This week is National Adoption Week – a week designated to raising awareness and indeed the possibility of adoption.
Whilst it’s not a secret that my wife and I have adopted 2 children I’ve never actually blogged about it. So I thought that I’d put that right today.
In truth having children was never on my “to-do” list, in fact, quite the opposite. If there were a “never-to-do” list, having children would have definitely been up there as number 1. It’s not that I don’t like children – in fact, quite the opposite. I just always felt that it was too much responsibility for me.
I was always aware that even people with the best intentions to be great parents could so easily muck it up. Sometimes through their own issues, or just because the world can be hard, and I just didn’t want the responsibility of navigating young children through the cesspit of life.
As with all the best-laid plans, and having been in a long-term relationship I was confronted with the reality that my partner had very different ideas. As much as I didn’t want that responsibility, they had a real longing to parent. We both realised that it was a massive decision as in order to stay together one of us was going to need to compromise. Of course, with compromise comes the risk of resentment.
If I “won”, then how long before my partner would resent me for not facilitating that “need”, if they won, how long before I’d resent them for forcing a parenting choice on us? In other words – there was a lot to unravel as we worked out how best to proceed. I guess the only thing that we were initially sure of was that we were not going to let this issue come between us. This is probably why it was 7 years later that we eventually decided, together, to become parents.
As a same-sex couple having a child isn’t something that can just happen through biology. As neither one of us had a great desire to birth a child ourselves, and with both of us being mindful of children in the care system in need of a loving home, from the outset we always knew that adoption was our preferred route.
It’s a well-known anecdote amongst our friends that within moments of me eventually changing my mind and agreeing to parent it felt like we had 2 social workers suddenly sitting at our dining table talking us through the process. I suspect that the ball started rolling so quickly in case I changed my mind – but what do I know?
Unlike other stories that I’d heard, I didn’t find the process of becoming adoptive parents intrusive at all. I was strangely reassured that we were cross-examined quite so much, and equally reassured when our friends and family were interviewed too. Given that my reservations about parenting were to do with keeping a child safe, I wanted them to check and then double-check that we were up to the job.
I still think to this day that straight couples would do well to go through as thorough an assessment – maybe there would be fewer f**ked up people in the world. Before somebody says it – I am very well aware that the sheer suggestion of that is somewhat dystopian. . .but hopefully you know what I mean with the sentiment.
The process for our first child really whizzed along. We had the interviews, and we went on the adoption courses to learn about some of the difficulties that we might encounter along the way, but then just as had got approved, things took an unexpected turn for us when my partner (who by this time was my wife) became seriously ill, so the whole thing was put on hold.
As with all brushes with illness within a family, you’re left re-evaluating your choices etc, and as she slowly recovered, it was clear to us both that if she recovered and got a clean bill of health, we were ready to adopt. And so as soon as she was well enough, we picked up where we had left off.
As “approved parents” you get sent details of children that your social worker believes might be a good match for you. We had been very clear that at this point there would be no compromise. We both had to feel that it was the right child for us (and therefore in turn, that we’d be the right parent for the child).
On reading our son’s story we both felt a connection and both felt that he could be the one. It was only at this point did we see a picture of our son. However once again, as soon as we saw the picture, we just “knew”. You’re then back in front of the panel that once approved you as adopters for them to approve the match. It’s only after this point that you get to meet your child.
I can vividly remember meeting him for the first time, and I guess fully understanding at that moment why my wife had always said that she ‘needed’ to parent.
As he was only 9 months old the transition was relatively quick (in truth I think that it’s too quick. . .but anyway). We’d travel over to his foster family’s house and spend time with him there, learning his routines, and getting to know him as indeed he could get to know us. At one point his foster family brought him over to our home, and we spent a few hours realising quite how many things in our flat were not child friendly enough.
Then eventually we were permitted to bring him home with us on our own, again just for a few hours so he could get used to us in our surroundings. Until eventually the big day arrived and we could bring him home for good.
I can still vividly remember parking the car down the road and having to hold him in my arms (like all new mums) to get him into the house. I was terrified of tripping up – boy that fear was real.
I guess from then on in you’re like every new parent, trying to understand your child and attend to their every need. For the first few weeks social workers (both yours and your child’s) visit you to check how things are going, but eventually, that dwindles off and you’re left to your own devices.
It’s not until some months later that you’re finally in court and your “forever family” becomes a legal reality.
I have many thoughts about adoption, most of which are brushed under the proverbial mat when I think about how lucky we are to be raising our son. However, it’s true to say that adoption, like all parenting, is hard. Just as it’s true to say that you have some additional things to worry about that a birth family might not.
Much has been written about this but I really do think that post-adoption services need to be funded properly. For every bit of additional help that we’ve needed, we’ve had to fight for it. . . and that’s only after we’ve happened upon the help. After speaking to other adoptive parents I know that I’m not alone in that gripe.
That said, it couldn’t have been too bad – as we decided to adopt a sibling for son No 1, so went through the entire process again.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a biological parent, but I fail to see how I could love my children any more than I do. My children aren’t “lucky” to have been adopted by us – we are all lucky to have found each other.
As so many adults know, families come in various shapes and sizes, and very often it is the family that you create for yourself that becomes the mainstay in your life. Here’s hoping that our children end up feeling that our forever family have created that stability for them.
If you’re contemplating adoption and have any questions – please do get in touch. My DMs are open
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