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This week, an adoptee blogs for us. She writes a letter to herself at different stages, starting with the neglected baby and ending with the hopeful, thriving adult.  


Keep crying baby me. Speak even when they’re not listening. Sit tight, stay warm. The best is yet to come, I promise.

Under Five

Quick, close your eyes again. The car engine has stopped and it’s cold and dark outside. This is the moment when Daddy scoops you up from the car in his coat and carries you to bed. Remember the safety of his arms, the lemon smell of his aftershave, and the way he fireman lifts you up the stairs. He knows you’re awake, but he also knows you’re tired, and cold, and he wants to hold you.

Also, tomorrow morning, try and let Mum leave the house for work without screaming the place down and hiding the door-keys. It makes her sad, and it makes you cough. Remember the ‘Owl Babies’ book? The Mummy owl always comes back, just like Mum.

Under Ten

Woah there little me, pause. Don’t bite Mum. She is not cross with you as a person, but your hitting. You shouldn’t have hit your brother with Thomas the Tank Engine. She wants your behaviour to be safe. It’s selfless of Mum and Dad to tell you off.  It would be much easier for them to ignore difficult behaviour so as to avoid the inevitable tantrum-explosion.

The angry volcano that lives in your tummy cannot always win. Your biological family’s poor decisions/behaviour, the genetic makeup of your volcano, cannot rule your forever-life. You deserve more. Your parents deserve more. They climb to the top of your volano every day, peek inside and try to understand it. Like you, they usually do not understand it, it just happens. But they see that it hurts you, so try and soothe the lava back down. Try and count to ten before reacting.

Really you should wait fifteen minutes before going back to play with your brother. I wish you understood this then, but when the volcano erupts, your body is filled with adrenaline. The adrenaline contributed towards you smacking your brother. It takes 15 minutes for the effects of this to wear off. After five minutes people begin to feel better, as the hormone levels have decreased. However, your blood is still being diverted from your brain towards your body. You’re ready to fight, run away, or freeze. You can’t think logically at all because your blood isn’t reaching your head. This happens to everyone when they are overwhelmed. But remember, you’re not ready to play nicely until 15 minutes.

Under 15

Well-done you. You are good at sport, good at English, good at Drama, good at making friends, good at singing, history, religious studies, listening, and being kind. You also no longer bite! It’s nice to see how far you’ve come. However it’s difficult, right, constantly proving that you were worth adopting? Continually achieving to reassure your parents that they picked the right child; that they didn’t make a huge mistake. It’s a lot of pressure thinking that an A- school report could take away your parents or their love.

These feelings are invisible but all consuming. You hate yourself for feeling these things because your parents have sacrificed everything for you. They love you unconditionally. You feel guilty. These feeling get so big that you don’t know what to do with them, so you turn them towards yourself and self-harm. First you stop eating, then you find sharp objects, pills, chemicals… I understand why you’ve started this, although it’s devastating, but please tell someone now! When you’re 16 you frequent a&e when really you should be playing hockey with your friends or going to the school dance.

For your future mental health, acknowledge that these feelings exist, but know that you can choose how you act. When people are overwhelmed, they go into emotional thinking. You, in particular, adopt a binary and pseud-analytical way of thinking. Don’t tell yourself that these feelings are unjustified. You’re not wrong to feel this cocktail of depression and self-loathing. You have every reason to feel abandoned and lonely, because you were. You were a little baby and left alone. Love can’t mend that, the initial rejection will always have happened. But love will make you strong enough to manage the past, and flourish. Your parents want to help and love you in anyway possible - bask in that love.

Oh, and don’t make too much of a fuss when Mum goes to the week-long teaching course. If you behave well, Dad takes pity on you and buys you a hamster.

Under 20

Yes, you fruitcake, you will still be lovable when you’re a ‘proper adult’ (which, rather amusingly, you think is 20). Stop crying that it’s your 20th birthday, and start eating that cake...before your brother does!

Also, listen to your parents when they say that they’re proud of you. Feel the wool of Dad’s jumper (that you ‘borrowed’) over your dress as you sit by the campfire, and close your eyes as Mum puts her arm around your waist while they all sing ‘happy birthday’.

Under 25

Happy you-haven’t-self-harmed in 5 years! It’s an achievement! Celebrate it. However, know that it is ok to still have the urge sometimes. When you are under pressure your mind flips through a list of previous coping mechanisms (self-harm, using Thomas the Tank as a weapon, crying, over-achieving, hiding…) You’d be a robot if it didn’t. So, try not to panic about that, and remember to enjoy being you too. You will go on trips to Africa with Mum, have brother/sister movie afternoons with your brother, and ski down mountains with your Dad. You will make cakes, celebrate achievements, and share the norovirus on a particularly unfortunate Christmas.

Perhaps most importantly, listen to your parents when they say that you don’t need to always please them/others. They want you to be happy, healthy and safe. If that’s being a postman, a bird watcher, or the next prime minister, they don’t really care. So it’s ok that you gave up the well-paid job, the rented two bedroom flat, the predictable commute and the stable future to take a risk. Enjoy your flat in Barcelona with a balcony near the square. Continue to study filmmaking, keep teaching English to make money for Spanish lessons, make pottery, and swim in the sea. Be you. You may be 100 before you learn to love yourself, but at least try and know that others love you, not because of what you do, but because of who you are.

Is It Me, Or...?

At half term, I decided to put one of my kids in clubs while the other had 1:1 time with me. The elder went first and all was well, as I had expected. After a day away from his brother, with whom he is locked in war, he felt nourished, attended to, happy. I had been able to let him make more choices than usual and he really rose to that. 

The youngest, however, presented me with a very different day out. 

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Travelling Together

I am in a really privileged position. Pre-adoption, I made it my mission to travel as much as possible and when I adopted I understood that this part of my life would end. But, surprise surprise, my six year-old came to me with a desire to travel and begging for a passport.

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The Pause

I love my child more than I thought would be possible; more than I could imagine. But I always pause when someone who hasn’t adopted asks, "Would you do it all again?"

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Happy Valentine's Day

I hope I don't need to worry about offending any singles by doing a Valentine's post here, because WAFers are most definitely with someone. In fact, our lack of aloneness can feel rather unrelenting at times - consider little fists hammering on the loo door. But being together was what we wanted and worked very hard to get.

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Feeling The Squeeze

Adopters seem to me to be a particularly squeezed segment of the squeezed generation. Often older parents, they soon care not only for their new child(ren) but also their ailing and aging parents. I’ve been observing this from a safe distance. Marvelling at the resilience and strength of these adopters.

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Terminology That Comes Easy

Things that seem simple to some can be a minefield for others. I admit that I am an older mum, but my brain hasn't gone to mush. I am not stupid; in fact, I am quite clever - so why does the playground expectation and language floor me every time?

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We were told that our adoptive lives would be a rollercoaster ride, weren't we? My day started on a dizzy high, and now I'm sitting here feeling like I've been turned inside out.

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The Never-Ending Family

Since we first read about our daughter, we’ve known that there were half siblings out there somewhere, in other adoptive families. This knowledge, which we had but she did not, has felt very heavy.

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