I’d always enjoyed being a parent and would have liked more children, but after parting from my birth child’s dad, and having not met anyone I wanted to have more children with, I chose to adopt. Knowing that there were children in the care system who needed a loving home that I could give, made adoption feel very right for me.
When I started the adoption process, being a social worker, I felt I knew quite a bit about it, but there was always something new and interesting to talk to my parents and supporters about after one of the sessions in the preparation group. Hearing real life stories from other adopters was always a highlight. The social worker we had was really friendly and we got on well so the sessions, although the process felt long, were always really relaxed.
Eventually my youngest two daughters, moved in with me in August 2012, when they were aged four and five. Being a new adoptive mother was exciting, exhausting and emotional!
I remember crying as I drove the girls away from their foster family because I was taking them away from all they knew. We stopped at a restaurant on the way home and one of the girls kicked the waiter, and I remember thinking I don’t know what to do, I’ve only been her parent for a few hours!
That was seven years ago, and much has happened since. While it has been a challenge helping the girls to deal with the trauma of their early life experiences, there have been lots of highs watching them flourish and grow. I have benefited from being part of fostering agency TACT Peterborough’s support group, having links to local adopters made a huge difference to me on my adoption journey.
As with many other adopted children, my girls have mixed feelings about their experiences of being in the care system and subsequently adopted and separated from their birth family, including, grief, loss of identity and sense of self /heritage and most importantly the loss of loving relationships from their extended family. We were fortunate to have support from a Therapeutic Life Story Practitioner who helped the girls talk through some of the difficulties being adopted. They were both full of worry about their first mum and their brother, they desperately wanted to know that both were OK and they wanted to know if they had been remembered.
The girls first Mum had received some great support to address some of the issues in her life that were linked to the girls being removed from her care and was doing really well looking after the girls’ brother, so when they asked why can’t they see their first mum or brother, I didn’t have an answer. Why not? It’s what they wanted and needed. Introducing their birth family to our family and becoming a larger blended family has had an amazingly positive impact on the girls.
It is now pretty normal that ‘Mummy Jo’ is part of our lives and to our girls it’s not first mum / adoptive mum, we are ‘just mums’, all part of a big, messy and crazy family. One of the girls told me recently that having two mum’s means two lots of hugs, support, someone to talk to and even twice the telling off is OK because it’s two mums who care. We spend time in each other’s houses, the girls have sleepovers at Mummy Jo’s with their brothers and sister, and recently had sleepovers with their Aunty and cousins too. It’s family, and feels ‘normal’, but for many it still raises a few eyebrows! It might have been me with the raised eyebrows had I not lived alongside the trauma of the separation due to adoption that caused so much pain for both our girls – things I wish I’d known earlier in my adoption experience and more so in my role as a children and family social worker.
My advice to new adopters is speak to other adopters and adopted children to increase your understanding, first-hand experience is so powerful and useful (an anonymous Twitter account proved invaluable for support and understanding!). Understand that for adopted children the separation from natural family is a life-long trauma, natural families will always be part of your child’s life and therefore either directly and indirectly will be part of yours.
At the end of the day, we are one big, blended, happy family and that works for us.