This weeks’ big news is that we have been granted our Adoption Order (AO). It sort of feels as though it has been a long time coming and we have got here ridiculously quickly all at the same time.
We have wanted to get the AO all sewn up since Christmas. Getting the paperwork to court, via Social Services seemed to take forever. It took weeks for anybody to notice that they didn’t have our wedding certificate (which we duly sent and fear we’ll never see again!) and the clock continued to tick and there continued to be silence.
One day, out of the blue, we returned home to find a very official looking letter on the mat – it was from the court explaining there was now a hearing date. We shouldn’t attend but Little Bear’s birth parents could if they wanted to. We knew that they could contest the AO if they chose to but we had no real idea whether they would or not.
We have not met Little Bear’s birth parents. When we embarked on the adoption process we had no idea that meeting birth parents would even be a possibility. I was quite shocked when we were told that it is and is in fact considered good practise, when we attended the prep groups. I wasn’t really sure I was too keen on the idea.
However, Grizzly’s Dad died when he was a young child so he has first-hand experience of what it is to lose a parent and to wonder about them. Ultimately he would want to see his Dad but with that not being possible, the next best thing is to share stories etc. with people who did know him. Grizzly immediately felt that that he would want to meet our future child’s birth parents – so that he could tell our child all about them when the time was right: so that he could share real, tangible information from having met them, not just theoretical information from a piece of paper.
I agreed that if it was best for our future little one I too would be willing to meet them and would put my personal feelings aside.
However, in the event, we made our willingness to meet Little Bear’s birth parents known, but Social Services were adamant it would not be appropriate in this case. We weren’t told a lot, only that birth mum would have found it too difficult to cope with.
Without having met them and having read only very factual information about them, we had no real concept of them as people and therefore nothing much to base a judgement on about whether or not they were likely to contest the order.
At our most recent review meeting, Little Bear’s Social Worker said she didn’t feel they would. Then, at a further appointment, she reported that birth mum in particular wanted to attend the hearing and “have her say” (whatever that meant) but did not plan to contest it.
True to their word, both birth parents attended court and did not contest the planned order, meaning that the judge was able to grant it there and then. The Social Worker described the birth parents as being “upset” in court but “wanting to do the best” for Little Bear. I felt very emotional on reading that part of the e-mail.
It is times like this that you remember how out of the ordinary adoption is. I think I’ve fallen into a relative normality – Little Bear feels like he’s ours, it feels like he should be here. We’ve all got used to each other. Gone are the days when I dreaded what the morning would bring and when I’d rather not have clapped eyes on him when I first woke (I wrote about our difficult beginnings in Love & in Getting brother or sister). Gone are the days when we had to act out loving him and when I did more “managing” of behaviour than anything that felt like the “parenting” I was used to with Big Bear.
It is not that everything is easy now, though most things are easier, it’s more that there is a familiarity, a normality, about our daily lives. Little Bear is part of the furniture, just as much as any of the rest of us. And as I go about this normality, I mostly don’t think about the fact that I did not give birth to Little Bear. It could partly be because he fits in so well and does have similarities with us (physically, in his character and in his preferences) that I don’t constantly keep in mind him being genetically someone else’s.
However, on getting the AO and on celebrating it, it was not lost on me that in another corner of our island, Little Bear’s birth parents would be grieving. In a perverse way, was this a celebration of their loss?
Of course I am happy that the order has been granted – it is what we have been working towards, a landmark for any adopter. It confirms what we feel – that Little Bear is our son and this is now cemented by him officially sharing our name.
For the first time I have felt an emotional connection to his birth parents. I can’t help but feel sadness for them. As my Mum said, who wants to feel that they have not been able to give their child what they need? Who wants to know that they’ve failed as a parent and face a future in which they may never see their child again?
I think perhaps I would not have been able to afford them this empathy had they have purposefully harmed Little Bear. Obviously they were not able to keep him safe or nurture or develop him appropriately but as far as we know, they did not abuse him.
I am puzzled by them though. What stopped them from taking the many, many, opportunities provided to them to change their circumstances? Why didn’t they fight harder? Did they know they couldn’t do it? That it would be best all round this way? Or do they feel wronged? As though in their eyes they were perfectly good parents and it was all Social Services fault? How much do they think about Little Bear? Do they wonder about us? What do they wonder?
One thing that plays on my mind is that Little Bear’s birth mum breastfed him. It is probably hideously judgemental of me but I had just assumed that he would have been bottle fed. Breastfeeding is such an intimate act of bonding that I now find it hard to imagine that same mother empty-armed, without her infant in her care. I know breastfeeding alone does not make you a good mother (and obviously bottle feeding certainly does not make you a bad mother) but it says something about the level of care she tried to provide. She did try to bond with him; she did try to give him the best start health-wise.
The fact that she was not able to maintain this level of care says more about her own life experiences and the failures of those around her than anything. I feel she has been a victim of her own circumstances which in itself is a great sadness.
Equally, the fact that they both attended the court hearing says something to me. I think that many birth parents would not attend. I think others would contest so that they could feel as though they had fought for their child. In attending but not contesting I feel as though Little Bear’s birth parents have shown that they do care and almost given us their blessing to go ahead and raise Little Bear as best we can.
Perhaps I’m off the mark and that is not how they feel at all. But now I wonder where previously I was happy to pretend they didn’t exist.
I think I will still feel a weird bolt to my chest whenever I see their picture in Little Bear’s Life Story book – a very stark reminder that they do exist and this is not ordinary parenting. But I am now keen to make some connection with them. We are going to be doing Letterbox contact and that is due to start soon, which I’m pleased about. I feel that they will reply. No doubt I will analyse their letter in some depth.
Having now successfully managed to deflect all attention away from us being granted the AO I must now try to re-gain some focus! Grizzly and I seem to do this a lot – taking fairly major milestones or events in our stride and just trucking on without actually celebrating them or even pausing for a momentary pat on the back.
We spent approx. 30 seconds briefly acknowledging that this was indeed a milestone, we had got here without even considering divorce and everyone was still alive. Good. That’s settled then. What about these tiles that have been delivered but half of them are smashed? And so went the evening.
We are aware that this is a rubbish way of going about things so we think we might right all the non-celebrations of the last year with a big party once all of our building works are complete. And of course there is the celebration court date to come too.
As I said at the beginning, although it has seemed like a long journey, in other ways it is hard to believe that we have reached this point already. Fittingly, today is exactly one year to the day since we first saw Little Bear’s profile. If you’d have told us on the 10th June 2015 that in one year’s time this gorgeous little man, smiling at us from the piece of newspaper, with 5 scant sentences residing beside his head, would not only have been living with us for 9.5 months but would legally be one of us, I don’t think we would have believed you – especially as, at that point, we had only been approved as adopters for 10 short days! The whirlwind continues. .