Our journey to adoption was a long and emotional one
When we attended our first introductory adoption information evening in September 2012, I was 43 and we had spent the best part of a year coming to terms with the disappointment of four unsuccessful cycles of IVF and a twin pregnancy deemed unviable at 10 weeks.
Our wonderful social worker guided us professionally through the emotionally challenging adoption process
We were assigned our social worker Alice in January 2013 following a three-day preparation course. The course was enlightening and it was beneficial to meet others who, regardless of their personal journeys, had a strong desire to be a parent.
The process involved some intensive sessions with Alice as she got to know us and find out more about our motivations and readiness to become parents. The sessions could be emotionally challenging but Alice guided us through very professionally. For her, it was not simply about assessing our suitability in a general sense, but the first-hand information she gathered then made up the full report that was put forward to the Panel of people who finally interviewed and passed us as adoptive parents. For us, they were an opportunity to openly discuss shared hopes and occasionally differing fears about what we were entering into.
When we first saw a picture of our little girl, she touched our hearts
Whatever images you might conjure up about your child-to-be, you cannot legislate for the deep, emotional response you might have to a photograph, biography or DVD; a response that can take you to a totally different outcome than the one you imagined. We first saw our daughter's profile at a coffee morning in June 2013. Looking through files of children's profiles and pictures was a slightly unreal experience, but one profile stood out for us: a little brown-eyed girl looked out of the photo into the distance, with a smile on her face and hope in her eyes. She touched our hearts in a way that we could not fully articulate.
We were so well prepared by the course we'd attended, that nothing that we heard from her social worker or foster family, swayed us from wanting her.
About a month after we first saw her profile, the little girl's social worker asked to meet us. Soon after, we were introduced to her foster parents. These meetings were an opportunity for us to hear more about her, her back-story, her emotional and physical state and, importantly, to get some insight into her more challenging behaviours.
We also got a chance to have a 'blind viewing' of her, observing her in her nursery school environment, playing and interacting with her friends where she clearly felt safe and happy. Hearing the sound of her voice and her hearty belly laugh put big smiles on our faces. From this point, our nervous anticipation turned into excitement.
We were approved as adoptive parents in August of 2013 and formally matched with her in October. We started the hand over with her foster parents at the beginning of November.
If someone had told me that 14 months after the introductory evening we would be bringing our daughter home for the first time, I probably would not have believed it. We'd anticipated a much longer wait.
When our daughter came to live with us, she was a walking, talking bundle of raw emotion and we were excited new parents.
She had just turned three and while we were full of excitement, she was bereft and scared. Despite the fantastic preparation of her foster parents, she was heartbroken to be removed, for the second time in her little life, from the person she called mummy. In hindsight, I am humbled by our daughter's spirit and her bravery in putting so much faith in us from day one.
The early weeks were hard and I felt pushed to my limits.
I cannot say that the early weeks were the easiest I have experienced but many mums to newborn babies may well say the same for different reasons. Her unpredictable temper tantrums and desperate need to control both her environment in general and me in particular overwhelmed me. These are common traits in children who have known neglect and high levels of anxiety triggered by fear, but after a few months of trying various approaches, I was at a loss to know how to respond successfully. This is when Alice referred us to the post-adoption team.
The post adoption support we have had has been invaluable.
It has been fantastic, both for my relationship with our daughter and the family dynamic more generally. It was one thing to read about attachment theory in neglected children, but another thing to live with it day to day. My husband and I have been coached to take a more therapeutic approach to parenting which has been hugely beneficial.
Parenthood via adoption was not my first choice, but neither my husband not I can imagine loving a child more.
Now that we are parents to our gorgeous (now) four-year-old adopted daughter, I can say honestly that any fears I had about feeling less of a parent, a lack of emotional attachment or connection with a child I had not given birth to, have evaporated.
We have been a family for 16 months now and things get better all the time. We have come a long way, we have further to go, and I'm sure we'll continue to face challenges as she grows and develops through her adolescence. What family doesn't? We feel blessed every day that she is in our lives and love her more than we can possibly say. The best advice I was given by the consultant child psychologist in the post adoption team was: 'Stop trying to fix your daughter, you must simply try to understand her. After comfort, food and warmth, isn't that all any of us wants?'