Adoption has always been on my radar, but I think it resurfaced with intent while I was in labour for our second son. I remember yelling out “we’re going to adopt the next one!”.
I wonder what turns a flippant and easily excusable remark into a seed which will bear fruit? I’m sure there are many factors. I also remember confiding this newly forming dream to one of my best friends within the next few weeks.
My husband is a man of integrity; he thinks things through and will only commit if he feels able to fulfil what is being asked of him. This must have been quite a bolt out of the blue, but to his immense credit he weighed it up, made the decision to go for adoption and has been completely committed ever since. In many ways adoption seemed quite a natural choice to us; we wanted another child, I’d had difficult births (though not so much that we couldn’t have had another child in this way) and adoption is a central tenet of our Christian faith. I had a completely unshakable belief that this was the right path for us.
Sometimes naivety can be a good thing! If we had had any idea quite how hard this particular journey would be, we may not have ventured down it quite so blithely. Fortunately, however, we could not foresee the hurdles ahead, so we started out with a great sense of excitement and anticipation.
All this began nearly seventeen years ago and the adoption landscape was somewhat different then. We were initially told by a couple of adoption agencies that because we had two birth children they could not take us on. However, one of the agencies that has now merged into Adoption West had a different perspective and saw benefits in our parenting experience. So, three years after approaching the first agency we embarked on our initial training. Our boys were four and six at the time.
So, how did our boys journey through this? We are quite an open family, and this is reflected in the way we communicate with our children. We prepared our eldest son for the arrival of his brother through reading relevant stories, through attending midwife appointments with me, through explaining as much as we could as to how his calm and quiet life would soon change! Their sister would arrive in a different way, but they had no less need to be involved, and probably even more so as an adopted sibling would come with her own already formed personality and behavioural challenges. So, we chatted about the adoption process, about social workers, foster careers etc. They were quite young and giving age appropriate information is important so the depth of what we talked about developed over time. What we hadn’t bargained for is the sheer length of the process (about 7 years in all…thankfully not normal now!) and therefore how this might affect them. Fortunately they were both very happy and easy going little lads and it just became part of our story as we walked along together.
Our social worker, if I remember rightly, was researching adoption in families with birth children for her masters degree. She too planted a tiny seed in my mind; there were no picture books we could use to prepare our sons for an adopted sibling, so she suggested I write one. Ten years, a second adoption and life as an adoptive family has born fruit, and my book is currently in the publication process.
We felt very firmly that we were adopting as a family; our boys were going to be just as much a part of our daughter’s life as we were, so it was important we acknowledged this and respected them by hearing their views, concerns and questions. Throughout, we have been so very proud of them; their loyalty, their adaptability, their insight, their loving hearts and their sense of humour.
There were obviously practical issues as we went through the training. One of the focuses of assessment is the support adopters have. This is so crucial, especially in a time when extended families often live at a distance. We live in a small community and I’m still grateful for the love and practical support our friends gave us at this time. Most we knew from toddler group, playgroup, football etc and they not only provided listening ears during the lengthy process, but also looked after the boys when we attended the training sessions. They welcomed each of our daughters and have also provided a constancy for our boys.
Ten years on from our first adoption and our family is noisy, messy, often argumentative and with table manners which leave much room for improvement! We are also a team, our kids are loyal to each other, they have fun together, they bring out the best and no doubt the worst sometimes in each other. We learn through the hard times and celebrate the good times. We do life together. We are family. Adoption brings its challenges, but life is full of challenge and I’m so very thankful to God that these have strengthened our boys, adding a depth of love, acceptance, loyalty, insight, patience and kindness to their characters.
This only gives a tiny insight into adopting with birth siblings, and in future posts I’ll look more specifically at introductions, at parenting both birth and adopted children, at adopting siblings and at how adoption has shaped and been a gift to me personally.