We’ve had a couple of second meetings recently. The first was when Tom and I met up with a couple of people from our Stage One preparation day for a drink. It was a really nice evening and was great to share our experiences of the process so far. Interestingly, we’re all at very different places with one being approved to adopt, another waiting for DBS certificates to be able to finish Stage One (if I felt the process was taking a long time, I can’t imagine how frustrated they must be feeling), and us in Stage Two. At the end of the evening (and after more bottles of wine than is sensible midweek) we made tentative plans to meet again in a few months. It felt like the start of our very own ‘NCT’ group.
Our second second meeting was with Denise, our social worker. After the last session I was prepared for anything and everything but fortunately that wasn’t necessary. The meeting was at the agency’s offices which I thought would be a bit grim but were actually very relaxed – it turns out Denise makes a great cup of tea which always helps (although she was a bit slow in offering the large box of biscuits that sat between us).
Denise, once again, kicked off the session by reminding us of the types of children we’re likely to be matched with and asked if we were ready for the challenges they might bring. Just like last time we assured her we were. I suspect this is going to be a regular exchange between us. We then spent some time looking at the types of children that are waiting to be placed in recent editions of the Adoption UK magazine.
This was a really useful exercise as it helped focus Tom and my thoughts on the types of children we feel we could offer a home to. As we’re committed to adopting a sibling group we don’t think it appropriate for us to take on a child with severe physical disabilities, which would mean our focus would naturally have to be on one of the children more than the other – not an ideal situation in any sibling group let alone with an adopted pair. However, we did think that a child with some form of developmental delay would be something we could cope with. As all our siblings have a child of each sex, it would be nice to have one of each too but gender isn’t really an issue for us. All of this is very fluid and will change as we go through the process but it’s good to be having the discussion.
We re-visited the eco-map but today looked at the people we offered support to and how they might cope when we were suddenly the parents to two children. This was interesting to think about as most of the people in our support network are either immediate family or our friends (most of whom have children themselves) and so the support has always been reciprocal and hopefully will continue to be so.
Tom and I mentioned that we’d met some of our prep group the night before and Denise was really pleased about this. We all agreed that they would be potential support for us (and vice versa) in the future. It turns out Denise knew I’d organised the contact list through speaking to the social workers that ran our prep days. I wonder what else she’s been told…
The conversation that took up most of the session was about stressful situations and how we deal with them. For me the big one is my mum’s mental health issues, which came up in the first session with Denise.
My mum’s periods of depression are sporadic, with her thankfully having far more ups than downs. In fact it’s so well managed nowadays, through a combination of medication, self-care, and counselling, that it’s a shock when it reappears. It is sometimes possible to predict when it’s coming though - the main crunch time being New Year’s Eve which is emotional for many people, but it’s also the night she finally escaped her life in Ireland and arrived in the UK, and it’s also the night (26 years later) she found out that I was gay.
Denise was interested in how I was affected by this and how I dealt with it. If anything I would say it’s made me a stronger person and far more in touch with my feelings (not in a new age hippie way). From the age of 11, when my mum’s illness was at its worst, I had to act as carer from when I got home from school until my dad came home from work. This meant cleaning, shopping, cooking – all things that I can manage very well now and actually are skills that all children should have. Thankfully, I also had my older brothers (who by this point had moved out) who supported me and made sure I was OK. There were also some great friends of my mum’s who were there for us and to whom I will be eternally grateful.
Nowadays, it’s Tom, my brothers and my friends that I turn when I need support - usually it’s just a frustrated rant that gets everything off my chest. When things are really bad with my mum it usually falls to my older brother who lives the closest to support and help her. But we all chip in when we can.
I’ve witnessed first-hand what bottling up feelings and emotions can do to a person, and the devastation caused when these feelings are released, so I’ve always been able to talk about my emotions, share my thoughts (this blog is testament to that), and if I ever feel a bit down I acknowledge those feelings and respond to them.
Throughout this conversation, Denise was frantically scribbling notes and at the end she summed up an hour’s worth of talking into one succinct sentence – “I get from what you’re saying is that you don’t feel responsible for your mum, but you love, care and look after her as any son would do”. I was amazed. Despite Denise’s slightly shambolic approach to paperwork, she picked up on tiny details from our conversation and understood my relationship with my mum completely. And phrasing it that way that was a revelation. It felt liberating to hear it said out loud in such a manner. And exhausting. But at least I didn’t cry this time.
We finished up with Denise giving us some homework. We have a piece of writing about the area we live in to complete, a couple of topics from the session to think about further, some more books to read (how there can still be books on adoption we haven’t read yet is beyond me), and we have to take a picture of us both that makes us look like a pair of dads.
All in all, two really positive meetings. I’m already looking forward to the next ones…
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...