29 04 2009

We have moved so far since Little Miss Loud came home to live with us both emotionally and intellectually. When we sat in the adoption preparation group three years ago, it felt as though we had made such a lot of progress to get where we were, made so many big decisions and we were learning so much.

Since LML came home to us we have had to learn so much more. Really, it is where our learning really began.

There is the intellectual journey. There’s the practicalities and medical stuff – learning about child development, medical conditions, speech therapy, what the hell portage, Hanen and Makaton were and how to use them.

Then there’s the emotional journey – as we have bonded with LML.

We had to get to know this stranger, who has now become the centre of our life. It didn’t happen overnight. We’ve had to work at it, grow and develop the relationship. If you asked Grumpy Mum when she felt that she had bonded with LML, when she felt that she was really ours, then she would say that it was the day we adopted LML. Which is such a symbolic gesture and didn’t take place until 15 months after LML had came home. For Crap Dad it was sitting on the settee, at something like 6am one morning, with LML snuggled up on my lap watching cbeebies; again well over a year after she came home. Adoption, for us certainly, didn’t mean love at first sight. How could it have been? It was something special but it wasn’t that deep and emotional bond. It had to develop with time and care.

We are aware that LML has had to, and will continue to have to, deal with a sense of loss. The loss of her birth parents and her foster carers. When she came home to us there was this look of confusion which would cross her face regularly and this lasted for months. It’s not there now but it was clear that she felt disconnected from everything she knew.

Adoption certainly is a journey which will continue to enthrall and surprise us as we continue along its path.


Waifs and Strays

27 04 2009

Crap Dad and Grumpy Mum had lived together for about a decade when Crap Dad’s daughter – Big Sis – came to live with them. Big Sis arrived about 6 years ago, about the same time as our cat, a stray we named chico and Little Miss Loud arrived 21 months ago.

Crap Dad has a brother, who has two children and four step children, two great nephews and a great niece. Grumpy Mum has 6 siblings and 14 nephews and nieces, some of which are step children.

Little Miss Loud (LML) comes from a large family.

LML has two full brothers, a sister and four half siblings. They are all adopted or in foster care. Once or twice a month we meet up LML’s bothers. Grumpy Mum and their mum also talk regularly on the phone. The kids are always really excited to see each other and are starting to develop a bond.

In the past year we’ve met up with all the siblings and their families twice. The first time was really weird. We started from the point that this is LML’s family and we wanted her to feel a part of it. To see them all together, too see the similarities, too meet them and their parents – nothing in our adoption preparation could have prepared us for that. We met at a Museum, this big incongruous group. There were four families, eight adults and 10 kids. There are strong similarities between the kids – you could see the confusion on peoples faces as they tried to workout the relationships that existed.

Throughout our adoption preparation we were open to contact with the birth parents and family, but in LML’s family’s case it was felt, by the social workers, to be inappropriate. We have had letter box contact with her birth dad and her maternal grandmother. This hasn’t gone entirely smoothly as the grandmother put her address on one letter and on another her mobile number. It is difficult, we agonised over the content of our letters, wanting to get the tone just right. We sent old pictures and talked in general terms about LML, trying to give them some idea of her new life, and trying to be as sensitive as possible. It isn’t easy but it feels like a valuable thing to do and the family seem to appreciate the information we’ve provided.

We have some pictures of LML’s birth parents and a video, which we show her periodically and although she is pre-verbal her family, both birth and adoptive, and her position within it are part of our everyday discourse.

Our family, from just the two of us, has now flowered in a way we never imagined only a few years ago. And it’s bloomin’ marvellous!

Introductions with LML

27 04 2009

The planning session for our ‘introductions’ to Little Miss Loud was very odd – there was us and our SW, the foster carers & their SW, LML’s SW and another SW – all with LML sitting in the middle.

Introductions is a bit of a mechanical process. You did this and that to learn the child’s routine. Yet it was emotionally draining. Our introductions took ten days. Each day, even if we had only seen LML for a couple of hours, felt exhausting. Its because you invest so much in it.

It wasn’t love at first sight. There weren’t fireworks going off. There was excitement and a real sense that something momentous was happening but LML didn’t feel like our daughter, not for a long time. On the day LML came home it was devastating, really emotional.

We’d arrived early so decided to sit in a car park up the road, knowing that we needed to allow the foster family their time to say goodbye. She had been part of their lives for nearly 18 months.

The foster family held things together magnificently and we took pictures of them handing her over where we were all smiles. However, it was clear that they were going to crumple as soon as we turned the corner. In the car, on the way home, we all had tears in our eyes and struggled to keep smiling and engaging with LML.

Bottom Up!

26 04 2009

GM hears a grunt and a pant. She looks round the corner into the living room to see LML’s be-trousered bottom poking up into the air.

*huff* *puff* *huff*

“How on earth are we going to potty train her?” she asks CD, for the thousandth time.

He shrugs and says yet again “you don’t see adults pooing like that do you? She’ll figure it out eventually.”

LML walks into the room “poo” she states “mummy poo”.

“Good linking words” says CD, whilst GM sighs to LML “it really is easier to push down sweetheart, rather than up.”

Time to change that nappy.

Decisions, decisions

26 04 2009

We decided to adopt for a whole host of reasons. Although we were not fixed on what sort of child we wanted, we decided very early on that we wanted two children and when we were approved to adopt it was for two children under 5.

Eventually our Social Worker (SW) came with the sheet of paper, which was literally three quarters of a side of A4 giving an outline of Little Miss Loud’s (LML) circumstances. It was both exciting and really, really scary. As soon as she left we were on the web looking up some of the medical terms she had talked to us about. Looking up stuff around premature birth and child development. We were faced with complex medical problems, an uncertainty about her development and a difficult family background. Four other adopters had looked at LML and decided to not pursue the process any further and we had to think long and hard before we said yes.

We decided we could provide LML with the significant amount of support she would need initially due of her developmental delay and understood that there was uncertainty about how long this would continue. We also welcomed LML into our lives knowing that we would probably still be addressing some of the issues around the circumstances of her adoption throughout her childhood and into adulthood.

There were the decisions about how we were going to look after LML. We made a decision to reduce our work hours and both now work part-time. Crap Dad works the first part of the week, Grumpy Mum works the latter, therefore LML only needs to go to a children’s centre one day a week. Of course this means that LML gets loads of input and support, but we have had to learn how to live on a reduced income as it it now half of what it was.

Once we had made the choice to go ahead with the match we had to consider who and what we told about why LML was being adopted. Because of LML’s background we decided that we would only disclose everything to our teenage daughter, Big Sis,. For everyone else we decided that we’d just tell them she has a complicated background which meant that there were limits on what we could tell them about it. We decided that LML’s background is her own, to disclose or not as she grows up and understands more.

One of the decisions we had to make early on was how we were going to deal with those “so your child’s adopted” questions.

During the first week of LML coming home Crap Dad took her to the park and was pushing her on the swings. LML was very unsure about what she needed to do and it was clear that having been at the foster carers since leaving hospital LML had rarely, if at all, been to the playground. A mum, with a child that was about half of LML’s age, placed her child in the swing next to LML’s, the child was confident and knew exactly what to do. LML, who was 18 months old and had no words just squawks and squeaks, was clearly nervous and struggling. The mum watched as CD started to teach LML how to hold onto the swing. The mum started to talk to CD about LML, asking how old she was. CD started to explain about LML being born prematurely but panicked because he hadn’t got the ‘script’, hadn’t yet rehearsed his responses to such questions and he soon fled the playground, only to return once we had talked more about how we would deal with these inevitable conversations.

People make assumptions that your child is a birth child. CD met someone who he used to work with and they asked, ‘is she your daughter?’ When he replied ‘yes’, they said ‘I thought so, she has your eyes.’

Grumpy Mum was once at at playgroup and one of the other mothers made a comment about LML’s delay. GM responded by saying it may be due to LML being born so prematurely. The other mum said that must have been hard and GM responded, ‘I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t there!’

We soon made a very concious decision and effort to be open and honest to everyone about LML being adopted. It’s now a part of our every day discourse.

After LML came home to us we made the decision to wait to apply for the adoption order because there were a number of issues where we believed we and she needed support. Until you have that adoption order form the court, your child is still classed as a ‘looked after child’, and this means that you can get better access to services as they are given priority. For example her delay meant that she needed a full team assessment – which is where different medical disciplines, health visitors and social workers meet to assess the child’s development and agree what their support needs are. One of the support needs identified for LML was to access portage. When we met the portage manager she asked if LML was still looked after? If she hadn’t still been a looked after child then it would have been a three month wait as it was we had our portage worker three weeks later.

The decision which took the longest to make? What surname to give LML once she had been adopted. Grumpy Mum and Crap Dad are not married, and never likely to be. The question of what surname spun around and and around for months before the inevitable compromise of joining their surnames together with a hyphen. LML has become double barrelled!

We are consciously aware that the decisions we make affect LML and how she is perceived by the people around her, so we try very hard to make decisions with care and a great deal of thought.


25 04 2009

Introducing Crap Dad (CD), Grumpy Mum (GM), Big Sis (BS) and Little Miss Loud (LML).

BS came home to live with her CD and Evil Step Mum (now known as GM) six years ago, at the fabulous age of 14! The family have had their ups and downs, but have remained solidly and resolutely a modern day, mostly functional, family.

Because living with a teenager wasn’t enough of a challenge, GM and CD decided that they would like to adopt a child or two. 40th birthdays always seem to bring some decision or other on and this one seemed like a good idea.

So .. 18 month old LML came home nearly 2 years ago, and after a lot of hard work, earnest discussions, help from professionals and love and tenderness, LML is very settled and happy at home. It’s been the most amazing journey for the mostly functional family, just to get to where they are today …

which is of course, why they are about to adopt the 1 year old birth sister of LML …

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