When you get to the point at which you feel adoption is right for you, you can usually expect a maddening response from the people you tell. They suck their teeth, much like a plumber pricing up a job, and say, ‘oooh, isn’t it really horrible and difficult to get through?’ Then it’s, ‘Training, why do you need training? Regular parents don’t need training.’ Well, no they don’t, and perhaps they should, but this is very different. Besides, they don’t train you to be a parent they train you to understand what it feels like to be adopted. With all this negativity and the regular scary headlines, it’s hardly encouraging, is it? It’s National Adoption Week this week and it’s time we all started to be more positive about adoption.
My partner and I adopted two children two years ago and contrary to what the teeth-sucking, concerned well-wishers might tell you, we actually enjoyed the process. Genuinely. And we’re not the only ones. Thousands of successful adopted families would agree it’s a process worth going through. But who knows how many people are put off by the negative attitudes surrounding adoption and never go through with it.
You know how parents will tell you they could lift a car from off their child or stop a train with their own body because they love them so much? So could I. I absolutely know I could do any of those things if something threatened my children and I cannot believe there are any other parents out there who love theirs one drop more than we love ours. But to get to this point as an adoptive parent you have to go through the process. It is a means to a very wonderful end and not something to dread or be defensive about it. If you want to adopt, no matter what brought you to this decision, you do have to go through training and the process and you know what, enjoy it. Think of it as if you’re pregnant, but you can still drink.
Recently, our son brought a very inquisitive friend home for tea and I thought my head would explode with all the questions he asked us. ‘So where did you come from? Whose tummy did you come out of? Where did you live before here?’ It went on but we both answered his questions honestly and simply. His last question, and by this time he was a little exasperated, was, ‘but who’s your real mum?’ Our little boy pointed at me. The memories of all the meetings, home visits and panels slipped away right there and then.
There are some aspects to the adoption process that can feel a bit uncomfortable. It can take a long time, longer than the average pregnancy certainly. It can be difficult answering questions about your life and who you are. It can be tense, constantly waiting for meetings to happen and for a panel date to be set. But you know what? So it should be. Social workers that are assessing people to be prospective adoptive parents have a job to do and they absolutely have to get it right. The children they are placing with forever families deserve to go to parents who have been thoroughly checked out and have thoroughly thought it through. We’re the grown ups. We can take a bit of discomfort for the sake of children who have had a tumultuous time.
Our little girl came downstairs the other night, half sleep walking, half wanting a cuddle. Long after she had fallen back to sleep snuggled in my arms I sat there just taking it all in. Holding her tight and listening to her soft little snores. It was just the two of us on the sofa and I didn’t want to take her back to bed. All I could think about is how much I love her and how much I love being her mummy every single day. Now that’s certainly worth a few uncomfortable questions and exercising a little bit of patience.
The next time someone tells you they are thinking of adopting, don’t tell them how hard it can be. Tell them what a wonderful thing it is they’re doing. And if you’re about to go through it, stick with it. Enjoy it. Learn as much as you can from the training and from your social worker. Just like they say women forget the pain of childbirth afterwards, the same goes for the adoption process so start to see this as the amazing opportunity it is and get excited about it.