My mum had my sister at 40 so I always assumed I'd find it easy to conceive at that age.
My husband and I always knew we wanted a child, but we wanted to do it right. So we bought and renovated our house and made sure we were financially secure before we started trying. Six months later, nothing was happening so I went to my GP and started fertility treatment which left me very ill. My husband decided he couldn't watch the toll that fertility treatment was taking on my health, so we decided to explore adoption. At first, we weren't sure we could look after someone else's child but we attended an information evening, spoke to a social worker and decided to go ahead. Although the preparation group we attended was quite scary, it was amazing to hear adopters tell their own stories and show that even difficult stories could have a happy ending.Within three months, we went to panel and happily we were approved, so we started our search for a child.
When we started out, we thought we wanted a younger child aged two to four but none of the profiles we were sent felt right.
At a coffee morning, we were looking through the profiles of children and a young boy caught our eye. He was four and a half, so much older than we had considered, but something just clicked. When our social worker came to visit, however, we found it quite hard to marry the fun-loving little boy described in the profile, with the reality of his needs. His social worker's description was the same but she had to be honest about his behaviours because this little boy had previously been let down after being matched with a family and she wanted to make sure this match was right.
After a visit to his foster home and pre-school, we decided he was the one.
All his interests matched ours and even though he wasn't what we thought we were looking for when we started out, it just seemed right and we felt we could offer what he needed. We went to panel and breathed a sigh of relief when the match was approved.
Meeting our son for the first time was very exciting but also challenging.
He accepted us as his mummy and daddy immediately but was very anxious - he found the introductions very difficult. Four days in, I was worried that we wouldn't be able to cope. I phoned my friend, who was a social worker, and told her but she reassured me my feelings were normal and urged me to ask for help. We decided the best thing I could do for him was ring our social worker because I felt that if it wasn't going to work, I didn't want to put us and our son through more heartache than was necessary. Picking up the phone was the best thing I ever did – we got immediate support and, with help, we got through the introductions. It is definitely best to be honest about how you are coping no matter what – it doesn't go against you and they can't give you help if they don't know you need it.
Introductions are tiring and difficult so you really need to be prepared.
You spend your time in someone else's home and follow your child around 24/7 so it is not a normal situation. But when our son came to our house, things got better and it put some of his anxiety to rest. Although you are desperate to love this child immediately, that might not be how it happens. It took me a matter of weeks before he really felt mine and my husband only said the other day after 9 months he finally feels my son is not just a child I'm looking after.
Since having our son there have been very traumatic times but things are definitely getting better.
After he came to us, he almost had what seemed like post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms - he was very aggressive and defiant and tantrums could last for hours for days on end. Now, nine months down the line, they happen about once a month, if that, and are easily managed. He also had eating issues at the start, which I'm told is very common, but this worried me sick. I rang the health visitor who had visited us at the beginning and she gave me techniques to help me manage his behavior. Within days he was much improved. I also had support from Virtual School Kent in getting my son funding which we are now using to have talking therapy to help him manage his behaviour.
The post-adoption support we have had has been great.
We contacted post adoption to get support, and the gentleman I spoke to was great and gave immediate advice and offered to see us or us and my son if things didn't improve. Nine months on, 95% of the time we have a thriving, fun-loving little boy – just as he came across in his profile. The other five per cent of the time, we have problems but you must not overanalyse and blame it all on adoption. Some behaviour is just what children their age do and it's important not to worry about every little thing.
My advice to prospective adopters is to pick the right child – don't get hung up on age if it feels right.
Don't be put off by taking on an older child, thinking they can't change, we know from experience they can. We lost a lot of bad habits in just a few weeks and, with older children, they have a better level of understanding and it's possible to reason with them. Healthwise you never know what's around the corner but often with older children, you have more information about how things have affected them and you can be more prepared.
Stay in touch with your prep group or other adopters – it can be a lifesaver. We have a massive family support network but nothing compares to talking to other adopters who know what you're going through. Most importantly don't be afraid to ask for help. No one will think badly of you. People are here to help and support you and your child but they can only help if they know there is a problem.