Friday, 5 April 2013

Fine Lines.....

When you are going through the adoption process you dream of being approved as an adopter and then hearing the words that you have waited for "We have a match for you". But it is a bit of a double edged sword.

Adoption and Foster Care are needed because, for a variety of reasons, a parent is unable to provide the home life that all children need in order to grow into physically and emotionally healthy adults.  The birth parents may recognise this and make the decision to place their child for adoption or, in the majority of cases in the UK, a Local Authority makes the decision that the child is at risk of emotional or physical harm or neglect. This is all extremely emotive and, for some people, the system can leave a legacy of as much trauma as it protects the child from. 

When a child is adopted they legally become part of the family of their adoptive parents.  Legally they no longer have any family ties to their birth family.  That's actually quite a big thing and there are implications that last a lifetime.  I can genuinely understand adoptees who are seeking to redress this legal situation. As adoptive parents we endeavour to keep contact with our child's birth family as best as we can.  That isn't always easy.  In our case we only receive replies to our letter from Katie's birth Grandmother.  Yet, as Katie grows up, the severing of the legal ties with her birth family may cause her significant upset.  It may not.  We don't know yet how this will impact on her.  I am sure each and every adoptee has their own views and feelings on the subject.

As adopters we have to be aware of so many things.  We have to constantly strive to see the bigger picture. We see and try to preempt that picture to support and love the children that we adopt and love.  We walk a fine line between wanting to support and encourage the contact between our child and their birth family and seeing and being therapeutic parent to the damage that the child may have already suffered, often without agency support. Birth parents don't have to constantly be aware of how their child may feel at Christmas or on their child's birthday because of the impact of adoption.  We have to walk a fine line between offering a balanced and happy family life with all the usual family activities and love and an awareness of whether this might be a day that is also sad for our child because of their birth family.  We do all that with awareness and for the best of our child, as the majority of parents do.

But what about our emotions as adopters?  We are just ordinary folk with ordinary emotions. In fact, those emotions are so important if we are going to bond with our children and help them develop into emotionally healthy adults.  Adopters have a sort of shorthand with one another where a lot goes unsaid.  We know that our children have experienced things that they shouldn't have.  We know that our family is built on loss.  We know that we will probably have to go to personal emotional lengths that people entering parenthood generally don't anticipate.

When adopters meet each other there is a lot of deep understanding that is experienced on a psychological and emotional level.  We share an understanding about our lives as parents and the possible circumstances involved.  We don't need to spend time explaining it to each other.  We might discuss issues such as contact or behavioural difficulties we are parenting.  We rarely talk about our children's background other than pertinent points.  There is a shared understanding that this information is our child's story and belongs to them. It is not for general or public discussion.  When we celebrate the matching of a new child it is with a knowledge that there is a trauma and loss attached.  There is a reason why our child needed to be adopted.

On public forums. such as Facebook and Twitter people might see conversations between adopters and not know that there is this shorthand of speech.  They might view our conversations as having a lack of awareness about how the adoptee might feel in the future.  This is not the case.  We don't need to go into details with each other about our children.  There is an understanding between us that we can focus on the here and now without bringing up the whys and wherefores but that it is there.  We carry it with us all the time.  It is part of our unspoken language.  To an outsider they might consider that we don't show enough respect to our children's roots but this is not the case. 


So am I allowed to feel excited that Katie is soon to have a brother?  Is Katie allowed to feel the emotions that a regular child would feel at becoming an older sister?  Yes, I think we can.  Katie is too young to understand the implications at the current time but, as a 5 year old, she is excited that she is going to be like a lot of her friends and have a sibling living at home with her.  She will also feel a lot of other emotions as the time approaches and eventually arrives.  We will be prepared for her to feel jealous and try and reassure her that she is loved as much as she always has been.  We will try and be prepared for Katie to feel a whole heap of emotions about her own losses that she is too young to understand but may be expressed by her behaviour.  We feel/hope that she is ready to handle having a sibling.

I will also admit that I am excited about the prospect of having a baby.  This is a door that I closed a long time ago in my heart and I now need to open that door again.  It is actually important that I be allowed to feel these emotions because they will help my bonding with my son.  I need to be excited about buying a bottle steriliser and a new stroller (which I've had picked for ages I will admit) and all the other paraphernalia we are going to need.  I need to engage all the emotions that a regular mum will feel when preparing for a new child.  I need to anticipate holding my son for the first time.  It is important that I am emotionally ready to welcome a new child into our home for all our sakes.  So, yes, I'm going to be excited. I'm going to encourage Katie to be excited.  I am giving us both a sense of normality.

But believe me when I say I am fully aware of the bigger picture and all the fine lines.


14 comments:

  1. I am full of admiration for you, Gem - you are one of the most honest, open, genuine - and most rounded people I know.....your children are lucky to have you as their mummy. I am sorry you ever have to take any flack from anyone.... xXx

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    1. Oh Berni that is so sweet and you set me off with the tears (either that or it's having Katie and my nephew together plus a migraine that's to blame?). I can take flack but it did get me thinking about how things might get misconstrued. I do like to try and find the learning in these things somewhere. xx

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  2. Adoption is such a complex thing, and I'm sure nobody understands just how deeply complex it is unless that have experienced it first hand (either as an adopter or an adoptee). And yet, I can guess that everybody has an opinion (I'm guessing these were fired at you on FB and Twitter?) as they always seem to no matter what decision you make. And it really bothers me that there is an implication that you shouldn't be excited in the same way any parent is in expecting a new addition to the family!! I'm sorry if you've been dealing with that... but I hope you're able to enjoy every moment of this, despite the added challenges you face. I, for one, am over the moon for you that you not only get to add to your family but also get to bring a baby into your home. You wouldn't have been matched to this child if it wasn't considered the best for everybody!

    Thank you, as always, for being so honest and open about all of this. xx

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    1. Thanks Amanda. I fully intend to enjoy every minute of it all. I've written before about people all having their own experiences of life and this situation is no different really but it made me aware of how much does go unsaid and how much it might be misconstrued.

      And yes this match is perfect for our family and I can't wait to explain all xxx

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  3. You are absolutely right Gem, and you shouldn't need to justify your feelings but I understand why you've written this post.

    I think a lot of people don't realise the emotional exploration that we do as adopters - before we're approved, when considering children, and once our children are placed...and like you say, only adopters know the unspoken between adopters.

    I'm sending you big hugs and huge congratulations on becoming a parent again, and thanks for linking with the Weekly Adoption Shout Out xx

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    1. Hi Vicki! This post sort of wrote itself in some ways. I do like to process things that happen and try and work out how I feel about things and sometimes writing is the way that happens for me.

      You're totally right about our emotional exploration. It's such a big part of adoption that I realised that we know that but others might not.

      Thank you for your congratulations. I'm looking forward to it xx

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    2. I believe a key part of this post is that unless you have walked the path, you dont understand the depth and bigger picture that is actually there. As an AP, I could totally understand exactly where this post is wriiten from and I have obviously not seen the facebook or twitter comments - Enjoy the planning and excitement of growing your family.

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  4. I couldn't agree more (well I agree with your whole post actually!) about the unspoken language...it's so true and thank goodness for it. Otherwise all we'd get would be "well that's normal, all kids do that" haha. Congrats on your growing family! So exciting:)

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  5. I was absolutely gobsmacked to hear some of the things people on our prep course had heard about people's ideas about adoption. In "this day and age" I just could not believe that anyone could be so uninformed but they really are. They seem to think of adoption as if it is Russian orphanages where you go around zillions of cots picking your baby. One of our prep group friends was actually asked if they got to go and pick their child - as if the adopted children in our country are kept in some kind of "pet shop" set up in cages for us to go selecting them. Another one was told that she felt it was really sad that adopters were "stealing" the baby that belonged to someone else.....as if the very fact there was an adopter there for it was the cause of it being taken from its birth parents!

    I do not know if we will ever finally get to the stage where we are allowed to parent but I am already sure that I am going to have a lifelong mantra going on in my head of "sheesh you really do not have a clue...so ideally, shut your mouth :-) "

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  6. I have so much admiration for you and your family! Having lost a child in my own extended family to adoption due to mental ill health, it is so genuinely encouraging and reassuring to read your updates and to know that your little girl is growing up in such a loving, therapeutic, fun environment! I pray that my niece has been adopted by someone even half as loving and genuine as you. Huge congratulations on the imminent arrival of your son, how exciting!!
    e_margaret_1988

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  7. I seem to have spent a lot of my time as a foster carer and now as an adopter trying to gently correct people's mistaken assumptions about both of these things. I have genuinely been left open-mouthed at some of the things people have said. This is why it's so good to spend time in a community of people with shared experiences, even if it is a virtual one!

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  8. You have every right to enjoy the prospects of extending your family as any mother does and well done for standing up for yourself and saying so. Not one adoptive parent I know does not understand the extent of the loss their children have suffered. At times this is very much at the centre of our days as we deal with challenging behaviour and the complete sadness that engulfs our children. But other days we need to continue to be as close to a normal family (what ever that is) as possible. We bake with our kids, watch TV, walk, talk, follow bedtime routines, go to the park, go to the zoo and the list goes on. We are a family and we don't have to have a constant subtext that says we are an adopted family and who are constantly grieving for our children's loss. How could we ever nurture emotionally and physically healthy children if we did? Hope that makes sense. Thank you for writing about this and sharing it on The Weekly Adoption Shout Out. xx

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  9. Very wise words. Many happy events are on the backs of traumatic or less desirable events - I'm thinking of second marriages in particular. I firmly believe you have to celebrate the good even if it was a rough journey to get to it. Good luck and enjoy your baby boy when he arrives. xx

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  10. Congratulations. You deserve to be excited about extending you family.
    Thank you for writing this you are truly amazing.

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