Tag Archives: rejection

The highs and lows of adoptive parenting

Today we have a guest post from someone who wishes to remain anonymous. This is his experience as father to a 7 year old boy, and as a family they are undergoing attachment based therapy. They have been together as a family for 6 years now.

Joy…in that honeymoon period. Finally we were a family.
But…
Deep grief, as he settled in and missed his foster family.

First words. First steps. So many firsts to celebrate.
But…
First tantrums. First rejections. After all, this wasn’t his first separation, his first grief experience.

Content and settled. Sleepy head, all calm and restful. We watched him sleep.
But…
The nightmares came. We held and rocked and consoled and soothed on repeat.

Nursery, school, friendships and play. All those things that children should have.
But…
Endless conversations about bullying, disruption in lessons, no concentration.

Family time. Parks, days out, games and fun.
But…
Always the fear of meltdown, losing control, how to help him.

A new therapy? Yes, we’ll give anything a ago – improvements!
But…
He’s cottoned on. And the anger, anxiety, frustration, and negativity all come back, whilst the confidence, positivity, and carefree attitude have all but disappeared.

As a dad, I don’t know what is coming from one day to the next, let alone the weeks, months and years ahead for us as a family. This scares me – a 38 year old grown man. I can’t make sense of what my boy has experienced, and I struggle to help him handle his emotions.

How on earth does it make my 7 year old boy feel? – a child with limited life experiences, many of which have been challenging to him, in a world he doesn’t fully understand? How can I ever hope to equip him with all the tools he needs to decipher and make sense of himself, his past and his future.

Parenting is hard. Adoptive parenting involves more guesswork, strategic planning and psychology. But being that child – being my boy, is so much harder.

Father’s Day

Zoe* is an adoption social worker, working for a local authority adoption agency. She is also an adoptive parent to her son Cain*, who was placed 8 years ago, and is now 10.

mothers dayIn my conversations with adoptive parents, Mother’s Day is often talked about, and in several different contexts too. It’s a time for us as parents to reflect and remember our children’s birth mums, and empathise how difficult the day is for those birth mums, it can be a difficult day for our children with conflict and divided loyalties appearing to be common themes (though not something I’ve experienced), and I know many adoptive families don’t celebrate or mark the occasion at all because it’s just too difficult.

On other celebration days mums seem to get it bad too – and in my own house my birthday is particularly difficult as my son struggles with the attention being diverted away from him and feels he should get presents too. However, other days such as my husbands birthday and grandparent’s birthdays go well, with no concerns on our part about how our son will handle them.

dad picSo with Father’s Day approaching, it’s reminded me about this disparity. Again, in our house, it goes OK. There are no concerns and we will ‘celebrate’ (I use that term loosely) with no worry that the day will be disrupted any more than usual.

I know that other adoptive families have this same imbalance. Mum cops all the flack, Dad gets an easier ride.

There are many reasons why children reject their adoptive mothers more than their fathers – perhaps it’s a way of protecting their previous relationships with their birth mother or foster carer, maybe it’s because women previously in their lives have hurt them, perhaps they’re too scared to get close, maybe they’re just going through a normal developmental period, maybe they’re enjoying the relationship of a father – something they might not have had before, some children display this ambivalent behaviour towards one parent to mask the fear that they are actually bonding well – there are many more reasons and speculations besides.

So I want to know more about how Father’s Day is seen and experienced by adoptive parents and their children. Do you celebrate? Does it cause problems? More or less than Mother’s Day? What about for single adopters? Do these days have different challenges for you? Is there any way we can prepare potential adopters to handle these challenging days better?

If you can answer Zoe’s questions, then please comment below and we’ll pass your responses on to her, though I’m sure she’ll be reading anyway.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

Crazy?

crazy

“Are you crazy?” is probably in the top three things said to me when I told people we were adopting again – obviously along with “congratulations” and “how long will it take?”. People were genuinely pleased for us, but they were slightly puzzled too. You see our journey with our other adopted children has not been an easy one, so people naturally thought we were a bit odd to be doing it all again.

Our two older children were adopted eight years ago. When they arrived, at the ages of two and three, they were beautiful, funny and affectionate. Some of their behaviours were confusing and difficult but I put this down to normal toddler stuff. However, slowly I began to learn that what I was actually seeing was the result of attachment difficulties and developmental trauma – the attention seeking, controlling, hyperactivity, poor empathy, excessive shame – I’m sure all the adopters out there get it. As an adopter, it becomes your ‘norm’ and you somehow learn to understand the language of trauma.
The years that followed have been somewhat of a rollercoaster which has involved losing unsupportive friends (but making some much better ones), fighting my children’s school for just about every ounce of support possible, requesting and fighting for assessments, therapy and statements, etc.. There are times I have cried, times when I have been on my knees and times when I felt like running out the door and not coming back.

So why would we choose to put ourselves through it all again? Well the short answer is that as difficult as things have been, I would not change my children for the world. They are quite possibly the most gorgeous, funny, kind and unique children in the world, and they are my world. I love them more than I ever imagined to be possible.

 

So actually, the question for us was how could we NOT want another?

Obviously things are not quite that simple and a huge part of our decision making was around our two older children and their ability to cope. These are two children who struggle with changes, are deeply possessive of us and have huge anxieties – but somehow I knew they would cope. Not many people believed this but as a mother I just knew.

The type of child we wanted had to be quite specific, again with our older two in mind. We opted for a baby to limit the threat to them, and also specified gender.

At first Social Services were unsure of our ability to cope and actually put us on hold for 6 months to see if our older children ‘improved’. I actually found this very offensive as my children should not have to ‘improve’ to be able to gain a sibling. Obviously the welfare of any new child joining our family was important, but my children were considered to be a ‘problem’ that needing sorting out and I found it quite upsetting that they were indirectly being blamed for us not being able to move forward at that time. Thankfully our assessment did start moving eventually, albeit very slowly and two years later we were approved. The approval journey was very difficult for our older two because they needed to be involved, yet the waiting was very hard for them. They had school friends having baby brothers or sisters and they were jealous of this.

We thought after approval things would get easier but it was actually harder. We were turned down for many children because we already had two – or I suppose unofficially we had ‘baggage’! I would pick my children up from school every day to be asked “has Kevin found us a baby yet”. Kevin, our social worker was trying hard for us and was by this time searching nationally for a suitable match. He was honest in telling us that most social workers preferred uncomplicated couples – and we were far from that.

We were eventually told about a baby who sounded perfect and their social worker liked us. We were given photos and a CPR. I fell in love. After three weeks of dreaming my world came crashing down when I got a call to say that a relative had popped up and they needed to assess them. I broke down in tears, devastated. At this moment one of my children walked in the room, seeing me in this state and asking what was wrong. I felt so guilty and it made me question what we were doing and if we should continue. That evening my partner and I had a heartbreaking discussion. We had been approved for 9 months by this time and we agreed that we would give ourselves another 3 months on this rollercoaster before getting off and moving on as a family. We were worn out and emotionally drained so we knew we could not carry on indefinitely, this was the final countdown.

Then about a month later came a call which should have been special, but unfortunately wasn’t. I was told about another baby, very young and apparently a straight forward case. We saw the CPR, photos, a video, had meetings and met the foster carer. All this time I waited for the excitement to kick in, but it didn’t. I felt empty and numb, like the last 3 years had just about knocked every last ounce of excitement out of me. We went to matching panel and I was asked “Why have you chosen this baby?” – I couldn’t answer because I didn’t know anymore. Luckily Kevin pulled things back for us and explained about our difficult journey. I left matching panel and cried because I so desperately wanted to feel excited and happy.

Two weeks later we met our baby. I was so worried I would feel nothing and had prepared myself for faking it. Yet when I looked at this beautiful little baby everything changed. Suddenly it was real, this baby was real, I was a mum again.

This was a year ago now, and although things have not been easy, our newest addition has settled in really well. Our bond grows stronger and our love deepens with each passing day. Our older children have been wonderful and we have been immensely proud at how they have coped. Both myself and my partner have had low times, which we expected, but have managed to pull ourselves out of it with the help of family and friends.

Things are never straight forward and I don’t want to give the impression of a ‘happily ever after’ fairytale, however we are doing okay, we have lots of happy times and we all love each other. Sadly, trauma will always be part of our family, that’s the nature of adoption, but we try not to let it consume our family. We try to acknowledge it without letting it take over our lives. Sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t.

So when I say to people that one day I would maybe like another, you can imagine what people say to me!

Today’s post has been written anonymously for us. If you’d like to share your own story, then do email us at theadoptionsocial@gmail.com – we’d love to host your post.