This week’s interview is with C. His interview is a beautiful, honest account of how he and his wife became parents.

 

Introduce yourself and your family

I’m C and I live with my wife and our son who become part of our family in Northumberland three years ago.

Our journey began a couple of years before that. My wife and I have been together about 22 years. We’d been enjoying a fairly secure, relaxed life with lots of travelling and a reasonably comfortable lifestyle. Not rich by any means but we were doing alright.

For many years I was adamant I didn’t want children, but my wife always did. I’d been living the life of a selfish athlete chasing my dreams around the country and achieving most of them. But the clock was ticking and the time was coming for life to be about more than sport.

We decided to start trying to create our family. Maybe we left it too late. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be for us. Who knows, but whatever the reason, it just wasn’t working.

So, the next step for us was IVF. After lots of tests and consultations we managed to get one course funded by the NHS. As many will know, the odds of success weren’t great. After a second course which we paid for with the help of family, we were still no further forward.

IVF was a real emotional roller coaster. It was almost as if we had to go through all that to test our resilience and be ready for the next step.

So for us the next step was to look into adoption. At this stage we were not sure what was involved or if it would be for us. After talking about it we decided to contact our local authority in North East England and went to an information evening. It was all very relaxed and informal.

For me, being able to meet the social workers and adoptive parents really helped. The more we learned about it, the more it felt like the right thing to do. It was more than that though, the more we learned, the more we felt we had to do it.

It was also a taste of what was to come. I remember reading some examples of profiles of real kids who need a family and feeling very emotional.  What happened to those kids? Are they ok? I hope so.

As we shared our journey with friends the reaction was quite overwhelming. It also became apparent how many knew someone who had also adopted or even were adopted themselves.

It’s as if all these people are out there, but that part of their story is hidden waiting for a reason to be shared. Maybe if more of us share our story, more people will come forward to adopt.

I also knew some family friends who adopted their son about 30 years ago. So the concept wasn’t new to me, although, thankfully, times have changed a lot since then.

What was your biggest worry before you started?

I genuinely didn’t know if I had it in me to be a Dad. I still find myself questioning my ability to be a parent nearly every day. Could I really do this? Was I ready? Are we ever ready? Who knows.

I do feel that creating our family when we were a bit older has given us more time and experience to be prepared. For me at least, it’s helped me feel ready for this stage in my life.

Maybe I needed to get the training, sport and constant drive for more done. Also, as my own sporting career was coming to an end, I was becoming more involved in coaching. And much to my surprise, coaching kids. Which, it turns out, is great fun.

I think this helped me feel ready to start my adoption journey as I enjoyed coaching immensely. It’s also indicative of the desire to help others, something that comes from my upbringing. It turned out I did want to be a parent after all.

How long did the process take from the point of deciding you wanted to adopt to your child coming home?

From start to finish the whole process took about a year. Early on we had the feeling we were being fast tracked through to panel so we could be matched as soon as possible. The support from the social work team was excellent with lots of regular visits helping us work through what seemed like endless form filling.

The training course we attended was pretty intense. I remember one exercise in particular being very tough. We were shown a selection of photographs from real profiles of kids needing a family. We had to say yes, no or maybe based on a picture alone.

These were real kids in care. I found that very hard. But the point of the exercise was not lost on us. We learned a lot about how the care system works, looked after children, why they end up in the system and also a lot about each other that week.

The next step was to complete our profile which we did with the help of our social worker. We worked our way through much of it on holiday in the Scottish Highlands which was a great way of working out what we needed to say. A top tip if you want to get to panel quickly is do your homework. Fill in those forms and get it done, bit by bit, day by day.

When the forms were completed, checks done, family interviewed, it was time for panel. Other than this being an important step on the way, it really wasn’t a big deal. We started in March and were at Panel by December.

Everything had been pretty smooth, but here’s the thing. Up to then we’d been in control of what was happening. Now the rollercoaster is at the top of the hill and is about to let go.

Panel seemed to be about a bunch of people wanting to look you in the eye and make sure we were really up for this. We were. They asked some questions and said yes. Happy days. If you get to panel it seems it’s pretty much a done deal so nothing to worry about.

How did the matching process work? Did you look at lots of profiles?

After panel we were on that rollercoaster and who knows where it’s going. We started getting access to profiles before panel and two in particular stood out. I’m pretty sure they’re the two that were lined up for us from the start.

Now came one of the hardest parts of the whole process. Choosing your child. Saying yes is fairly easy. That’s what this has been leading up to, right? But saying no. That’s a whole different ball game.

The initial impression of the two boys in question wasn’t very different. But when we found out more, it turns out one story was truly horrific and one wasn’t. We chose the one that wasn’t.

We didn’t feel able to rebuild that boy’s life in the way he needed. Or that we’d be able to cope with helping him as he came to terms with his past. We chose the other boy. It was the right choice but I still wonder about the one we didn’t choose. I hope he and his family are ok.

Remember you can get attached to a photograph. We chose our son. Brutal. Clinical. But that’s the reality of matching in adoption.

It was now December and things started to move fast. The rollercoaster was picking up speed. Life at this point was a blur of meetings, social work visits, more forms, more meetings all getting ready for matching panel.

Matching panel was a big deal. It was a fairly short session and when the panel chair told us that the match was agreed everyone in the room burst into tears! This is it. We’re going to have a son!

Now the meetings are a big deal. We met most of the professionals who worked on our son’s case and best of all got to meet his foster carer. He was placed with her very early on and had enjoyed a stable happy couple of years with an excellent, kind, loving carer.

It should be said at this point that so far, we’ve pretty much hit the adoption jackpot. We got through to this stage pretty quickly. We were matched straight away with a bright, happy funny little boy. He brings joy to pretty much everyone he meets and has had as happy and stable start to life as a looked after child can.

We were told all the way through training that this doesn’t happen. From other people’s experiences we knew that they were right, it doesn’t. We were very lucky. Very lucky indeed.

So panel said yes, introductions are planned and now that rollercoaster is out of control. No turning back now. One of the hardest and best days was that first meeting.

We drove to his foster carer’s house feeling very nervous and I don’t mind admitting I was terrified. What if he doesn’t like me? What if I don’t know what to do? Can I really do this?

We’d agreed we’d have a minute before we went in. But no sooner had we pulled up outside, then a little face appeared at the window waving frantically! We’d better go in then…

holding hands

The door opened and he ran to both of us with a big hug before turning a bit shy. The work we’d done to help prepare for this moment paid off as did the work done by his foster carer to prepare him for his forever family.

We sat on the floor and he brought over a story to read (A Squash and a Squeeze by Julia Donaldson) while he sat on mum’s knee singing “mummy daddy, mummy daddy!” We were both struggling to hold back tears at this point. It’s a moment I will never forget.

It turns out there’s a whole new level of “Dadness” locked away somewhere inside and that was the key that opened it. We bonded pretty much from that moment on and also got on very well with his foster carer which helped tremendously.

Those first few days where tiring but amazing as we spent more and more time together. Not only did we adopt our son but I consider his foster carer part of our family too.

She will always be part of him and we are fortunate enough to enjoy seeing her still. The first time we met post adoption was a special day. It was our son’s birthday and also the summer fayre in our village. We had most of the family together and we met his foster carer at the fayre.

We were walking along behind him as he walked along with his auntie when we called out to him. I’ll never forget the look of puzzlement then sheer joy as he realised who had come to see him.

We did share our story with friends, family and neighbours as the day that our son was joining our family approached. That really helped. People would’ve been very surprised to see us with a toddler all of a sudden. Some still were but the reaction to him was and remains overwhelmingly positive.

Have you needed to access additional help and support from your agency since your child came home? If so, what and did it meet your needs?

We have had a little bit of help from the local authority. We were invited to some theraplay training sessions which were very good. That’s the only help we’ve received from them.

It does feel to me like we’ve been left to get on with it which isn’t a bad thing on the face of it, but it would be good if someone checked in once in a while. They didn’t even tell us when the regional offices merged changing all the contact details.

I understand that they’re very stretched and under resourced but I do wonder if we needed help, would it be there? This does create a certain amount of pressure. Looked after kids have been let down enough already by grown-ups. We’re supposed to care for them and keep them safe. I don’t want to be one of those grown-ups to let kids down.

One other very hard part was when my dad died. Everyone had been very supportive. My dad was always the voice of caution. As a retired school teacher, his experience with looked after children was not always positive and as a result, he was more cautious. Until he met his grandson.

He didn’t know him for long, but he loved him and our son loved his grandad. Sadly, dad died a year to the day after we became a family. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is to tell our son his grandad had died. At least he got to be a grandad and our son brought some sunshine into his life.

If you could go back and have a conversation with yourself about the process before you started, what would you tell yourself?

Firstly, it’s hard being a dad. Harder than you thought possible but you can do it, you really can. Ask for help when you need it. You will need it. Offer help when you can. And always carry snacks and a clean pair of pants.

Is it worth it? Definitely. I don’t have the words to say how much I love my son and my family. Recently he said to me “Do you know which Daddy I always wanted?” Points at me “That one”. Embrace the dadness.

 

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