Friday, 30 March 2012

Networking and The Sixth Sense

 I've always had a strong sixth sense and a sense of who to talk to about certain subjects.  This has been really honed over the years with infertility and now with adoption. Something in me seems to know when it's right to share my story and almost always it will transpire that the person I'm speaking to has either experienced infertility or is an adopter.  This has happened twice in the past 24 hours.  

I am careful regarding who I tell that Katie is adopted. I am cautious mostly because it is HER story as well as mine. I don't want the fact that she is adopted to be the thing that people remember most about her or use to describe her or for her to feel that that is what people know about her. 

Last night, I went out with a group of mums and teachers from Katie's pre-school and found myself deep in conversation with one of the mums. I suddenly decided to tell her that Katie was adopted and found that her best friend is also going through the adoption process so I passed on my contact details for her, in case she wanted a fellow adopter to chat to. 

Today I was in my local Boots to pick up my favourite body lotion "Soap and Glory Body Butter" when I noticed a mum and her young daughter discussing hair colours.  The little girl reminded me of Katie because she was "helping" mum by recognising and picking up her normal hair colour.  Mum was saying to her that she wanted to try something different this time.  I chuckled and said to the lady "my daughter is very helpful like that as well".  The next thing I know I'm deep in conversation with her about hair colours and recommending my sister (who is a hairdresser) to colour her hair.  Whilst we were chatting the little girl was getting lipsticks and nail polish for her mum from the make-up stands and we were laughing about that.  I asked the little girl what her name was but was unable to understand because she was very quietly spoken.  Her mum said that she had given me her full name but that she was adopted and they had just become a legal family the day before.  I smiled and said "That's why we're having this conversation. I am also an adopter and my daughter is about the same age as yours".  The familiar tingle went down my spine and we then swapped numbers and had a lovely chat with a view to meeting up for a playdate.

Funny old world isn't it?

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

We're all going on a lovely holiday.......

We've just returned from a wonderful holiday at Center Parcs.  I would go so far as to say that (except for hubs contracting the Norovirus on that last day) we had the best holiday ever as a family.  The sun shone for the entire week; it was warm and coats were not required.  Because we'd booked the early bird package and could access our accommodation early we had the little beach on the lake to ourselves again so Katie ripped off her shoes and socks and paddled in the lake with the ducks!  She got so wet we had to cycle back to the lodge minus her trousers (thank heavens for the bike trailers!).  We whizzed round on our bikes enjoying the exericise; we swam daily in the pool and shot down the flumes and slides; we jumped up over the waves in the wave pool; we zipped down the zip wire in the playpark; we soaked it all up and slept very well at night.  I also ate far too many chocolate mini eggs and put on 3lbs despite all the cycling but that's a different story!

Going on holiday with any child, let alone a child who is adopted, can be stressful. We have learned over the past few years that Katie can take a while to settle on holiday and the change of environment.  Last year's holiday in Spain was pretty awful for the first 48 hours if I'm honest with Katie pouring bubble bath all over her bed as one example of her behaviour.  I actually threatened to come home and was glad the house had a washing machine.  She doesn't seem to mind being away from home and doesn't appear to have any anxieties that we won't be returning home.  She loves packing and deciding which toys to take with us.  I think it's the change in routine and the excitement of new things to do that brings out more challenging behaviour.  I'm reliably informed however that this is the same for most children, and is not simply because Katie is adopted.

We try to maintain a routine re meal times and bedtimes as far as is possible when on holiday and we've also learned that continuity of location works well for us.  Katie loves Center Parcs.  We don't actually stay in the exact same accommodation but in the same type of accommodation so the layout and bedrooms etc are the same each time.  This enables Katie to settle much more quickly because she knows her environment and what to expect.  This is our third visit to Center Parcs and, this time on our first night, we had minimal misbehaviour.  Katie is very familiar with the pool and the surrounding areas now.  I will just say that Katie was beside herself with excitement for the entire holiday, and that can be pretty wearing after a while (especially the running up and down and general silliness), but she was actually fairly well behaved.  She smiled and laughed almost the entire time.  We tried new activities with great succcess.  I think the fact that she is that bit older helps as well.  She tried ballet and Meet The Owls and even swam down the outside water rapids with us.  We watched the rabbits and baby bunnies who had a burrow just outside our front door which was amazing!  Being able to share all that as a family was, quite simply, brilliant.  We didn't want to come home.  Katie enjoyed having Daddy home for the week and their relationship continues to blossom as a result.  

It was, quite simply, marvelous!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Preparation ....or is it?

This week we attended our prep course for adoption number 2.  I was feeling really excited because it meant that things were finally starting to move in the right direction.  Katie was spending her first day (awake) with our babysitter and was also very excited at the prospect of running rings around her all day.

Because our local authority is trying to catch up on training prospective adopters waiting for the prep courses, the training group was much larger than our first time round with at least 40 people in the training room.  We joined the group for Day 3 of their 4 day training. The trainers were both really lovely and very knowledgeable Social Workers.  The presentation was slick and well organised.  The other trainees all seemed to be very nice people.  Are you sensing a "but"?  Yes there is a "but" and it is the fact that there is no training course designed in our local authority for second time adopters.  Aside from briefly going over the new, very lengthy, PAR document that we will need to complete, the rest of the day was information we covered during our first adoption.  It held some interest for us because it reassured us that Katie had settled in very well with no issues around attachment evident but that was pretty much about it.  Bit of a let down really.  

The other thing that felt very familiar was the general sense of doom and gloom portrayed about the children waiting to be adopted.  The air was thick with issues around trauma to the brain development due to issues around neglect and abuse.  Yes, prospective adopters need to know the difficulties/realities that their children may be facing but they also need some balance in how this information is presented and about the post-adoption support that is available should they find themselves needing help.  It's no wonder that so many people pull out of the adoption process.  People need to hear some of the good stuff as well so that they can hold onto their dream of a family.  I felt a familiar anxiety creeping back down my spine and found myself worrying again about the impact on Katie.  We want to adopt a sibling for her benefit but will it benefit her?  I would hate to do anything that would impinge on Katie's attachment to us and our relationship with her.  I could feel the headache and anxiety that plagued me throughout our last adoption returning, slipping back into my body like an old, quite unwelcome, acquaintance.

And then I said to myself "STOP"!  

I will not allow myself to get anxious and stressed about this process.  I will hold on firm to the reasons we feel that this will be a benefit for Katie and us as a family.  We will be very careful during our matching process to ensure that we think things through carefully.  Above all, I will trust in my belief that the universe will bring us the daughter that is right for our family and the sister that is right for Katie. 

So now I breathe...........

..........and fill out lots of paperwork......

I can promise myself not to get anxious but there is always going to be that paperwork......

Wish us luck.......

I'm still breathing......yes....

....I anxiety here.....I did mention the paperwork right?.......

It's only 32,000 words this problem for a seasoned blogger like me eh?.......

.....still breathing....................

The Lady Behind the Stork.......

Hello!!! My name is Gem aka.....  

Three Become Four.  
These days I'm a stay at home mum. I'm what is politely termed a Geriatric Mother which I find slightly offensive (take note medical community)!

My husband, otherwise known here as Daddy or TCM (This Charming Man - although he thought it meant The Cookie Monster so I'll leave you decide which one you want to think of him as!) and I have been together for 26 years.  We live in the south of the United Kingdom.  


I am a trained counsellor, specialising in working with young people.  In my most recent role I was also a trainer and teacher for Sex and Relationships Education. I love dancing and am a keen tap and Mo-jive dancer and yoga enthusiast although a Vitamin D deficiency has resulted in me having chronic fatigue and I've had to take a break from my exercise pursuits for a while.  I am also a Reiki Master and Angel Healer which is a great passion of mine.  We have spent the past 2 years totally redesigning and extending our house and have recently moved back home again.  I now have my own healing room and will soon be able to restart my Reiki practice which I aim to build over the coming years offering Reiki treatments to humans and animals).

In 2011 I became a Champion for the BAAF and am passionate about promoting adoption because many people are put off by negative and often quite scary stories. More recently I have become an Adopter Voice Adoption Champion for Adoption UK working alongside my local authority to improve local adoption services.


TCM and I tried to start a biological family for nearly 15 years.  After losing 10 babies to miscarriage, and more heartbreak than we could have imagined, we decided to complete our family through adoption.  After an intense year in 2009 being assessed as adopters, we were approved to become adopters in December 2009 and matched almost immediately with our daughter, Katie, aged 2 years and 3 months when she joined our family.  Our lives were transformed beyong recognition in the space of two weeks!  In 2012 we decided to do it all again and Katie's brother Pip joined us aged 7 months in 2013. Our family was complete.

This is my family!

Daddy (TCM)




and Pip

We have two furry Maine Coon members of our family......

Leo and Willow

 The "Life With Katie" Blog

I initially started my blog as a way of keeping friends and family up-to-date with our introductions with Katie but decided to keep the blog going as a record of our lives together.

I share my blog to help adopters and prospective adopters get a sense of what our life is like as adoptive parents and to keep myself sane as I try to understand the challenges that being an adoptive parent brings. I also hope that, one day, this blog will serve as the story of Katie and Pip's life so I can offer them memories and a sense of their childhoods, something which is very important to adopted people.

I love connecting with other adopters and bloggers through this blog and Twitter and Facebook and receive emails from many different people who often share their adoption stories with me. "Life with Katie" almost has a life of its own now.

What are we doing now?

We are enjoying (mostly) life as a family of four which is definitely still a work in progress.  Life has definitely settled into a sense of normality now although Katie's recent diagnoses of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) are bringing new learning and new challenges every day.

Four definitely won't become five though (unless you count all the cats) because I know I've reached my parenting limit and my name definitely isn't Ma Walton!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Our Two Year Anniversary

March is a happy and important time of year in our household now. Two years ago we met Katie for the first time. Re-reading the early days of our time as a family is so amazing and emotional

Hearing Katie call us "Mummy and Daddy" for the first time two years ago was almost indescribable. Part of me cannot believe that two years has passed already and part of me feels like it's been much longer.  I cannot imagine a life that doesn't have Katie in it now.  I can barely remember life before Katie.  I have been looking at photographs of how small she was when we first met her and comparing them to the amazing (and tall) 4 year old that she is now.  I find myself gazing at her in awe.  How did this little tordado come into our lives?  She is bright and articulate and seems so happy and confident.  She seems to really understand what "I love you" means and tells me so often that she loves me.  She told me today that she was going to live next door to us when she grows up.  This wonderful little girl took so long to come to us and that makes her all the more precious.  Even when she behaves naughtily I still love her more than I ever knew it was possible to love a human being.  She pushes every boundary that she comes across and then pushes it again, just to check if anything has changed from the last time she tried.  She pushes me to limits of emotion that I didn't know existed.  She is tireless and lives life at 100 miles per hour. She has a beautiful smile that is easy to find, even when she is grumpy.  I only have to say "turn that frown upside down" and she starts to giggle.  We owe all our Social Workers an amazing debt of gratitude for bringing us all together and making us a family.

It hasn't all been easy.  Katie has had a hard time accepting that Daddy has to go to work and has punished him relentlessly for two years when he comes home each day.  She has pushed him away and told him she only wants Mummy.  My husband has been amazing throughout this.  He has taken all this punishment and kept telling Katie how much he loves her over and over again.  The past few weeks have brought about a major shift in Katie's behaviour with Daddy and she seems to have forgiven him for leaving her every day.  She said to me recently that "Daddy has to go out and work doesn't he?".  I confirmed this and she seems to accept this fact now.  She gives him lots of kisses and cuddles when he leaves and rushes to meet him when he comes home.  She shouts out "I love you to the moon Daddy" which is so wonderful to hear.  It must also be wonderful for Daddy to hear those words expressed with such gusto after waiting so long.  He deserves a medal for being so good humoured whilst metaphorically (and sometimes physically) being kicked every day. They spent the day together yesterday whilst I spent the day with a girlfriend, and they had a lovely dad visiting Nana and Pops and visiting the bookshop to spend Katie's World Book Day token.  Katie told me she had a brilliant time.  I look forward to many more days out whilst Katie and Daddy have some play time together.

Today we went to celebrate our two year anniversary at the Harvester restaurant where we celebrated becoming legal.  Katie's choice.  She loves the salad bar, particularly the crunchy bacon bits and croutons!  She loves eating out and her table manners are improving, somewhat!

I want to take this opportunity to say Happy Anniversary to my wonderful family and to give thanks for the wonderful gift that adoption has brought to us. I didn't think I was ever going to be a mum and now I can't imagine life being any different.  How lucky are we to all have each other?  
I also take this moment to give a nod of acknowledgement to Katie's birth family.  I can only imagine the loss that they have experienced.  I am compassionate and understanding of their circumstances and will always convey this to Katie throughout her life.  My hope as a parent is that Katie will live her life full of love and that being adopted gives her the opportunity to reach the amazing potential that we can see she has.

We love you to the moon and stars 
and back again