We wanted this didn't we? What do we all want from adoption?
After some shocked and bemused discussions we dipped our toes in and skirted in the shallow end for quite some time, gathering information and time after time being astonished that we were a viable couple for adoption.
In truth, I kept being astounded by this fact until the day they came home!
So what did WE think adoption was?
I knew in my heart you didn't get babies anymore- this was not a shock to me to find this out.
I thought the process would be grueling and we would be weaned out at some point.
I thought it would take a while before a child or children would call me Mummy.
I thought I would end up with a child or children with a seriously sad background of abuse.
I thought I would be lucky to be matched to a child or children without a background of serious abuse.
I guess ultimately, I wanted to be a mum. I wanted a family, a legacy, I wanted grandchildren for my parents and I wanted to not be a failure as a woman (infertility plays merry havoc with your head).
I wanted the picture perfect walks in the park, kicking up leaves (literally, we never actually get to kick up leaves- I mean they are either muddy and mulchy and soggy or we totally miss the small window of opportunity to crunch through nice dry leaves!). I wanted to save a child/ children and offer them a loving home and new opportunities.
So, what did we actually get?
What we got was a huge dose of reality.
(although they did call me Mummy from fay one!).
I had read the books about trauma, adoption stories and attachment and therapeutic parenting, oh I had read them...
Nothing can prepare you for living them.
My boys did not have a terrible background, we had considered children with far more sad backgrounds. We thought we were lucky in this respect- all I can now say is the issues we are having may be minimal compared to the trauma some other children cope with but at the same time I am not so sure...I feel we underestimated the trauma they are feeling; trauma that is only really surfacing and year and a half in.
What we got was two very damaged children who need more than love, so much more. I hate seeing memes and comments about 'family is love not genes' and how a 'loving home' was all adopted children needed- WRONG! so, so wrong.
What we got was a world of denial- after all, placement was going well in the early days, we allowed ourselves to be fooled into the happy child/parent crunchy- leaves- in- the- park picture. Then troubles started, the tantrums, sleepless nights, the real resistance and hurt and inability to express emotions (and that was just us ;) ) .Over time it became very real that what we got really was children in pain who were traumatised in different ways, Was it what we wanted from family life, from adoption? Hell no. Was it what we expected? On paper, hell yes...in our hearts...no. I freely admit that 'love' clouded my perception of parenting even though my head knew better- after all, I had read the books and educated myself
.It is hard to remind yourself to be therapeutic, to parent differently, it is oh so easy to fall into the parenting styles of your own parents, it is so easy, it is so comfortable, like sipping an old slipper, but it isn't right for adopted children. A year in, it is so obvious why the process is so involved, in fact I feel strongly that there should be more training in therapeutic parenting and PACE techniques as THIS is your lifeline. There needs to be a mandatory course, sometime before you adopt and sometime after- this is the only way to get the children through their loss and trauma and on a day to day basis it is too easy to ignore- we are all busy/working/ have responsibilities outside the home that lead us on to the well trodden path of 'traditional' or 'normal' (I hate that word) parenting.
We wanted this, didn't we? Yes we did. Do we want this now? Of course we do- we just wish we had more time to devote to the children and right at this moment in time we are planning a lifestyle change in working (not me, my husband, I literally cannot get out of being the main earner) and we have already have cut my husbands hours to be there for the children more. No one tells you how much time you will feel you need to dedicate to an adopted child.
In an ideal work there would be a stay at home parent, even two (if you are in a couple), Adopted kids really need all the time and energy we can devote- it is a shame we have to also earn money to live!
I feel sometimes like we had rose tinted spectacles on when it came to building a family through adoption and yet I know we didn't , I know we were realistic about it (I can only assume that the unrealistic prospective adopters are weeded out early on). I know we knew what was coming but nothing can prepare you, nothing.
...but also nothing can prepare you for the heart stopping moments of joy, the moments you are all doubled over in laughter, the funny things they say, the joy and seeing them sharing, giving love to the dogs, heck even giving love to us! Nothing can tell you of the joy of a handmade card at nursery, first mother's/ father's day, first Christmas...there are so many wonderful fmaily moments and funny times. Books about trauma do not tell you about this. This is the silver lining we all wanted.