, I asked, knowing full well what he was about to say!
He replied, “back to the foster family.”
My legs turned to jelly, my eyes started to well up and my heart felt as if it had suddenly stopped! I remember thinking this tiny boy (who was not even three yet) was simply never going to settle. Fortunately, my husband was working in town (that day) and surprising turned up at the house at this very moment. He took one look at me and knew something was wrong. Once I explained he quietly said to our eldest –
"Come on then, get your coat on, I’ll take you."
I distinctly remember thinking this could so backfire. What came next was truly unsettling. He put on his shoes asked for his new coat (bought just the day before), to which my husband said
"No" and gave him his old coat. He turned to his brother and said come on – to which my husband replied
"No, it’s just you that wants to leave, so he’s staying."
So then, he turned and went to walk out of our front door, with literally one foot out of the door he turned around and said ‘not really’ with a smile on his face. Our jaws crashed to the floor - we were completely stunned and speechless – never in our wildest dreams would we have thought a child as young as this, could be capable of such an act. I simply could not comprehend what had just happened and it did raise major doubts in my head (details of which you will find in my next blog). However, we dusted ourselves off and continued to try and be the best parents we could!
About two months in, we slowly started to introduce the boys to family members, who could not wait to meet them. It was a special moment every time we introduced them to each of our extended families.
People looking from the outside in, see us as a cute family that have done amazingly, adopting the boys and then later their younger sister (two years later). For us, the transition (from being a couple to a family of four overnight) was not by any means easy. Parenting itself is not easy but I would say with adoption there exists another dimension of complexity. Here are some to consider:
What have they been through before they are adopted? Adopters need to accept their child/children may well come with, what we call baggage (a troubling past, neglect, abuse, undetected conditions, moved several times already etc). Any such issues from their earlier years may manifest themselves as challenges, at a later stage.
How will they handle the transition from being care into an adoptive family home? Not accepting the change or simply thinking they will be moving on again. This could easily lead to you being thoroughly tested.
Contact with the birth parents - something adopters need to be accepting and encouraging of.
The ability to have open and honest discussions about being adopted. The meaning of being adopted may well change for you child as he/she gets older leading to he/she lashing out in later years.
You need to be vigilant of family/friends that may not be 100% supportive of adoption.
As mentioned earlier, we made it our mission to remain determined to work together in order to face/tackle any challenges that presented themselves. For us, we are simply so happy and proud that we reached this long-awaited point in our lives and have raised three delightfully kind-hearted individuals. To this very day, we still get an indescribably overwhelming warm feeling when we introduce our children (now adults) to anyone.
Even if this was not enough - to see the impact the children have on people around them – this is unquestionably, truly inspiring. Take it from me, NOTHING IN THE WORLD COMPARES!
Note the process may differ slightly within the countries of the UK.
- Useful resources available: websites, podcasts, books and newsletters. Here are a few useful websites:
- https://www.gov.uk/child-adoption - UK Government guide to adoption, including links to other relevant Government resources and services.
- https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/adopting-a-child-your-health-and-wellbeing/ - The NHS guide to the health, well-being and support available to adoptive families.
- https://www.adoptionuk.org/ - is the leading charity providing support, community and advocacy for all those parenting or supporting children who cannot live with their birth parents.
- https://www.adoptionuk - A dedicated information service for people interested in adopting a child in England.
- https://www.adopting.com - A large US-based internet resource on adoption and adopting.