Thank you to @mamaandbabycurls for this wonderful insight into her journey to becoming a mum. As a single adopter, she faced challenges because that and her Indian ethnicity, but didn’t let them stand in her way. If you don’t already follow her, on Instagram go and say hello to find out more about her journey.
I have been single for… seemingly forever! At least no serious relationships since my mid-20s. Having a family and, specifically, being a mother, was more than a dream. I questioned what my life was without it and would frequently say that I would trade all the other things in my life – house, job, cars – to be a mum.
I realise that’s not the case for everyone, but it’s certainly how I felt. I first fleetingly thought about adoption in my early 30s, but I was on the cusp of an international adventure with my job. I still had high hopes that I would move away, meet the love of my life and … then see whatever the route to “family” would be together.
Fast forward to my late 30s – I was still living abroad and was still very much single. I’d also started becoming a bit obsessed with children and that obsession was actively getting in the way of prospective relationships. So, I started considering my options to have a family alone.
Based on where I was living, my options were fairly limited. Adoption was not an option as a single person over 35, so I went down the route of IVF with sperm donor. I was flying back and forth to the UK as needed for treatment.
I went through two rounds (both of which failed at very early stages) at significant expense – financially and to my wellbeing (aside from the IVF, the travelling was exhausting), but I think (in hindsight), I can honestly say that my heart wasn’t fully in it. I don’t think I ever truly believed it would work. And I was still living far away from my family so had no support. So, I quit my job and found another back in the UK, moved into the same area as my family and that’s when I started my adoption journey.
I was initially scared attending the first information evening “alone” (actually with my mum!), but quickly realised that adoption is open to all different forms of family and there was nothing extraordinary about being single. Or being single and 40!
The first information evening was with my local authority. The meeting was good, informative and I came away inspired. I immediately filled in the form saying that I wished to be contacted to move forward. A social worker from the local authority contacted me and, after having a promising 30 minute conversation, shattered my dreams. After learning of my ethnicity (Indian), she very bluntly told me that I would not find a match as very few Indian children were placed for adoption.
This was a huge blow to me. I went back to considering other options. The only way forward with IVF would have been an egg/embryo donor. I didn’t feel passionately about being pregnant and giving birth to my child, and I knew a lot more by this time about the number of children needing homes and the circumstances that may have led to their current positions.
I could no longer walk away from that so I started researching adoption further. I learned that fundamentally, ethnicity shouldn’t be a bar provided I was open to adopting a child of a different ethnicity to mine. So, I decided to try again. (I should add here, I was always open to it – I just hadn’t known it was possible).
My options now seemed to be to try with a different local authority or a voluntary agency. The concept of voluntary agencies was new to me at this stage, but it seemed the more appropriate route for me. I wasn’t hung up on having a baby and they seemed to be in a position to better support me, both from an initial application and also post-adoption.
After a Google search, I contacted Diagrama just to get initial thoughts on whether or not adoption was a possibility for me or not. I spoke to a social worker there, expecting to then go on and speak to people at e.g., PACT or CORAM. The social worker blew me away with her understanding, empathy and thoughts on how things could progress. My search for an agency was over. But we agreed that before formally starting the process, I would move house, get settled and finish my probation period in my new job,
In September 2019, I contacted the social worker again – who further reassured me by saying that she had been expecting my call!!! And the process started.
As part of Stage 1, I had to obtain some foreign “good conduct” clearances. This was probably the most time consuming aspect and I was glad that I started this immediately. Stage 1 passed smoothly. But what I hadn’t expected was how anxious I would become about any delays. For example, the agency’s medical adviser was running with a 2-3 week delay, which postponed my move from Stage 1 to Stage 2.
Although I’m a calm and well put together individual, I found myself on the phone to the agency admin in tears one day, frustrated at the lack of progress. With hindsight, it’s easy to look back now and chuckle about how impatient I was. In the end I was in the right place, at the right stage at exactly the right time for her. But when you’re going through the process, that’s not something you want to hear.
Stage 2 for me was like free therapy. I enjoyed the different topics raised and the conversations I had with my social worker. The most emotionally demanding topics for me were the deep dive into my own childhood (not easy as I grew up in South Wales in a town that was not diverse), my relationship with my mother – great now, but complicated growing up – and what I thought I could cope with in terms of my future child.
All the topics required honesty and transparency. I found that my thoughts on what I could manage narrowed through my conversations with my social worker. The other topic that we discussed at length was ethnicity. I was very open to adopting a child of a different ethnicity to me. Throughout our conversations, it became clear that while I was open, there was something pulling me toward mixed race children – almost inexplicable now. It was driven partly by my thought that had I had a biological child, they would most likely have been mixed race and that mixed race children were often overlooked.
I understand that the process through stages 1 and 2 is the same for couples and single people. I’m guessing that the paperwork was more straightforward for me and I didn’t have any exes that needed contacting or a partner’s exes that needed addressing. I also didn’t have to worry about what my partner may say during assessments or at the training! I saw several sharp glances between couples during some of the more controversial discussions!!
On the flip side, I didn’t have someone by my side with whom I could discuss all the issues raised or the answers to the many questions. Instead, I had the most amazing network of friends. My best friend joined me for the first two days of training so I wouldn’t have to walk in alone and so that I had someone to debrief with afterwards. It also gave her a much better appreciation of some of the issues that a child may have faced and how intense the process would be for me, which in turn enabled her to better support me.
I had my go-to friends that I discussed some of the more contentious questions with during the assessment. And I had my brother on hand to discuss potential links – all SW approved. This helped me to be really realistic about what I could/couldn’t cope with (for example he helped me visualise my life with 1 year old twins as a solo parent and recognise that my idyllic vision was misguided and it wouldn’t be the best way forward for me or the twins!)
My social worker introduced me to Link Maker when I was halfway through Stage 2. I found it overwhelming to begin with, but managed to establish a system for myself to make it more manageable. One trick was to go straight to the health section before looking at photos etc. This meant I ruled children out that I thought I wouldn’t be able to best parent before becoming emotionally involved.
I also set up alerts for when new children were entered that fit my criteria which meant I didn’t have to log on daily. I used the “favourite/follow” button to enable me to keep an eye on children that I thought had interesting profiles, and then I would go back a few days later to review the profiles. Sometimes the profiles would disappear and I would know how seriously I felt about a profile based on how anxious I was that the profile should still be there.
This is how the journey started with my daughter. When I first saw her profile (before a picture was uploaded), I was still over 2 months away from Approval Panel so I wasn’t seeking to express interest in a child. I started to feel anxiety that her profile would disappear. I mentioned her to my social worker who agreed that we should keep an eye and, perhaps closer to approval, express interest.
Then one day her profile was updated with some additional health information and a picture. That changed everything and I immediately contacted my social worker and asked her to express interest. I knew I would regret it if I didn’t. This was now six weeks before Panel. My Stage 2 meetings were all done and we were in lockdown.
This was the hardest part for me. I was waiting to hear news without anything else to distract me. The first response from my little girl’s family finder was that they had another family in mind but that they would “open” the discussion on Link Maker, in case this fell through. I was devastated. In that alone time, I’d started to imagine our life together.
I allowed myself some time to let go of that image. I then started looking again, only to receive a message two weeks later asking if I was still interested? Err, hell yes! By now I was just two weeks away from approval Panel, so her CPR and my PAR were exchanged. It was agreed to wait until post approval for formal linking. But it seemed agreed between all the social workers that the match had great potential.
We were linked a week after approval (mid-June) and our matching panel was scheduled for September, which at that point felt like a lifetime away. Thankfully, I was put in contact with the foster carer who very kindly provided me with nearly daily photo and video updates, all of which I would hungrily devour and then look at repeatedly!
I also heard from my little girl’s medical adviser. She was slowly started coming to life in my mind and imagination. The social workers then (after some hassling from me) agreed to us having a bump-into. This was scheduled for early August (they told me on a Tuesday that I could go on the Thursday!). Because of Covid, it was agreed that this would take place in a playground and that it would not be attended by any social workers.
My social worker prepped me to let my little girl lead any interaction. If she engaged with me and wanted to touch me etc then I should, otherwise I would just spectate. Given it was a five-hour round-trip, my friend accompanied me in the car so I wouldn’t have to drive alone on such an emotional day. Which it was. It was everything I could have imagined and more.
I was prepared for my little girl to pay no attention to me and to know that I had to just keep my emotions in check while I was there. But she was a total darling. Due to Covid, it was her first time in a playground as a walker and she was happy just exploring. She came and sat next to me on a bench while I was casually chatting to her foster carer. Then she sidled closer and closer to me until she was sitting on my lap. Just WOW!
It was agreed that I would have regular contact with my little girl until matching panel (which I understand is rare) and I treasured that with her. Her recognition of me and familiarity with me increased with every visit. The week immediately before matching panel, she gave me the biggest hug as I left. Almost as if she was telling me she knew who I was.
Matching panel was terrifying. More so than approval panel. I was so invested in (and dare I say, in love with) my little girl by this point that I felt like I had everything to lose. The panel had not had the adopter present throughout the first lockdown and so they were keen to keep to talking as much as possible!
In hindsight, it was all friendly and they were asking me things I knew. But still, it felt like an interrogation at the time. Then followed the dreaded wait – approx. 15 minutes – before I received the call that it was a unanimous, and enthusiastic, YES! Later that week, I made my final bump-into visit, taking with me the transition materials and toys that I had prepared, knowing that by this point, she was calling me Mummy!!!
I found introductions really hard and lonely. Having to stay in an Airbnb, far from home and with nowhere to go (thanks Covid) with an active and curious 17 month old was difficult . It meant we were either at the foster carer’s, the flat I had rented or the park (and the weather was shocking).
I loved spending time with her, but I didn’t feel overly comfortable. My best friend came to stay on the penultimate night to give me a much needed emotional boost. Despite this, we attached really, really well. I was just super relieved when it was the last day and I was bringing her home (with the foster carer in the car with us). My little girl’s social worker came to my house shortly after we arrived to ensure everything was ok and to take the foster carer home. It all happened very quickly and by midday, we had closed the door and were home alone, ready to start our new life together.
Lockdown meant we were forced into our cocoon through winter. We did see people locally, and my little girl was still able to form relationships with nearby family members and friends, but we also had the perfect set-up for us to bond and attach. She settled well very quickly. Eating and sleeping well (although teething and her ability to climb out of the cot threw us a few early curveballs!!!). During the cot climbing, I realised the importance of my local support network. After a particularly tough night, I came downstairs to a delivery of coffee and cake arranged by some friends. Those same friends arrived later that night armed with tools ready to dismantle the cot!
From the beginning, my friends resolved to look after me so that I could look after my daughter. As a single adopter, this has been everything and I genuinely feel as if my family and friends carried me through some of the harder moments – whether it was loneliness or exhaustion, they’ve been on hand to look after me or her as needed. Even if that just involved playing with her for 30 minutes in the garden while I chopped veggies, or by bringing me dinner. It stopped me feeling alone.
We were also lucky enough to befriend a mother/son in the park early on. By chance the little boy is just 10 days younger than my little girl and they have become best buddies. Jumping in puddles and chasing squirrels throughout winter/lockdown – and providing me with occasional bouts of adult company.
Now, as the world opens up, we have a nice little routine of gymnastics on Tuesdays and swimming on Fridays. My mum looks after my little girl two mornings a week so that I can go to the gym (a major aspect of my self-care that was absent until very recently – and that’s an excellent question for single people – what does self-care look like?!). I worried that I would feel guilty about leaving her, but she absolutely loves her grandmother and it’s helping them bond which is making my mum super happy!
Although adoption is a big part of our story, it is not the centrepiece of our lives. We’re very much living a Mummy/daughter post-lockdown life (with the occasional visit from my amazing social worker). We don’t have photos or memories of the two of us together in her early days, but we’re making up for it now! We have favourite jokes, hand gestures that only we understand and numerous little in-jokes! When asked at Matching Panel “why her” I said that she had imprinted on my heart from very early on after I learned of her existence. Later, I described her as the missing piece of my jigsaw. Now, she’s more than that – we just fit together. It has become Us and Us is super excited to see how our future together unfolds.