Letterbox contact is here again…


Oh no – the pressure of having to do letterbox contact is here again!

Every six months, I feel the stress and pressure rise the closer it gets to letter box exchange.
It’s like going to the dentist to get a filling when all I’ve rather be doing is …. well…anything else. Absolutely anything else!
That feeling as the reminder letter arrives that it’s exchange month again.
The call to tell us the birth mother is fretting because the adoptive family of a sibling sent their letter on the first day of the month so where is our’s? – We still have a week to go… it’s been busy…… it’s still on the bottom of the to do list.

The emotional roller coaster

I don’t want to share details about my children with the birth family!

I don’t want to be reminded that they had them first!

I also don’t want to think about and be reminded of what they experienced while in their birth parents care. I already parent the result daily.

I don’t want to feel like I can’t gush about how much I love my children and how amazing they are, due to fear of causing upset and distress.

I don’t want some unknown social workers to be reading personal details about our children and our family.

It feels like that one last link is still there; which means despite paperwork to say we are their parents, they are still not quite completely ours.

I want to stop writing!

I really,really want to stop writing. If it was up to my husband we would never have started. But; I worry that my children will blame me later on when they are older and understand more about their life story if I stop.

I worry that by not having fairly current information on how the birth family are doing; as my children get older they might go in search of their birth parents before they are really prepared for a meeting, just to get information that they could easily have by continuing letter box exchange.

I feel bad for the vulnerable woman who is their birth mother and the loss she has already endured.

I feel pressured by the social workers who have to support the birth mother regularly as she bombards them for any info on how the children are doing. When we asked if we could reduce exchange to yearly, this was met with oppositional pressure from all levels within the department.

I look at our two most amazing children and feel a debt to my children’s birth mother for the chance I have to share their lives and have them call me mummy!

So here we go again!

I’ve just sent our 6 monthly letters. It took me 6 weeks to write them because it was a start and stop thing.

I’ve shared lots of superficial detail so she will feel a part of their lives even though I know she will never really know them like we do.

I realise this is a small thing to do that means the world to her and that she pressures the adoption contact team daily during exchange month, to find out if our letters have arrived.

I know she has constructed a fantasy in which she gave us our children and she believes one day they will come in search of her and want to be with her again. In reality; they were removed and it may be that they choose never to meet with her. It’s a big unknown.

I know that she will write back. That despite the challenge it is to her, she always makes a big effort…… I also know I should be grateful for this and that my children will appreciate the letters and cards we receive from her when they are older.

I’m aware that many birth parents are not able to respond to letter box exchange. That my children are fortunate in having current information and we can save every single response we get from our children’s birth mother and their birth family.

I find myself having to convince my children that it is their best interests that I write to their birth mother as they have recently started to question why I’m doing it as they understand more about the reasons they were adopted.

So when will it end???

I have taken the step to write and let her know that while our children are happy to share how they are doing with her, I will continue to write and support them. But if that changes; and that should they at a later stage decide they don’t want letterbox exchange to continue or they want to limit the information, we will prioritise and respect their choices.

I know that this will be upsetting for her and she will not really understand but, I felt she needed to be prepared.

I didn’t expect the social worker to call me after reading it and suggest that if the children decided they don’t want to do letterbox exchange in future, couldn’t we just do it anyway? Do the children need to know? Clearly we were not in agreement with this idea!

So when it ends, I do not know. Looks like were staying on the emotional roller coaster for quite some time to come.

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Dear Grandparents.

Dear Grandparents.

Being the birth mum it seems that people simply put all the blame on your daughter, even the birth dad gets overlooked by most – regardless of the obvious fact that he failed our sons just as much as a parent.

Somehow it seems that it is always the mothers inadequacies that are ultimately brought into question and she who has the finger pointed at her for her failings, regardless of the fact that in this case mum and dad were still together up until the children were removed and indeed beyond.

As unjust as it is I do get it, dads can have a horrible habit of sitting back and leaving it all up to the mother or worse still just walking away from their children, their responsibility. It’s then when the – often very capable and to be admired – mothers have to stand up to the plate and keep returning those balls no matter how fast and relentlessly they keep coming.

But not all mothers can manage and can you not see that your daughter was possibly set up to fail from way back, maybe even from the very start.

And fail she did – horribly, yet does the responsibility for the children being taken into Care really fall on her shoulders alone?

I read her report, I know that she didn’t have the best start to life herself. It seems that you failed her – failed to teach her what a parental role fully is, failed to instil the virtues and the sense of responsibility required. Maybe even failed to teach her love.

You failed her and in turn did you not then fail our sons and their siblings too?

Where were you when she was clearly struggling? Where were you when your grand children were hungry, dirty or left alone?

Where were you when social services stepped in?

She was little more than a child when she first became a mother, even if you had experienced similar failings in your upbringing, you would have had maturity and one would hope wisdom – surely you knew better.

I know that you lived locally, I’m pretty sure that you must have been aware of how bad things were getting and how your grandchildren were suffering.

Am I now fully pointing the finger of blame at you?

No and I apologise if it feels like that is so. Your daughter was an adult, she was married and had 5 children – she was responsible for herself and her family.

And maybe you did try, maybe you did step in and got pushed away, but nothing I have seen or heard suggests that was so.

So this is not about blame – after all what can blame possibly achieve? It’s just about recognition.

Recognition that the picture is in fact a much bigger one than many people see and recognition for your daughter who is simply not the ‘demon’ mother many now make her out to be and that maybe it is convenient for even you to buy into.

It may all have been beyond her ability, beyond her comprehension, and I guess she has paid the ultimate price for that and I’m sure she suffers every day.

However, I do wonder if you do too?

Dear birth daughter.

20160728_110457I’ll admit, love, that I’ve always found ‘the baby game’ irritating. The game you most often ask me to play with you, usually at the most inconvenient times. A game I didn’t really understand, or the fascination it held for you. At 10-years old, and nearly as tall as me, you’d want to be a helpless, mewling, wriggling little thing, while your adopted sister, although five years younger, was assigned the ‘teenage babysitter’ role or, if she protested too much, a twin baby to you, but one that was ‘smart’, and could ‘do more’ – the one that didn’t need so much attention.

I’d nearly always sidle off and you’d usually end up playing it yourselves, or I’d reluctantly agree to a quick (imaginary!) nappy change for you, before getting on with whatever it was that was more pressing. How could I miss something so blindingly obvious?

A decade before, you were my newborn, mewling baby – on my belly, eyes locked on mine and I’m tumbling down the rabbit hole. But, when your sister came, she was not the helpless newborn sibling that many of your friends had gotten used to in their lives. She was a wary, demanding, mercurial toddler – and as much a stranger to us as we were to her.

Believe me, the urge to parent again wasn’t, in any way, because you ‘weren’t enough’. In fact, it’s because you were, and are, so special that I was greedy for another chance to watch a life develop in front of my eyes – with all the joy, terror, responsibility and sense of fulfillment that brings. That, and, perhaps, not wanting you to remain an only child, as I am, whose ache for the siblings I never had only gets stronger as I get older.

We patted ourselves on the back that you seemed as enthused as we were about the possibility of another child joining our family. When our social worker had a private ‘assessment’ session with you, she felt you had the necessary self-confidence and personal esteem to handle it.

And it’s been three years now since your life changed irrevocably. The other day, dad found some video snippets we made in that heady, eight-day, introduction period with your new sister. Watching them again now, I’m struck by how much has changed – and some things that haven’t. You both look impossibly different – your front baby teeth are missing, you’re at least a foot shorter, and your face carries echoes of the round-faced, doe-eyed baby you were. There’s footage of the two of you bouncing on the bed in the cottage we rented for that week – when your sister got too close to the edge, you laughingly hauled her back; a game you still play to this day. Then there’s the film of you patiently helping her plug the gaps in an early years jigsaw puzzle…a metaphor writ large if ever there was one!

During the tortuous, four-hour, car journey home at the end of that week, the two of you sat in the back – your (new) sister silent and withdrawn, dad and I poleaxed by the emotional intensity of ‘taking’ this little girl away from the people she called mum and dad and you, calm and composed, gently stroking her palm and singing Round and Round the Garden, over and over again.

You were so little yourself – did we expect too much of you? In those early, blurry weeks, we were all punchdrunk with the excitement of getting to know each other. But, as the months went on, you faltered. Your sister would rebuff your hugs; you’d get slapped or scratched. You’d try not to mind about your precious things being messed with, turned out, or broken, but the scribbled notice on the door of your room – ‘Get outt or I will kick your but!’ – told its own story. And whenever you came to me for a cuddle, your sister would knock you out of the way, and cry: “No! MY mummy….!” You never once said what I most dreaded: “NO, she’s not, actually, she’s mine!” Instead, your plaintive wail: “Well, she’s my mummy, too!” showed a care for her feelings that not even your white hot anger could eclipse.

One night, you broke down after your sister was in bed and said she had to “go back”, that she “didn’t like you” – and you didn’t like her, either. We explained that wasn’t an option – we were now a family, and we had to work it out. Then it came out – you missed us, your mum and dad, and all the years you’d had one, or both of us, to yourself. It was so obvious, then – in trying so hard to be a family of four, we’d somehow forgotten you needed our individual attention, too. We promised that next weekend, and for as many weekends as you wanted after that, me or dad would do something with you – just you. And then dad shoved his shoe down his shirt-front and did a made-up song and funny jig that made you laugh out loud.

We also made sure you had a separate, later bedtime so you got time with us to have your own story, watch telly or chat about your day. We made sure your sister understood the boundaries of your stuff being your stuff, your room being your room.

Such simple solutions, yet such a profound effect. I knew we’d turned a corner when, one weekend, you said you’d rather not go off with just me after all; you wanted to be with your dad and sister too.

And now yours is the love story at the very heart of our family – exceeding even my rose-tinted fantasies of a sister relationship.

You buy her gifts out of your pocket money; she draws you pictures or makes you something un-nameable every day in school. You cuddle on the sofa and call each other your ‘BFF’. When you do argue, and I intervene, you forgive each other instantly and turn your ire on me instead.

There will probably be times, with a five-year age gap between you, when you’ll grow apart for a while – perhaps a 12 and 17-year-old will struggle to find common ground. But at 30 and 35, say, or 52 and 57 – heck, even 91 and 96! – I hope with all my heart you’ll still be making mischief together, consoling each other, laughing your socks off together, all as you do now, and sharing your memories of family life, long after dad and I have gone.

But that’s all in the future. In the here and now, you’re taking your first, tentative steps towards a new phase in your life – more time spent in front of a mirror, endless combing of your hair, throwing aside favourite outfits and toys now deemed ‘too babyish’. So, just to let you know that I get it, now, and I’m up for playing the baby game, for however much longer you need and want me to. I just hope I’m not too late.

We Are Family Blog 2015 in review!

Here it is! Everything you ever wanted to know about the blog in 2015!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 32,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 12 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Questions #7 A peek into how we do family.

Photo by Lili Gooch

Photo by Lili Gooch

How and when does your child/children wake you in the morning?

Our oldest has always been an early riser so averages 5.30, thankfully the baby sleeps in a bit and this morning he had a lie in until 7.30 am !!
Why adoption?

I always knew I wanted to adopt after many years working in the voluntary sector with vulnerable children and I just knew it was something I wanted to do. When I met Hubbie we talked about it and he agreed that our family would include adopted children. We now have a birth child and an adopted child, both are much loved and very much our children.
From start of assessment to bringing your child home how long did the process take?

The long answer is it started some years ago, but was interrupted by the birth of our son. The short answer is it took 2 years from when we approached our local authority to when we were matched.

How could it be improved?

The process has been made quicker, but it does appear that it’s missing some scrutiny and consistency. We have had a number of social workers and they’ve given us conflicting information. We also had to keep asking for additional support post match which we had expected would be available to us anyway.

What has been the biggest surprise?

How well our son has adapted to our family and how we feel he is one of us.

How was the assessment process?

It was ok, but did cause some consternation when we were made to repeat ourselves and the process how involves a lot more input from prospective adopters which means the social workers are not overseeing the content as much. Overall as we had been through the process before we were familiar with it, but if we were new to it I think we’d have felt quite alone in the process.

What’s your favourite thing to do together?

We love to play outside in the garden and eat together and we have just started to take him swimming as he loves his baths so much.
What makes you and your family laugh?

We love to sing and dance together and we joke and laugh all the time – mostly at each other.

The best thing about being a parent?

I love seeing my children laughing, playing and hearing their funny comments on life. It’s wonderful seeing the joy on one of my son’s faces when they do something for the first time.

The hardest thing about being a parent?

Letting them do things that might hurt or upset them. I want to protect my children from anything that might harm them, but I know I can’t always do that.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child?

Kindness is a very important quality to have – one that will do well for you in life.

What time do you go to bed?

I try to go to bed around 10pm, but often it runs later than that and I always regret it when my sons wake up at an unearthly hour.

Follow up: A birth mum shares her thoughts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARecent posts about sibling and birth family contact have proved to be quite emotive for many of our readers; and one in particular prompted a birth mum to get in touch to share her own thoughts and experiences of direct contact which we thought deserved to be heard.

“I am a birth mom and I can’t say that I agree that its “always adoptive families” that “action, chase, fight for the best outcome of the child”. The agency I went through has done a lot to help and has a strong desire to help in whatever way they can for all three parties involved. Also, I have reached out, expressed feelings, respected the wishes of the adoptive parents and I have been rejected. It is true that every family is different. I have so much respect for you and other families that try to maintain contact with birth parents for the benefit of your child.” 

 

And here is the original post as it was published on April 10th 2015.

Any Advice Gratefully Accepted

Having read the recent blog about sibling contact I thought I’d write asking if anyone has had any problems with direct birth parent contact. I know that to most this may seem like a strange ‘problem’ to have but here goes…

When I adopted my daughter I agreed to annual direct contact with her birth father. I didn’t want her to hit teenage years with all the possible angst that that can entail and ask why I wouldn’t let her see him when there was no reason for me doing so other than ‘I didnt want to share you’. Had I not been a single adopter and had it been her birth mother who wanted contact maybe I would have felt differently, who knows. Anyhow for one reason or another we fell through the cracks last year and contact was not arranged. I tried unsuccessfully to contact social services leaving voicemails but no one returned my calls. I finally heard from them saying they would chase it up and get back to me but they haven’t and now another year has almost gone by.
I guess what I’d like to ask is whether anyone else has experienced this and also if any of you know whether it is my responsibility to be chasing up contact. I’m also worried that a gap of two years (spanning ages three to five) will make seeing him harder for my little one.
Any advice gratefully accepted.

Any Advice Gratefully Accepted

Having read theImage 1 recent blog about sibling contact I thought I’d write asking if anyone has had any problems with direct birth parent contact. I know that to most this may seem like a strange ‘problem’ to have but here goes…
When I adopted my daughter I agreed to annual direct contact with her birth father. I didn’t want her to hit teenage years with all the possible angst that that can entail and ask why I wouldn’t let her see him when there was no reason for me doing so other than ‘I didnt want to share you’. Had I not been a single adopter and had it been her birth mother who wanted contact maybe I would have felt differently, who knows. Anyhow for one reason or another we fell through the cracks last year and contact was not arranged. I tried unsuccessfully to contact social services leaving voicemails but no one returned my calls. I finally heard from them saying they would chase it up and get back to me but they haven’t and now another year has almost gone by.
I guess what I’d like to ask is whether anyone else has experienced this and also if any of you know whether it is my responsibility to be chasing up contact. I’m also worried that a gap of two years (spanning ages three to five) will make seeing him harder for my little one.
Any advice gratefully accepted.

Photo taken by Lili Gooch