There are quite a few people on Twitter currently going through the approval stage of the adoption process. Recently, they’ve been asking ‘Is this for me?’, ‘Will I be able to manage this?’ and I’ve really wanted to be able to reach out and reassure them but I’ve found that I can’t.
And it’s not because I have any regrets about our decision to adopt. I cannot imagine our lives without the girls. And when I say this, I mean I actually can’t imagine it, my brain shuts down because it is too painful.
But I have so many regrets about the way things were when the girls came. I failed them so much and I think that’s why I can’t reach out and reassure people, because I’m so full of shame about our early days.
The first our children knew they were being adopted by us, they’d sat in a meeting with us for 45 minutes. (Big was 3 and 2 months at the time.) They’d had no preparation, no chance to process, to ask questions, to wonder and if I could go back I would have stopped the meeting, said ‘We’ll do this again when the girls are ready’ but I didn’t know then what I know now and I put my trust in people who I thought knew and understood the process better than me. Big was told I was going to be her new mummy while she was sat next to me on the sofa. When I think back on this, I am so angry and sad for her. So sad that I’ve added to her pain so much.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have a good relationship with the girls foster carer. She didn’t want to meet the girls afterwards and again we went with who we thought was the most experienced. But they lost someone else from their lives. She gave us our photo introduction books back after 2 days because ‘they kept asking to look at them’ and she kept all the clothes she had bought for them so they came with no familiar things. Our children were fed their tea at 4pm, played for a bit then put to bed. We weren’t able to observe any routines, we never saw them eating, we didn’t see any familiar places for them so when they came to us, everything was different. Obviously, everything was going to be hugely different but anything that we could have done to make it slightly easier just wasn’t there. I wish I could have been stronger and reached out to the the foster carer, to ask things, to find things out, to ask for things for the girls.
I find it really hard to look back on the first three months of the girls being here. I find it hard to admit that I could feel so differently about my children. Little was so easy to love. Because of the age she was, she was sill napping, still in a high chair, still a baby. She was so engaged in the world around her and it was amazing being able to help her so much and so quickly. Big was ( and still is) a complex ball of trauma, anger, fear, control and sadness. The sadness was buried so deeply behind everything else that I forgot to look for it. I was so sad that the mum I had dreamed of being wasn’t getting chance to appear. Instead I was cross, impatient, and deeply unhappy. After 2 and a half years Big is still firmly behind her wall. I can touch it sometimes but I am rarely able to get close. I’m not saying that if I’d known more in the first three months that everything would have been magically different but imagine what that must have been like for Big. She’d lost everything again and she comes to a place where her mum is sad because she’s not able to fulfil the place of a long dreamt of child. The pressure that put on us both was too much and I should never have let that happen.
After three months, I realised that things were not right and started reading. And I learnt that things needed to be done differently. And it helped. But then I asked for help. I asked for help for us as a family, for Big and for me. And the girls’ social worker decided that I was not able to parent the girls, delayed the adoption and wrote a report that stated ‘Mrs X is suffering from low mood and has asked for help with this. She has suffered from low mood before and had sought help when diagnosed with infertility. With this in mind, we are concerned about Mrs X’s ability to parent the children. She is unable to cope with the behaviours of the eldest child. These behaviours have not been present in the eldest child before now.’ The feeling that asking for help would somehow lead to a report being written about my inability to parent is something that will stay with me forever. I know now that the social worker had no idea about trauma and its long term effects. This was her first adoption and she had no awareness of the needs of the children. But asking for help in that situation required a lot of strength. Strength that I didn’t really have at the time and when it lead to accusations against me, it took everything I had to keep going. Everything that I was asking for was to help us as a family, to help us to keep moving forward. I learnt then that for us to make it through this, it was up to us. We couldn’t rely on others.
What I do regret is being so unprepared for my children’s needs. To adding to their trauma and pain. For putting such unrealistic expectations on them. And I think that’s why I can’t leap in and reassure people. Because I want to go back so desperately and do it better. Especially for Big. For my big girl who had her whole world turned upside down and had no one there to catch her. I regret that. I regret it a lot.
I’m not sure you can ever be prepared for the realities. Of what you might encounter. Every family life is different. But I wish I had had more knowledge to support my children. The ability to recognise my emotional needs and deal with them in a better way. I wish I had joined Twitter earlier, the support from fellow adopters and foster carers is invaluable. I wish I had been able to do it in a way that I had fewer regrets.
The best bits
We took the girls to a wee skate ramp yesterday with their new scooters. I really wish I could show you the videos I took of them. They did so well turning in circles up and down the ramp. Big was terrified but had a go and did really well.
We managed to get a family photo this week. Little hates sitting for a picture but I tricked her into making funny faces, flipping the camera screen, taking thousands of shots and getting one of us all smiling. It’s the first one in two years so I’m very happy.