Sunday, 6 April 2014

Our Celebration week...

Half seven on Wednesday morning we all woke, ate breakfast and then the task of bathing three kids began. Once clean, they got dressed into their matching two piece outfits. They looked beautiful and I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride as I looked at my daughters.

Cute outfits bought by Godparents.
We were then off to the Court to attend our 20 minute slot for our Celebration Day. The mood in the car was playful and light, mixed with a bit of apprehension. Once we had arrived we were shown into a room full of big, stuffy looking books on law and a large chairs facing inwards to make a circle. Our two Social Workers met us there and while we waited for the judge we made small talk and tried to keep the girls entertained with the pictures in magazines on law.

I had presumed we would be taken into a large court room but instead we were called through into a smaller, less formal room, with a large dining table, fire place and another circle of large chairs all facing each other. The judge had a grand red chair which the clerk politely made clear was for his honour and not for us. There was part of me that was disappointed as I quite fancied going to a court room in all it's glory, however, I think the less formal room and all sitting round together probably worked better for the girls.

The judge was friendly and asked the girls to draw him a picture each which he promised to keep, along with the other pictures he had been given by children, on his wall. As the judge placed the large felt tip pens on the table I did panic a little as I thought felt tip pens and clean children in white tops do not mix. My face must have been easy to read as my Social Worker looked at me and laughed, while the judge assured me that the ink was washable.

The judge then presented the girls each with a certificate of their new name and matching (thank goodness) teddies. He then took his wig off and asked the girls if they knew what it was made out of. We all guessed sheep's wool, but we were all wrong. It is actually made out of horse hair. Two of the girls tried on the wig and posed for pictures, while our middle daughter hid on her daddy's lap and stated that she did not not want to try it on. The judge continued to speak to us and the girls about family life, school etc. He congratulated the Social Workers on finding a couple who were willing to take three children and then the ongoing support they had provided. We took pictures to remember the moment by and then said thank you and goodbye.

Once outside into the cold air we felt a sense of relief and a wave of tiredness. The girl's Social Worker told us that this was the first Celebration Day that she had attended that had been so relaxed, informal and she has not known a judge to give out teddies before. After saying our goodbyes to the Social Workers we decided to pop into a local cafe. We all sipped on our coffees and hot chocolate while the girls opened the presents they had received from the Local Authority.

We decided to go back home in the afternoon. The girls put their pajamas on and watched a film. We were so tired, I think we had underestimated how tiring the whole experience would be.

Once we had recharged we got back into our glad rags and headed out for a nice meal, followed by slice of cake at home. We gave the girls a bracelet each to mark the day which read 'Daughter, a little girl who grows up to be a friend'.  

The day went by quickly, but it had been a special day and one I don't think any of us will forget. The long process is now complete. We are legally and officially a family. We share the same surname and the girls no longer have a 'looked after status', no more visits from their Social Worker, no more educational and health reviews.

Today we threw a little party to mark both the adoption and the fact that the girls have been with us for 12 months. We had a buffet, drinks, opened presents and cards and then the kids played outside in the rain! The atmosphere was relaxed and as we sat by the log burner I think we all felt a little dozy. We finally took lots of photos before coming home and once again feeling completely exhausted.

What a week! 

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Thoughts on Mother's Day...


Today was my first Mother's Day. It has been special. To hear my daughters say 'Happy Mother's Day' and 'I love You' has been something I have been waiting for and something I hope I will treasure. To watch them open my presents as they jumped up and down on my bed made me smile. To see their excitement as they showed me the pictures that they had drawn and the cards that they had made.

My beautiful cards

However special today is for me, I am reminded of those who wish to be mothers and for one reason or another, this dream has not yet come to pass. My thoughts and prayers are with these woman and families, for I have felt the heartache and it's not something I want to become insensitive to.

My thoughts also turn towards the girl's birth mom. Wherever she is, whatever is happening for her in her life at the moment, I am sure that today must be a difficult day for her. I wonder if my girls' have thought about her - maybe this will be something we face on future Mothering Sunday's. 

However difficult this parenting journey has been for me, I am thankful and I am blessed to have been given the gift of motherhood.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

This isn't what I expected!

It's 8am on a sleepy Sunday morning and everyone is bed, so I thought I would take the opportunity to off load my thoughts and update you all.

The last six to seven months have been hard for me (and my family) and, although I can feel a shift in my perspective and feelings, I still feel vulnerable to going backwards. The last twelve months have been a whirlwind to say the least.

On reflection and with hindsight I do not believe we received the right support or advice when the girls were first placed. (As a result our social worker asked us this week if we had any advice for another couple who are about to take on a young sibling group of three, so that they would be able to better guide and support the family). There were no in-depth, open and personal discussions or accounts from the social workers around the difficulties of bonding and how the first few months may look feel like. From the beginning we persevered with routines, boundaries, homework and 'normal family life'. Our intentions were pure, as we wanted to try and maintain the stability that we saw the girls have with their foster carer. We knew about parenting in an empathic and understanding way, but it was all theory to us. When faced with a behavioural difficulty, on top of sleep deprivation, we simply reverted to a reward-punishment style in the hope that it would work.

Whilst trying to maintain a 'normal family life' on top of settling three children into our home, I began to feel as though I was failing, failing as both a person and a mommy. Questions of 'why this wasn't coming together as I had imagined it' and 'can I carry on' haunted me and I believe at my lowest point I faced Post Adoption Depression (PADS). I can recall my social worker trying to bring the subject up with me and I responded by shutting her down. Surely someone like me, who chose to take on three, who can do it all, who can keep going would not, could not, be labelled with depression?!

So what has happened to challenge my perspective?

I have weekly visits from our post adoption social worker and I have built a comfortable and open working relationship with her. I have been open in my struggles, both emotionally and practically and, as an adopter herself, I feel as though she truly understands. We have talked through a mass of information and this has helped unearth some baggage. She has literally been by my side when faced with behavioural difficulties to talk me though the best approach. This has then led me to feel more confident, that with time and practice, I will be able to parent in a calmer and more empathic manner. 

I have been seeing a counsellor over the past few weeks and although it is early days, I feel that this too can help answer some of the more deep-rooted issues that have affected my ability to bond.

The Adoption Order being granted has helped me to feel secure in the fact that these are our children, they will not be going back to birth family and I am free to bond. The weight of uncertainty and our lives being in someone else's hands has been lifted. 

Through talking to other adopters and the professional team working with me, I can see that my expectations were way way too high and my perception of how family life would look like were unrealistic. I have opened my eyes to the fact that I probably did have PADS at my lowest point and that's okay, it doesn't make me a weak person.

I am now adopting an attitude of managing the day in sections, I can't do it all, I'm not 'Supermommy' and I MUST accept all offers of help - even when the mother-in-law wants to do our washing! If I get cross and shout it doesn't mean I am nominating myself for the worst mommy of the year award. I must forgive myself, apologise and move on.

 I have made Wednesdays 'My day', this means that I don't want to talk about anything adoption related. While the kids are at school and nursery I take some time out for me to have a mid-week recharge and an opportunity to care for myself. In preparation for childbirth I have invested in some relaxation material that I am finding useful day to day to use to take me to place of calm and rest.

Although I am feeling more positive that things are coming together I still feel vulnerable. It very much feels like hard work to stay in the above mindset and to challenge my feelings throughout the day. What keeps me going? The commitment that I have made to my children. My husband, family and friends who are at times carrying me through. The hope one day that this will all be completely behind me and that I may be able to help others.

It has taken me an hour to write this post and, although the kids are still upstairs, I can hear singing and floor boards creaking - so I better leave it there for now and get breakfast ready.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

The call we have been waiting for...

Since early December it has been unclear as to whether birth parents are contesting the Adoption Order and, although their circumstances have not changed and there was little chance of the judge ruling in their favour, it was still a weight that we were carrying around.

At the end of January the judge did indeed rule in our favour and the Adoption Order was made. Hearing this news was positive, however, as my husband explained the outcome, I could feel that there was a 'BUT' coming. The 'BUT' was that birth parents could appeal! This was not something had been explained to us and as a result, we could not help but feel let down by the girls' Social Worker. We also felt let down by the court system for allowing birth parents this chance. It almost seems cruel to offer the possibility to parents that they could get their birth children back when nothing had changed in their lives and the children have been told that they have a new mommy and daddy and a whole new future!

 On Friday we got the call that we have been waiting for...

The courts phoned my husband to arrange our Celebration Day! When my husband phoned me to get my view on which date would suite us best I felt excited, relieved and keen to get the date booked in.

I was a little taken back, but pleasantly surprised by my feelings. As some of you will be aware I am struggling to parent. It is not all coming naturally to me and the emotions that I thought would be instinctive, have not been.

I have given some thought as to why I am feeling excited about the prospect of the Celebration Day and I believe the feelings come from the thought of them becoming legally ours. We will no longer need to answer to a Social Worker in the same way that we are now. We will be freer to make decisions concerning their needs, welfare and future. They will not have the label of being 'looked after children' and will have been given a permanent home. They will take on our surname and have asked to be called by the middle names that we chose together. My hope is that we will be able to breathe and relax more into the 'normality' of family life.

We have yet to explain to the girls about the Celebration Day. I think there is a part of me that is waiting before we involve them in the preparation just in case the courts have got it wrong and in fact birth parents have appealed and we need to sit through another court date before we can move forward.

So, if all goes according to plan, our court date has been scheduled for early April, which will fit nicely with celebrating a year since the girls arrived. I have started to think about what we will wear, whether I can get away with buying new outfits or to recycle a current one. We are also thinking about how we will celebrate afterwards, both as a family of five and with our nearest and dearest. 

Thank you to everyone out there, both people known to me and those who are not, who have offered kinds words and encouragement. Also to those who have shared their stories in a hope that it will spur us on and to think logically and positively.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Still in one piece!

I am writing this blog as I sit at the kitchen table painfully trying to remain calm whilst my middle daughter struggles with her math homework and my youngest scribbles all over her art pads rather than colour the pictures in. I am torn in my reactions towards my middle daughter as I can remember crying over my math homework and to this day I will try and avoid any form of calculation!

Anyway, the purpose of this blog is to reflect upon the half term week. We have made it and it has actually gone better than expected. Sure there have been moments where I have wanted to scream and run them down to the school in a blind panic but I learnt from the summer holidays that as a family we need to have activities to do, we need to be out of the house and most importantly we need to have fun!

So I made the decision to put the housework on hold and to schedule a fun-packed week. Over the week we have spent time with family and friends, going out for lunch, visiting soft play areas and parks, baked cookies (and ate them), watched films and squeezed in a little homework. I must admit I am not a fan of homework during the holidays, I personally think that kids need to have some time where they can switch off and play! 

I felt that it was just as important for me to have some fun and make some space for me to relax and recharge. Early on in the week I met with three lovely adopters and their children, whilst being pushed and shoved by the countless kids running around the soft play area we tried to catch up without spilling our coffee over the little ones. Mid-week I escaped the bedtime routine and went out for a meal with a friend - I always find our time together lifts my spirits as we have a good old natter!

 As it was the half term we thought it would be a good idea to move the youngest into the girls' bedroom to make way for the pending arrival. Well that is the last time we have a good idea!! We knew that she would be excited and that the first few nights may be full of giggles and silly behaviour. However, I think we underestimated how much the stress levels would rise by the kids not settling down until 9pm and last night it reached an all-time low of 11pm. As a result we have decided that her move can wait and that she can move back into her own room. Hopefully normal bedtime routines can resume tonight and we can have a restful night too.

So all that is left to do now is to complete the dreaded math homework (which my husband has now taken over), dig out the school uniforms, pack the lunches, bath the kids and put them to bed and life can resume as normal.

Thank you to all my family and friends who have supported me through this week, who have encouraged me, fed us and helped me with the practical tasks - much appreciated.

Friday, 7 February 2014

A Year On...

This post has been written for The Adoption Social, this week’s theme is ‘A Year On’. #WASO         

This time last year my husband and I would have probably just got home from work and eaten our dinner sat in front of the T.V. We would have been planning and discussing the meetings that were taking place between our social worker and the girl’s social worker to discuss our suitability as possible parents for them. We would have been getting excited, planning their rooms, thinking about how our lives would change for the better and putting the finishing touches to the welcome book.

Well, nearly a year on and we have three little girls upstairs settling down for bed. To say it has been interesting and challenging is an understatement. Relaxed dinners in front of the T.V. are few and far between. Lie-ins and weekends away are no longer part of our lives. I don’t think anything could have prepared us for the change that was, and is still, going on in our lives. In hindsight I think we were idealistic and naive about adopting a sibling group of three. I think I thought I was superwoman, that I would be able to cope with anything, have bundles of energy and would have the patience of a saint. WELL, I couldn’t have been more wrong!! Ha! Having said all that I believe we made the right decision to bring them into our family and they do bring light and laughter into our home (sometimes).

A year on from now, where do I hope we will be?

God willing we will have four children, three girls and one boy. I hope that as I continue to receive the support I am currently seeking that it will enable me to become a happier, more relaxed and playful mother. I hope I will be able to give myself a break, expect less and laugh more. I want to be able to let the little things go and focus on what’s important.

It will be interesting to review this post in a year and see if I have been able to achieve the goals that I would like to – Here’s to the next 12 months! 

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Game of Limbo anyone?

Friday morning my husband and I glared into the roaring fire. Sitting side by side we could barely utter a word.

The day had arrived.

Birth family were in court appealing the decision for the adoption order to be made.

Our stomach's churned, we felt so anxious, so helpless, so out of control.

We watched the clock, waiting for the hearing to begin.

We tried discussing holiday options, birthdays and anything else nice that we could think of. However, it did not shake the nerves.

As the morning rolled on my husband left for work and I went to pick up our youngest from nursery. As my phone vibrated I anxiously slide my finger across the green line. "Hello", I said nervously. It was my hubby ringing with an update. He said "Do you want the good news or the not so good news?" My heart sank. What had gone wrong? Had the court date been postponed again?

The adoption order had been made - Phew!! So what was the 'not so good news?' Birth
family could still appeal the Order!! WHAT??!!! Neither of us could believe it. This hadn't been explained to us.

Later on that day I spoke to the courts. A nice woman explained to me what would happen next and tried to reassure me that things are moving forward and that the family may not even appeal. Our paperwork can still be processed and a Celebration Day date can be penciled in to the court's diary.

I wanted to relax, to switch off and celebrate. However, it all feels too early.

We are now in a position where we are waiting to hear if the family will lodge an appeal and. if they do, we will have to sit through another court date and wait for another judge to make a decision.

The whole process seems unfair, drawn out and unnecessary. I'm all for the birth family having rights and a chance to change and to have their birth children returned to them. But surely not after their children have been given a new family and told that this is forever.

To top it off the girl's social worker was not able to attend court and is away for the next week. So we are not able to talk this through with her or have any direct contact with the team.

So the waiting game continues at least for another week, but this could stretch for another month or so. We will continue to bond and care for these children with this cloud of uncertainty hanging over us.