The Difference

This morning I have been to a meeting with other people who do the same job as me. It is a voluntary meeting, designed for mutual support. Due to the adoption process and training taking up extra time, it was a meeting that I opted not to or couldn’t attend since before Christmas.

So I turned up and discovered to my delight that a colleague was obviously pregnant – only 10 weeks to go. I, of course, offered her my congratulations. And then I witnessed the difference between what it is like to be expecting a child through biological means and what it is like to be an expectant adoptive mother.

During the course of the meeting my colleague was asked about her physical health, her mental health, her preparations for the birth, she was offered practical support, she was asked about her maternity leave, she was given gifts of clothing by another colleague, she was complemented on how well she was managing to cope with everything considering she was about to become a mother, she was complimented on how well she was looking, she was asked if she was excited, if she knew if it was a boy or a girl….and on and on.

At the end of the meeting, seeing as the senior person in the meeting had not told everyone, I announced that although I clearly was not pregnant, I was too an expectant Mum as I had been approved to adopt a second child.

Silence.

Tumbleweed.

No congratulations offered.

One person asked me the age range of the child who would come to live with me. I then started to describe how difficult this matching period was. The senior person cut in, I was thanked for sharing and the topic was changed hastily.

I came home and cried.

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The Darkness

Three and a half weeks on from my last post.

Despite the actual sunshine today I now feel in a rather bleak place. I believe I have recovered from the ‘failed match’ if that’s what it can be called and have even started telling people IRL about it (partly to stop them asking ‘Have you had any news yet?’). I am ready to move on and to consider what might be coming next…but the answer is…nothing yet!

I read a Home for Good reflection on Holy Saturday about what that day must have been like for the disciples and recognising that for some adopters or prospectives life must feel like we’re stuck in Holy Saturday.  (Read it here: http://www.homeforgood.org.uk/articles/reflection-easter-saturday ) Well Easter Day has been and gone and yes, I feel stuck there in that Saturday. My SW came and visited me last week and told me she had no news and there were no ‘prospects’ even on the horizon. Not only that, she is leaving and I’ll get a new SW soon so she said its unlikely anything will happen before that.

There is however, one possibility. A child that I first met 7 months a go and that I first made an enquiry about 4 months ago. The situation is complicated…and probably a story for another time if it works out. If it does it would be amazing – almost a mini miracle how it would have all come to be. But given my last experience, my hope in SW’s making good, right and well informed decisions has been stretched thin. This child is locked in their own Holy Saturday experience as the courts, after months of waiting, have failed to yet give a date for the final hearing to grant the PO. So there the child sits, asking and wondering when they are going to get their forever family.

I know that finally the dawn will come. I know for us the joy of welcoming a new life – in the form of a new child – will eventually happen. It might take weeks or months (or even, God forbid, years), but it will finally burst forth. And I know for this child the same is true. Eventually they will experience the mixture of excitement and fear of discovering their new family for the first time, and their life will never be the same. It probably wont actually be us, but we will share in their excitement that’s for sure.

But here we are.

Right now.

In the darkness.

Longing for the light.

A Thank You

This time last week I reached the most acute level of stress and anxiety I think I have ever experienced. Now there is and has been a lot going on in my life since Christmas – not just with the adoption process but other things it wouldn’t be appropriate to address here. But suffice to say I think my stress levels have been generally a lot higher than usual anyway. Still I have never had to lock myself away from my child because I just can’t control the need to cry before now, and not just one or two tears but full on shaky sobs.

At this point last week I thought I had been matched with a child. When the profile was given to me I wasn’t told it was ‘a profile’, ‘a possibility’ or ‘a link’, but ‘a match’ and even that she was ‘ready to go’. I had also been told they didn’t do ‘competitive matching’ here in this LA so my understanding was very much that if I said ‘yes’, which of course I did, it would be “all systems go”. Certainly the picture presented now at training is that everything flows along smoothly and at lightning speed to prevent delay for the child. In fact when I tried to say during my recent training that things sometimes were not as simple as they were presenting, I was told, ‘that wouldn’t happen here’ and ‘that’s the old way of doing things’.

But after two and a half weeks, apart from confirming how I would support a child with her particular complicated heritage, I hadn’t heard anything further…at all. So I emailed my SW (again) to beg for information. I also sought advice from others but people seemed to get the wrong impression – that I was just complaining about how long it was all taking and that I was being impatient. But by this stage I think my subconscious knew something was very wrong, deep down I knew we should at least have had an appointment booked in to see her SW by then – as my SW had promised would happen when I was given the CPR. With my son I had his profile for 3 weeks without anything happening due to a SW holiday, but I still knew the reason for the delay and had a date to see his SW booked in for when she came back which was made as soon as I’d said yes. People also didn’t seem to grasp the depth of emotion already involved with the match, suggesting I would be shown other profiles or that I ‘must be an exception’ for only being shown one profile at a time. I felt I totally misjudged the reaction I would get and in the end I felt abnormal for feeling so upset…and a bit stupid for even posting.

And so I found myself locked in my bathroom sobbing because I couldn’t bear the lack of information about what was happening any longer.* And probably also sobbing at some level because I knew something was indeed wrong. And sobbing because I felt stupid for being upset and that no-one understood why I felt so distressed.

(Now at this stage I need to make it crystal clear I am not having a go at people for their response to my post in that particular place or ‘slagging off the group’. Such groups/forums are invaluable to many people and for many an amazing support particularly in dealing with the challenges of the day to day parenting of our children. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, everyone has had their own experiences and frustrations which they want to share, and this is of course further confused by the differences to the process over the last 20 odd years and the multiple ways different LA’s operate. Perhaps that day in the peak of my anxiety I couldn’t read correctly what people were trying to say – perhaps, given all this, it wasn’t the right place to post when I was feeling so wretched anyway. I should also say there were also lots of people who responded who did clearly ‘get’ what I was saying and were very simply genuinely empathetic in their responses. The point of what I have just written was to make it clear how I felt when I posted my last blog.)

The day afterwards in response to my email I received a phone call where I found out that my ‘match’ was nothing of the sort. My fear over why I hadn’t heard anything wasn’t unfounded. There had been a total lack of communication – not just with me, but between SW’s and people ‘higher up’. I received a rather lame apology for the ‘difficult situation [I had] been put in’ which again glossed over the depth of emotion that I had been through. I also wonder, had I not have emailed to try to find out what was going on, how long it would have taken to find out the match wasn’t happening and just how long they would have kept me waiting in that terrible limbo. To begin with, I felt enormous relief to finally be put out of the misery of not knowing what on earth was going on.

But after the relief, of course has come sadness.

And so I wrote my last blogpost, to try to get some of those feelings of sadness out of my system. I wrote thinking that not many people would read it and if they did they wouldn’t ‘get’ it again…that I really shouldn’t have felt what I did about a child I’d never even seen. So the response to my post on Twitter and on this blog – the amount of people who read it and who did obviously ‘get’ it caught me off guard. There are so many people who have been through something similar or even much further along the matching process who have had it all fall apart and yes, they felt the same depth of emotion I did for a child on a piece of paper. In fact they think of that child still. Failed matches are certainly not something that are addressed on training so that response has made me feel that I wasn’t stupid and that I wasn’t alone.  So thank you for sharing your experiences with me and your understanding…in many ways it has brought me healing.

*A special thanks goes to ‘glitternails’ who was DMing me words of comfort and empathy whilst I was locked in the toilet!

xxx

I imagined you

I imagined you here in our home. I imagined you in your room decorated with yellow, playing with the toys I thought I might buy you. I saw in my mind your big brown eyes and the beautiful smile they described. I saw your big afro I would learn how to tame. I imagined the clothes I might pick out for you and wondered if you would like them too. I thought of you running around after your big brother, giggling and squealing with delight. I imagined too the teasing and the tears, the saying sorry and the making up.

And I researched and learnt. I thought about the books I would read you and the stories I would tell you to try to help piece your story together. I found out places I have never visited, cultures I knew nothing about and food I would learn to cook. And I was asked to write. I wrote for them all the things I would do to help you be proud of your heritage and who you are. I went to those wiser than me for advice and with their support I believed I could do this – be your parent.

I read your profile and believed I could meet your needs. I imagined how at times it would be tough for sure. I had already questioned the support that might be put in place to help us. I thought about the struggles you might face and I pictured how we might all support you and help you to stand strong. But I believed I could do it…be your Mummy.

But then, with a few words it was all shattered. My fears that had grown from the silence were confirmed and the bubble burst. I learnt now there was a miscommunication. Those higher up believed you were ‘harder to place’, that I was a good match for you and your SW would jump at the chance to place you. But they didn’t know you or what your SW had in mind. My own SW jumped the gun and thought it was a done deal – that your SW would see my profile and simply say yes. But your SW actually had something more specific in mind – a family who would reflect your cultural and/or religious background. A family without other children, where you would be the only focus of their mind. Your SW already had a family finder scouring the country looking for the perfect people – I was not the first port of call as my SW believed when she was given your profile to pass on to me. Had she known all of this I would never have read about you or known about you as I simply wouldn’t have been shown your profile.

And so I wonder, my little girl who never was, what will become of you? How long will you wait? Will they ever find you that perfect family – the one with the right colour skin and the right religion? I hope with all my heart they do and that you get to have a forever family who love you as you deserve…because we would have loved you of that there is no doubt.

And what of us? I am required to pick myself up, dust myself down and start all over again. I don’t know how long it will be until I am asked to try to imagine myself parenting another child. For now I don’t really want to think about it. Already I’ve been told, ‘The right child is out there’ and I know in time I will believe that is true again. But for once I am happy just to sit and wait. I don’t much care if the phone doesn’t ring for a while.

 

Matching

The single most frustrating thing I have found about the adoption process is lack of communication…what I have referred to before as ‘The Wall of Silence’. We as prospective adopters are required to give 100 %. Be available at a moments notice for meetings, get time off work for training, pay over a hundred pounds for medicals, be open and honest at all times. Prepare our hearts and homes for the arrival of a little one who we know nothing about. During the assessment phase meetings can be weekly or fortnightly with a social worker, you are heading towards the goal of approval panel, there is a finish line…and often its busy, busy, busy!

And then panel comes and you’ve reached that finish line…and then nothing…everything goes quiet. Now you’re approved then the silence descends. Then if things aren’t quite working out how they were promised, if you question what is going on, then you can be made to feel like the problem is yours – you’re just impatient, being unrealistic or a bit pushy. So you sit and you wait. Life goes on, it can’t stop. And you have to try to make plans for the future as it is now because no-one tells you what is happening…if anything. At the moment I finding myself double checking that it did all actually happen and it wasn’t all my in imagination!

I know in the grand scheme of things that it does pass. I know that when you meet your child it really doesn’t matter how long it took to get there, all that matters is that you are there now. But when you are in the middle of the waiting it is one of the most challenging things to live through. The tension between life now and the life you hope will be coming soon. The feeling that life as it is now is not complete because you just want to know about and ultimately meet the child you are going to parent.

I don’t know if SWs ever really fully grasp what this period is like for adopters…the depth and range of the feelings and emotions involved. I know this is the time they’d say we should be turning to and offloading to our support network. But I still feel that they could do more to be empathetic. May be just a call every now and then to say, ‘Things are going on behind the scenes that I can’t tell you about, but things are progressing’ or ‘I’m really sorry you haven’t had xyz like you were promised, there’s a backlog but you’ll get it soon’ or ‘I’m sorry but I have no news yet, it must be so tough – I’m here if you want to chat’ might make the difference.

And so last tonight I dealt with a meeting where people wanted to know what is going on, if there is any news, what’s going to happen with <abc>, can I at least roughly guess when <xyz> will happen… I had nothing to tell them and I have absolutely no idea.

And then today I have filed away a CPR to stop torturing myself over ‘what might be’…when it might not. I go away towards the end of this month and even if the SW decides I am suitable on paper for this LO, at the rate things are going I can’t see how we’re going to get ADM ratification, a SW to have time to read my PAR, arrange a meeting and actually meet before that… So I am going to pretend I never saw it and nothing is happening…because…well, it isn’t.

Be prepared!

Today due to a malfunction of the weather, my Mum and I with help from the boy, made a dent on my ‘To do before the new LO comes’ list. The list ranges from painting whole rooms to rearranging some cupboards to chucking out the mountain of clothes I no longer fit into (if you’re a prospective adopter don’t believe all the people who tell you that you lose weight when you adopt…for me it was quite the opposite!). Of course all of this is a physical manifestation of what is going on internally. Preparing for change, making room in our hearts and lives. Preparing. It got me thinking.

When I first felt the time was right to adopt again I tried a bit of research to see what the process might involve this time around and particularly what I might expect for my son. But I could not find much written by UK bloggers about adopting for a second time. So I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Now I have for the most part been through the actual process, I think I understand why there isn’t much out there. For me the last three months have felt like a total non event regarding the process. Adopting second time around really is a far less demanding thing. Far fewer SW visits over a shorter time frame, no prep group requirement, hardly any probing questions, just a question of updating the PAR. This on the one hand is a good thing – parts of the original process do feel like form filling and repetition for the sake of it – (goodness only knows what it felt like under the old system!). So I’m all in favour of streamlining the process where possible for second timers – no point going over the same things yet again.

But, it has meant any preparation for what this might mean for us really has come from my own soul searching and reflection in my own time rather than during the actual time spent with my SW. Yes, of course my eyes are wide open due to the fact living life as an adopter gives a totally different experience to what you might read in books or even on Twitter. The reality can’t really be captured in case studies or in a snapshot or 140 characters. But still. I am so pleased I asked to do prep group (not a requirement as a second timer) as it was at least an opportunity to take time out from work to think and reflect.

And then there is my son. Eventually I chose to tell him we were adopting again as he isn’t stupid and knew something was going on with all the hushed conversations that were happening. He also sussed straight away that the SW was not a ‘friend’ when I first introduced him to her! But this has all been a judgement call I have had to make as a parent – there is no advice given, or anywhere to find any, on what might be best for him. As an adult all the mixed messages about matching and waiting times are difficult enough but for a child they’re even harder to comprehend. After I’d tried to prepare him for how long the whole thing might take, my SW actually said to him, ‘Well I hope it won’t be long before you have a new brother or sister’! Not helpful! We now regularly have bedtime chats that start, ‘Mummy I hope we don’t have to wait long for my brother or sister!’ We’ve read books about being a big brother, I’ve talked to him about removing some of his special toys from the playroom in case his younger sibling spoils or damages them (Him: Why would they do that? Me: Because they might be little or not understand how to play with them properly. Him: That’s ok, Mummy. I will show them how to play with them), we’ve spoken about jealousy between the dogs and why we treat and love them them exactly the same. And yet I still don’t know if this is all too soon or if I’m over-egging the pudding or if I’m not doing enough. I know whatever I do wont really fully prepare him for what’s coming but I’d like to feel that I’m doing everything I can.

And then there is panel. Less than two weeks away now. Last panel my SW met with me and went through my PAR. We talked about what the panel might focus on. I read through my final copy of the PAR and mentally prepared my answers for the questions I might be asked. This time I have seen a draft of the PAR. I’m not due to see my SW again until the day of panel. No final copy, no preparation from her, no clue what they might ask. I’ll obviously take a guess and think how I might respond, but I am very nervous. Last time my SW knew me inside out by the time panel came round. I knew she would know me well enough to fight my corner if needed. This time I feel more like I am going it alone.

So two weeks til panel. I do feel ready for the reality of adopting again…but in all truth, I’m not sure we’re prepared.

Things will be different

This week – National Adoption Week – I have been cleared, after a ‘viability assessment’, to start the adoption process again for a brother or sister for my son.

The chat was prescriptive – she had to ask me lots of questions, mainly around how I parent my son and how life has changed.

What I found interesting was the vast difference between the process I went through last time and this one. First, everything is going to be quicker. As soon as the form I need to fill in is recieved by them then I will get a phonecall and the first of my weekly meetings with a SW will begin. At that first meeting I will get a panel date and I’ll be straight into home study, whilst at the same time references (6 of them this time!!), medicals and DBS checks will be applied for. For four months it will be full on until panel.

The actual homestudy will be different – more a matter of going more in depth about my relationship with my son and what life has been like for us post adoption order rather than questions about my childhood and my personal life. Also here there is no ‘tick list of doom’. We are not allowed to state what we think we would cope with or not, its all supposed to come out in the discussion. This LA expects us to be wide open as to the child we would be happy to take. In some respects the age I have to look at means that uncertainty is a key feature and I hated the tick list last time, but even so, something about this feels a little weird, like I really have to trust the SW’s to get it right!

And after panel it also won’t be the same. Last time I had only a month to wait before I heard news of my gorgeous boy and a further 3 and a half months before we made it to matching panel. That, at the time, felt like an eternity! This time around the SW was very honest and said in this authority that people were currently waiting over six months, many over nine months, to even hear about a match and it was unlikely those timescales would change in the near future. She said she just needed me to be prepared that a child might not actually be placed with me until 2018! But this really confirmed the decision to start the process now.

So all in all in will be a totally different experience. But I also enter the process in the wonderful position of already being a Mum to an awesome little boy. In some respects hopefully that means the waiting will be easier as I’m already ‘Mumming’, I am fortunate to already know that joy (and frustration!). I also have the benefit of hindsight from last time – my son has been the perfect match for me, it all happened in the right time. I have to hold on to the fact this time will be the same.