I thought I’d share some diary entries from soon after Amber came to live with us. After the first week, I wrote:
‘It’s flown. We were prepared to be very careful, to introduce her slowly to new people, to add new clothes, toys and bedding slowly. But it all got a bit confusing. She came with a ton of stuff, but we’ve had 2 more tons delivered or given to us in the past 5 days. I no longer know what she’s been used to. But she really doesn’t care. She’s happy with all the new faces, toys and animals. We’ve had a few screams. She’s teething. We’ve seen a couple too many 2ams. She’s bitten DH. And she throws pasta on the floor. But we don’t care. She’s just learning her way around the world and we want to be there with her as she goes. One week on and being a parent isn’t at all what it’s cracked up to be. It’s MUCH better!! Perhaps we’ve waited so much longer than most people for this, that we’re savouring every moment. And it still feels like a dream, like I’m writing someone else’s story. Thankfully, I can smell her on me all of the time, so I know she’s real.’
Two months on, I wrote this:
‘I thought I loved her the first time I saw her. Something did move in my heart. But I now realise that I’ve grown to love her in a very deep way. We share a special look, or smile. She holds her daddy so tightly sometimes that it seems as though she’ll never let go. And we only now have begun to notice that we’re actually growing together – and it feels amazing.’
I wrote a book, Take Two, to chronicle the build up to becoming a parent and can’t believe that so much time has passed since all of those life-changing events. Right now I’m planning 6 and 7 year-old birthdays, and see their outgrown clothes in the photos of children of close friends. All that time we spent waiting to become a family, cursing the adoption process and its endless frustrations and waiting by the phone is now almost completely forgotten. We’re just a family.
I won’t deny that it was hard to adjust to being a working parent and that we had to learn to juggle so many facets of life simultaneously. When Ellie came to us 7 months after Amber (they are birth siblings, hence the rapid match), we found ourselves with two mobile children aged 23 months and 11 months and it was a bit of a nightmare. Looking back, I’m not sure that we were able to give either as much time as she needed, but somehow we all caught up. More importantly, we all got to learn to be a family at the same time and these days I still look on in wonder at these playful little sisters.
Five years on, is there anything I would have done differently? We were in the unusual situation where DH took adoption leave. For us this worked amazingly well and to this day the girls have a strong bond with daddy. I have continued to work since they came home (apart from my subsequent adoption leave) and don’t regret it at all, but then I love my job and wouldn’t describe myself as a natural ‘earth’ mother. The time I have with the girls is directed entirely at them and I do try to appreciate every moment we have together. We would also not have mentioned the fact that we are vegetarians, or that we don’t have a TV, as both of these seemed to single us out as ‘weird’. Those issues turned into a debate during home study, but they didn’t hold up the process or affect our chances in the end.
The major ‘adoption’ issue in our lives today is contact with their birth sister, who is only one year older. We meet up twice a year and all the girls simply accept their relationship, and behave entirely like sisters who live together – hugs and kisses one minute, bickering and recriminations the next. It’s magical to watch them together and wonderful to know they will always have one another in their lives.
I’m really struggling to find anything insightful to say about adoption when reflecting on our current life together. The problem is that we’re just an ordinary family. And while we do life story work with the children and regularly see their birth sister, most days the whole adoption ‘thing’ just sits quietly on the mantelpiece and lets us get on with daily life...........
family life, that is!
Note from "Life with Katie" author Gem: Laurel Ashton's book "Take Two" features in the Top 10 Recommended Reads for Adoption books as recommended by the BAAF. It was one of the first books related to adoption that I ever read and I cannot recommend it enough
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