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October 20, 2017
*All names have been changed for reasons of confidentiality
Our route to adoption was rather unusual! We had two birth children, both girls, and wanted to increase our family further. Sadly, we then suffered two miscarriages. At this point we had to make a decision as to what we felt was right. For us, infertility treatment didn’t sit as well with our beliefs as the idea of adopting children who needed a home. I also couldn’t face the idea of dealing with another miscarriage as it is very traumatic.
We approached St. Francis’ Children’s Society, and our adoption journey began. The adoption process starts with a period of preparation training where you learn about the needs of children being put forward for adoption. This is designed to educate but also to challenge you, to make sure you are really committed and enabled as far as possible to deal with the reality of adoption.
Already being parents meant that preparation training challenged us in different ways to the other people in our group, as none of them had children already. We had to consider where our normal parenting methods would not work and how we would manage the needs of our existing children as well as those of any adopted children. We took longer to go through the whole process than some others, as we had more to risk and consider.
On reflection, I think it would have been good if we could have met other adopters who had been through the adoption process having already had birth children. SFCS do offer a Buddy Scheme to help adopters in this way, but our situation is a little unusual, so it’s not always possible.
During preparation, our social worker came and spent time with our birth children and helped them explore their feelings and the reality of how our lives would change once we had adopted. Our daughters were already very used to other smaller children and wanted us to adopt.
We had to work out how much to tell them about what experiences the children who came to us may have had and how they might behave. This was tricky, but I am happy we involved them as much as we could in the preparation.
Thankfully, we were approved as adopters, and the process of finding our children began.
I don’t think anyone considering adoption should underestimate how emotional the matching process can be. We used a site called Linkmaker and it felt very uncomfortable reviewing children on the site. It almost felt like we were ‘shopping’ for children, and some of the children’s back stories made me cry.
We were fortunate that the matching process went very smoothly for us. Our children appeared in one of the first profiles we saw, and we immediately felt they were meant to be ours. We also had the privilege of meeting them at an adoption activity day, which was great. A lot of the reports you read focus on all the awful things that children have experienced; meeting them makes you realise they are just children at the end of the day.
We had originally thought that two boys would be the right fit for our family, but things got complicated when we felt a connection with this sibling group of three – two boys and a girl. Our social workers pushed us to really question this decision, but this process of questioning was useful for us and ensured that we felt we were doing the right thing.
We met the children face-to-face at an adoption open day. They were aged 4, 3 and almost 2. They were dressed in fancy dress and we were wearing silly hats! The middle one immediately engaged in playing with us in the ball pit, then the older followed. We had to try a little harder with the smallest, but the connection was there and we ended up with all three children playing with us with the face paints. It went better than we could have expected.
When we had seen the three children we wanted to adopt, we spoke to our birth children about how they would feel about gaining three extra siblings. We asked how they would feel about another little girl joining the family, and we showed them a picture of all the children. The girls had no problem with the idea, even offering to share a room if necessary!
Our children came to live with us in October 2016. They are very close in age and the intensity of the first three months was all consuming. You really need a strong support network – helping you out, telling you that you can do it, helping you see your progress… because when you are in the thick of it, you can’t always see that you are making progress.
Our life is incredibly busy now, we don’t find weekends restful and our household is even more child focused than before. We both work which can make things better and worse, depending on how stressful it is at any time.
I don’t think I had misconceptions about the adoption system, but you shouldn’t underestimate how intense a process this is. Admittedly, we have adopted on the extreme – not many people look to move from two children to five! But I have never been so tired in my life and I lost almost 2 stone in weight over the first three months, just because I was juggling so many things. This is a massive life-changing thing and you need to be really committed to making it work.
Don’t go into this expecting parenthood to be easy, but bear in mind that most things are a phase and will pass with time and as your children settle. Ask for practical help and advice and don’t feel afraid to say you can’t do this alone. When my husband went back to work, we asked on Facebook if any of our friends would be able to come and help me out for the first couple of weeks. People coming and reading with the children to give me a bit of a break made a real difference to us. Accept all the help you can get!
If you are considering adoption, you can find out more about our Adoption Connections service here. You can also check out our adoption resources, read more real adoption stories and find out about our next information events. And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us – we’d love to hear from you.