I started We Made a Wish as a blog, sharing our journey as adopters. For me, it was an avenue to let off steam about how I was feeling. When I re-launched the blog as a digital magazine, I wanted it to lift the lid on what adoption is really like. To share stories from a wide range of people who’ve experienced adoption. And have articles from experts to help us give our children the best chance of reaching their full potential.
The magazine’s been live for five months now, so I thought it was a good time to share our story. I really wish I’d been able to read other people’s stories when we were at the start of our journey. It would’ve helped me to get a feel for what to expect.
So here’s our story. Grab a cuppa and enjoy!
Introduce yourself and your family
I’m Suzy. My husband is John and we live with our two daughters E and D. E is the eldest and came home forever when she was nine months old. D crept into our hearts when she was five and a half months old.
What area of the UK do you live in?
We live in the North East of England
Was your agency a local authority or voluntary agency?
It was our local authority. It became of Adopt North East just after youngest was placed with us.
Did you read any adoption stories before you started? If so where? (eg blog, Instagram, books)
I looked at some of the forums on Adoption UK’s website, but they were very dark. They tended to be used by people who were really struggling. I came across the Adoption part of Fertility Friends when we were still considering treatment. It was such a supportive place. You can just read the post or you can join in and ask questions. I found it a really great source of support.
Once we started, I read a couple of books. “What to Expect When You’re Adopting” by Dr Ian Palmer was really good.
What was your biggest worry before you started?
That we wouldn’t get approved. I stressed about that a lot. When you’ve longed for something for so long, and experienced so many disappointments along the way, it’s easy to get into the mindset that it’s never going to happen.
I knew that adoption was the right path for us once we came to the decision together. And it felt like such a positive step, right from the first phone call to our agency. It just felt right. And because it felt right, I worried that it would go wrong. As we got to each stage, I managed to think of something else that would mean it was a no. Like our debt, or our age. Or the fact that my dad isn’t part of my life anymore.
Looking back now, I can see it was such a pointless waste of energy and I wish I’d let myself enjoy it a bit more.
How long did the process take from the point of deciding you wanted to adopt to your child(ren) coming home?
I made the first phone call to our agency in September 2012. We were approved in September 2013 and eldest came home in October 2014. The actual assessment felt about the right length of time. But waiting to be matched was a whole different kettle of fish.
What age and number of children were you approved for? Were you matched to a different age or number of children from this?
We were approved for one child up to two years old. Our social worker wanted us to be approved for siblings but we didn’t feel we’d be able to cope with that straight away. I absolutely take my hat off to anyone who adopts a sibling group.
How did the matching process work? Did you look at lots of profiles?
For me, matching was the hardest part of the process. It was 2013/14 and the process has changed now. I can remember thinking in the lead up to approval panel, that we’d be matched and our child home by Christmas. That actually makes me laugh out loud now, thinking our naive I was.
The way matching was done was that we had no involvement in it whatsoever. Our social worker looked at all the children waiting and only showed us any detail when she felt she’d found our child. So we had to once again bundle up our hopes and dreams, give them to our social worker and hope that she kept them safe.
She’d come out to see us every few weeks. Sometimes she’d give us the briefest snippet of information about a child and then crush us by telling us why they weren’t suitable. She actually told us about our daughter when she was a couple of months old. There were some health concerns and because of them, our social worker couldn’t take it further.
I found the waiting really, really hard. If we’d been told at the start we’d have to wait ten months, that would’ve been ok because we could’ve planned round it. But the uncertainty of the length of the wait meant our lives were on hold. Every week I’d think we’d hear something. Some weeks, I felt like I couldn’t bear the wait any longer. I started to think that it was never going to happen.
We missed out on a couple of links because birth family lived too close to my mother-in-law. I remember thinking that perhaps we’d made a mistake going with the LA we lived in, because it’s quite a small town.
The lowest point was when our social worker came out to tell us the child she’d linked us to had had their final court hearing adjourned. A family member had come forward at the 11th hour and the court had ordered an assessment for them. I was utterly devastated. We didn’t know anything about the child, but it felt like a bereavement. That we’d lost our child. Obviously it was good for the child that there was a chance they could stay in the birth family. But for us it was devastating.
Our social worker was lovely throughout all of the assessment. But particularly through matching. She knew we were desperate to be matched. She kept in touch regularly and wasn’t phased by my persistent “nothing is happening” look whenever she came round.
About ten days after the devastating news about the link falling through, I got “that” email from our social worker. I was at work and for once I hadn’t checked my emails a gazzillion times. When I saw it was from her, my heart was in my mouth. It took forever to open the email. I knew the contents of it meant our lives were about to change forever.
There were no details in the email other than our social worker saying she wanted to come and talk to us about a child. But not until the next day! I actually felt like I was going to burst. I knew she wouldn’t give us any details about a child unless she was sure.
The next 24 hours felt longer than the 10 months we’d been waiting. It was complete torture. She wanted to come round at 4.30 and I ended up getting caught up in a case at work so I was late. I was convinced she’d say I’d blown it because I was late!
She told us a bit about our daughter. I couldn’t believe it when she said she was six months old. And I realised it was the little baby she’d given us the briefest detail of a few months before. The health concerns had been put down to a family trait and she’d passed her six month check with flying colours.
We were left with our daughter’s report to read overnight. We had no photograph and had to make our decision just based on the report. I then had to ring her the next day to say if we wanted to proceed. To be honest, I knew as soon as I started to read the report that she was our daughter. Luckily, my husband agreed!
So the only profile we read was our daughter’s.
We didn’t have a matching process for youngest. The only reason we were assessed the second time was to be matched with her as she’s eldest’s full sibling.
What has been the most difficult part about the process?
I had expected the assessment to be the hardest part. I wasn’t sure how we’d feel having to talk about every aspect of our lives, our relationship, money and our family. But actually it was quite a therapeutic process. It made me realise how far we’d come as a couple and individually.
Matching was by far the most difficult part for me. I couldn’t get my head round how our social worker would know if a child was right for us or not. How could she? She wasn’t us. But she did. Oh my goodness she did. Our daughter is a perfect match to us and our family.
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?
No we haven’t.
What has been your best memory since your child(ren) came home?
So many. It took me a long time to love our eldest. I’ve written about how I felt here. So the moment I realised I loved her and she gave me the most amazing hug is probably my best memory.
There have been so many amazing moments. But it’s the simple things that are etched in my memories. Things like our first trip to the beach as a family. Hearing both daughters laugh proper belly laughs for the first time. Seeing my husband’s face the first time we met both children. Seeing how he’s turned into the most amazing dad. Watching them all play together.
There was a time when I didn’t think any of that was possible. So seeing it now feels like such a privilege that we were chosen to be their parents.
If you could go back and have a conversation with yourself about the process before you started, what would you tell yourself?
To relax more. Trust that it will happen and that things happen in their own time. And when they do, the waiting and delays melt away from your memory. And suddenly everything will make sense.