I’d always thought I’d have two children. I’ve got a sister and I can’t imagine my life without her. We share so many memories, good and bad, from our childhood. I was heavily influenced by her in so many ways like music and fashion. My love for Duran Duran and Tears for Fears are mainly down to her. I learned so much about life and living from her. And also how to be a good parent when she had her two gorgeous girls.
When we started out on our adoption journey, we knew we weren’t up to adopting a sibling group straight away. We couldn’t imagine being able to cope having two children placed with us of different ages and meeting their very different needs adequately. I couldn’t imagine that at all and didn’t think we were capable of it. Lots of people do adopt sibling groups and I completely take my hat off to them. I think they are utterly amazing. As is any parent who has more than 1 child.
Part of the adoption process is to accept and know your limitations and be honest about what you can cope with. We knew ours and despite our social worker’s best attempts, we stuck to our guns and asked to be approved for one child initially.
However, I always thought we’d adopt again. A full sibling in the future would obviously be ideal. But we definitely wanted a sibling for our little girl.
It’s funny how you dream about something happening and you think you know how you’ll react. And then the reality is the polar opposite.
About 14 months after our daughter came home, I got an email from our social worker to say birth mum had turned up at hospital 35 weeks pregnant. It was the beginning of December and the week after I’d gone back to work following a mostly wonderful 13 months adoption leave getting to know our little girl.
She’d started nursery a few weeks before and was really struggling with that. She loved being there once she settled, but leaving her was awful and I often ended up in tears driving away.
I instantly went into auto-pilot after I read the email, telling myself this was exactly what we’d hoped would happen. At that stage the plan was for baby to be placed with us from hospital and we’d be fostering to adopt. That meant the new baby would have as little disruption as possible.
Unfortunately, birth mum’s circumstance hadn’t changed at all since she had agreed to our daughter being taken into care the day after she was born. It was therefore pretty inevitable that the plan would be adoption for the new baby.
The next few weeks were emotionally the hardest of my life. I was trying desperately to convince myself being considered for the new baby was what we wanted and the right thing to do.
It would be a newborn baby. How on earth could we say no to that? I had long ago given up the dream of getting pregnant and was at peace with that. But having a tiny baby placed with us would be amazing. Wouldn’t it?
Christmas that year was a bit of a blur. I was going through the motions while I was desperately trying to battle with what I knew in my heart was the right thing to do. At that stage, I just didn’t have the courage to accept it.
I was ill and made myself worse while I battled with my conscience. Throw a horrendous panic attack in the middle of one night into the mix and I knew I had to be honest with myself. I had to accept that what I thought was our dream actually wasn’t.
At first I felt like a really bad, selfish person for feeling that way. Accepting that it wasn’t the right thing for us as a family to take on the new baby was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
To everyone on the outside, it probably seemed like the perfect way to complete our family. At first I really struggled with what I thought others would think if we said no.
It wasn’t that nature had made the decision for us that we couldn’t give our daughter a sibling. By saying no, we were making a conscious decision that our daughter wouldn’t know her little brother or sister during her childhood.
How could we say no and effectively take away the chance she had of growing up with her sibling? Surely she has a right to that? She already has other siblings she won’t be able to grow up with. What right did we have to deny her this chance to grow up with another sibling?
Just because on paper it’s a perfect solution, doesn’t mean it is in reality. I’m in my mid forties and my husband isn’t far off his mid fifties. Some agencies wouldn’t have let us adopt a child as young as our daughter was (she was nine months when she came home). It really felt like we’d be pushing our luck too far in taking on a newborn baby as well.
Our daughter makes our family feel complete. We want to make sure she reaches her full potential, whatever that is. It didn’t feel like we’d be able to help her do that with another baby with us so soon.
At first I felt I was letting our daughter down so badly by saying no. In my heart though, I knew it was the right decision for her and for us.
We don’t know what the future holds in terms of her development. No-one knows how their kids are going to grow. But we knew that she was unsettled and struggling with the changes that nursery brought. It felt like she needed us to herself to be able to get through that.
If we said yes, the new baby would’ve come to live with us early in the New Year. That would’ve been about 15 months after we met our daughter. We felt it was too soon. Too soon for our daughter and too soon for us.
Once I let go of my guilt, particularly about what others would think, I started to feel better about our decision. Just because others can cope with a second child quickly after the first, however it happens, doesn’t mean that we could. And there was no shame in admitting that.
Our social worker was, as always, lovely and didn’t question our decision or try to persuade us we should reconsider. That meant a lot to me and helped me accept we were making the right decision.
A lot of people said it was just not the right time for us and to start off with I agreed with them. Actually though, it might never be the right time. We were meant to be parents to our daughter and perhaps we were meant to be a family of three. It feels right just the three of us. We’re a team looking forward to the adventures that lie ahead as we explore what the future holds.
I’ll always feel guilty about our decision though. Not because I feel it was the wrong one. It was absolutely the right decision for us all. Our daughter is getting the best of us and our full attention. I feel guilty because we decided that she couldn’t grow up in the same household as her sibling.
When she’s old enough, we’ll explain to her why we made the decision we did and why it was the right one for our family. I hope she agrees.
First published April 2017