We Are Family asked the questions and The Quirky Parent answered!
Q) Why did you choose adoption, and why international?
A) When I was heavily pregnant with my son and slobbed on the sofa one evening, I accidentally caught a programme on the TV about Chinese orphanages that cared for children given up as a result of the one child policy. There and then I said to myself, I am not going to create my second child from scratch. I am going to adopt one of those children. I never ever let go of that feeling and determination. I have sometimes wondered if it was because I was flooded with ‘maternal’ pregnancy hormones at the time I watched it!
Q) From start to finish of process – i.e. (bringing your child home) – how long did it take?
A) Three years, from the very first interview to being handed our child when she was 10 ½ months old. It now takes six or seven years to adopt from China because most babies, I believe, are being adopted within the country – which is so much better. When we left China with our daughter, it felt like an act of love but also a wrench, taking her away from her country, culture and language. But at the time, I don’t think there was a better option for her.
Q) How did you find the assessment process?
A) We found the home study relaxed, enjoyable and thought-provoking due to our supportive and insightful social worker. There was something almost therapeutic about being asked to think and talk about your childhood, your relationship, your attitudes, your social networks and everything else it covers! There was a mountain of bureaucracy at the Chinese end, but it was a well-trodden and straightforward path.
Q) How do you think it could be improved?
A) Our particular adoption panel was scarey and intimidating with some slightly aggressive questioning – worse than any job interview I’ve ever had, worse than being in the boardroom on The Apprentice! I didn’t feel this approach was appropriate and I’m sure it doesn’t get the most open or useful answers from people.
Q) What has been the biggest surprise?
A) How incredibly well-matched my daughter and I are. This will sound a bit bonkers but it was as if there was some sort of magic at work! They say that in the ‘matching room’ in China they match the babies and parents – bizarrely – by which baby looks most like the father! I don’t know if this is true, but I do know that my daughter and I are incredibly similar in lots of ways. This gives our relationship an ease and an extra-special something.
Q) What advice would you give to prospective adopters?
A) Having adopted a baby, I think in many ways my adoption journey (so far!) has possibly been smoother than if I had adopted an older child, so I don’t feel in a position to give advice. But one of the adoption books I read before we adopted was The Primal Wound and this paragraph from it is something I always try to keep it in my head:
“The adoptive mother sees what looks like a normal baby, a baby who in many ways is normal, and later sees a laughing, happy toddler and she can’t believe that this baby is aching inside. But if she is really alert, if she is truly attuned to her child, she will notice the sadness, the pain, the fear. And in noticing, she will be better able to help the child to allow her to love her, and for her to love her in return.”
Q) The best thing about being a Mum?
A) Exploring the world with your children and seeing it afresh through their eyes. And feeling their hand in yours as you walk along.
Q) The hardest thing about being a mum?
A) Trying to keep your head above water in the constant whirlwind of parenting, work, house stuff, school stuff, rest-of-life stuff. Now is perhaps the hardest stage for me: I have a teenager (let’s not even go there!) and my daughter, now eight, seems to be at an age where the ‘grief’ and complicated feelings surrounding her adoption and birth parents seem to be intensifying.
Q) Your happiest moment?
A) Cliché, but holding my son for very the first time, holding my daughter for the very first time. Although the lead-up to each couldn’t have been more different, both times I entered a little, soft, blurry, muffled bubble of pure happiness.
Q) The saddest time that shook your world?
A) My dad dying unexpectedly and unecessarily. He was a tricky man and we had a complicated relationship. The death of a parent is such a jolt anyway, forcing you to face your mortality and grope around for meaning in life.
Q) If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?
A) Feel the fear and do it anyway. I wish I’d had the courage then to act on good ideas and opportunities more instead of taking the ‘safe’ option.
Q) The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child?
A) Find your passion in life and follow it. That’ll go a huge way to making you happy.
Q) The philosophy that underpins your life?
A) Don’t follow the crowd – unless the crowd is going the way you definitely want to go.