10 things I wish I had known at the start of the adoption process

I'm in a reflective mood today. I've found myself recently thinking back to what I was like at the start of the adoption process, and mulling over what advice I would give to myself. Here's what I reckon:

1. Be prepared to take AT LEAST a year off work. Seriously. No really. Trust me.

2. Adoption is a hugely emotional journey, and each stage more so than the last. The run up to approval can be harrowing, the wait during matching is unbearable, and then actually having a child placed with you is like living with a small Dementor who feeds off your energy. (Love him, obviously, but still...)

3. Read (1) again, and then (2) again, until you believe (1). My biggest regret is pressuring myself to go back to work too soon, even though I am freelance and hardly do any actual work at all. Some days even daytime TV is too demanding for my poor addled brain.

4. Love for birth children and love for adopted children feels pretty much the same. The only difference is that there is a gaping chasm of experiences that Tickle has had which I haven't been involved in, and that can be difficult sometimes. It can be difficult because I want to help him cope with life better, and I feel sad that he's had these experiences, and it can be difficult because sometimes you are basically scrabbling around in the dark to try and work out what on earth is wrong with him.

5. Read books like The Boy who was raised as a Dog and really try to understand that you could end up with a child who has had experiences like these. And then try to understand that you will be completely unprepared for it, regardless of how many books you have read. It's really, really hard.

6. Get a counsellor, right at the start. I wish I had done this; just having someone impartial to talk things over with and help me deal with all of my feelings would have been such a help. My Husband is great, my Mum is great, my friends are great, but the absolute enormity of what Tickle is dealing with, and therefore what I am dealing with, is far too much to bear without having some sort of outlet. Understand that secondary trauma is a thing and this is why *all* counsellors have counselling themselves, only they call it 'supervision'. Supervision for adoptive parents really ought to be a thing.

7. Get connected in to a community of adopters. Twitter is great for this, but I wish I had someone in real life who 'gets' it without me having to explain. I have met people who have adopted a couple of times - just by chance - and nearly cried with relief just to find someone else who knows what it's like. (The last time this happened was at a public swimming pool.)

8. Spend time around children who have Special Needs. I have worked with Music and SEN for years, and it was still a huge leap from that to being the parent of a child with SEN. Even if you're not planning to adopt a child with Special Needs (I wasn't) still do it.

9. No matter what your child does, there will be someone who says 'Oh, all children do that!'. They are wrong. Show them this: http://thoughtsonbeingmum.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/biological-children-do-that-too-you-know.html

10. Everybody brings their own emotional baggage to adoption. Adopters, children, foster carers, social workers, IROs, teachers, grandparents.. and as the parent you will be the one in the middle fielding all of it. Self care is so important. Sometimes you just need to do what needs doing so you can get through, and then give yourself some time to recover. People who aren't adoptive parents, don't understand what it's like to be adoptive parents - stick to your guns, know yourself, stand up for yourself and your family, and follow your gut instinct. At the end of the day, when the Adoption Order has gone through and all the support and scaffolding drifts away, that is what you are going to be left with.

In summary.. the last seven months have been draining, emotional, bruising, exhausting, and exhilerating. There is nothing like this in the world. The rewards are huge, and if you are in the right place you will learn so much from your adopted children. It's wonderful, and it's hard, and then it's amazing, and then you wish you'd never done it, and then it's the best thing ever. Get used to it ;)


  1. I still haven't got round to doing some of these! I think they should be compulsory. Nice blog.


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