As soon as my husband and I met we knew we wanted to be parents, one way or another. We chose not to go down the medical route after years of trying naturally and what felt like hundreds of tests. We decided to adopt. We attended workshops, as well as meet and greets before deciding which agency to adopt with.
The initial visit from a social worker was daunting, we were worried about everything; Was the house tidy enough? Did we look good on paper? Were our finances in order? Would our family support us? Then the first question from the social worker almost shocked us.
“What sort of child do you want?”
I think we both sat in silence for a while. I mean, we’d never really taken the time to think about it. When you’re pregnant it just is what it is, and now we have options? I mean how exciting, we assumed this was then the chance to discuss gender, age and all the possible things – your mind runs away with, but the social worker then responded with: “I can see you need time to think about this, but what I’m really asking is what disability and difficulties can you deal with? You won’t get a ‘normal’ child with us – 90% of children in care have suffered from neglect, trauma, things you can’t even imagine seeing. Then there are children with life long illness, children with disabilities, many of our adopted children have FASD and learning difficulties, so I’ll leave it with you to discuss and we can pick it up next time.” And off he went.
We started research that night and started to put limitations and expectations in place. We didn’t discuss this with anyone because many family and friends were still sad for us not being able to conceive but we’d moved on.
Then we found Liam. He was there on a page one night staring at us. This happy smiley gorgeous little guy. We enquired and after a while got informed that we would be getting a meeting from his family finder and social worker. They came to us with a film of him and we watched him in our front room like he was right there with us, running up and down his slide, chatting away on his toy phone and babbling to his toys. I think at this moment I felt like his mum. Then we started talking about FASD. What did we know, what questions we had about it in relation to Liam, where he was etc. We discovered that he had only received such a diagnoses at a young age because he had previously been matched with a couple prior to us, but they couldn’t take on an FASD child so the adoption fell through just before we were found. Did his diagnosis change our minds about him? No. Should it have done? Definitely not – Although, we fully support and understand why it might have done for others.
If we were honest, we were so caught-up in the idea of becoming parents and getting everything ready, that we didn’t really do much more research after this. He came to us and our family finally began. Most of my support and investigations kicked in post adoption when we discovered how unknown FASD is. Some of our own family walked away from us and still now some don’t believe it’s a real thing or disability, all because their mother drank during pregnancy and they are fine, and of course they don’t live with Liam day in day out seeing how hard his life is. I’ve had to educate our practice nurse, our GP, our friends, our family and most importantly Liam.
I’ll continue to educate teachers, playground parents, friends, family, professionals and Liam no doubt until the day I die, that’s my role as mum and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I just wish there was better awareness and more help for adopters and parents with FASD children. Having an invisible disability is hard and almost makes you invisible yourself, but we paint ourselves with neon colours so we glow wherever we go and so should you! Not that we really need it mind you, Liam is rather good at drawing attention to us by being a complete chatterbox.