The journey to a family of four

My Journey to Adoption

What is it with having children, the pressure that more and more people find, it’s meant to be such a natural thing but what if that so called ‘natural’ thing never happens?  You get a partner, people ask ‘when are you getting engaged?’, you get engaged, people ask ’when are you getting married?’, you get married/or not but soon the questions start…have you thought about children, is your biological clock ticking, do I hear the pitter patter of tiny feet?

During University I had a life changing moment…5 years dialysing 4 times a day and one renal transplant later the last thing I thought about was all the above.  Maybe quite selfishly I didn’t want to think about the future and certainly children never factored in that plan.  I was career driven, independent and was thinking more of the next holiday rather than children.  Then I met my now husband, I mean it did take 10 years and 3 proposals for me to say yes but eventually there was an engagement then a wedding then a …

…very serious conversation between us on the fact that I couldn’t have children, I had found out post transplant and however many times my now husband proposed we had to have THAT conversation as however many times he told me it didn’t matter I knew that during our late 30’s when all our friends would be pro-creating he would think differently.

Every person has their own story to tell, be it unexplained infertility, explained infertility, IVF, egg donation, surrogacy and I hear stories of loans, re-mortgages and huge amounts of money being spent to create this tiny being.  For me, that maternal instinct didn’t kick in until very late, after the death of my mother, strangely in a completely selfish way I wondered who would be there for me in older age if any serious illnesses would occur.  So at age 40 we sat down and worked out a plan, received pre-pregnancy counselling from my transplant unit and was recommended for 3 rounds of funded IVF.  I have to say, even with a Biology degree, I wasn’t prepared for how invasive both personally and professionally this procedure was but we persevered through thinking of the end goal.  By round 3 nothing had happened, the years and years of post transplant drugs and the concern that even if I did fall pregnant by some miracle, I wouldn’t be able to carry due to the fact there was an extra kidney covering my womb keeping me alive.  Half way through round 3 I was very ill, my husband made the decision to stop as he couldn’t take any more of it, it was the best decision as to be honest I was doing this more for him than me.

Following a long holiday surfing on the West coast of France and letting the sun mend my body we discussed the possibility of adoption.  We had heard that there were so many children without families and maybe we were able to provide a stable and loving home.  We started Googling to find out more and discovered our local council were holding an information evening to find out more and speak to adoptive parents.  We found out a lot that evening, especially the bread and butter of why children come up for adoption and how the process works.  We weren’t fazed by what we heard, yes there were some awful case studies but that served us to want to help more.  And so, at age 40 we signed up on the dotted line to begin the adoption training with the proviso that we could pause or stop at any time.

The process of adoption is tough, there are highs and lows, but an incredible amount of support is available.  We were assigned a social worker who had the difficult task of spending lots of time with us to find out all about us, our families, our background, our upbringing and everything else.  She spent 2 evenings a week with us going through her incredible list of questions, probing, so much so that we almost felt like she lived with us as she sat in the corner of the room whilst we ate around her.  She explained how important it was that we opened up and was honest in every detail as this would form the report that was submitted at the end of the process to be matched with a child, so the more information they could get from us the better the matching process would be.  Now, for me this was relatively easy apart from discussing the loss of my parents and my medical history, but for my husband, whom I might add is very private, less so.  Our social worker was amazing and I realised how experienced by the way she was able to prise information out of my husband, things even I didn’t know about, and all of this led to a very lengthy document being produced which made interesting reading.

On top of this time with the social worker, we had to attend four training sessions that were over either an evening or a weekend.  These sessions were developed to ensure we had the tools to be able to spot the signs and deal with the trauma and reasonings as to why children are adopted, and here’s the thing, that stigma that is attached to adoption…those that look for a ‘perfect’ baby.  I ask you this, is there such a thing as a perfect baby?  No pregnancy or birth that I am aware of is perfect, all you can do is deal with the cards that you are dealt and ensure that you wrap that baby in love and nurture them through to their adult life guiding them and offering support.  It’s a bumpy journey with many cross words spoken and there may be difficulties and traumas ahead, but you cannot plan for these and you have to deal with them as and when they happen.  There are various reasons that these children come to adoption, the most awful of circumstances in abuse and neglect but also due to bereavement and loss.  It became very apparent that we had started this journey wanting a baby, however it quickly turned in to the need to take these children and show them love, a family, a home and most of all a safe space for them to belong.  Every step on the journey our social worker was there supporting us, guiding us through explaining each step of the process.  Towards the end we felt exhausted, we both worked away and what time we did have together was spent either training or preparing documents.

Towards the six month mark our social worker decided that we were ready to go in front of the panel to be approved to adopt.  The panel is made up of around 12 people that are associated with adoption or social services in some way; a medical advisor, legal representative, adoptive parents and local authority representatives.  It was quite a formidable crowd, but our social worker sat with us, in support of our application and so we answered their questions, mainly picked out from the report, we laughed, we were serious and at the end we had the news that we had been approved.

Behind the scenes, unbeknown to us, our social worker had been scanning the huge list of children waiting for their forever home.  She organised a matching meeting where we would discuss all the options in terms of age and background and guided us through what she felt were the best options for us with our sporting hobbies and lifestyle.  She encouraged us by saying that they look for the ‘best fit’ as this would ensure a good match, it wouldn’t be fair to both the child or us if we had to give up parts of our life that we enjoyed as this was the part that would get us through parenting.  Within a month we received details of a baby boy, aged 10 months who our social worker felt was ‘right’ and so the matching process began.  We were up against other prospective adopters and we had been shortlisted for a visit from the baby’s social worker who would strongly recommend the match.  We then attended another panel to discuss the match and then that evening our social worker called us with the news that we would be getting the baby.  I cried, tears of joy, panic, sadness that I wouldn’t be sharing this with my parents.

And so all in all 12 months from start to finish we were having a baby, and when I say having…none of the birth, none of the sleepless nights but a readymade baby that slept through the night from day one…in two weeks’ time…eeeek!  Sorry, I thought you said 2 weeks, was my reaction, what about work, what about all the baby stuff…what about the mental time to prepare?  I have never been so grateful for a John Lewis in all my life!

And so, he came into our lives, looking like he had always belonged, so like us, that nobody even asked where this baby had suddenly appeared from.  That was it for us, we became a family of three and were happy at that, never did we think for one minute that six years later we would receive a call from our social worker with news that would rock our little bubble.

I had just started a new role; stepping away from my previous area of work, in order to spend more time with my son after he started school.  Later that year, we received a call to inform us that a biological sister had been born and would be interested in adopting her.  We had just 24 hours to decide and to be honest, this was an incredibly difficult decision to make.  We were a family of three, and were used to that, we had found our rhythm and our son was doing really well, did we want to upset this?  I had also started my new job two months prior and really wasn’t too sure how this news would go down with my employers. In addition, we were both six years older, we should be thinking of retirement not having a baby…could we cope physically and mentally?

The decision was not really ours to make, we thought about how we had both grown up with a sibling and how close we were to them.  We sat our son down and asked him, would he even want a sister, his face and tears said it all and so we all decided that we would become a family of four.  That night I couldn’t sleep, ahead of a meeting with my managers in the morning, I needn’t have worried as while they were obviously shocked, they were incredibly supportive.  One month later our baby girl arrived aged six months, it was an instant bond with our son, and he became her protector and mentor.

Our thanks to the wonderful adopter that shared their story, some details have been changed to maintain confidentiality.