Our adoption reality is so far away from what I thought it would be.
Adoption in our family means living with trauma everyday. It means living with fear and anger and rage and rejection. It means living with someone who is unable to manage the figure I represent. It means living with and understanding secondary trauma.
It means deliberate soiling and wetting. It means tidying up after meltdowns. It means trying to keep a sibling safe.
It means trying to recognise my children’s sensory behaviours and address them as best I can. It means identifying and voicing feelings. It means providing a constant narration for what we are doing and how we might be feeling about it. It means wondering aloud about what might be causing the different feelings. It means talking to someone for over 2 years and barely getting anything in response.
It means routines and living in a world that is a lot smaller than it used to be. It means going to the same places, seeing the same people and doing the same things all the time. It means going to bed in tears wondering how on earth I’ll mange to do ‘tomorrow’ and getting up and doing it.
It means fighting harder than I thought I could to ensure that people understand my children’s needs.
It means an immense feeling of pride when they jumped in the pool for the first time, after going every week for 2 years. It means riding bikes, walking in the woods, digging sandcastles and lots of swinging.
It means seeing wee glimmers of hope that we might be able to help our eldest. It means picking Little up from nursery and being greeted with ‘Mummy!’ and her running towards me. It means hearing Little wake up singing ‘If you’re happy and you know it…’ It means stories and snuggling up watching Minions and a Little person curling up with me in the middle of the night.
It means living in a 2 bedroomed house when we desperately need 3 bedrooms. It means not going back to work. It means having to put my 3 year old on the top bunk because my eldest doesn’t feel safe up there.
For my children adoption means loss. Huge, unimaginable loss. Loss of family, loss of places, loss of so much of the familiar. It is a loss that my eldest is unable to start processing because she does not feel safe. She does not feel safe in our family.
It means years of neglect and abuse and inconsistent parenting. It means being exposed to alcohol and drugs in utero. It means many moves and many caregivers. For my eldest it means waiting for the next move. Waiting for the next set of caregivers.
For my children it meant the impossible task of trying to fill the hole that my infertility had left. I should never have expected my children to do that.
The reality of our family will be very different to other families. I wish I had been more prepared for what my children need. I wish that I had been further along the journey of processing my own grief so that I could have been more aware of my children’s. I think that, right now, as a family we’re doing everything we can for our children.
Our adoption reality requires so much more support than I thought it would. It requires professional help for my children. It requires support for us as a family. It requires people to understand what we are dealing with and supporting us through it. If I were to be really honest with myself, I wish that someone had said to me, ‘You’ve got no family close by, how on earth are you going to manage?’
Support comes in many forms. I wonder how much support birth families get through the adoption process. Whether they are given a way to process their grief and their loss. I wonder how much support my children will be given in the future, whether, as the understanding of trauma continues to develop, money will be put in to support training and resources.
Personally, I think the biggest support I could have had was much more honest preparation. The shock of what we are living with was almost too much but it didn’t have to be that way. We could have been much more prepared for it. I know people could argue that not all adoptive families experience the difficulties we do but surely being prepared for what might happen is the best way. It might have saved my eldest child three months of me getting it so wrong. It might have meant that I felt more in control of what was happening and would have been able to be the right person for my children. It doesn’t seem right that I have had to find out myself that my children need a different way of parenting. This should have been from the get go. If it hadn’t been for the amazing support of Twitter I’m not sure where we’d be right now.
Our reality right now is that we’re a family. It’s so different to how I imagined a family was going to be but it’s my family and I’m beginning to accept that. I hope that one day Big can feel safe and loved being part of our family. I hope that we can keep Little safe and help her continue to feel loved. That’s our reality.
The best bits
We went down to stay with my mum and dad this weekend. We left after tea, put the girls in their pyjamas and waited for Little to fall asleep. In over 2 years Big has never fallen asleep in the car. She has never felt safe enough to do so. On this journey home, she fell asleep. As I said to my husband, ‘It’s funny the things you end up celebrating.’
We went out for fish and chips for tea, something different. It was lovely to see Little joking with her Grannie and Grandad. She is at the stage where she is just getting humour and she loves it. This weekend she also gave my mum a huge hug. She’s very reserved with her cuddles and it was really nice to see her so comfortable doing it.