There was just one other family in the playground.
“Hello” I said as I approached their parent, they replied, “My children aren’t adopted by the way, we just all look very different” I was a taken aback but I replied, “Oh ok, mine are”. She didn’t reply and shortly after we were distracted by something or other and life moved on.
We are a family bought together with the assistance of social workers, paper-work, loss and joy. It was a process we had thought and thought about yet still felt unprepared for the level of detail required.
We always knew we wanted to be parents, I used to daydream of seeing my husbands features in our child and as soon as we started to trying to conceive, I used to walk down the road sure that I was pregnant, that this month was the month when our lives changed. The sense of grief when month after month it never happened was more than I could take and soon I felt like less of a person, attached to a sofa, staring at cracks in the walls. I felt I had failed.
Finding out why, did not appeal, we knew that adoption was the route for us to take. After some research we found the agency, spoke to existing adoptive parents we knew, and began to tell our wider family.
The application process is rightly long and intrusive into all areas of your life, during this period I found it really hard to talk about anything else and it doesn’t last for the 9 months of pregnancy, for us the application process was about 18 months and then you enter the roller coaster stage of family finding – looking at profile after profile of kids in need of family, looking for what might be a good match and jumping whenever there is a new upload or communication – this stage just takes as long as it takes. It takes over everything and just as you begin to let hope in, that maybe one day you will be someone’s mummy or daddy you are reminded it may not happen and how hard it will be. At the time it feels like a journey with no end, and at times you think it will never result in the family you long for.
Years later it remains the hardest and best adventure of our lives. We are blessed with two incredible children, but the constant context of our family is their beginning and the loss that so many experienced regardless of the circumstances. This doesn’t affect us day to day, but we hold that loss, and it appears from time to time in unexpected ways. “Mummy, was I just left on the street?” “No Sweetheart, you were loved and” … so we say the story again, even though it has been heard before.
Trauma can affect us deeply, and it has affected our children and us in ways we could not have imagined. Seeing it and learning about it on a power-point does not prepare you for the reality of violence, resistance, poo-smearing, attachment disorders or self-harm. The challenges of parenting children with lived experience of trauma are hard beyond belief and most of it is done slowly and quietly and behind closed doors whilst others tell you how your children are just like any other child and that you are overreacting. Often our children will put on a show in front of others but at home, when they feel safe their worries rise to the top and they need extra nurturing.
Many days are filled like any other family, bike rides and trips to the playground, school runs and crafting. Adoption appears and disappears naturally; we are not ashamed of how we came to be. I regularly tell my children “You didn’t come out of my tummy, but grew in my heart and we could not have created more perfect children”. Their arrival into this world is only one part of their creation, they are nurtured and loved by us each and every day. As a family we continue to collectively develop our own library of expressions, our sense of humour, the way we like to do things and the things in life we value – whether you call that growing, bonding, attunement or what you will. We are in their smiles, their phrases, their jokes and even how they sulk. We are a family and when I look in my children’s faces, I can see my husband’s expressions, I can see my smile and hear myself in their words. My dream from long ago came true.
This is our family.
*Pseudonyms used throughout.