Monday, 31 October 2011

Trick or Treating.....

I've just got home from taking Katie out for her first Trick or Treat for Samhain/Halloween with my Sister and my Nephew.  She simply loved the whole experience and looked adorable in her little purple and black witches costume.  I wish I could post a picture.  Everyone said she looked adorable.  She loved the concept of knocking on doors; shouting "Trick or Treat"; and getting sweets. 

If I'm honest I'm not sure how I feel about the Trick or Treat thing.  There feels something wrong really about knocking on people's door for sweets.  We teach our children to be wary of strangers and then encourage them to knock on strangers doors for sweets. The neighbourhood where my sister lives was great though.  Many of the people answered the door in fancy dress and had plates of sweets and goodies prepared.  It felt like the neighbourhood really loved the children and wanted them to have a good time.  Seeing Katie's face and her excitement made me question my own feelings about whether this is something I should be encouraging or not.  I worry about protecting Katie a lot; keeping her safe.  I do want her to have fun though.  I don't want to be overly protective and to suffocate her or make her anxious.  Keeping safe is about making sensible, considered, judgements and that is something I want to help her learn in her lifetime.  Being safe isn't about hiding away and not participating in life.  I am a very cautious person and would love to be more carefree.  I wonder if there is a class I can take to learn that? LOL

Happy Samhain!!!!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Useful Adoption Links

Love is a very simple thing......

One thing that seems to put people off the idea of adoption is whether you can love a child that isn't biologically yours.  When we were first going through the adoption process someone very close to me said that she couldn't adopt because she couldn't love an adopted child because she had had a biological child and would know the difference.  My response was "How do you know that?, You haven't had that experience so you can't actually know"I know that I couldn't love a child anymore than I love Katie but I haven't had a biological child so I also can't say whether there is any difference.  I frequently hear of women wanting to adopt but their male partners feeling more reluctant because of the love and biology issue. I am sure this situation may be reversed with some people but I've not personally heard of anyone telling me this.  I would love to hear from anyone who has experienced this.  i do know of plenty of couples who have used donor sperm however and that is pretty much the same thing.  Mike and I discussed this when we were going through the process and he said he was initially anxious about it.  I absolutely knew that I could love a child that wasn't biologically mine because there were several children in my life that I knew I loved.  Having said that, since meeting Katie I have experienced an even deeper love for a child than I ever knew before.  I did have anxieties but my anxieties lay around the linking/matching process and wondering how I would know if the match was right.

Love is something that is written about endlessly.  This is mostly romantic love but I think all love is pretty much the same.  You meet someone and you have a connection and strong feelings for them and those feelings grow and deepen with time.  This can happen in romantic love or friendship, with your family and with a child.  Does biology really make such a huge difference?  We are genetically programmed to reproduce and it can be devastating if you are unable to reproduce. Being unable to reproduce doesn't mean remaining childless though and it certainly doesn't mean that you cannot love an adopted child with all of your heart; all of your being in fact.  It's worth noting that being able to reproduce doesn't necessarily guarantee that you will love that child or even get along well.  I know lots of biological parents who clash with their children and have turbulent relationships.

When you are pregnant with a child there is 9 months of bonding; dreaming; wondering who the child will look like and take after.  This process is very introverting and pulls the mother inward towards her child and the bond that is forming and often away from the father-to-be.  Adoption can't mirror that process in the physical sense but it does have an emotional parallel process that bonds you to the child that you have been matched with. In some ways adoption is a more joint process because the adoptive father is in exactly the same position as the adoptive mother.  This can be very bonding for the parents-to-be because you can both simultaneously experience the same thing. 

Katie resembles myself and Mike enormously.  More so than many of my friends with biological children.  I wonder how many fathers in the world love a child that they think is biologically theirs but actually is biologically someone elses?  Does that love change if they find out that the child isn't biologically theirs?

I remember clearly the moment I fell in love with Katie.  It wasn't when we read her background story and when were initially shown a photograph of her.  I was so worried because, although I felt connected to this little person, my feelings were unclear and very confused.  I felt quite numb right up until the day of our Linking Panel.  I was anxious because I didn't know how I felt and wondered if this was right.  Mike, on the other hand, knew that it was right.  He had no doubts at that point so I clung to his feelings.  Prior to our Linking Panel I had asked Katie's Social Worker to bring along a photograph of her to add to the little book we had made for her to introduce ourselves.  The picture was beautiful (it has pride of place in our house now) and I looked at that little girl and I fell in love.  Totally and unequivocally, it happened, and it continues to happen 18 months on.  Every day I look at her and fall a little bit more in love with her.  She is wonderful.  Everything I could want in a daughter.  Mike loves and adores her and it matters not a jot that we didn't give birth to her ourselves.  Of course there are complications in that Katie has a birth family that we try to maintain contact with so that Katie can have a full picture of her story when she is older.  Some people may find that hard to handle.  It is a reminder of the genetic side of things.  We don't know how that bond will effect Katie during her life.  It is an unknown.  Having said that parenting generally is an unknown.  We don't know what life will throw at our children and how we, as parents, can help them with the experiences they have and their emotional responses to those experiences.

We live in an age of nuclear families.  Families split up and new families blend and they make it work.  Celebrities are raising the profile of adoption, which is great.  It is no longer a secret, something to be hidden in the closet.  Children are told from the outset that they are adopted and (I hope) don't have a surprise on their 18th birthday.  Adoption is something to be proud about.  What a wonderful wonderful gift to give a child, and it's been a wonderful gift for me as well.

One thing that I think doesn't help the process though, and also puts many people off adoption, is that during the early stages of the adoption process the children are often presented very negatively by Social Workers.  Adopters are told about all the scary stuff; the unacceptable behaviour; and it's natural to feel anxious and question whether you can cope with all this scary stuff.  I do think this information needs to be presented a more balanced way.  Please don't scare off would-be adopters.  Yes we need to know what might be but we need to know all the wonderful bits too to get a really clear picture of what lies ahead.

If you ask me "Can you love a child that isn't biologically yours?" then I will reply, without hesitation "YES, you can!"  You have to be open to it though.  It's like romantic love, you have to allow it to happen.  As they say, "you have to be in it to win it".  If you tell yourself that you won't be able to love a child that isn't biologically yours then you are blocking that possibility.  Genetics really isn't everything, it is merely the building block of our species.  It has a huge impact on our thinking and emotions though.  I freely admit that adoption wasn't my first choice to becoming a parent.  Adoption wasn't even something on my radar but now I wouldn't change anything for the world and consider myself the luckiest mum on the planet.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Feeling delighted today.......

I am feeling considerably happier today for two reasons.  The first being that I received the awaited phone call from our Local Authority this morning to say that we have been allocated a Social Worker to come and do our initial home visit.  It's in a few weeks time so I'm delighted that this has been organised.  I obviously said something right when speaking to the other Social Worker a few weeks ago.  The second thing that has made my day is that I tweeted Sinitta who is an Ambassador for UK Adoption through the BAAF and asked if she would retweet my blog address to all her followers.  Within an hour Sinitta had retweeted my tweet to her.  I was so excited!!!  It would be lovely if I can encourage even one person to consider adoption as an option for them!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Contact Letters

I am sitting next to the completed contact letters and photographs and am trying to write with the very furry tail of my Maine Coon, Leo, flicking over the keyboard.  He does like to keep me company.

The letters are waiting for a nice, crisp, brown A4 envelope to send them off to our Local Authority to be forwarded on to Katie's birth family.  I am proud of what I have written but there is a tinge of anxiety about causing upset or sounding like a Bridget Jones smug.  I cannot even begin to imagine how it must feel to receive the letters I send; the feelings that arise for the receiver.  Adoption is a complex myriad of emotions for everyone involved.  I want to ensure that the door is open for Katie to contact her birth family when she is older; if this is what she wants.  You could accuse me of being a liar if I said that I didn't have my own feelings about it.  I am her mum.  I am bound to her and I don't really want to have to share her with anyone else; but Katie has a story and there are characters in her story that may need to be revisited one day and I want to ensure that door is open for her and them.  I would love to know how it will all pan out.  Someone hand me a crystal ball please, so that I can prepare for what may lie ahead.  Of course there are anxieties that she will reject me and Mike one day.  I am pretty sure that all adopters have that anxiety lurking at the back of their minds.  I do feel though that a son or daughter is unlikely to reject a parent if a) they have a strong relationship with them and b) if they aren't forced to choose.  I knew when I became an adoptive parent that Katie has birth parents and there may be an emotional tie to them for her as she grows up.  She talks about her birth mother frequently and asks questions.  I answer them all as best I can; with as much honesty and balance as I can.  I want her to grow up knowing she can ask me anything and that she doesn't have to keep her questions and feelings to herself about her adoption.  My biggest fear is that she will try and trace her birth family through Facebook or whatever relevant social networking site may be running when she is older.  My training as a counsellor warns me that the lack of emotional support in this route could be so damaging.  I want Katie to know that we will contact her birth family, should she wish it, but that we do it with all the emotional support that we can to ensure she has the backup she will need.

Adoption as an Option.....

I am so very proud of my friend "Pam" in this article.  The ladies of our forum are really getting the word out there about adoption.....

Power........waiting for the phone to ring and The Politics Show!

I'm feeling a little bit irritated today if I'm honest. It's amazing how quickly that feeling has returned and I did say that I was going to remain above it all this time and not get annoyed or frustrated.  What I'm irritated about is the same thing that irritated me last time.  Power.  Waiting for someone else to decide, with very little information I might add, whether we are going to be taken forward for a preparation course.  Actually getting an initial home visit is the first step before even that.  Someone, who hasn't even met our family as we are today is sat in an office deciding if they think we are ready to add to our family.  How can they make that judgement without even meeting us?  It frustrates me so much.  It's all about numbers.  It's only been 18 months since Katie was placed with you - you aren't ready to add to the family.  As I pointed out in our conversation, we're not looking to add to the family today - we're thinking in about 18 months time.  Let me see, that means Katie will have been placed with us for 3 years at that point.  I do have huge respect for the job that Social Workers do.  They want the best for the children that they are working alongside.  They want to make sure that they place a child in a placement where it has the highest chance of working out but this negativity seems endemic within the profession.  Are they testing the mettle of would-be adopters?  Is it right though to be so negative and off-putting to someone who is interested in becoming an adopter but needs more information?  Surely there are more supportive ways to introduce some of the difficulties that may lie within being an adoptive parent?  This could be explored in the home study much more on a one-to-one basis and concerns discussed in a more private setting.  I hear stories of so many potential adopters pulling out after their preparation course because it's put them off too much.

There is so much in the media with the build up to National Adoption Week about changes the government wants to see in the adoption process.  Speeding the process up.  Thinking more about the needs of the children in care.  You'd think they would be biting off our hands wouldn't you?  Adopters are so rare and so much negativity and so many obstacles are placed in the way before you even meet a Social Worker.  It is hard to remain detached as I'm exampling today.  I try to take a spiritual approach and I believe that everything happens in the time it's supposed to happen in but that doesn't stop me getting irritated at feeling like I'm being treated with disrespect and dismissal.

I've added a link to a programmed called The Politics Show.  This is this week's London edition and had a very interesting segment on Adoption at 41 minutes.  They talk about how prospective adopters are being put off adoption by initial negativity and also because of attempts to match racial mixes exactly. It sounds like it's an issue that is being recognised and, hopefully, addressed.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Being away from home

We are currently staying with some friends on a sheep farm.  We're having a lovely time with lots of good company and good food.  If you follow the link on my blog to the Back of Beyond Baking then you'll get an idea of how good the food is.  I'm getting Mrs Vander-Cave quite inspired with gluten-free cooking now!  We went on the most amazing walk yesterday to British Camp.  Lots of effort and puff was required to get to the top of the hill but the panoramic view from the top was simply amazing.  The wind was so strong that it almost blew Katie away!

Bringing young children away for overnight trips and holidays is lovely.  Katie gets lots of new experiences.  She loves playing with our friends 10 year old son and he tries very hard not to see her as a bit of a pain.  The main difficulty of bringing Katie away, is at bedtime.  Getting her to go to sleep is a total nightmare.  The first night we arrived late and Katie was already asleep so we put her straight into her Peppa Pig blow up bed.  She then woke up at 2am and panicked because it was too dark.  It was pretty dark so I could totally understand her anxiety.  Katie doesn't do anything quietly however so the whole house was woken up.  We put the hall light on and soothed her back to sleep.  An hour and a half later she was awake again and had no desire to go back to sleep.  We put her in our bed and tried every trick in the book to get her to give in and sleep again.  She eventually gave in at about 5am.  She was so tired yesterday and had a sleep in the car, whilst we were driving to British Camp, to catch up.

Last night she refused to give in and sleep at bedtime.  She kept our friends son awake and he had to move into his parents bed.  Katie then decided she wanted to sleep in our bed.  She then was found with all her My Little Pony's on the landing playing with them because "they kept falling down on the bed".  We then discovered she had Daddy's phone when he phoned me, but was sitting next to me.  Daddy turned the phone off and let her hold it but she managed to turn it back on and phone me again!! This continued in one form or another until she finally gave in and slept at around 10.30pm.  She would normally be in bed ready to sleep by 7pm!  We kept her in our bedroom in her bed last night and it was a much better night, except for a rude awakening around 3am with another panic.  Katie was reassured by our presence however and slept until nearly 8am.  She is currently playing Charlie and Lola on the Cebeebies website.  I think she'll be tired again later though.

Her bedtime antics sparked a discussion about whether her behaviour was simply a nearly 4 year olds typical behaviour or whether it was linked to being adopted.  We had been told during our Preparation Course that adopted children often don't cope with being taken away for holidays because they worry that they won't be going home and it can spark off anxieties from being moved into foster care.  I don't think this is the case for Katie at all.  It's more simply strange surroundings and a different routine and, a little bit of "what can I get away with?"  She is confident about where she lives and seems very secure in her attachments to both myself and Daddy and other adults in our lives.  I hope she gets better as she gets older though.  Please reassure me it gets better!!!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Enjoying spreading the word......

I am feeling quite excited today because I will be hopefully meeting up in the near future with two other sets of prospective adopters to talk about adoption with them.  They are both friends of friends.  I think the more people start to know someone who has adopted successfully, the more people will start to think that this is something that they too can do.  Word of mouth if you like.  I know how helpful it was for me to meet other adopters and their children when we were going through the process the first time round and I really want to offer that to other people.  Knowing you are not alone in this crazy and intense process and that there is a wonderful outcome at the end really kept me going during the darker days when I felt exposed and vulnerable and frustrated.  Adoption Champions are more than simply promoting adoption I think.  It's about supporting as well.  I love meeting other adopters!!!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Dreaming of what might become....

I spend a lot of my time over-analysing things.  I've always been the same.  I think far too much about what might be or what if etc.  I worry about being a good parent far too much.  Sometimes it's nice to just dream about things though with no hidden anxiety and that's exactly what I've been doing about stepping back into the adoption process.  Dreaming of what might become.  Dreaming of changing nappies again; dreaming of a little girl sleeping in her bedroom in her cot; dreaming of a new buggy (one that I actually want this time rather than the hasty purchase we had to make last time); dreaming of those moments of first meeting and of forming a bond; dreaming of those words "you've been matched"; dreaming of creating her bedroom; dreaming of her calling us Mummy and Daddy; dreaming of her saying "I love you" for the first time; dreaming of all the possibilities.  All the positives; all the wonderful stuff that being a parent is all about.

Katie and I have started preparing for the day that three become four.  We had a big clear out of her wardrobe and chest of drawers and have identified lots of clothes for her sister.  We have started sorting out books, although Katie has since decided that her sister will  be too young for these baby books!!  I am hoping that this will start to prepare Katie for being a sister.  Katie and I have been wondering what she will be called.  A name is so powerful, so important.  What is her name?  What does she look like?  She has probably already been born.  As I write this, she could be out there, somewhere.  Is she already in foster care?  Is she with her birth family?  I try not to think too much about what circumstances will lead her to us.  I want to protect her already and can't bare to think of why she needs a new Mummy and Daddy.  It's amazing.  I know I am already her Mummy but in the words of our family song....."I just haven't met you yet".........

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

What makes people want to adopt?

Yesterday I received the press release from our Local Authority about me and Mike for National Adoption Week.  I made a few amendments and sent it back this morning.  I am feeling both excited and nervous about what this might bring.  

I feel excited because I want to share how wonderful adoption can be and hopefully bring forward more potential adopters.  There are so many children needing homes and so many people that might consider offering them a home.  It is natural to want a biological child, I know we did.  We did, because it didn't even occur to us to consider adoption as an option.  We went to hell and back in pursuit of a biological childIt took a long time before adoption was something we considered seriously and even then it took us 5 years to reach a point when we wanted to pursue this route.  We are biologically programmed to procreate.  Yet, for some people, either because they are unable to have biological children or because they have grown up with experience of fostering or adoption or because they know in their hearts that they want to adopt and made a difference, adoption is a route to creating a family.  Yet many people are put off.  Why?  

One reason is that many people cannot imagine loving a child that isn't biologically theirs.  The geneology is so important.  I cannot imagine that it is possible to love a child more than I love Katie, yet I did not give birth to her. 

People are put off adoption because the process takes so long or because they are worried they are too old, not in a relationship or in a single sex relationship or there there are fears that they may not be approved because of something in their background that causes them concern.  

People may be worried about the experiences a child has been through and how this may effect them throughout their life.  Potential adopters are given information about some of the very negative behaviour very emotionally damaged children may display.  This is quite scary to hear and this is often the point that people walk away from the process.  Yet behind all of this, are children.  Children who deserve the very best life has to offer them.  Children who, through no fault of their own, need parents who are able to take care of them and give them love and who will help them find their way in life.  Fundementally they are no different than biological children.  All children need love.  So many children are growing up in the care systemMany of them are with foster parents who love them and make them part of their family. Some older children are in childrens homes.  How can that situation enable a child to flourish?  Children need long term stability and investment in them and above all love.  We are often given a picture of these children that makes them scary.  Are we good enough parents to help a child through all these emotional or physical difficulties?  This is a very individual decision and one that makes you question everything you ever thought about being a parent and also your parenting abilities.  People understandably question whether they have the skills to parent an emotionally damaged child.  The adoption services aren't looking for super-human adopters.  They are looking for real people with experiences.  Those experiences that have shaped you as a person; the trials that you have overcome; those experiences that mean you can relate to how an adopted child may feel about themselves and their life and the ways in which they may express those feelings.  So many of us have experienced loss; we may have estranged relationships in our life; people it has not been possible to maintain a relationship with; relationships we have had to walk away from; family members or friends with illness or disability.  There are so many experiences that ordinary people have that they can draw on to help them be successful adopters.  We adopters are not super-human people. We are ordinary people who want to love a child and have a family.  Social Workers will guide adopters and help them understand their limits as a potential parent so that they can match them with the child that is right for them.  In our case this has worked perfectly and in the majority of the people that I know this has also been the case.  I only know personally of one adoption where there was a breakdown and I know lots of adopters.

So why am I feeling nervous about being involved with the media?  There is only one reason.  Actually there are two but the second one is just the usual nerves at saying the wrong thing - the usual self esteem stuff.  The main reason is ensuring Katie's anonymity.  Many of the people in our life know that Katie is adopted but not everyone in her life knows that she is adopted.  I would hate to do anything that might cause her any kind of harm in the future.  We are doing everything we can to ensure this doesn't happen.  We won't be using our surnames; or Katie's real name.  We won't be advertising whereabouts in the county we live.  I don't want people to look at her and say "there's that adopted kid".  We all cherish our anonymity, unless we seek fame.  I would hate for her to lose that.  It's weighing up the pros and cons though.  I feel so strongly about being an advocate for adoption and I hope Katie grows up feeling that adoption is something positive and something that we are proud of.  I hope that we can encourage more people to think about adoption.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Dancing for Chris

Yesterday was an extremely emotional day.  Along with my fellow tappers from my tap class we performed in a show to raise money for my friend, Christine's, charity.  Christine died last April after a very long and brave battle with breast cancer and her husband and children, friends and family have been raising money for her charity ever since.  There were over 120 people participating yesterday, singing and dancing and playing instruments.  Seeing all the children was amazing and so emotional. Christine used to be a nanny and she would have simply loved seeing all the children taking part.  I spent most of the day feeling like an emotional wreck, trying not to cry and feeling overwhelmed at all the children and costumes and all the hard work that had gone into producing the show.  Christine's two children both danced in the show and the daughter of another friend and I was so proud of them.  They all danced fantastically.  I was the most nervous I've been performing in a while, partly because I wanted to dance perfectly to honour Christine and partly because several of my friends were watching the show. Katie and Daddy came to watch the show and had front row tickets but it was too loud and overwhelming for Katie and she burst into tears as the show started.  Our act was opening the show so you can imagine how hard it was, dancing on the stage and seeing your daughter crying her heart out.  I tried to give her a little smile but she was beside herself.  Daddy took her out halfway through the performance and it was all I could do to focus on my steps and not run off the stage after her.  I was pleased at how well our performance went.  I think all our team remembered their steps and the routine flowed so well.  Best ever performance and in honour of a wonderful lady.  I snuck outside to front of house after our performance and got seats for Katie and Daddy upstairs at the back but Katie just wasn't in the right place to stay and watch yesterday.  She'd been a pickle since the evening before when she knew I was going out for the evening and did everything she could to prevent me going out (including a pooey nappy just as I got my going out dress on!) and she woke up with a pickle in her belly, probably due to being overtired.

Daddy had a fun day yesterday whilst I was out rehearsing and after they went home.  Katie waited up for me to come home and the show ended a little later than I was anticipating so it was past 7.30pm when Katie went to bed.  Baring in mind I'd hoped to have her in bed for 6.30pm last night so she's going to be tired again today. She was so pleased to see me though and we had lovely cuddles and I love you's.  She was up at 6am this morning.  We're dreading the clocks going back again because last winter she woke up around 5am every morning.  I'm hoping we can manage it a bit better this winter.  I think I'll put her to bed at 8pm instead of 7pm to start with and then slowly pull the time back until we're back to 7pm.  Oh I hope it works! I was so tired last winter from all the early starts!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

My Child-To-Be

I wonder if you’re sleeping
Soundly in your bed?
Whilst thoughts of you,
My child-to-be,
Are swimming in my head. 
And maybe while you’re resting
You’re dreaming of my smile.
It won’t be long,
My child-to-be.
Just wait a little while.
Perhaps you’ll be awake soon,
As the sun begins to rise.
I’m waiting now,
My child-to-be,
To meet your sparkling eyes. 
And all the while I think of you,
Your angel’s somewhere near.
He’s keeping you,
My child-to-be,
Until he brings you here. 
I feel that you are with me now,
Although we seem apart.
Already close,
My child-to-be,
You’re growing in my heart.
Written by my dear friend P Broughton

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Today's Motto!

Is there a spanner in the works?

Yesterday was a day very much about adoption in one form or another.

I contacted our Local Authority yesterday to chase up our application form and had a long conversation with the Social Worker who was reviewing our application.  It looks like things might not be quite as straightforward as we had hoped and I was reminded why so many people are put off the adoption process.  It wasn't so much the concerns that were being raised, because I can appreciate and even welcome those concerns and insights, but the negative approach that was initially taken without gaining further information and I was reminded of the horror stories we were told about on our preparation course of children killing the family pets or smearing their poo all over the walls and the anxiety that I felt around all this.  The Social Worker raised a concern that insufficient time had passed since we adopted Katie and that she might not cope with a new addition and might regress or experience difficulties with her attachment to us.  It was pointed out that a larger degree of second time adoptions fail.  I do agree with these concerns but I think they are issues that can be addressed in a home study when a full picture of our home situation is investigated, not during an initial phone call, particularly as Katie is a very well settled and well adjusted young lady who spent the first two years of her life in a busy foster home with lots of children.  

I have also reflected, since the conversation, of the different approaches taken by different Local Authorities because a friend of mine has recently been approved as a second time adopter and exactly the same amount of time has passed for her since the placement of her first child (bar one month) as us.  She and her husband have gone through the process with a neighbouring Local Authority however whose approach is very different.  

As my conversation progressed however I felt the discussion became more positive and I felt that the Social Worker I was talking to appreciated that we had thought through a lot of these concerns already and that my answers allayed some of her concerns.  I highlighted that part of our reasoning for adopting a 2+ year old were because they could play and interact and build their own relationship together and also a toddler would not be held and cuddled as much as a baby would be, potentially sparking jealousy issues of the baby being held and cuddled more than Katie.  I also stressed that we were looking to add to our family around March 2013 when Katie would be nearly 5.5 years old and would have been placed with us over 3 years at that point and would also be, hopefully, completely settled in school by that time.  She said to me that they were wanting to start fast tracking people and the adoption process wasn't taking nearly as long as it used to.  A close friend of mine who is seeking to adopt again through the same Local Authority was told recently that it was around 8 months from preparation course to panel.  I am aware that the next prep course is January and that would still take things from January until September/October 2012.  That isn't a world away from our hopes of adopting in March 2013.  I was informed that adopters are being approached literally outside the approval panel doors so it sounds like things are moving very quickly but even then it still takes several months before you meet the child.  I discussed this with another close friend last night and she reminded me of the amount of emotional investment that goes into adopting a child in those early months and how our energy would be needed to make sure Katie was settling well in school.  We do need to keep that in mind but, at the same time, I don't want a huge age gap between Katie and her sister.  I have a large age gap between me and my sister and it hasn't always been easy, particularly when we were younger.  I don't want Katie to feel like the babysitter, I want them to have a real sister relationship and have similar experiences as much as possible.

By the end of my conversation I did feel that the Social Worker felt quite positively about our conversation.  She now needs to speak to her manager to see what the decision is.  We will now wait and see!  One thing that I did realise however is that I feel more empowered this time round and felt more able to put my point and feelings across, whereas last time I was too worried about being turned down.

The second thing that happened literally 30 minutes after this conversation was another conversation that happened during Katie's gym class.  There is another older mum (like me) who has a little Chinese girl with her.  I wondered last week whether the lady's husband was Chinese or whether the girl was adopted.  It's funny how fate intervenes though.  Katie and I were late to gym because of the conversation with the Social Worker and the only chair left for me to sit on was next to this lady.  We sat silently for a little while before we started to share a chuckle over the antics of our children and started to chat.  I asked her if her husband was Chinese and she said that her daughter was adopted.  I admitted that I had asked specifically because Katie is also adopted.  We spent the rest of the afternoon, while the children played after gym in the soft play area at the leisure centre, chatting about the process and adopting overseas.  Interestingly she and her husband had initially approached the same Local Authority as us but felt very intimidated by their approach and chose to adopt through an agency overseas.  I hope a new friendship might blossom from this conversation.  We adopters are definitely a growing breed!!!

Friday, 14 October 2011

A lovely day

Yesterday Katie and I visited Grandma for the afternoon.  It was a beautiful October day, unexpectedly very warm.  I picked Katie up from pre-school and we drove the 50 minutes it takes to get to Grandma's house.  When we arrived Grandma suggested we all went to the beach for a few hours.  It was simply glorious down there, the sun was shining and there was a warm, gentle breeze.  Grandma had three other foster children with her so they all played on the sand and running in and out of the quite cold water.  They screamed and giggled with pure and utter delight.  it was so lovely to watch and play with them.  Everyone was wet and sandy, and we made a bit of a bloop in not taking a towel with us so washed our feet as best we could and we piled everyone back into Grandma's van.  Everyone had ice-creams from the shop and we drove back to Grandma's house for some tea and some of my homemade banana bread, which I made specially for Grandma because we are both gluten-free folk.  The children tore around the garden playing on scooters and bikes and collecting eggs from the chickens. It's quite a lovely place to be really.  After playtime we put all the children in the bath and everyone had some dinner. I put Katie in her PJ's after her bath in the hope that she would fall asleep in the car on the drive home but she was full of questions and wanted to chat rather than sleep.

Our conversation was interesting and difficult at the same time.  We are preparing Katie that the children that are currently living with Grandma will be placed for adoption soon.  I find this quite emotional, because we've grown to love the children very much. Imagine how a nearly 4 year old feels about this?  Grandma would love for us to adopt the two brothers but I've explained that a) we think a sister would be better for Katie and b) they would have to wait so long for us to go through the process that it is unfair on them to have to wait for a mummy and daddy that long.  Katie asked if they could come and live with us on the drive home.  I tried my best to explain this to her but it's so hard for her to understand.  She then said "I think I would like a new mummy and daddy and live in a new house too, but you and daddy and Leo can come too".  I replied by saying that if she had a new mummy and daddy then Leo and myself and daddy wouldn't be able to come with her.  She thought about this and very quickly said "Oh I don't want a new mummy and daddy then.  I want to stay with you".  Phew!! I was worried for a moment there!  I think she was just trying to get her head around what is happening. I want to ask the adopters for the children, when they are matched, if we could still see the children but I'm not sure that this would be in their interests.  It might be better to let them move on.  I will say that I share Katie's option about the two brothers though.  They are so wonderful and are so easy to love.  Somewhere out there is a very lucky mummy and daddy waiting to take them home and I'm so excited for them, and a little sad that we won't see them anymore. In the meantime we will enjoy spending time with them.

Michael Bublé - "Haven't Met You Yet" [Official Music Video]

This is our family song.  We played this incessantly in the car before we met Katie and now we all sing along together.  Katie often asks to have this in the car......

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Feeling quite excited

I had an exciting day yesterday.  I recently contacted our Social Worker with a view to doing something to support National Adoption Week.  She passed on my details to the media team and I did a phone interview yesterday with a lady from the media team with a view to her writing a press release and us possibly speaking to our local media, including newspapers and television.  It is great to feel that I might be able to do something to bring more adopters forward.  We try to meet up with people that we know are considering adoption to answer any questions they may have and allay any fears.  I know how I hung on to every word both the adopters said that we met at our information event and our prep course.  These were real adopters who knew what it was all about.

I was sad yesterday to hear that one of those couples we have spoken to have now pulled out of the adoption process because they had been put off by the messages they gained from their preparation course.  One of the things that is very difficult about the prep course is that you hear about all the sorts of things that can go wrong with adoption, including some less desirable behaviours that some children may present with.  It is quite scary to hear some of this information and can really give you pause for thought.  I was so lucky that I had met so many adopted children prior to this course, as I think it may well have made me question my ability to parent some of these behaviours.  Would I be up to that sort of parenting?  I actually don't know anyone personally who has adopted children who has experienced these sorts of behaviours.  That reassured me more than anything else.  I was lucky though to have this resource in my life, many would-be adopters don't.  They are probably the only person in their group of friends who are approaching adoption and life infertility, this can feel so isolating.  You have to dig so deep into yourself throughout the adoption process to answer the question "Am I up to this?".  It's such a shame that so many people pull out of the process because they don't have the reassurance that, with the right support, they can be "up to it".  I find myself feeling more and more passionate about trying to help people with this.  How do I do this?  I am still working on that one but I hope doing some media work might help a little.

A little closer to home, one of my big tasks this week is to write contact letters for Katie's birth family.  I confess to being a little late doing this and I need to get on with it.  We had a late holiday and life has just been so busy, and I admit that I've delayed a little as I do find the letters hard to write.  Trying to get a balance of what to include is so difficult.  I want to inform her birth family of her progress and things they might want to know about her so that they can get a good picture of her life but I also don't want to appear smug or make them feel bad.  Trying to chose some photos to send it also delaying this a little as I want to try and ensure that I send some nice pictures but ones that don't identify her too much, just to make sure her security is ensured.  This is one of the things that I find quite tough.  Wish me luck.........


KISSES IN THE WIND (The Waiting Child's Lullaby)

I hold you in my heart and touch you in my dreams.
You are here each day with me, at least that's how it seems.

I know you wonder where we are... what's taking us so long.
But remember child, I love you so and God will keep you strong.

Now go outside and feel the breeze and let it touch your skin...
Because tonight, just as always, I blow you kisses in the wind.

May God hold you in His hand until I can be with you.
I promise you, my darling, I'm doing all that I can do.

Very soon, you'll have a family for real, not just pretend.
But for tonight, just as always, I blow you kisses in the wind.

May God wrap you in His arms and hold you very tight.
And let the angels bring the kisses that I send to you each night.

--- © Pamela Durkota, written for Josh

The Question
by Gabe Myers,
Teen adoptee

I’ve grown so much but you weren’t here
To hold me console me or fight my fear
I wanted to know what was wrong with me
Where should I have grown up, where should I be
There has never been a day gone by
I don’t ask myself the question why
The constant filling of my heart with doubt
It was a secret to never be let out
Who exactly was my mother?
Then it dawned on me it could be no other,
Than the one who had loved all my life
The one who will be there through all my strife
The one who held me when I was scared
The one who I could always count on and always cared
It didn’t matter that I never came from your tummy
The point is you’re the one I will always call Mommy

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Sending off the papers and National Adoption Week....

Well, we didn't get the paperwork to send off to start the process as quickly as I'd hoped in my last post.  I think there was a little bit of mis-communication.  I'm a big believer in things happening when they're supposed to though so I'm not too stressed or annoyed about it.  It did make me laugh that the form and accompanying paperwork that arrived was exactly the same as we received when we started the process last time round.  A real sense of deja-vu. It would be a nice touch however if there was a different letter for second timers. 

With National Adoption Week coming up at the end of the month I was discussing with my friend what could be done to make the process quicker and more effective.  This question was being asked today in the media. We decided that, in an ideal world, the process from application to panel should take no longer than a full term pregnancy - 9 months.  Those months of pregnancy are important for growing a little human but also to help with the transition to becoming a parent.  Adoption is no different.  You need time to take on board that you are going to be a parent but not so much time that you become too introspective, and the adoption process does make you very introspective.  For me, after 15 years of infertility, becoming a parent was an enormous transition.  I had given up hope of ever becoming a parent at that point.  Being approved at panel was one of the most emotional moments of my life.  To be validated that I could be a parent; a mother, meant everything to me.  Losing baby after baby had made me question whether the universe was saying that I was unfit to be a mother.  Now I know that I was being prepared to be a mother to the most wonderful human being ever.  My daughter is amazing.  I am the luckiest mummy in the world I think.  Do I care that she didn't grow in my womb?  No I don't.  I am proud of everything about her.

I feel very strongly now about adoption and have signed up to become an Adoption Champion with the BAAF .  I also belong to an online group.  We are a group of adopters who all met on a website called Babyworld and formed a social group.  We meet up with our husbands and all the children at least once a year (which is a major event to organise because we live the length and breadth of the country) and have daily communication via Facebook and phone.  This is a private group that is not visible to ensure our discussions remain secure. We support each other through every aspect of our parenting lives and the children regularly spend time with other adopted children.  The children love this and it is wonderful to see them all together.  Several of us are now going through the adoption process for a second time and are comparing notes on our experiences.  We are all excited about how many children will be at our next meet up.  We suspect our group is very unique and wonder how many other adopters have access to such wealth of support and communication?  We would love to shout how positively we all feel about adoption from the rooftops.  Even on our difficult days, the days when you question your sanity and are experiencing challenging behaviour, we know that there is a friend at the end of the telephone or the computer who will make you feel supported and will help you come up with a plan to manage whatever problem you are experiencing.  How amazing is that?

Well I have to sign off now as my little Tinks has fallen asleep with Daddy whilst watching TV so I'm going to sneak her off to bed quick quick.