Thursday, 27 October 2016

Things I wish we had known...

As most of you are aware we adopted a sibling group of three girls back in April 2013. Since then, the adoption of our youngest daughter has broken down earlier this year. To say that the last three years have been a roller coaster would be an understatement.

I have been thinking for awhile now about what I wish I had known before we had adopted and the things I have learnt over the last few years. I'm not sure it would have made a difference to our decisions if someone had told us what is in the information below, probably not, we would still have gone ahead and adopted.

I am not saying adoption is the right or wrong path to venture down. I certainly do not know it all, but I feel as though I need to share my thoughts thus far.

I wish that we had not taken on three children at once. It has proved far too much for us. Trying to care for three small individuals who have differing personalities, responses and memories is a daily struggle. The social worker carrying out our assessment would describe some of the behaviours that we may be met with when our children lived with us, my husband and I would nod along and agree that we would be able to manage. Better than manage, that we could change these little people, help them to recover, for them to be able to leave their pasts behind and begin anew with the love that we would shower them with. How wrong were we to see things from this angle. As a social worker said to me recently, "you can't change a child's early experiences and how it has affected them". It is a life-long battle that they must undertake when they are ready and even then, the battle may not be won. This is extremely frustrating because when you are a caring human being you just want to help. The feeling of being annoyed and helpless can be a daily occurrence.

I wish social services had spent more time looking at how we would manage taking on three children. Yes, looking at trauma and the effects on the brain and behaviours are important. But what does that actually look like 24 hours a day? How do you live with that every hour of every day? What's that like to be around and not be able to go home at the end of the day? Answer: at times the emotions are suffocating, agonising and frustrating. Which opens up another question, how are you going to deal with these feelings? The answer to that question is not so easy to find.

On the other hand, how can anyone know what it's like beforehand to not fall in love with a child that they presumed they would, to deal with food going missing from the cupboards, hair being cut in secret, the tantrums from older children because you have asked them to wear a coat as it's raining outside. Clothing and toys that they have been bought destroyed weeks, if not months, later and little understanding or remorse shown. The lies that constantly fall out of their mouths. This has probably been one of the hardest challenges for me. These may seem like small and insignificant things (they probably are) but when you are faced with them everyday (ten times a day) can you still see them as insignificant? We struggle to!

I wish my expectations had been lower (much lower), of myself and of my children. My mom helped me to see recently that I have always been an individual to see things fairly black and white when it comes to doing right and wrong. I was one of those people who saw a child being naughty and couldn't for the life of me understand why a parent would be so relaxed or not initiating some suitable punishment. I say I used to be one of those people, as having children is helping me to realise that it's not that simple. Kids will do what they want, regardless of how many times you explain to them not to. Rather than bark orders at times most of the time, I wish I could come along side my girls and help them, even with the smallest of tasks e.g. put their clothes away and putting empty wrappers in the bin. Simple, normal daily tasks that a mother should want to do, right?

It recently dawned upon me more and more that we adopted as we wanted to have a family. We knew the girls and had fallen 'in love' with them from a distance and saw this as a wonderful opportunity. Therefore, when they came to live with us, I especially needed something from them, I needed to feel loved and wanted, I wanted what most birth mothers have with their children, a bond, a deep deep love that is unshakeable. That, sadly, has not been my/our experience to date. It was my sister who reminded me that our main reason to adopt was to start a family, not to make a huge sacrifice in our lives for three girls whose past has had such an impact, that it would significantly change any future relationships. Yes, our hearts were in the right place, but we had not realised that the girls would see things differently, that they did not necessarily want us initially, that their needs were not perfectly aligned with what we were able to offer.

The importance of self care and time out - I still struggle with this one. I understand the point of it and I have plenty of ideas on how to do it. However, I never seem to feel relaxed and re-charged. What I am trying to say is that whilst it is important, it has rarely been the wonderful freshener that I have needed.

Along similar lines is the importance of not trying to accomplish everything. I have the tendency to feel as though I am failing if I am not doing 'it all.' I am having to train myself that it is okay to leave the dirty dishes, help with homework another night, not get dressed until 11am and have chips for the third time that week as they cook quicker than rice!

The reality that your health may suffer - for some reason in the past I have struggled to see the link between the physical side effects of struggling emotionally. That has certainly changed since becoming an adoptive mommy and the struggles that we have endured. I am not ashamed to say that I have experienced post adoption depression and levels of anxiety, as a result needing anti-anxiety/anti-depressants to take the edge of most days. Seizures that I used to have as a teenager have returned due to what the doctors say was the stress and tiredness that I was under. If you had told me this would happen before they came to live with us I wouldn't have believed you. No way could caring for three beautiful children bring on ill health.

The above may seem like a negative list, I guess a lot of it is. The point I want to share is that if I/we had been more aware of the above then we may have been able to approach becoming adoptive parents differently and who knows we may not have encountered some of the difficulties that we have. I am aware that this is not every adopters experience, I can only share what I have experienced and learned.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Four months on.

It's been four months now since your youngest daughter, SB moved out. Since then there have been a range of activities and emotions.

The biggest question everyone seems to ask is, are the girls able to see each other? The answer is 'yes' and the hope is that this will continue. The girls share a connection that none of us want to break. SB will be part of our lives forever. Currently, the girls see each other at breakfast club before their school day begins and once a week their social worker takes them for some fun family time, which they all look forward to. SB is also seeing her grandparents and they are enjoying the time they spend together.

Over that time we have all experienced a range of emotions. I have to say that I am extremely proud of my older two girls and how well they have reacted to our new situation. Don't get me wrong, there have been tears, nightmares and questions. We have had those down times, where we wish we hadn't found ourselves in this situation. We have answered the girls questions the very best that we can, whilst being sensitive and loving.

SB is doing okay. Academically, she is excelling and she has always been a popular little girl, the party invites she receives are endless.  On her sports day, she won every single race and wore 5 medals with pride. Her foster carers appear to be meeting SB's emotional needs, which is something we were unable to do. They are enjoying days out together and have recently returned from a holiday. SB is settling well with her carers. I have seen her hand in hand with them skipping, she looks happy and that is wonderful to see. SB misses her sisters and I think this is the biggest challenge that SB is facing. I believe that if her siblings were to join her in her current home she would be happier. It does not appear that SB has/is missing my husband and I. While that may sound upsetting, it actually helps to see that we made the right decision, relationships were not being formed and this was influencing her emotional development, our health and our family dynamics.

Life at home is a much calmer and happier place to be. The chaos that used to exist has now simmered (we still have our moments), we are able to spend quality time as a family as the exhaustion that was, no longer is. We have enjoyed a trip to the coast over the May bank holiday, family films with plenty of popcorn, meals out, time with friends and just doing everyday life in the summer holidays has been much easier and the stress has reduced. A few of my family and friends have commented on how I seem more relaxed compared to a few months ago. People can see the difference and to be honest I can too. We are off on holiday next week and we hope to have fun, enjoy each others company and build more happy memories.

Relationships are complex, add in adoption and the complications go through the roof! I do not think I will ever understand why events have unfolded the way they have, especially as a Christian I struggle to understand why God would allow this pain. However, I have to rise above these thoughts and trust that there is a bigger picture, one I can not see from down here. I have to be thankful that my husband and I were able to be strong and make the right decision for everyone in our family.

To date we have had two reviews of SB's care and the plan that we are pursing is for SB to be re-adopted. Our hope is that SB can grow up with a family who will be able to build a relationship with her and help her to grow into a beautiful, well rounded, emotionally stable adult. As some of you may know these plans don't happen quickly, but we hope and pray that for SB's sake she will be re-settled soon in a family who can provide her with all her needs.

Thank you again to our family and friends who have propped us up and provided emotional and practical support to all of us. We love you.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Candy Box

For months now our eldest daughter MB has been enjoying watching children's baking programmes on her iPad. She is especially interested in grand cake designs (the ones with lots of sweets on them).

We have been meaning for awhile to bake together, the task ahead always feels too much. I feel safer baking a banana and chocolate loaf cake (safe but boring). So today while daddy is busy decorating we decided to have a bash at making a candy box cake.

MB choose the cake design and as we were heading out the door to buy paint and emulsion we made a mental list of the ingredients needed. Pushing the trolley around our local supermarket we pilled the items in.

Once home we realised that we had forgotten one or two ingredients, but oh well as usual we will be fine improvising.

MB did most of the baking under my beady eye. While we waited for the cakes to cool, the girls could hardly contain their excitement. The thought of eating the cake and sweets was intensifying.

After two attempts of making butter icing and four batches we were ready to decorate (I was loosing the will to carry on at this point), we sandwiched the cakes together and quickly popped into the fridge and prayed it would stick together. Once ready MB and her sister worked nicely together (I'm pleased to say), to choose and place the sweets on.

It was nice to spend some time doing an activity that MB has wanted to do for awhile and in the meantime making it a fun girly time. 

Here is a picture of the cake.... be kind it's our first attempt :)  Hopefully this will be the first of many, no rush though!

Candy Box

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Family Disruption...

In September I wrote about an up and coming assessment with a psychologist, Amanda. This was to enter the next phase of support in building a relationship with our youngest daughter, SB. We had a few sessions with Amanda. She is lovely, approachable and most importantly, understands attachment and the complexities surrounding it. However, despite the help and support, things were not getting any better at home.

For those that regularly read my blog, you will know from early on that my husband and I have struggled with adopting three children and not been able to build a bond with our youngest daughter. She, too, has not formed an attachment with us. Over the three years we have received intense support and things have improved, however, they have not improved enough and as a result we feel that SB is not receiving the emotional care that she needs. SB also has intense needs and being such a large family we were struggling to meet these on a daily basis. In hindsight, adopting three children was simply too much for us.

For the last two years we have discussed with the professional support around us the possibility of SB being better placed with carers who are able to give her the care and attention that she needs and deserves. The decision has been agonising to make and to be honest, I have often been too afraid to make it, for fear of what others may think and say and also that it may be the wrong choice. Being a Christian I was confused as to why God had allowed the girls to come and live with us, for it then to break down. Why would God allow such heartache, tears and sorrow? Over time and with the help of others including other Christian adopters who have dissolved (had an adoption breakdown) their adoptions, I have come to realise that often things don't make sense to us in the here and now. What is important is our hearts and attitudes towards God in the situation we are facing and then from that making the best decisions that are available to us at the time.

In January we both finally came to the decision that SB should move to a home with carers that could provide for her emotional needs as well as her physical ones. After three months of planning and meetings, SB has moved to her new home. It is still early days so the emotions and feelings around SB moving are raw and present for everyone involved.

Moving forward our hope is for SB to have all her needs met, for her to be loved and cared for so that she can grow and blossom. SB will continue to have contact with her siblings, friends and various family members.

We have been fortunate to have spoken to other adopters who have had to dissolve their adoptions due to various circumstances. Hearing their stories has provided us with guidance, strength and hope.  My wish is that our journey and experiences can be used to help others who may find themselves in a similar situation to ourselves.

We appreciate that some will question how we could have made this decision, however we do believe that we have made it with our family's best interests at heart. Our plan is to take time to heal as a family and to take each day at a time. I hope to keep blogging as we parent our other children.

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank those of you that have provided us with unconditional love and support both emotionally and practically. Even when you may have not agreed or understood our decisions you have still showed us kindness and love. For that we are forever grateful. x