Any parent-to-be has thoughts that they probably don't advertise to the world. Thoughts about what the future with their new child will be like; what sort of parent they will be; what their child will be like; whether they will love that child and whether that child will love them. Thoughts that you wouldn't put on a picture postcard.
Adoptive parents are no different. Well I'm certainly no different.
The thing is, if you voice these thoughts aloud people will either immediately jump in to reassure you that you've nothing to worry about or your worst fear is that they will judge you as the worst kind of person. Who wouldn't love their child? I secretly suspect they are really nodding along and agreeing with you. I will be honest and say that, since Matching Panel, I've been having a secret little panic about all these things.
Now I know where, for me, the anxieties about my ability to parent two children come from. It's all childhood stuff. I know that the anxieties originate from someone else's inability to cope and I shouldn't own them but that's transference in all its glory for you. I'm carrying around someone else's stuff and claiming it as my own. The only way to deal with that anxiety is to dive into the swirling waters and see if I've had enough swimming lessons. I know that there will be days when I will lock myself in the toilet for 5 minutes and do the yoga Tree position until I know there will be no need for the emergency services to be called. Equally there will be days when I smile blissfully and feel deep down in my belly that life doesn't get better than this. Anxiety is a real mind messer though. It doesn't encourage you to loom at the positives. Its power lies in its ability to strip you down to the core.
Wondering whether you will love your child is a real emotional toughie. I cannot imagine a deeper love for a child than that which I have for Katie. I also know that the heart
does go on has the capacity to grow all sorts of additional annexes and wings to accommodate all the love that is required. Planning permission is rarely required for this. That doesn't stop the little niggle growing inside me as we approach our first meeting with Pip. What if we don't bond?
With Katie, I would say that I first felt that emotional pull when we saw the most gorgeous picture of her at Matching Panel. Within 10 minutes of meeting her I could feel the spiritual bond between us. It is a bond that deepens every day (and that's saying something that the moment as there has been some rather challenging behaviour in our house just lately - I'll write about that separately). Will I feel that with Pip I wonder? Will there be that instant connection between us? Everything was very straightforward with Katie. That doesn't mean it will be that way this time.
I can't compare the experience as a birth parent but I can say that I feel these thoughts are heightened as an adoptive parent. We don't get bump bonding time. We get a sheet (or several) of paper with factual information about a child, our child, and usually the most awful picture you will ever see of your child to accompany it (I commented to our Social Workers recently that I think these pictures are a conspiracy against adoptive parents). This is what we have to bond with. The adoption system interferes with bonding at every stage because you have to wait for Matching Panel and then the "recommendations" from said panel have to be ratified by the Agency Decision Maker (ADM). You have the anxiety at every stage, what if they say No? Social Workers use phrases like "If panel approve the match" and then after being approved at Matching Panel the Chair will say "Of course this is just our recommendation, the ADM still has to make the final decision". After you get that formal nod or signature of approval from the ADM you get to meet your child for an hour to see how it goes. You can change your mind at that point. This isn't about buying a house for Pete's sake! This is about people. Living breathing children and adults.
There is much made about how we work to support the bonding process of the child with us, but how does the system support our bond with our child in the build up to meeting stage? Well the answer is it doesn't. Adopters often feel that we are at the bottom of the heap when it comes to being considered in the adoption process. Our needs don't really feature very highly on the list of "must do's". I will just say here though that our new Social Worker" has been really great. She has phoned and emailed frequently to see how we're all doing and I think she'll be a great person to have on board once Pip is home with us. She is however working within the parameters of her job and the information she needs to at her for her various reports. She is also working within uncertainties.
I'm not good with too much thinking time. I can drive myself to Nutville very easily with very little fuel required. This blog is a great way of working stuff out in my head. I know I'm better at "doing". I'm Mrs Flatpack; Mrs Practical. I'm the one who reads the instructions and gets on with the job. There is no manual on love though. It's all down to pheromones and chemicals and some spiritual thing that ignites that spark. Babies have the whole ol factory thing down to a tee. Smelly nappies and baby sick aside, they have this unique baby smell that whispers beguilingly "Come love me and take care of me". I used to think it was the smell of talcum powder but that's not widely used any more so there must be more to it.
Reassurance to my anxieties is not needed. It will all be very que sera sera. I just want to get on with it now. I need to meet Pip and inhale him into my heart. He's been growing in my heart for quite a while now but I need the physicality of him to complete the idea of him. I need to make him real. I need to face my anxiety about parenting two children and live with the reality I can't meet both their needs at the same time. I need to forgive myself if, some days, I morph into my mother, which is my biggest anxiety. I need to face my anxieties about how Katie will feel and cope. She needs the reality now as well. We've had to hypothesise and preempt far too much about how she will manage. She needs her brother at home with her before she internally combusts with the talk of it all. She's not worrying about whether she will love him. She just wants to have a bath with him. Good advice for me too Katie!
She's quite a smart cookie really you know. My beautiful daughter. "Keep it simple" would be her inspirational quote (if she knew how to phrase it like that). Keep focussed on the simple stuff. She's right. Good advice sweety. Children are cool aren't they?
I wonder what Pip is going to teach me? Might this be his catch phrase?