In April 2015, Tom and I met with a social worker at our adoption agency for our very first meeting. By the end of it we had a long list of books to read, forums to join, and the recommendation of a single blog to follow. That blog was Sally Donovan’s.
The post was about self-care and it terrified me. In the first paragraph I read the text: “I collapsed into a mess of shattered nerves, frustration, anger and something like grief”. Oh my goodness! The writer had clearly experienced something terrible but as I read on I noticed a lightness in the writing that was actually full of hope. And it had me transfixed.
It was through reading Sally’s blog that led me to the Adoption Social which led me to all the other blogs I now read on a weekly basis. They often tell of the trials and tribulations of being an adoptive parent but somehow they too are always hopeful.
Reading these blogs is what made me think about writing my own in order to keep track of our adoption journey. And it was at this point that I started using Twitter as a way of connecting with the people whose blogs I was reading but also to let those same people know about mine.
I have used Twitter for work for years but have always kept that account completely professional and tweets were either directly about my work or those in my field. My new account was about me and the adoption process, and if I wanted to bitch about a late train, show off about an event I was at, or just share what I was feeling this was the place to do it. Having said that, I do try to keep those type of tweets to a minimum – who wants to be confronted with my *screaming* tweets at South West trains? And no-one likes a show off. However, over the last eight months, I’ve been continually amazed at how the vast majority of people I follow on Twitter are so open, caring and thoughtful – which in turn has encouraged me to do the same.
At times it’s been a strange experience for me. Complete strangers have tweeted about awful experiences and I have wanted to reach out to them but my natural British reserve has often stopped me. It’s the same if I see someone crying in the street – I want to ask if they’re OK but am worried about how they’ll respond. On the odd occasion when I have offered to help a crying person they’ve looked at me like I was mad. On Twitter, however, when I have offered a comment or thought it’s been greeted with thanks and appreciation, which has enabled me to do it more often.
For all the benefits of social media there are, unfortunately, also many downsides. Tom and I have a ban on using social media when we’re at home together in the evening. It’s all too easy to get carried away whatsapping, tweeting and facebooking and before you realise it, an entire night has gone. There are also the security risks both to ourselves and our future children - one of the reasons I’ve decided to remain anonymous. It’s the anonymity that allows me to be so open but also allows people to think it’s OK to say what they want without impunity.
A few weeks ago someone I follow on Twitter posted a tweet about their yet-to-be adopted child. A flurry of responses followed from people all giving their own points of view, but an hour later it felt like the original tweeter was being ‘attacked’ for a decision she had made, knowing all the facts, and in consultation with her social worker. A very final tweet from her did manage to stop any further comments but you got the sense she was exhausted from it all – I know I was.
It did amuse me that the very next day the same tweeter replied to a post of mine in an incredibly insensitive way. I’m sure she didn’t mean it to sound the way it did, but it just goes to show how careful you have to be when we rattle something off without a second thought.
Our agency recently organised a training event on the theme of social media and adoption, which I attended. It was a really informative night and I came away with some great tips and ideas about how to protect young people from the dangers of social media. These include:
Of course all of this is dependent on the age of your children. What is right for little Johnny isn’t necessarily right for little Tommy too.
So I wonder how I’ll use social media and blogs in the future after our children are placed with us. Will I have the time or inclination to continue my blog? I certainly hope so. Will I ask for advice and guidance on Twitter and Facebook? Almost certainly. Will I tweet every thought and emotion? Who knows.
But what I do know is that social media is here to stay whether we like it or not, and it’s up to each of us to use it as we see fit – both for us individually and for our families.
How do you use social media? Is it a lifeline or a straitjacket?
Over the last month or so we’ve attended many final sessions of one thing or another before our panel date and this week was no different, as we went on our third and final preparation day.
This was a much bigger group than our first two prep days which meant there was a bigger disparity between where we all were in the adoption process. Some were right at the start of stage two with others going to panel in the next few weeks – strangely enough two other couples had the same panel date as us. I couldn’t help think of them as our competition but thankfully all three of us are looking for different types of children.
Also unlike last time, there were two other gay couples, which were the first we’d met during all our sessions at the agency. It was great to chat about their experiences and hear the answers to questions we’d been thinking about.
We were told at the start of the day that the focus would be fact-giving so we knew what to expect once panel was over. And they weren’t wrong – we were bombarded with topics that included…
The process of matching & introductions – this had all been explained to us right at the start but as it’s now an imminent possibility it was really helpful to be reminded of what to expect, get top tips on handling it all, and know what is expected of us.
Contact – we talked through the different types of contact that exist and what’s expected of us. This was spoken about in a really positive way and we both feel very strongly that contact is something we want to happen if it’s appropriate for our children.
The internet – how we need to keep children safe online. Much of this was covered in a training session I attended a few weeks ago which I shall be writing more about in a future blog.
And a general round-up of information we may need to think about.
Amazingly I didn’t come away with a huge book list so I may be able to get back to a novel or two before I’m too exhausted to read when the kids arrive.
Both social workers were great and unlike every social worker we’ve met to date were really keen on us feeling positive about what’s to come. Yes, we’re going to adopt children with trauma, and yes there may be times of complete chaos. But - and it’s a big but - we are going to have our own children, something we’ve yearned for, and there are going to be as many wonderful moments in the coming years as bad ones.
As always my social secretary side came out and I organised for us to share our email addresses so we can get in touch in the future.
We left feeling energised, positive and excited about the next few months as we hopefully go from prospective adopters to approved adopters to parents.
Most weeks, Tom and I learn something else new that we need to know as a parent, and a few weeks ago we found ourselves on a first aid course run by the British Red Cross.
I haven’t had any first aid training since I received my badge as a scout and Tom has never had any. The information was clearly still somewhere in my head as I’ve twice had to hold a nephew or godson upside-down to dislodge a stuck sweet or toy from their throats. But, as with all things, if you don’t practice something you tend to forget it, so Tom and I decided it would be a good idea to refresh our first aid knowledge.
And a good thing we did too. So much has changed in the more than two decades since I was a scout. They include:
Luckily most things have remained the same and it all came flooding back. The recovery position, how to deal with bleeds, breaks and sprains, how to stop a fever, and how to spot meningitis were all covered as well as a host of other first aid skills.
The only thing I hadn’t heard of was croup - but now, not only do I know what it is (a really bad cough), but also what it sounds like (an upset walrus) and how to deal with it (steam).
Each area of first aid was explained by an instructor before you have a go at it yourself. We then watched a short video on each exercise – some of which were very badly acted and made me want to giggle.
The first aid was specifically aimed at babies and children, but actually much of what you do for a child over two years old is the same for an adult, so we feel fully prepared for any eventuality.
The course cost us £35 each which we thought was well worth it. It can be more expensive if you go to a training centre in central London so if you can get to a different centre you could save yourself some pennies.
It was a really informative morning and definitely worth attending. We all received a booklet outlining everything we’d learnt, a pen with a pull out reminder of what to do in an emergency, a mouth guard for emergencies with strangers, and a certificate (whoop!).
For more information you can visit the Red Cross website.
Just before we went into the room I had a panic about what we’d say if they asked why we were attending. There were a lot of very pregnant women so it was clear why they were there, but in our case I wondered how people might react. As predicted, they asked and I told a room full of strangers that Tom and I were adopting and wanted some first aid training. No intakes of breath, no disapproving looks – everyone seemed to be fine about it. Then at lunch, amongst all the chat about how far gone the mums-to-be were, we were also asked lots of questions about the adoption process. People were genuinely interested and, really wonderfully, completed unfazed by two men adopting a child. It was very refreshing and made us both feel really happy.
In a previous post, I thought about all the different skills parents might need. What else would you recommend?
My husband and I have adopted two wonderful children. Duckling is 5 and Gosling, her little brother, is 3. I'll be keeping track of our journey here...