My daughter’s sister.

I had wished and wished for her and then suddenly there she was with her long blonde hair smiling back at me, looking familiar.
The envelope had come from the local authority so I assumed (wrongly) that it was the long overdue contact letter from birth mum but out tumbled all these pictures of a beautiful teenage girl who looked remarkably like my own daughter – but older.

I was taken aback… I don’t know why because we had known for a long time that there were siblings – lots of them in fact – all adopted by different families across the country and for the first year of placement we had relentlessly persued social services to try and track them all down and put us in contact.
We had naively believed that all we had to do was round these siblings up and we would have a real life Brady bunch at our daughter’s disposal. They would write to each other, confide in and and support each other; and she would have six family members to go to with her questions.

Of course it didn’t turn out that way.

Social services did search for us for a long time, but due to the transitory nature of birth mum’s living arrangements (she moved about with each pregnancy) it was a very difficult process and eventually the trail went cold with only a couple of siblings having been identified. Of these two, one of the set of parents made it abundantly clear that they wanted nothing to do with us and were clearly put out about being approached; and the other set – while sympathetic – told social services that their child was way too traumatised by her early life experiences to be able to deal with letterbox contact with a younger sibling. … and so the trail went cold and we accepted the situation.

Later on in our placement I started to see how naïve I had been.
I attended various courses on ‘explaining life story to an adopted child’ and in doing so encountered many parents who had this type of contact with siblings in place and it appeared to be complex at best.
I was very quickly enlightened as to the confusion that can arise from such contact. How I would probably have no control over how siblings might impart upsetting or unsettling information about their birth parents and heritage to my child. It was clearly a minefield, so I stopped feeling sad about her lack of contact and just got on with being her mum.

We have always talked about her siblings but as a tiny child it didn’t mean very much to her, and as she has got older she tells me she doesn’t understand because “brothers and sisters always live together” – and she doesn’t live with any other children.
To be honest we’ve talked about it less and less as there has been nothing really to say as we had no new information…..

Until now.

The letter I opened was from the parents of one of my daughter’s half siblings. They had reconsidered their original decision from six years ago and decided to get in touch. They sent us pictures and a letter describing what their daughter was like.
And here she was. So many images of her. So similar and yet nothing at all to do with me! It was a strange feeling and part of me felt scared because this was not the old me who had happily imagined the Brady bunch all those years ago; this was the new me. The adoption savvy me who is now acutely aware of how my daughter can be thrown by new information. Who knows just how much she had ached for siblings (especially a big sister), and I wasn’t sure now how the reality would be for her.
I knew the first and biggest question she would have would be “When can I meet her?” and in reality I don’t have a secure answer for her, but it probably wont be for quite a few years.

So my initial response was to try and protect her from disappointment and uncertainty so we haven’t told her yet. We will wait till we feel we know exactly how to proceed..
but in the meantime… a little bit of me now is now also starting to get excited…

My daughter’s half sister… The big sister she has always wanted – with beautiful tumbling blonde princess hair, wearing a sparkly red dress – my daughter’s favourite colour.

If we manage this right…It might just make her Christmas!

I Feel Left Out

20140826_170439It’s the first time I really haven’t been able to figure out a way to give her what she yearns for and needs.
She came home from school a bit quiet and sad and when probed about why, just kept saying “I don’t want to tell you, I don’t want to tell you”.
Eventually it tumbled out of her that she wants a sister.
I assumed it was because of Anna and Elsa who she loves with a passion but no.. it was more real than that. Several of her cousins and friends have new little siblings and the phrase that she kept coming back to was “I feel left out.”
I felt heartbroken for her.
How do you tell a child desperate for siblings that she actually has four of them but she can’t see and touch and play with them?
I tried to explain that if there were more children at home, she would get less time with me, and that we are lucky we get to play and snuggle so much together but it didn’t convince her and it was a wake up call for me.
There are some things I just can’t fix or sort out for her, even though I desperately want to.  I also need to work out a way to start talking more about her  absent siblings in a way that won’t make all this worse.
She has great friends and lots of cousins to play with and is generally a very happy little bunny; but it hurts that I can’t provide this one thing for her.

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas #4: Christmas Party Games you never played before you had children…


  1. Name that stain Being a parent apparently means accruing a large knowledge of cleaning products and how best to combine them. I can’t make a Martini but I sure can combine Vanish, Napisan and bicarbonate of soda to get melted chocolate coins out of the sofa
  2. 56 wipe pick-up The rules are self-explanatory here, just insert whichever item you would prefer your child(ren) didn’t dismantle and throw around the lounge whilst you had the audacity to go upstairs and brush your teeth
  3. Midnight tag “you get up”. “No you, I just went”. “I will give you a tenner”…..
  1. Sniff those trousers Is it wee? Is it poo? No it’s just dribble, we’re good
  2. Race the dog to the vomit A particularly charming game where one of your children has thrown up and the Labrador will ‘clean it up’ if you don’t get there first
  3. Car seat bingo What is your child eating? The only clue is that they retrieved it from down of the side of their car seat
  4. The stood-on-a-piece-of-lego party dance No explanation required
  5. Supermarket sweep – where before you were perhaps one to stop and compare prices as you made your way round Tesco, now you dash round à la Linford Christie to avoid small child meltdown
  6. Pudding roulette – they ate a lot at dinner and it’s been a very exciting day, plus you don’t want to play the Labrador game again…
  7. Patience – Of course, you played it before you had children but it turns out it ain’t a card game

The Questions #4 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?

Both girls wake at 7am. On the dot. Without fail. Whichever one wakes first usually starts calling ‘daddy’ louder and louder until one of us goes in to them but sometimes they will amuse themselves by jumping up and down in their cots.

Why adoption?

Being a gay couple it was either adoption or surrogacy. There are so many children needing adoption we felt that surrogacy wasn’t for us.

From start of assessment to bringing your child home how long did the process take?

18 months from going to the open day to the girls arriving.


How could it be improved?

It could be better joined up around the country, with more consistency across agencies and more joint working to ensure that children do not wait in care unnecessarily.

What has been the biggest surprise?

How overcome with happiness (and tears) I can get when doing simple things like reading a story, or playing houses with the girls or watching them play with each other.

How was the assessment process?

Some of it felt necessarily long and there was a fair amount of duplication. The problem is that during the process one puts up with it as one wants to have a happy ending. Afterwards one is too busy with ones new family life to help change the system.

What’s your favourite thing to do together?

Singing songs together and cuddling.

What makes you and your family laugh?

Tickling each other and doing silly dances.

The best thing about being a parent?

Seeing a little personality develop.

The hardest thing about being a parent?

It’s relentlessness.

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

The world is your oyster.

What time do you go to bed?

I absolutely refuse to go to bed before 11pm, which generally means I am asleep on the sofa by about 10pm

The Impossible Decision – Part 1

Photo by Lili Gooch

Photo by Lili Gooch

We are four days into our summer holiday. Last night was an unusually late night out and not so surprisingly (but in fact quite uncharacteristically) the children are sleeping late this morning, needless to say I am making the most of this rare occurrence and I am enjoying a well deserved lie-in.

I am looking out at a perfect clear blue Southern European sky and I am just starting to feel the warmth of the early morning sun and it feels good, I can sense my body responding and even without my first coffee of the day it is willingly coming to life.

I had imagined the beginning of this particular family holiday giving me some food for thought and possibly some material worth sharing in a blog, but in fact even before we left home we had news that meant that the blog was destined to be something quite different from what I could have imagined.

I was conscious yesterday that I was starting to relax and that I could feel some of the stress of the real world back home fade into the ocean as I sat on the beach and soaked up that eternally restful vista of waves breaking on the shore. In the pre children days it would take less than a day to fully relax and to lose myself in my holiday, since our sons moved in I am aware that I am now never completely relaxed – not even when on holiday – and although I can shed the burden of the stress of work and the endless bills to pay back home, the awareness of the responsibility of being parents sits heavily on our shoulders and carries its own special kind of pressures that never seem to leave you.

This is a very special holiday for our sons because we have invited their elder sister along. The sister that had always been there, the sister that had looked after them when birth mum didn’t, the sister they had left behind at the foster parents – the sister we took them away from. The sister they clearly – and obviously – love so very much.

She has had a pretty terrible time of it almost all of her life and we just can’t help feeling guilty at the fact that we have added to that, not intentionally of course, but by breaking up the family when her brothers came to live with us. I wrote in a previous blog Ask The 8 Year Old about the fact that she had been given the absurd and totally unrealistic ‘choice’ of either staying with the foster parents (and the known security that offered) at the expense of being separated from her brothers, or waiting for the huge unknown of adoption.

Her obvious decision to stay did not result in any kind of ‘happy ever after’ as not only was life in the foster home quite tough for her – but it broke down after two years.

Moved to a new foster home we have been hopeful that she would settle and be happy, but unbelievably and tragically that is not so and it was this shocking piece of news that we were given just before we left the UK.

We were told that at after just over a year and a half into the placement, the new foster parents have expressed their need to give her up too – not because of anything she has done, but because of some vague family circumstances. Social services say that they are trying to resolve the situation, but they sounded anything but hopeful.

It seems she is destined for the typical life of an ‘older child in care’, being passed around from pillar to post… unless of course we step in and adopt her too.

It’s the logical thing to do isn’t it? She is the sister of our sons, practically family already – are we really going to stand by and watch her childhood be destroyed further and not do the ‘right’ thing? Are we really just going to keep our fingers crossed and hope that eventually she will find a home and the love she deserves?

It’s obvious what has to be done. We know what is best for her. We are possibly the only people in a position to turn things around, to give her a secure, loving home and some hope for the future.

Yet to be brutally honest – it just isn’t that straight forward and we just don’t know if we can.

Of course I want to say ‘yes we will adopt her’, but it could be the wrong thing for us – for our family. We know our youngest is still not fully settled, even after three years with us and we also know that change is one of the most difficult things for him to cope with.

We know he can feel threatened when his brother is getting more attention than him, even when it is from their sister and that has been more than evident over the past couple of days.

We feel the boys have adjusted to their position as youngest and oldest child in a family of four and we fear that another child 5 years older may upset the equilibrium that we have worked so hard to achieve. Social services would not even consider putting an older child into a family if is was not a sibling and possibly only then if the situation is as desperate as this one is.

We feel that we have all ‘grown into’ our family over the last three years and that the ‘fit’ is just about perfect for all four of us now. We have never doubted our love for our sons – that was pretty instantaneous – and we don’t question their love for us now, but there was an incredibly difficult settling in period that we had to work hard to get through, there are clashes of personality that have had to be worked on, big ups and down that we have had to adjust to and learn to appreciate, to tolerate and learn how to deal with and now there is a history of understanding, respect and love as a family, as a family of four.

Although far from perfect, things are good – in fact very good now – and we are scared to threaten that on any level.

But isn’t that all just horribly selfish? Isn’t it just far too much all about ‘us’? Is that really how we should be making decisions in our lives? Keeping them safe, keeping them manageable because that suits us, regardless of the potentially devastating affect that can have on others.

There is of course the possibility that the sister could join us and all will be OK, that some of the issues we are still dealing with our youngest could actually be resolved by reuniting the siblings, that there may well be no major issues of any sort and indeed bringing her back into their lives now could be preventing issues we would face in the future when they start to wonder why she was excluded from our family.

Thankfully she is currently unaware of the new placement being under threat, but it is news waiting for her upon her return in just over three weeks time and if we step in now there is no reason that she need ever discover that truth. Ironically – and potently – she has already expressed her desire to be with us long term (that happened on day one out here) and I am pretty sure if asked she will now make the decision to be with her brothers.

It feels like we are faced with an impossible decision, we somehow feel like we could be damned if we do – and damned if we don’t.

Although time is against us (as a decision needs to be made before we return home) I guess for now we will just get on with our holiday and hope that as each day closes we will start to feel more and more sure of ourselves as a family of four or hopefully we will be feeling like a family of five. I guess we are hoping that the decision somehow makes itself and what ever that decision is it will indeed be the right decision for ALL of us.

A republish of one of our favourites… If I could.. Gifts for you..

2011-09-03 13.04.34The following is a poem that our ten year old birth daughter wrote last week for her five year old sister, who we adopted four years ago.

Her class teacher had set them a task – write a poem for someone you love. Her ‘gift list’ that she’d give her sister moved me more than I can say. Her sister’s reaction, when I read it out to her, was wordless – a shy smile and a big hug. Here’s the poem:

I would, if I could, give these gifts to you…
A bottle full of dreams high in the sky
A spark of light from the bottom of a volcano
A fight for the night
And a songbird that will drop a long feather, as warm as can be

The raindrop from the heavens,
A puppy called Kevin
A pinch of golden sand from the far desert
The wonder of a unicorn

And so these are the gifts that
I would, if I could,
Give to you


photo by Lili Gooch

Photo by Lili Gooch

I previously wrote a blog about the break down of the long term foster placement and guardianship of our sons older sister, I ended by saying that we hoped that the the new placement the sister had been moved to was a good one and would offer her the security she so deserves.

Thankfully that appears to be so, it does seem like a good placement and the new foster carers are committed and seem to be giving her the family life she needs and indeed some of the security that has been lacking in her life recently.

Most importantly she just seems happy.

She is a sweet child who has spent much of her life caring for others and as a result is thoughtful and selfless. She has had it tough all her life and being 4 years older than our oldest was more aware of the neglect and the consequences of that while in the birth family. At the age of 5/6 she was attempting to ‘mother’ our boys, stepping in where birth mum was failing.

What we have now discovered is that the almost 5 years she spent with the previous foster carers were not as positive as we had thought and in fact we have really had to reevaluate our reaction to the break down of that placement.

We were aware that the carers were very strict and lacked pastoral parenting skills, but it seems that the situation for the sister was anything but ideal, we have been told that she was made to do most of the housework and ironing as well as various other chores, apparently time was dedicated for this before and after school everyday and most of Saturday and if this is true it strikes us as being quite inappropriate.

Again we question where social services were throughout this, but now she has moved from that placement and seems happy I feel we should all be looking to the future.

So things are good – or certainly looking so. However we are concerned about the effect the break down of the placement has had on the sister. Yet again she has had parents who have failed here, yet again the family she thought was for life has proven not to be so, yet again she has been thrown into the unknown.

She is aware that – all going well – the new placement will only be until she is 18 as the new carers are not offering guardianship and as yet we do not see any suggestion that they will remain ‘family’ beyond that.

We have been really concerned for her and when we finally met for contact – after a year of not being able to – we asked how she was doing and if she felt settled and happy, she was her usual cheery self and said that she was pleased to be where she was and that life was OK, we asked if there was anything that bothers her or that she had concerns about and her response shocked and saddened us as she opened up and expressed her concerns for being alone after she turns 18.

We assured her that her fears were unfounded and that she was loved by all of us and that we would always be there for her as she was our family. We hope that we offered some kind of reassurance, but somehow we are not convinced as it was evident just how alone she felt.

Her exact words will always stay with us:
‘I don’t mind never being adopted I know it’s difficult for somebody to take a child of my age and that’s OK, the only thing that really bothers me is when I think of the future and not being in a family it upsets me to think that if I was to die there would be nobody to bring flowers to my grave.

She is 12.