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Becoming a familyFamily

My Adoption Astonishments one year on…

I was never a really maternal type. I relished my freedom and independence, waiting until my 40th birthday to even think about the idea of putting down any permanent roots. My mother always likes to tell me that I absolutely loved being a child and was in no rush to grow up.
When we started out on the long journey to becoming adoptive parents (seems like a lifetime ago) I wasn’t able to fully realise in my head what that would be like. It was more a very pleasing idea… I pictured a sort of Little House on the Prairie relocated into urban city life, with me baking cakes while a beautiful child gurgled appreciatedly in a highchair nearby (wooden naturally).
Yes. Astonishingly I thought I could carry on my day to day life with minimal disruption despite the addition of an infant! – I don’t think I need to explain into how ridiculous this idea was  ..But I didn’t realise it.
We stumbled clumsily through the assessment process causing ructions for openly admitting to harbouring no lasting grief or loss over our lack of a natural conception. Hmm… at this point we started to wonder whether truth was the best course of action as we had entered into the process out of curiosity and with a feeling that as we were happy with each and had a lot of love to give, adoption was the obvious thing to do. A no brainer. This was met with disbelief from officials and I began to wonder what a “typical” adopter was.
Looking back, I had no real idea of what we were getting ourselves into, and if someone had tried to tell me, I wouldn’t have had the capacity to understand. A good example being when parents attempted to inform us of the tiring and relentless nature of the role, I couldn’t comprehend what this actually meant until I was in fact a parent dealing with the 24/7 routine of it. At that point yes, it was astonishingly tiring, but the really astonishing thing is that there was nothing else I would rather have been doing! – Yes I missed the freedom of lounging around but if I tried to have a break and do these things I found I desperately wanted to be with my daughter.
The first astonishing shock came with a part of the process called Introductions. At this point everything becomes very real very quickly and you’d better be prepared to hit the ground running because astonishingly there is no real preparation for what is essentially a massive mind warp and then some.

I will never forget walking into the living room of the home where we met our daughter for the very first time. We had seen photos and knew she was a 14 month old baby girl with a big smile, but she was so beautiful and shy and gorgeous as she tiptoed around her foster father’s legs holding on and peeking shyly out at us that it literally took my breath away. Surely I wasn’t going to be allowed to look after this beautiful, miraculous creature? Secretly I did not feel worthy. It’s such a big deal promising to bring a child up well and properly. What if I messed it up and ruined her? I wavered between loving her so much I wanted to run away with her there and then, to having horrible detached moments when I felt … well, not very much, and couldn’t really fathom who she was, who I was any more or what we were doing in that strange environment. In retrospect much of this was down to fatigue. The emotional mind bending fatigue of driving 5 hours to stay in a strange town, to meet a strange (to us at that point) new individual, to be scrutinised under a blinding spotlight for ten days while trying to behave perfectly in front of people who knew way more than we did about caring for a child we were about to take away from them…  Stressful doesn’t come close. My husband took it all in his stride like the calm focussed individual he is while I melted onto the floor in front of him. I hadn’t been prepared to have to process quite so much so quickly and if I was panicking about my ability now, how could I possibly make a sincere promise not to mess it up? I felt so stupid, like a lightweight who had somehow slipped through the net and should have been weeded out much much earlier on in the process.

I got through it with the help of my supportive level headed partner who was able to keep reminding me that we were in a highly charged situation and that  things would normalise in our own home; and the heart melting moments of sheer joy I spent getting to know my beautiful little girl who had already been through so much. When i look back, my heart breaks for all of us involved in that profoundly difficult situation. The foster mother giving up so much, me, shuddering and splintering under the pressure of trying to be both perfect and normal in a highly abnormal situation, my husband trying to learn to be father while looking after everyone else, and in the middle of it all a beautiful, open, joyful little girl trying to transition from one world to another. Like I said, stressful does not even come close.

The final hand over from foster parent to us the adoptive parents was also astonishing. “No hanging around” we were told by the social workers. “10 minutes tops… A quick hand over is the best way for everyone”. So this beautiful girl was simply put into my arms in the street by a wide eyed foster mum who’s only concession to the feelings she was hiding was to grip my arms, look into my eyes and plead quietly “She’s very special, please take good care of her”. Another social worker nudged me out of this loaded eye lock so I could quickly sign a legal document against the side of the car – as  though I was doing something as mundane as buying a car! Then we were gone, off to another city miles and miles away.

Five hours later and we were home. No longer just a couple, but a family.

The blossom was out in the park opposite us and We stepped blinking in the sun holding our beautiful new daughter and somehow remembered to take some photos of the moment. Things had changed forever.
SInce then?
Well, it’s been astonishing. Firstly, the love.
The depth, the width, the sheer enormity of it is yes, astonishing! It has overwhelmed me. I had no idea I could love like that! Where did it come from? It’s like it was hidden in me somewhere and she has allowed it to come leaping out at hundred miles an hour! A massive intoxicating love affair that nothing else in my life has come close to. I love our daughter so much that it literally takes my breath away.  Sometimes I hear my husband gasp in wonder, or whisper “unbelievable” when we check on her before bed because SHE IS JUST SO ASTONISHING TO US! And she is growing and thriving like Jack’s bean stalk in front of our eyes. We can practically hear and see her body and brain expanding by the minute like some some sort of time lapse photography of a plant blooming. It is fascinating, Awesome; and I am so thankful and grateful that I am here with her to witness it.
It’s not straightforward of course. Like all the best things in life, there are also difficulties, doubts and more worries than I dare to go into just now. I have always been a worrier but this with all the complexities it brings, has cranked it up to another level entirely. I also feel about a hundred years older than I did this time last year just before Introductions, but in exchange I have the most wonderful astonishing new daughter who I could listen to and watch for ever. She fills me up. I don’t believe in God. I do however believe in wonder, and the joy of life and so far, she has brought more joy, happiness and wonder than I know what to do with. It’s a no brainer and i would do it all over again in a heartbreart.