Gold Tooth.

A greasy winter’s day a couple of years ago I was walking down the street, as you do, pushing a newly arrived Jack in his buggy and my goddaughter by my side. My little brand new family and hers were heading off for some half term shenanigans.
The three of us were walking a little away from the rest of the group. Sophie was deep into a riff about volcanoes and Pompeii. She’d recently done a project on both in school. She was excited and detailed in her explanation using her whole body to show me how lava breaks up through the earth’s crust. I asked questions and was quite taken with her passion (she is usually a quiet and at times slightly withdrawn girl). She went into more detail and kept talking. I was able to give her my undivided attention as my little bug was sleeping soundly in his buggy. We were having a good moment. I was thoroughly enjoying it and her, when suddenly a man stepped out in front of us and said STOP! He looked homeless, unkempt and he smelled of alcohol and bodily fluids. I pulled Sophie close and tried to push past him.
He blocked our way again.
‘No! Just stop for a moment.’
I felt threatened. I held Sophie’s hand and swung the buggy a bit so I could see Jack. Alert and scared. Could he have recognised Jack? A birth dad? A relative perhaps? My brain was working fast.
‘I don’t want to harm you. I don’t want anything.’ he said. ‘I just want to say something.’
‘You’ve cracked it!’
‘Excuse me? Cracked what?’ I looked around.
‘You’ve cracked it! Life! Motherhood! It’s beautiful. How you talk to your daughter. How she is so alive. And your son… I just thought you should know. I’ve followed you for a little while. That’s all. I’ll leave you alone now. Have a good day.’
And then he smiled. A big gold tooth blinked in the winter sun.
I was perplexed.
‘But …’ I started. ‘This is my goddaughter and …’
‘It doesn’t matter. It’s beautiful. Enjoy it.’
I smiled back. I had nearly waffled on about how neither were actually mine. How I didn’t feel I knew the first thing about motherhood or life for that matter. I’d nearly made that excuse about my son not being mine. I was so fresh to it all. But it was true that the moment was bliss. And he felt it too.
He shifted a lot in me that day. It’s still shifting. Some of it is about prejudice. I had reacted so strongly to his smell and looks. I had felt really scared. And I wanted to run away from him. But he could have been Jack’s birth family. I can’t ever really run from that. It was an ever timely reminder that it is up to me as Jack’s mum to build that bridge to his past, as part of his present and future. I owe to both of us to move out of my comfort zone to explore it. The man with the gold tooth gave me a precious gift that day. Amongst other that both children – in very different ways of course – are also mine.


Things I want you to know dear daughter.

20160618_154814Dear daughter,

I’m writing a letter to you to be read when you’re a little older.

I’m writing it now before I forget all of the emotions and events that whirl past me at a hundred miles an hour as I attempt to mother you to the best of my abilities.

Hopefully writing will become  regular thing from me to you but for now, this is what I want you to know.

First and foremost, I love you. I will love you forever. You are the light of my life and the reason I get up in the morning. You are literally the sun and the moon and the stars to me. My world. Corny as it sounds, I still get a shiver of unbelievable joy when I am away from you and remember I will be returning to you soon; The realisation that you are my daughter is like Christmas  come early every single time. Imagine having joy like that on tap! – This is your gift to me.

You came to us as a baby and were so uniquely yourself – even then. You didn’t even cry as we took you on the five hour journey away from the only person you’d ever known and loved. You simply sat in the back of the car, twiddling the same piece of hair you’ve always twiddled and singing along to your teddy bear’s songs. Your expression was open and curious and I wondered what was going on deep inside of you where I couldn’t see.

It’s important to me that you understand we did not go into the adoption process needing to fill a void left by childlessness.


Your father and I simply (and naively at the time) thought that because we got along well together and seemed to have a lot of joy in our lives, that it would be a good thing to share that joy, and this led us naturally to look into adoption. The assessment process was lengthy and somewhat odd. Sadly some of it taught us that when we were truthful about various things – i.e. not feeling a need to grieve not having our own biological children – we were not believed.

But it was true.

We truly just wanted to explore sharing our fun and joy, but could have quite easily gone on living the life we had… taking lots of grown up holidays, drinking a bit too much, going out a bit too much and generally enjoying a fulfilled childless adult life. You’ll understand this bit a bit more when you’re older.

Then we were matched with you, a cheeky 8 month old baby smiling out of a coloured A4 printout in a pair of checked dungarees and we said ‘YES’! …and you blew that old life out to of the water… In a good way.

I’ve still got that original print out with the social worker’s scribbled “Yes” and the date across it – bizarrely my birthday.

In my humble opinion, it’s virtually impossible to describe an experience fully to someone who has never had that experience themselves; so we are all in the dark to a certain extent about things until we experience them first hand for ourselves; and that was what it was like for me becoming  your parent. People tried to tell me how it would be, but I hadnt experienced it for myself so was blissfully unaware.  I didn’t even know I had it in me to feel the way you made me feel… it was like being electrocuted with love and I’ve been plugged in ever since. Seriously, that’s what it’s like!

I know you will have questions and that there will be things you need to explore around your history; I’ll support you as much as I can as and when that happens, but please try not to let it wholly define who you are.

Yes – I know it’s important, and a really big part of who you are, but you are also so much more than just your history. You are also your present and will be your future, and are growing into such an amazing little person.

I want to warn you that people will all react differently and sometimes nosily to the fact that you’re adopted, and that you’ll have to try and develop a thick skin to deal with some of it. You might also have to fight hard to hold on to your own version of things because society will have all sorts of ideas about you.

Yes, I know there is trauma lurking around the details of your birth – and you have every right to explore this and what it means – but that is not the whole story of you. We have always celebrated how our family came together. To us it is wonderful, a miracle even that we found each other and that we now get to love each other every single day. This is a triumph, despite everything that went before. A triumph for all of us.

Sadly not everyone will see it this way. Some people will insist on only seeing the tragedy in it and I wish I could save you from these views but I can’t. Even now at 4 years old a friend has already freaked you by informing you that adoption is ‘a very sad thing because it means being taken away from your home and your mummy and daddy’, leading you to worry you might be taken away from me; something that had never crossed your mind before.

But my darling daughter, I want to tell you that adoption is not a ‘sad thing’ it is a wonderful thingBecause without it we would not be together, and we would not be filled up with the love we share for one another. We would not have our morning times when you climb into my bed and slip your little legs over mine, your hand winding up through my hair as you whisper ‘It’s morning time, get up Mummy!’ or the swimming pool sessions when we race up and down the pool, you riding me around the shallows with your feet stuck through the arms of my costume saying ‘faster faster!’. Or the bicycle rides where I go full throttle over the grassy bits in the park so that you get bounced around in the trailer laughing your head off. We have a brilliant time and truly there is no one I would rather spend time with. No one.

We are so proud of you and who you are becoming. My parents used to say this to me too when I was growing up and I didn’t really understand what they meant until you came into my life, but it is truly wonderful and an absolute privilege getting to watch you grow from a little bundle into a bright, beautiful articulate person. Maybe you’ll get to experience this joy for yourself one day – the wonder of parenthood, but if you don’t – and this is important  – if that doesn’t happen, it also doesn’t matter; because just as our lives were rich and glorious before you came along, there are just as many joys and discoveries out there waiting to be experienced by you. And here we come to the cliche – but it’s true – please understand that you can be anything you want in this world.

I wish you as much joy, love and happiness as you have brought to me throughout your life.

You are simply, truly amazing, and I will love you with all of my heart forever.

Your Mummy xxxxxxx

Parents need SUPPORT in order to ‘Parent Therapeutically’!

miranda's heartMy take on ‘therapeutic parenting’ is this; a way of parenting that reduces a child’s suffering, which allows ‘emotional’ release which in turn makes healing possible. In fact the kind of parenting that every child would benefit from.

Having trained as a psychotherapist and participated in years of personal therapy, what I know is this. To feel safe in relationship is imperative. To establish such a relationship when one is not born to it takes time. Trust doesn’t develop overnight. Connection is necessary.

Listening is key… deep listening; listening below the words, below the behaviour, below what can be seen and heard; with warmth, without judgement and most importantly with acceptance.

I thought I was ready for that until our little monkey arrived. Children are bundles of emotion; children who hurt, who have experienced trauma, have a layer of intensity that cannot be explained. This sure threw me adrift, found me on my back foot!!

I want to ask you a question…

How does it FEEL, to parent a child who is quietly suffering!?

How does it FEEL, to parent a child who is hurting so bad, they flip into high octane expressiveness in a second?

How does it FEEL, to be with your child’s feelings, to be with such raw emotion – overt or covert?

Do you or can you even allow yourself such reflection? Exhausted, drained… how to fill your emotional tank, let alone strengthen your own resilience in the face of such emotional intensity!?

Yet, here we are, parents of traumatised children, expected to be able to listen and support our children’s feelings when we can hardly handle our own!!

In the helping professions it is a known fact, that caring for people who have experienced highly stressful events (trauma) puts the caregiver at risk of developing similar stress-related symptoms, also known as secondary traumatic stress.

Have you heard of compassion fatigue? vicarious trauma?

What about your own life story?

After our daughter arrived I read “The Primal Wound” by Nancy Verrier. It was one of those aha! moments where it dawned on me that my life story began with a disrupted attachment. That was the beginning of me realising, with some certainty, I needed to tend to my own wounds if I was to be able to do the same for our daughter.

If you have your own unresolved or unconscious developmental/relational traumas, if you have had some difficult times growing up; they too will likely be re-stimulated. You may recognise such moments; these are our triggers, hot spots, the times we feel our buttons pushed, our blood boil or feel like we are losing our minds, going crazy. If you are unaware of being re-stimulated, chances are you frequently experience feeling controlled and/or manipulated by your child and their behaviour.

Where is your emotional support?

All parents need and deserve support for the hard and complex work they do. This is a key ethos of the We Are Family community. It is imperative for adoptive parents – for anyone who becomes a parent to a child from care… foster carers, kinship carers, special guardians!! We are at risk! We live with our children’s trauma 24/7! That’s before even looking at our own attachment or trauma histories. Please don’t get me started….

I advocate that we parents need regular, personal emotional support! At a bare minimum each and every one of us needs someone to listen, a “Listening Partnership”, where we can offload emotional tension, brainstorm solutions and ease the pressure and judgements we place on ourselves. A “Listening Partnership” is a way to get back to being the authentic parent you want to be.



20130330_110732That all-important conversation that resulted in our stopping the use of contraception. Our wonderfully spontaneous and abandoned sex life which gradually, gradually morphed into something organised, timed and goal-oriented ! Those scores of expensive ovulation and pregnancy test devices : who’d have known that plastic sticks could be capable of ruling your life and bringing forth such anticipation and deflation ? (One that told us the right story even got gift-wrapped and given to my partner on his birthday……) The absolute faith and certainty in beginning IVF treatments. The abject misery and devastation of each failure. The renewed belief and confidence in success that came with a holistic, natural medicine course. The several pregnancies that couldn’t get past 4 weeks. The hope and hopelessness; the optimism and despair; the expectation and anguish; the longing and tears; the excitement and the grieving. Seven years of these painful steps. Steps that led us to the door of our adoption agency upon which we knocked firmly. Steps that I now, frankly, rejoice in. For if we hadn’t taken them we would never have met and loved our beautiful, comical, clever 3 year old daughter who brings such sunshine to our lives and to those of our extended families. I don’t say this lightly, I mean it from the bottom of my heart, and only you other adoptive parents will believe and understand me : I feel lucky not to have had our own birth child.