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Our little boy now has two little sisters, he’s not met them and neither have we. But for nine months we thought his youngest sister was going to be coming (to our) home.
We spent nine months seeing pictures of scans, hearing updates and being told by social workers that there was no chance (his other (birth)) mum would be able to keep her baby. It was exciting and terrifying and when our son’s old foster carers who are still in touch with his birth mum began to share other photos and updates too, I lapped it up and kept asking for more. I excitedly told friends and some family members (to a mixed response ‘are you sure you want to take on another one’!?!, but that’s another story). I felt in a way I was experiencing the pregnancy I’d never fully had. My partner and I had endless conversations about how it might work, if our son was ready, if we were ready, but in my mind above all this I was excited to be growing our family.
I’ve always wanted a big family and so had my partner, we both have multiple siblings who we loved growing up with – the made up games, the fights, the secret smoking, stealing each other’s clothes, and sharing exam study breaks. The fun, the secrets and the enduring sense of knowing there will be someone there when you get home from school who isn’t your parents. We are close to them in varying degrees and have always felt when it comes down to it they would have our back. We both knew  we wanted this for our son too, so when we heard he had a sister coming into the world it felt like it was meant to be. He would have his ally and it would be them against the world, especially when they needed someone who was also adopted to understand what they might be going through.
I had a huge sense of guilt being this excited, knowing that growing our family would mean another loss for his birth mum. I felt incredibly happy for us and our son that he was going to be having a sister, and at the same time utterly shattered that it would mean taking someone else’s child. It was a hard to reconcile these two realities.
Towards the very end of the pregnancy things started to change.  We contacted social workers asking if we needed to re register with our agency and start new checks ready for when the baby was born, and asked about what happened next, the practicalities, the legal stuff and the ‘official’ update on how mum was doing. Circumstances have changed was the answer. A ‘sure thing’ that his sister was coming home, became a maybe and then a maybe not then a probably not. And then that was enough for me: after nine months of expectation and guilt and sadness and joy and three months of maybe, maybe not, I realised that was actually all I could take. We agreed with social workers and foster parents not to give us daily or weekly updates and photos like they had been doing informally. It was too much. I felt like I’d lost my baby. Assessments continued for another few months but it was at that point I knew she wasn’t coming home.
It was hard explaining it to others, the sense of loss for someone that was never really ours in the first place. Going into work felt hard, there had been no bump so few people there knew the grief and sadness that I felt. Even those that did know mainly couldn’t compute it, unless they’d lost a baby themselves. I felt even deeper guilt for, by default, wishing the woman would lose her baby so my son could be with his sister. I felt foolish that I’d talked about it, was so attached to this little person that I had no right to calling my own.
Six months on and the sadness has lessened but still ebbs and flows, appearing when I least expect it. We’ve had a few more photos of his sister and have told him about her (against the advice of social workers), so there are as few surprises about his family in the future as possible. We kept getting asked by friends and new acquaintances if he has any siblings and couldn’t bear to say no, to lie to them and him. We both feel so grateful for our son and utterly cherish him, I find myself clinging onto him even more now and wanting to celebrate the family we are.
Someone once told me that despite my appearance and manner they thought I had the strength of a core of steel, on this journey I think I might need to build a core of something stronger.