My Adoption Astonishments one year on…

I was never a really maternal type. I relished my freedom and independence, waiting until my 40th birthday to even think about the idea of putting down any permanent roots. My mother always likes to tell me that I absolutely loved being a child and was in no rush to grow up.

When we started out on the long journey to becoming adoptive parents (seems like a lifetime ago) I wasn’t able to fully realise in my head what that would be like. It was more a very pleasing idea… I pictured a sort of Little House on the Prairie relocated into urban city life, with me baking cakes while a beautiful child gurgled appreciatedly in a highchair nearby (wooden naturally).
Yes. Astonishingly I thought I could carry on my day to day life with minimal disruption despite the addition of an infant! – I don’t think I need to explain into how ridiculous this idea was  ..But I didn’t realise it.

We stumbled clumsily through the assessment process causing ructions for openly admitting to harbouring no lasting grief or loss over our lack of a natural conception. Hmm… at this point we started to wonder whether truth was the best course of action as we had entered into the process out of curiosity and with a feeling that as we were happy with each and had a lot of love to give, adoption was the obvious thing to do. A no brainer. This was met with disbelief from officials and I began to wonder what a “typical” adopter was.

Looking back, I had no real idea of what we were getting ourselves into, and if someone had tried to tell me, I wouldn’t have had the capacity to understand. A good example being when parents attempted to inform us of the tiring and relentless nature of the role, I couldn’t comprehend what this actually meant until I was in fact a parent dealing with the 24/7 routine of it. At that point yes, it was astonishingly tiring, but the really astonishing thing is that there was nothing else I would rather have been doing! – Yes I missed the freedom of lounging around but if I tried to have a break and do these things I found I desperately wanted to be with my daughter.

The first astonishing shock came with a part of the process called Introductions. At this point everything becomes very real very quickly and you’d better be prepared to hit the ground running because astonishingly there is no real preparation for what is essentially a massive mind warp and then some.

I will never forget walking into the living room of the home where we met our daughter for the very first time. We had seen photos and knew she was a 14 month old baby girl with a big smile, but she was so beautiful and shy and gorgeous as she tiptoed around her foster father’s legs holding on and peeking shyly out at us that it literally took my breath away. Surely I wasn’t going to be allowed to look after this beautiful, miraculous creature? Secretly I did not feel worthy. It’s such a big deal promising to bring a child up well and properly. What if I messed it up and ruined her? I wavered between loving her so much I wanted to run away with her there and then, to having horrible detached moments when I felt … well, not very much, and couldn’t really fathom who she was, who I was any more or what we were doing in that strange environment. In retrospect much of this was down to fatigue. The emotional mind bending fatigue of driving 5 hours to stay in a strange town, to meet a strange (to us at that point) new individual, to be scrutinised under a blinding spotlight for ten days while trying to behave perfectly in front of people who knew way more than we did about caring for a child we were about to take away from them…  Stressful doesn’t come close. My husband took it all in his stride like the calm focussed individual he is while I melted onto the floor in front of him. I hadn’t been prepared to have to process quite so much so quickly and if I was panicking about my ability now, how could I possibly make a sincere promise not to mess it up? I felt so stupid, like a lightweight who had somehow slipped through the net and should have been weeded out much much earlier on in the process.

I got through it with the help of my supportive level headed partner who was able to keep reminding me that we were in a highly charged situation and that  things would normalise in our own home; and the heart melting moments of sheer joy I spent getting to know my beautiful little girl who had already been through so much. When i look back, my heart breaks for all of us involved in that profoundly difficult situation. The foster mother giving up so much, me, shuddering and splintering under the pressure of trying to be both perfect and normal in a highly abnormal situation, my husband trying to learn to be father while looking after everyone else, and in the middle of it all a beautiful, open, joyful little girl trying to transition from one world to another. Like I said, stressful does not even come close.

The final hand over from foster parent to us the adoptive parents was also astonishing. “No hanging around” we were told by the social workers. “10 minutes tops… A quick hand over is the best way for everyone”. So this beautiful girl was simply put into my arms in the street by a wide eyed foster mum who’s only concession to the feelings she was hiding was to grip my arms, look into my eyes and plead quietly “She’s very special, please take good care of her”. Another social worker nudged me out of this loaded eye lock so I could quickly sign a legal document against the side of the car – as  though I was doing something as mundane as buying a car! Then we were gone, off to another city miles and miles away.

Five hours later and we were home. No longer just a couple, but a family.

The blossom was out in the park opposite us and We stepped blinking in the sun holding our beautiful new daughter and somehow remembered to take some photos of the moment. Things had changed forever.
SInce then?
Well, it’s been astonishing. Firstly, the love.
The depth, the width, the sheer enormity of it is yes, astonishing! It has overwhelmed me. I had no idea I could love like that! Where did it come from? It’s like it was hidden in me somewhere and she has allowed it to come leaping out at hundred miles an hour! A massive intoxicating love affair that nothing else in my life has come close to. I love our daughter so much that it literally takes my breath away.  Sometimes I hear my husband gasp in wonder, or whisper “unbelievable” when we check on her before bed because SHE IS JUST SO ASTONISHING TO US! And she is growing and thriving like Jack’s bean stalk in front of our eyes. We can practically hear and see her body and brain expanding by the minute like some some sort of time lapse photography of a plant blooming. It is fascinating, Awesome; and I am so thankful and grateful that I am here with her to witness it.

It’s not straightforward of course. Like all the best things in life, there are also difficulties, doubts and more worries than I dare to go into just now. I have always been a worrier but this with all the complexities it brings, has cranked it up to another level entirely. I also feel about a hundred years older than I did this time last year just before Introductions, but in exchange I have the most wonderful astonishing new daughter who I could listen to and watch for ever. She fills me up. I don’t believe in God. I do however believe in wonder, and the joy of life and so far, she has brought more joy, happiness and wonder than I know what to do with. It’s a no brainer and i would do it all over again in a heartbreart.

Chitter Chatter

So, she runs about in a frenzy of joy when I get home from work, careering into the sofa and bouncing off it into the love seat and back again, like a deranged pinball hitting the buffers. Which is nice.

Once she carried my slippers to me, struggling slightly, with a beaming smile on her face. I crumpled to a heap on the floor with love. I said “That’s all very well, but where’s my pipe?”.

No I didn’t. But I did think about it. As much as she is progressing, I’m not sure we’re onto irony just yet.

It used to be a struggle to understand the grunts and groans; now she says “done a fartie” and laughs her head off.

She is developing new ways to communicate every day, not just new phrases like “Dadda do it” when she wants me to fix something, or “sit over there Dadda” (oddly in a Scottish accent) when she wants to pile her doggies on top of me and restrict the airflow to my lungs, which for some reason also makes her laugh – does this bode ill for the future? –  but new facial expressions. “Do The Face”, we say and she tips her head down, furrows her brow, pouts her lips and fixes us with a stare that could freeze fire.  Then giggles.

But it’s the singing that really gets me. “Winkle, winkle idel dar, ara under wadda ar” runs strangely aptly in into “Dom Dom a bisons on, ole a pig an away erun” which segues seamlessly  into “Eels ona bus gwown an wown”.

I didn’t know eels were allowed on public transport.

So it’s all good. Vocabulary increasing, personality developing, sense of humour – check.

But now at bedtime instead of fifteen minutes of hugging and falling asleep on my shoulder, and a sleepy “I wuvu” as I close the door, it’s “Bed now, Dadda” and not bothering to remove the mum-mum (pacifier) for a goodnight kiss.

I miss the baby bum-shuffling, I miss the brain-frying  annoyance of her pressing the foot of the “happy and you know it clap your hands” squeaky-voiced, American-accented Teddy singing repeatedly until I really do want to smash it to bits with a large hammer, I miss having to pick her up to go anywhere, dammit.

But I’m loving the new little girl that’s taken her place, with her sophisticated “Flapper” haircut, her clear unfettered joy as she models a new flowery outfit that Mummy bought, a lovely little girl who thinks farting is funny and takes my hand – that’s a first – to drag me into the garden to show me the scary ant.

I interviewed someone for a job this morning. They were terrible, sadly. But if they had sung me “dom, dom a bisons on”, I would have hired them on the spot.

things i lost when I became a mother

  1. My heart. To a little man who entered our lives as a ten month old. It has made my heart burst. The love for my husband has grown with this new love too. It didn’t happen overnight, but snug up on me with a force that I have never known.
  2. Sleep. Lots of it. Undisturbed sleep. Lie-ins.  I do miss that. But the beaming early morning smile of a loved one makes up for it in an instance.
  3.  Ambition. Really. Much to my surprise. Work just isn’t as important as the generations of working women before us brought us up to believe it was.
  4. My dignity – especially dance-related. It is now nearly impossible to pass any street music with a good beat. With or without my son.
  5.  Weight! I lost a lot of weight. Wiipee! But sadly it is back on.
  6. Overview of how much laundry I do in a week.
  7. A transition toy. Or two. My sons favourite soft toys for bedtime and comfort. Yes the two first were bought consequtively, propelled by stress. And we then bought five, yes f.i.v.e. Don’t ask how many we have left. We are unreliable.
  8. My memory. Or rather the ability of hold certain information. My brain is all used up on thinking about important stuff, such as bringing diapers and a change of clothes to the playground, snack times, preparing food etc etc.
  9. My patience. Yes, sorry. But sometimes toddler play is boring. And very. Very. Repetitive.
  10. Time. Time for dithering, and empty chatter.
  11. Dietary variety. Spaghetti with tomato sauce with my all time favourite food. It would be my last meal of earth. I love pasta. But I am getting a wee bit tired of it.
  12. Privacy. Loo privacy. My son, who is potty training, will now applaud me when I have a wee. And I like it!
  13. Filters. Especially relating to speaking of bodily fluids. And worse still: solids. How did ‘pooh’ become a subject of conversation? Of interest?
  14. My keys! But found them again. Phew. The stress.
  15. Count. Of a lots of things. Time spend watching diggers in action; times I’ve push a swing; of nappy changes; of colds, of sleepless nights; of cuddles and giggles.

Has it been worth it? YES!!