This week I had the amazing opportunity to speak to an adoption preparation group at the local council where we embarked upon our journey to parenthood. It was an honour to have been invited to speak to the group but at the same time reliving our journey to adoption really brought back the memories and highs and lows of the process. It also hit me right between the eyes just how bloody far we have all come since the boys have been placed with us in just 6 months.
In my usual style of being prepared and wanting things to go well I made sure I had done my homework. I sat down and wrote out the chronology of our adoption journey. From the first thoughts of becoming fathers, exploring surrogacy and then deciding to embark upon adoption. It wasn’t until I sat down quietly in the kitchen one sunny afternoon to write this out did the immense task and hard work we had put in really come to light again.
We forget how much the process demands. We forget how many emotions you explore as you go through the soul-searching and cathartic reflection of exploring your own childhood, your own memories and family traditions and the tough times you have dealt with in life that make you that little bit more resilient. The timeline flowed and soon I was reliving the whole process, which let’s face it, after only 6 months is still very much in our recent memory. Remembering little moments and deep thought-provoking discussions brought a smile to my face as I sat there writing whilst our wonderful boys were out playing in the garden. What seems like an age ago suddenly felt really recent and raw again. The information flowed and then I had to make sense of it all and think how on earth can I discuss this in front of a room full of strangers?
Remembering how we felt in our stage one preparation training and just how useful we found the real adopters speaking I didn’t want to let the side down and felt this looming pressure to perform well. Ridiculous I know but the process and social workers had been so good to us I had this deep-seated desire to pay them back by doing this.
I gathered my notes, created a folder of photos of the boys on the iPad and put the welcome books we had created for them in my rucksack – ready to share all. The time had come to leave the house and off I trotted full of excitement and a real sense of anticipation. I found myself strangely nervous on the journey to the venue. What was wrong with me? I should be used to this having presented in front of hundreds of people at corporate events over the years surely presenting in front of 10 people would be a doddle?
This however had a different meaning. It was so much more worthwhile, it had so much more meaning than your usual corporate presentation as I knew and remembered just how life-changing the process was for everyone taking part. What I now considered important in life had changed and my priorities were now to help others know what it is really like – and I had placed this undue pressure on myself to do well.
As per usual I arrived way too early so decided to have a coffee over the road. BANG – this brought back a real sense of déjà-vu. This was the venue where we had been for our Approval Board and in our usual fashion of never being late we too had arrived early and grabbed a coffee over the road – being able to see the wonderful but intimidating town hall building across the way. I was instantly taken back to that special day on 10th October 2016 and it made me smile whilst also having butterflies in my stomach. I was reliving it all over again.
The time had come to present myself ready for duty. I suddenly got a dry mouth and had all these thoughts in my head. ‘What if I freeze up? What if I make a fool of myself? What if I totally put them off by stating the hard times we have had?’ Then a little voice chirped in my head – just remember what it felt like to be in that room so early on your adoption journey. Just remember how you found the adopters talks the most worthwhile part of the process and just be yourself!
I was taken to the room, but of course it wasn’t just any room. Only the bloody full council chamber room that we had been sat in, around a large table for our approval panel! BANG – there I was again reliving it all – this time with a smile on my face, remembering the emotion and hope of that special day.
I walked into the room and was met with a group of smiles with that look of wonderment and anticipation that I remembered oh so well. Next up was me and the social workers put a chair right in the middle for me – great now the nerves really kicked in.
The next hour flew by like a breeze I didn’t actually need to refer to my notes much as writing it all out had cemented the timelines and details in my head. What I wasn’t prepared for was the emotion that I felt. I hadn’t really told our whole story from start to finish before, just snippets and parts of it. This was the whole shebang. I handled the first bit ok and then I got to the point when we met the boys for the first time at the activity day.
‘And then the door opened and in walked the boys.’ Crikey here come the tears! As I recounted that special magic day I was overtaken by my emotions and totally filled up. Darn it. I had said to myself I wouldn’t get emotional in front of a group of strangers and here I was now having to look away and take a breath to stop myself crying! It took me right back to that wonderful life-changing moment when we capped eyes on them in person for the first time. Not a photo but real actual little people with cute smiles and amazing personalities.
I carried on recounting the day and held it together quite well. I went through the process, matching and house preparations and had this excitement within me as if I was there living it all again. Then it came to introductions – uh oh – that moment when the boys opened the door at the foster carers for the first time and shouted Dad! I was off again, this time tears rolling down my face. I must have looked like such a dick but again I was there reliving it. At least it showed I was a human and I had feelings.
The rest of the talk went without tears and we were back on track. On reflection the one area I wish I had done differently was to have focused more on life with the boys since, not just the challenging times but the wonderful amazing times. Some of this came out but not enough as I ran out of time. The session ended with me sharing photos, introduction books and then the social workers left the room to allow for some questions. The group were lovely and they all had this excited anticipation in their questions. Oh how I remember that feeling being sat there at the start of our journey.
So that was it, I hope I did ok and I hope I represented the process, the council and the joys of adoption well. If anything, it was wonderful for me to revisit the process and progress as we can quite often forget how we go to where we are now.
Of late I have been really hard on myself and I have been feeling low again over the past few weeks. When times are tough at home I have found myself back mourning the life we had previously and asking what have we done? I forget all the amazing things that have happened since the boys moved in and the love and joy they bring to us each and every day. The laughter, the fun and the curiosity that only two boys aged 4 and 6 can possess. Doing the presentation at the prep group had actually worked as a wake up call for me. ‘Look at what you have got right now, look at how well the boys have done in this short space of time and don’t be so hard on yourself.’
Only this week we received eldest son’s report from year 1.
To think that when he moved in books were not part of his life, he couldn’t really read and didn’t want to read. Now just look at him! He not only now wants to read, not one but two books a night from school, he enjoys all four of us sitting down and listening as he reads. I have started reading Roald Dahl to him and trying to capture his amazing imagination. He passed his Year 1 phonics assessment and has made great progress in his maths and writing. If you had asked me 6 months ago I would not have believed this would have been possible. I know life is not all about academic achievement and I know it’s only a small part of the development and transition he has done with us but I can’t start to tell you how deeply proud I am of him for what he has done. He has had a tough life, has been moved from pillar to post yet he has applied himself in a way I hadn’t deemed possible. You go son and you keep on making those small steps at your pace.
Recounting our story and having this amazing opportunity to share it with prospective adopters has only cemented further in my head the feeling of just how precious you both are to us and just how wonderful our family is becoming.