My family’s adoption journey began in December 2019 when our three year old biological daughter reached the age where all of her friends were welcoming brothers or sisters and typically, she started to express interest in a sibling. After several missed miscarriages and a traumatic pregnancy and birth with my daughter, the thought of being pregnant again filled me with dread and fear.
We were only 25 years old at this time so I was often told by doctors and my support network how young, healthy and able I was to have another biological child. Adoption was never suggested as an option for growing our family. There is so much negative stigma around adoption and society doesn’t often see adopters as being young. Adoption is seen as a last resort for those struggling with infertility when in reality it is a valid route to parenthood.
Adoption had always been an option for my husband and I. We always felt we had so much love to give another child that DNA didn’t matter to us. We began to research the adoption process in more detail and attended an information evening at a local adoption agency. I walked out of the adoption information evening on cloud nine, full of hope and with sheer excitement for our future. We signed up to start stage one of the adoption process just before Christmas and were excited to celebrate our last festive season as a family of three.
We flew through the adoption assessment process which is typically six months. We threw ourselves into the learning and training and mid-pandemic were able to attend our adoption approval panel virtually and become approved adopters in May 2020. Six weeks before this, an email from our adoption social worker landed in my inbox and my heart stopped. I saw the subject line ‘baby profile’ and drove home to my husband. Seeing a little boy’s photo and reading about him made my stomach flip and I had butterflies. I knew I wanted to be his mum straight away. Six weeks later we were ‘linked’ with him and in July attended matching panel where we found out that we were officially going to be his parents and he was going to be our son.
We were elated. I cried tears of happiness and telling my daughter she was going to be a big sister to a little brother was one of the happiest days of my life. My heart was racing and we were all full of sheer excitement and anticipation waiting to meet him and bring him home from his foster home. We hadn’t told our family any details about our newest addition by this point. The first people we told were grandparents, our best friends and our siblings. They were over the moon for us and we had such positive and emotional reactions to them all learning his name and seeing his photo for the first time.
Fortunately, we were able to bring our son home during lockdown and spent two weeks building our attachments with him at his foster home. Seven months after our adoption journey began, we unpacked my son’s suitcase into his new bedroom, said goodbye to his foster family and drove home with not one, but two children in the back of our car.
Whilst the adoption process was smooth sailing, adoption definitely has its challenges like all routes to parenthood do. I could not pre-empt the amount of loss I would feel bringing my son home. Taking him from his foster carer was devastating and watching him grieve for them was heart-breaking. I spent many months processing the loss his birth family must also be grieving and worrying about how my son will grieve the loss of them in the future.
As adoptive parents we also use a special kind of parenting called therapeutic parenting. This can be challenging to adjust to and focuses on parenting our children to reduce the shame they feel, help them to feel safe and build trust. We had always used gentle parenting for our daughter which isn’t dissimilar to therapeutic parenting so transitioning to this style was relatively easy. We had lots of training in the adoption process to prepare us for parenting challenges but there have been times when it’s still been tough. I quickly realised that it’s okay to make parenting mistakes and it’s essential to reflect on the positives of your parenting. It’s also vital that as adoptive parents we undertake self-care that so that we can give our all to our children and not what’s left of us.
I feel so lucky that adoption brought me so many more positives than pregnancy did. The biggest high for me was the moment my son came to cuddle me for the first time. Knowing how brave he was to challenge himself to trust me and come to me for soothing was so momentous in our relationship. I was a stranger to him two weeks before that and we had been working hard to build an attachment so this meant so much.
Something I didn’t expect in adoption was how easy it was to feel judged throughout the adoption process. It’s an incredibly intense process where every aspect of your life is questioned and explored by adoption social workers. It’s easy to feel like you are jumping through hoops to become a parent which can be difficult when many adopters choose to pursue adoption after infertility or baby loss. I often thought “I wouldn’t have to do any of this if we were to have another biological child” and it’s something that you really have to prepare for. It’s easy to feel judged, but I kept reminding myself that adoption social workers had to be confident we were prepared for the challenges because we would be parenting traumatised children who need a lot of nurture and support.
Meeting our little boy was also a high of the adoption process. The moment we met him our worlds just fell into place. We were waiting in his foster carer’s living room for him to wake up from his nap and heard a cry. I remember looking at my husband thinking “this is it – we’re about to meet our little boy”. His foster carer carried him in and he looked at us confused. At the end of the day, we were strangers. He was so beautiful. I felt numb and couldn’t believe I was looking at my son. The photos and videos of him became a reality and we had an hour playing with him. It was hard not to cuddle him and pick him up and was important that we let him approach us so we didn’t scare him.
Being my son’s mum is not a role I take for granted. I am truly honoured to be his parent and feel so lucky to be raising him. His birth family could not keep him safe but I will forever be thankful for them and respect their role in his story and future as his biological family. I get told by many people how lucky my son is to have a loving home and family and I often disagree. My son isn’t lucky to have to be adopted and to have had the tough start he had. He wasn’t lucky to be in foster care and have no choice in his future. We chose adoption and we chose him to be our son. We are the lucky ones as he chooses to love us and trust us as his family.
Looking to the future, I would love to adopt again. We are very happy with two children but should my son ever have a biological sibling that wasn’t able to remain with their birth family and needed a home then I know it would be in our hearts to keep the siblings together and welcome a third child. I’m confident that pregnancy isn’t something my husband and I want to do again in the future and given our incredibly positive experience of adoption, it is easily my first choice for growing my family. After all, adoption is a choice for all parents and not a last resort.