“I hope this feature does 2 things: reminds people that mothers have different stories and that adoption might be one of them and shows that adoption is an option and not one to be scared of.”
Catherine is Mum to Max and Sophie*, who moved in with her and husband James in January last year when Max was two and Sophie was 8-months-old.
Hi, Catherine. Thanks so much for talking to Mummy Social about adoption. Can I ask how long you had been thinking of adopting?
We started the process of training to be adopters in January 2017 and started thinking properly about it halfway through 2016 when IVF wasn’t going so well. We always wanted to have children but conceiving naturally wasn’t happening for us, we tried for about 5 years before seeing the doctor who referred us to the fertility clinic where we were offered IVF (ICSI) as our only option. We were lucky(?!) that our NHS trust offered three rounds and so we did all three but with no success. At the end of the three cycles we had three options: pay for more IVF at about £5k ago (but with not much chance of success), give up on having children, or adopt. We decided to go to an information evening on adoption in January 2018 (our last failed IVF being December 2016) just to see what it was all about (we’d heard bad things about the process) and we were both overwhelmed by feelings that we had found our path to children and handed in our expression of interest that very night.
How much of a shock to the system has it all been?!
It’s been a huge change! I have spent almost 40 years thinking pretty much about myself and to have suddenly two young children to care for who have been through trauma is a big thing. But the kids have been great and easy to look after. Probably the biggest thing for me was finding that everything takes planning, even just going to the swimming pool and I was used to being a bit spontaneous! Having two so young too means neither can be left alone so going from enjoying time alone to never, ever being alone was a big change. But I love it and them in a way I never thought you could love another human being (sorry husband). It has been overwhelming.
Do you feel get treated differently as an adoptive mum, on adoption leave, than you perhaps would if you were on maternity leave?
I do. I think other mums look at me in one of three main ways.
- The first being that I’m not really a new mum, I don’t have newborns and didn’t have to go through pregnancy and childbirth – lucky me. Well, it’s not really lucky. I would have given anything a short while ago to have had any sort of pregnancy and in place of pregnancy and childbirth, I had years of dwindling hope, three rounds of unpleasant IVF and a year of adoption assessment and all that’s not a walk in the park.
- The second being, she looks new to all this but her eldest is two, maybe she’s just clueless?
- And the third (when they know my children are adopted) is a real reluctance to get close in case my children are thugs ready to beat up their kids. They’re not, they are loving and gentle children who have had a tough start in life and it certainly doesn’t work that all adopted kids are rough and all biological kids are angels.
I think we all have to ask ourselves, what might that mother been through to get to today, be it an easy conceive, a long road, postnatal depression, loss, adoption and every other possible story because every mother has one and it’s probably not what you expect.
What has been the best part of the adoption adventure so far?
There are have been quite a few highlights but perhaps when we went to the foster carer’s to meet the children for the very first time and when we opened the door she asked our little boy who we were and he said ‘Mammy, Daddy’, that was the best feeling ever (I am welling up writing it). It was something we were never sure during our years of infertility anyone would ever call us and here he was ready to love us and accept us as his own.
And the hardest part?
The very hardest was the early part of training when you’re not sure if you are going to ‘pass’ and progress to the panel. It’s nerve-wracking when you have to convince a social worker who is delving into your personal lives that you are good potential parents. The next hardest part is seeing all the children you couldn’t adopt. There are thousands out there and you can only take one, two or maybe three.
How have your family and friends reacted to the new dynamic?
They have all been wonderful without exception. We’re lucky to have friends and family who understand what being in care and adoption means and why what we are doing is so important to these two tiny humans. I think the only shock for some was that we wanted children at all, we were quite secretive about trying and kept quiet when it wasn’t as easy as we’d hoped and then years passed and we didn’t really talk about having children because it was too hard and then we didn’t tell anyone about IVF again because its failures were too hard. So for some, it came out of the blue that we wanted children at all.
What would you say somebody reading this who might be considering adoption?
Go to an adoption evening! There are local authority ones and Voluntary Agency ones and they are the best way to get a feel for how they operate and how you gel with the staff there. It will give you some real information and from there, make a decision. Don’t rely on the internet or hearsay – it’s very probably wrong. Adoption UK is a good place to start for information, too. It’s a good website with lots of reliable reports and info.
*Names have been changed to protect identities.
Interview by Sarah Turner