Sunday, 15 March 2015

Not Born Under My Heart...
Being denied the opportunity to become a biological mother is a challenge. It's one thing choosing to remain child free but another altogether when the body parts don't work together in some sort of musical harmony and the metronome beats out of time. As a society there is much made of the biology of being a biological parent. Men slap each other on the back and make exclamations using the words "super sperm" when announcing the pregnancy of their partner and women practically take ownership of each other's bumps. Infertile people are on the fringes of society; whispered about behind closed doors and averted eyes.

Not everyone who adopts comes from the infertile sector of society. I have friends who have chosen to adopt for other reasons with no desire to establish their fertility first. I took a long while to give up running on the conception treadmill. Not, I've come to realise, through a massive desire to be a biological parent, but because I was on a path to overcome a medical mystery. Until I realised that solving that mystery was no longer important I was unable to get off that treadmill. Once I did hang up my worn out trainers and clamber off with aching muscles and heart I realised that the place I was running to was a different destination to the one I had set out to arrive at. Not only that but it didn't matter to me and hadn't for a very long time. I didn't need to grow a child under my heart in order to grow a child in it. 

I won't lie. I would love to know how it feels to feel a baby kick inside you; to know how it feels to push that life from your body into the world. I would love to have a few moments to feel those sensations, just to know; to marvel at the wonder of the life inside me. I would love to be present at a birth; to share that moment of first breath and experience the awe that is new life. I don't need those experiences to be a mother though. Being a mother is both far less and far more complex than those experiences. Choosing to become a mother, or father, through adoption is also both a simple and complex choice. The biggest single anxiety for adoptive parents is being rejected by their child. How many parents choose to have a child knowing that fear yet going ahead anyway because the love they have to offer child far outweighs that fear? How many biological parents even have that fear on their radar? How many biological parents choose to have a child knowing that their child will be born or will experience early life changing trauma? How many parents will choose to have a child knowing that they will have to employ specialist parenting techniques or experience being assaulted on a daily basis as their child's fear and frustration takes hold of them? How many parents first meeting with their child will be quite as unusual as an adoptive parent's? The moment I met both my children though was as emotional and amazing and intense as any birth. 

Being an adoptive parent is an enormous privilege. It's not second best. It's not something to be whispered about behind closed doors. I am the luckiest mum in the world to be a parent to Katie and Pip. They are both the most amazing and incredible human beings. They have experienced so much at such a young age.  They fight and conquer so much more than the school curriculum so don't ever look upon them, or any other adopted child as being less than any biological child. The choices of another will determine how easily they can learn and will leave them with scars that most will not see or understand, but it's my job as their mum to try my best to understand and to help them understand and heal. There are days when the responsibility for that or the knowledge of the information contained in their permanence report becomes overwhelming; when parenting the fallout from all the emotions spilling out becomes too great; days when a good cry and a cup of tea and copious amounts of chocolate with a friend is more than a lifeline. But despite those days I do not ever question my choice to become a mum; their mum.

Becoming mummy to Katie and Pip is my greatest event in life. Their light shines bright enough to light up the heavens. Their bravery is limitless. I am proud to be their mummy. I am so very proud of my choice to be their mummy. Blood isn't thicker than water and there is so much more to being a parent than biology. If I could have given birth to any two children, I would choose these two children. But if I had given birth to them, they wouldn't be these specific two human beings so I don't seek to change anything of their biology because it's what makes them them. Yes I would choose to change some of their experiences, both in-utero and after birth but I've not been given the bigger picture. Their story is still being written. They have been created within a set of circumstances that will form a part of their gift to the world. Who knows what will drive them as they grow older; what changes they will bring to the world. And as their mother it is my privilege to guide them through however much of their lives I am a part of.  

That's quite an honour and one I sometimes forget in day to day life with the whole daily grind getting in the way so I'm glad I can use this moment to write these thoughts and feelings down to remind myself on this Mothers Day. I had my first Mothers Day during introductions with Katie which brought a real "meant to be" feeling to the process. I don't need a meteor shooting across the sky or a sparkly card to know that my children and I are in each other's lives for a reason. We were brought together by skilled Social Workers and some help from above and beyond and our fates are sealed tightly together.

For Mothers Day this year the adoption agency Coram are talking about mums who became mums through means other than birth and are sharing those experiences in the form of short films. I'm sharing one of those films here and on Twitter and the Life with Katie Facebook page to help celebrate all the mums (and dads) who are parents through adoption and to share the stories of others for whom adoption was the option they chose towards becoming a parent.  You can read their full thank you to adoptive mums "here" as they say:
“All these mums have transformed the lives of a child who was facing an uncertain life without anyone to give them the love and care they need. They have given them a safe place to grow and develop their own potential to love.
“Thank you to all our mums.”

To all the adoptive parents I know this day can be a tough day as well as a quietly special day.  It can be tough on our children as it brings up memories from their previous families or inner anxieties and guilt about their feelings towards their adoptive families.  It is a day loaded with emotion for birth families as well as adoptive families and we are always mindful of all the emotions the day can bring. For me, as I honour my own emotions for my children I say simply this.....

Not flesh of my flesh, 

Nor bone of my bone,
But nevertheless still my own.
Never forget for a single minute
You weren't born under my heart 
But in it.


  1. This is so very beautiful, thank you for sharing your heart today x

    1. Thanks Amanda. It's funny, I wrote this post initially when I was feeling low and it was a very different post. The universe clearly didn't like it because it didn't save for some reason. A very late bout of writing produced this which is much more what I wanted to say..... Xx

  2. what a lovely post, and so true! Ive just finished resding your blog, and wow, what a journey you've all had! ive really enjoyed reading it and will be looking forward to future posts. Im in the process of becoming a foster carer so it was really interesting to me, expecially the part where you wrote about th introductioms with your children. Weird question, but i know Katie isn't your daughters real name, but do you ever accidenlt call her that in real life because your so used to typing it on here? lol i think i would :)

    1. Hi Nicola. I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. Good luck becoming a Foster Carer. I'd love to hear how you're getting on. It's funny but I do call her Katie from time to time. She knows about the blog and her name on here so we think it's funny. She helped choose Pip's name as well.xx

  3. Thank you Gem I've just stumbled on your blog as we're meeting the 2 siblings we're hoping to Adopt Foster Carers this Thursday.
    I was looking for extra questions to ask them!!
    Trying not to appear too uptight or rude at all, it's a fine balance of asking the right questions to people sometimes....perhaps I'm overthinking though!! :-)
    I have found your blogs extremely useful so thank you SO much :-)))

    1. Hi Kate. Thank you for commenting. Sending good luck wishes for Thursday. A friend is just doing intros for her second adoption we excitement is high here too. If anything crops up that you want to ask just email me (email addy on the About Me page). How old is your son/daughter? Xx