Coram wrote this article last week about life story work so I thought it would be a good time to do an update on how we’re doing with it. I’ve written a few articles about our life story journey. The last one was about a year ago which you can read it here.
I’ve always been very honest about the fact that life story work terrified me. It felt like a lot of pressure to get it right and that there’d be no second chances with it. We needed to get it right first time. As with a lot of things, I put way too much pressure on myself. And in the end, it was a lot easier than I’d expected.
Eldest knows she didn’t grow in my tummy. We started to introduce this to her when she was about two so it’s all she’s ever known. That’s always how I’d hoped it would be. Adoption is clearly a massive thing, but I didn’t want it to feel like that to her. I want it to just part of who she is. She has two families and they both love her dearly.
We started with talking about her growing in her birth mum’s tummy. Then we introduced her life story book when she was old enough to understand it. I think she was about three. She’d started asking why she didn’t have a sister, so it seemed like a good time to start.
She dealt with it a lot better than I thought she would. Finding out she has brothers and sisters didn’t phase her. She took it in her stride and that’s the way she’s dealt with it ever since. When she wants to ask questions, she does. We answer them as honestly as we can. Sometimes that leads to further questions or a conversation. Sometimes it doesn’t. We don’t push her, we’re guided by what she wants to know. As she gets older, obviously, we’ll explain more.
At the moment, she’s happy to accept that her brothers and sisters live with their families. She knows that some live with their forever families, and that some don’t. At six she’s still too young to really understand what that means, but she will as she gets older.
I’ve also written about how I find it hard to write the yearly updates for letterbox contact. I do it because I know how important it is, but getting the tone right is always hard. I’ve read some great blogs and posts in the last year with advice about how to write them, so I’m hoping it will be easier this time. Eldest has said she’d like to do a picture so that will be a lovely thing for her to do.
Unfortunately, last year we didn’t get any responses to our update at all. We normally hear from two siblings, but got nothing back from them. Our agency amalgamated with others in our area so I’m hoping that it’s there somewhere, just filed in the wrong place. I haven’t chased it up yet but I will do.
Adopting her sister has really helped eldest understand things a bit more. She knows she lived with foster carers (they both lived with the same carers four years apart) after she was born until she came home. Books like Blanket Bears and The Family Fairies have helped her understanding too. They’re such lovely books that explain things beautifully.
When youngest came home, with the help of her teacher, eldest did a little presentation to her class about getting a new sister. I’m so proud of her for wanting to do that. Meeting her sister prompted more questions about her brothers and sisters, but she hadn’t really questioned why they don’t all live together.
The last few months have been different though with a lot more questions about her brothers in particular. She keeps asking for a baby brother so I think that’s what’s behind the questions. She’s been asking when she can meet them and says that she loves them so much and can’t wait to give them a hug. Hearing her say that broke my heart. I’m so glad she’s growing up thinking about her siblings because it’s building the foundations for them to have a good relationship when they’re older. But I’ve got no way of knowing whether the feeling is mutual. Or even if all her siblings know she exists.
I really hope her siblings are doing life story work and know about her and her sister. It would be great for them to know that they thought about each other a lot as they grew up. We’re encouraging her to draw them pictures and cards. Hopefully she can give them to her siblings in person one day.
That’s why we’ll continue to write annual updates, even if we don’t get a reply. Learning about their birth history is so important. It’s part of who they are and will help to shape who they become. I hope they both always feel that they can ask us anything about it and we’ll give them all the answers we have. And when the time is right, they’ll be able to take their relationship to the next level.