Adoption Celebrations

Last week we had our court celebration. We got our Adoption Order back in June but I guess this was the first date court could accommodate us for our celebration.

We had chosen the city we wanted it to take place in and had been told to meet outside of the court at 9:45am and for our party to go in together. It was a bit of a mad dash but somehow we managed to get there and all dressed up to make an occasion of it.

I drew the line at getting matching outfits for the boys as I’ve always been really against putting children in the same outfits (“they’re not the same person” I would moan) however since we’ve had Little Bear I’ve been having strange urges to do it. I think it’s because it shows a link between them for the whole world to see. Plus, they’d look super cute. Anyway, as a compromise between reneging on my old principles and my new desire to make them match, I had bought them the same tailored navy shorts and both blue and white shirts but with different patterns. And very handsome they looked too (as long as you didn’t notice the sun gleaming off Little Bear’s bald patch!).

We met our parents there and Ann our Social Worker. We all had to go through the scanning machine which the boys found entertaining. Stupidly I had thought we would go straight into the court room but unfortunately there was quite a long wait. I was starting to fear that if we didn’t go in soon, Little Bear would systematically destroy the waiting room.

Over the few days before the court event I had tried to explain to Little Bear that we were going to see the Judge. I had explained that he (or she?) was a very important person who would be telling us that Little Bear could stay with us forever and he would have our name (although in reality he only knows our surname). It was very hard to tell how much Little Bear had taken on board.

I had also been fearful for some time that if the Judge said something about Little Bear staying with us forever, he might pipe up “no I not. I go Karen and Bob’s house” (my made up name for Little Bear’s foster carers) as he used to be pretty fond of saying this.

On the morning of the event, Little Bear was actually very keen to get his smart clothes on and kept asking to go to see the Judge (even if it did sound like he was asking for George). His excitement was proving hard to contain so the wait was less than ideal. We were all very relieved when the time eventually came for us to be called in.

It turned out not to be a Judge (damn! I was excited about seeing the wig) but 3 magistrates. They were lovely though. The main guy said a few words about it being a happy occasion and congratulated us all. Little Bear pointed to each Magistrate and said “that’s my girlfriend, that’s my boyfriend, that’s my girlfriend” which made us giggle. Thankfully he said it quietly and strangers still find him hard to understand so I don’t think the Magistrates picked up on it. I hope not as a second later he muttered “that guy is such a weirdo”!

The Magistrate spoke a little more then Grizzly asked Little Bear if he wanted to say anything. “I want to live with them forever” he said and leaned his head against Grizzly. It was such a lovely tear-inducing moment and such a relief that he did seem to understand why we there and that he hadn’t chosen to say he’d rather be somewhere else.

The Magistrate gave Little Bear a teddy and a certificate to mark the day. They then invited the boys to sit in the big chair and for us to take photos. We didn’t feel rushed at all and the Head Magistrate even turned photographer for us. It was short but sweet and we came away feeling happy to be official.

We had puzzled over what to do afterwards, especially with it being too early for lunch but thankfully the sun was shining and we were just beside a lovely park. It was definitely the right choice as after being on their best behaviour in court the boys were ready to let off some steam. Ann came with us for a while. We wandered through the park and admired the squirrels before finding the café to get some hot drinks. The boys played in the play area and the grownups managed some grownup conversation (!). It was lovely to catch up with Ann but soon she had to head back to work.

There was a miniature railway in the park, complete with tiny station and platform so Grizzly and I and the boys had a few rides and my Dad couldn’t help joining in either.

When it was time for lunch, Little Bear had a meltdown leaving the park. There was a bit of biting and scratching but thankfully he calmed quickly and then wanted to be carried to the restaurant. We chose to go to Pizza Express for lunch as it’s family-friendly and easy. It was tempting to go somewhere posher to mark the occasion but it would probably have been a disaster and as long as the children were happy we knew we would be too.

Meal times with Little Bear can be really stressful but he did well this time. He was keen to go on the open-topped bus afterwards which helped with his motivation.

The bus was a good choice. We were enjoying the nice weather, getting some fresh air, seeing sights we hadn’t seen before in a city we thought we knew well and having a rest while we were at it. I’m always a bit sceptical about there being a guide in these situations but she was very interesting and not boring at all.

We stayed on the bus until Little Bear started standing up more than he was sitting down and I was becoming a bit anxious about what he might do next. I always feel it’s better to end these things whilst they are still going well.

I had seen that there was a Lego exhibition on in the Cathedral and as we got off the bus near there it seemed worth a try. The exhibition itself was brilliant – Master Builders (they really are called that) had created all sorts of vehicles from Lego, including a 7 metre long replica of the Titanic which was amazing. Big Bear loved it and filled my whole phone with photos. The grownups loved it too but I think Little Bear was getting tired by then and although he showed some interest in the models, he was around the whole thing in about a minute. His behaviour was beginning to escalate and we ended up having another ‘time in’. I had to pretend he wasn’t really being abusive in a Cathedral!

As usual, these things are often solved with food. We headed to the café where there was a large Lego pit and a Lego wall that the children could build on to. Both Bears absolutely loved it and played together for ages while the grownups somehow managed another drink and chat.

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By now it was late afternoon and we had been out all day so we headed homeward. It had been a really lovely family day out and I’m so pleased that we found something inclusive to do. You never know how these things will go, best laid plans and all, so I was relieved that we had all enjoyed it and had managed to successfully create a great memory of Little Bear’s special day.

Unusually for us, this was not the end of it. Earlier in the year we had had a realisation that we are rubbish at celebrating big events and just keep on trucking with our busy lives. We had resolved that this time would be different and we had planned a big party. We also wanted to thank our support network for everything they had done for us over the past 12 to 18 months, whilst we were going through the adoption process. So on Thursday we had our court celebration, Friday was the anniversary of Little Bear moving in and Saturday was our party. Talk about a manic few days!

We were expecting almost 50 people to our party, which we were having at home and the plan was definitely for it to be outside. By Thursday my obsessive checking of the weather forecast indicated that there wasn’t going to be a last minute miracle, the forecast was for rain and I needed to accept this. That evening we began filling the garden with gazebos. On Friday we woke to this headline: “UK to be battered by 1500 mile wide storm”. Excellent. Perfect. Just exactly what we needed!

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It was still raining on Saturday morning, the decking was treacherously slippy and the gazebos were leaking in several places. Undeterred and with no other real options, we proceeded with the preparations as best we could. The bouncy castle arrived and another gazebo was quickly erected so children could get on and off it without getting soaked.

The 15 children busied themselves on the bouncy castle and I can honestly say that they weren’t one bit of trouble all day. At lunch time most of them spontaneously trooped into the little front room (soon to be office), instigated a carpet picnic and watched a DVD in near silence! No one could quite believe it. I think all the bouncing must have worn them out.

Although we were very keen on the party idea, the thing that usually puts me off is catering for everybody. As is the way with everything since adopting, our mantra is “keep things easy” and we applied this to the party too. At 12o’clock pizzas were delivered. My Mum had made some lovely salads and I had done some bits and voila lunch was served. At 1:30 pudding arrived in the form of an ice cream van. A swarm of children ran zombie like straight through the house chanting “ice cream ice cream”. It was ace.

My friend had also made us a cake. I wanted the cake to be symbolic so she made it with 4 layers – one layer to represent each of us. The layers were made of our favourite cake and the outside of each was decorated with our favourite things. She also added 4 bears dotted around it to include how I refer to everyone here in my blog. We did gather everyone around at one point and made a cheesy speech as we genuinely did want to thank everybody for their unwavering support. Big Bear lead 3 cheers and Little Bear cut the cake.

 

Somehow, a weather miracle did seem to take place and the rain held off until later on. It was very windy though and at one point a gazebo did take flight. Thankfully nobody was in it at the time! Our guests were very helpful and as they stood around chatting, they kept a hand or two on the gazebos to stop it from happening again!

We had a brilliant time. I felt very relaxed which can be hard to achieve in these situations and I also felt I had had proper conversations with people. The last guests didn’t leave until 2 hours after the party was supposed to finish so I take that as a sign that people enjoyed themselves.

I feel that we have well and truly celebrated adopting Little Bear now. And so we should.

Adoption Celebrations

June at Adoption: The Bear Facts

Events:

Well, looking back, it’s fair to say that June has been pretty full on. It seems ages ago already but right back at the start of the month both boys were on their half term holiday. I was feeling very brave on the first day and merrily trotted off with them both for a day out. Despite having a good reserve of resilience and having picked somewhere they would both like to go, the day was an unmitigated disaster. Little Bear has several full-blown, very public meltdowns. Big Bear coped well to start with but by the end had had more than his fill of his brother and announced with all the might of his sizeable lungs that he HATED him and refused to even sit with us for an ice cream. Needless to say my confidence about managing the rest of the holiday quickly dwindled.

However, thankfully, the stars got back into alignment and the rest of the break was lovely. I suspected things might be ok when I heard this conversation on the second morning:

Little Bear: I love you

Big Bear: I love you too

Little Bear: Shall I give you a cuddle?

Big Bear: Yeah

For once the weather was actually good and dare I say it, warm. It meant we could be outside a lot. We spent an uncharacteristically chilled out afternoon in the park – me and Grizzly’s Mum sitting under a tree while the boys played and made new friends; we had a family BBQ at my parent’s house; went to several more parks; had tea outside pretty much every day and even got the paddling pool out a few times. One day I came home from the supermarket to find both bears with their feet in the paddling pool with their “pet” toad swimming around their feet!

We also had a fab, if not slightly crazy trip to the zoo with my friend and her two boys. It’s pretty full on trying to keep 4 active boys safe at a very busy zoo (I have no idea how people manage to have more than 2 children! I’m quite amazed by it). It was shortly after the boy-falling-into-Gorilla-pit incident had taken place so although Little Bear touched several bins, spat in a pond, climbed into a sand trough meant for fossil hunting and nearly tipped a fence over, I was just glad that we managed to leave with all the children we had come with and nobody had got too hands on with the animals!

On the very last day of the holiday we drove out to a castle where they were re-enacting a siege from the 12th century. There were loads of people dressed in full knight regalia with real swords and shields etc. Both boys absolutely loved it and I’ve never seen Little Bear sit still for so long as he did when we watched the tournament. It was one of our favourite family days out yet.

We recently had another fun day out thanks to our village fete. Grizzly was the compere (without compare he likes to think) and was in his element, mic in hand, saying whatever he fancied. Big Bear helped him with setting up then hung out with his friends so Little Bear and I explored the stalls together. We enjoyed watching the procession, going on the bouncy castle and Little Bear was very excited to have a go with a real bow and arrow. And after a soggy, unpromising morning, the sun shone and it was glorious.

Little Bear and I have continued to enjoy our ‘mummy days’, recently trying a trip to an aquarium. Little Bear loved it and couldn’t quite believe we had seen real sharks.

I feel that Little Bear and I have managed to reach somewhat of an equilibrium where hanging out is generally pretty relaxed and fun (we still have our moments obviously). We were sitting in a café having lunch this week and I realised that in September I’m very much going to have a Little Bear shaped hole in my days. I’m going to miss my little buddy when he starts school.

Milestones

Little Bear has started swimming lessons. I thought Grizzly was bonkers when he suggested we ask for a trial session for him. Little Bear loves water but the problem (I thought) would be that he doesn’t like authority and generally tests boundaries very thoroughly whenever a new person is in charge. I didn’t imagine that they would accept him onto the programme after the trial, especially judging by the contempt he has shown towards his new teachers whenever we have bumped into them in the playground. However, sometimes it is very nice to be wrong. He was SO well behaved in the first session that they accepted him onto the programme even though they didn’t actually have any spaces left! He has been 3 times now and coped well each time. Little Bear is so proud to have joined his big brother, who is in the pool at the same time but in a harder class. I wonder if it is because he is so motivated to be there that he is managing to co-operate.

Little Bear has also been motivated enough to earn himself a big bed. I wrote all about it in Little Bear’s Big Bed

As I write this Big Bear is on his first school residential. He seems so little at 6 years! It is not so long ago that he would not have managed the trip without a good deal of anxiety beforehand and possibly changing his mind about going at the last minute. However, in the event, he has done brilliantly and bounced off with nary a backward glance. Little Bear has really missed him though, asking me every 20 minutes if we can pick him up yet!

A BIG adoption milestone took place this month too – we got The Adoption Order.

School Life:

Little Bear has continued to do well at Pre-school. His keyworker said the other day that he is making lots more friends and doing well with developing his interactions. What she actually meant was that he and his buddies are now teaming up to get into even more mischief. She also said that they are really noticing the progress with his language as he is now more argumentative and cheeky! Very much a double-edged sword!

I have had to e-mail and meet with Big Bear’s teacher as he was frequently coming home upset. I don’t think she realised how sensitive he is and that keeping him in or making him start his work again was knocking his confidence. Positively she seems to have really listened and taken on board that praise, encouragement and setting him little challenges will work much better. He came home the other day telling me she had said his work was “fantastic” and had made him Star of the Day – little things but they made a huge difference to him.

I always have a bit of a debate with myself over whether or not I should be contacting school but so far I’ve found it has helped things and these little changes reassure me that I have done the right thing this time.

Snapshots

  • Little Bear getting very upset at lunch time as he was misbehaving and we had followed through with a consequence. He was now very grumpy and refusing to eat. Without prompting Big Bear said “shall I feed you?” and made a fork aeroplane. Within seconds Little Bear was eating and laughing again. Sometimes I don’t know where Big Bear gets his emotional wisdom from.

Project Home Improvements:

Well, what was planned to be a 3 week fairly straight forward project is turning into something of a saga.

It all began one Saturday towards the end of May when our builder (who we know well and is lovely) appeared at our door with a bit of news. He was having some fairly significant symptoms from his longish term heart problem and needed a procedure to hopefully mend his stent. It was booked in and would mean delaying our work. It was only a day procedure and had a 10 day recovery period so would only lead to a couple of weeks delay for us. It couldn’t be helped and obviously we wanted him to be well so we lived in our bare living room a while longer. What really worried us though was that if the procedure didn’t work, maybe he wouldn’t be able to do the job at all…

The date for his appointment came and went and we didn’t hear anything. We took that as good news and worked towards the new date we had agreed with him. I was pretty shocked therefore, when he popped around a few days before starting work to measure up, that the procedure had not worked and he was now awaiting a quadruple heart bypass!!

Although he is adamant that he is ok to be working, I continue to be fairly perturbed by his health and this has been the most stressful aspect of the work to date. It wouldn’t be so bad if he seemed fine but he noticeably changes colour at points and one day I turned fully mother hen and sent him home.

One thing that has not helped his health is that the project itself has not exactly gone to plan either. The wall that we were having removed to create our open plan family room turned out not to be a stud wall at all (it sounded hollow) but did in fact have a structural role in supporting the floor joists above. Cue the unforeseen involvement of a structural engineer and a 12 foot steel lintel.

The room hasn’t ended up looking the same as we had imagined it either, so there have been various decisions to make and many an hour spent searching the internet for a specific light fitting or other and multiple trips to B and Q to find the right shade of paint (apparently I’m the only person that has brought a mug with them to colour match! In retrospect I see that they thought I was matching my whole room to one mug when actually the mug just happened to be the perfect shade of almost-mustard that I was looking for).

Considering the fact that we are all squashed into one tiny room with loads of furniture to do all our living and eating, we have very limited access to the rest of downstairs, everything (EVERYTHING) is covered in dust and there are several tradesmen in and out all day, so far it has been surprisingly ok.

On paper it should be a complete disaster for Little Bear: the environment is riddled with danger (Stanley knives, circular saws, you name it, it’s here) and the front door is permanently open (it is usually locked with the key out of reach due to Houdini tendencies). However, as long as I know exactly where Little Bear is and pretty much stay joined to his side, its fine. Thankfully he is not in any way unsettled by the huge changes and if anything he loves seeing what the men are up to. If I let him he would definitely volunteer for the role of builders apprentice. He has learned each of their names, knows which van goes with each person and also which equipment belongs to whom (I don’t).

At this point we are about 2 weeks in and I reckon we have about 3 more to go. Hopefully I might be able to share some photos of the finished project next month. I’m keeping everything crossed.

June at Adoption: The Bear Facts

Our adoption journey: what if?

Getting The Adoption Order has caused me to reflect a little on our adoption journey. As I look back, it’s strange to think how things could have been different.

What if we’d had a reply to the first enquiries we made about a child? A little girl with FASD. What if we had pursued that potential match?

What if the potential adopters before us had agreed to have Little Bear?

What if Karen and Bob (my fictitious names for Little Bear’s foster carers) and Little Bear’s Social Workers had been more honest about his behaviour? What if they had provided a detailed list of all the behaviours we could expect? Would we still have gone ahead with the match?

What if our Social Worker (I call her Anne) had not been able to persuade Little Bear’s Social Workers to look at our details, despite them having closed the process to expressions of interest? What if she hadn’t advocated for us so strongly?

What if those Social Workers had not listened to her and had not kept an open mind?

What if we had decided that rushing through the process to get Little Bear before Karen and Bob went on holiday was too risky? What if we had waited and it had taken another 5 months for him to get here? Would we still have agreed to the match? Would it have been too late to reach him and to start turning his development around?

What if the placement had disrupted during introductions, as it so nearly did? What if we hadn’t put all our efforts into making it work? What if we’d had to come home without him?

What if we didn’t have fantastic support from everyone around us during those first challenging months?

What if?

I know what if. I know that the first little girl we saw was gorgeous but she wasn’t meant to be with us. I wonder now whether we really would have been able to cope with her needs. I do think about her though – I wonder what happened. I hope she got her forever home and is happy and settled there.

I know what would have happened if things had gone more smoothly for the potential adopters before us. They too would have seen the gorgeous boy hiding behind the behaviour and Little Bear would be living with them now…

I know what would have happened if we had been given a full and frank account of Little Bear’s behavioural needs. We would not have pursued the match. On paper, in black and white, it would have seemed unmanageable. We would not have thought that somebody with those needs would make a good brother for Big Bear. We would have been wrong, but we would have thought we were right.

In retrospect I don’t think that anybody was purposefully duplicitous, but I do think that in their desperation to find Little Bear a forever home, they had considered his needs through rose-tinted spectacles. For a while I was upset about this: it’s dangerous to ask adopters to accept a child into their lives without furnishing them with all the facts. Nobody wants a disruption but this type of lack of transparency could all too easily lead to one.

However, now, with the benefit of hindsight, I have to be grateful for this error of judgement. Without it, we would not have got our Little Bear.

I know what would have happened if Anne had not persuaded the Social Workers to look at our profile. They would not have seen the very clear links between our profile and Little Bears’. They would not have been struck by how right the match seemed. They would not have agreed to meet with us or allowed us to get to the point we are at now: a family. Though there were failings on their part, I have to be grateful that they believed in us and invested in the match.

I think I know what would have happened if we had not have taken the risk to speed up matching and introductions and to meet Little Bear a mere 6 weeks after first viewing his profile. I know Little Bear would have gone to respite care while his extended foster family went on a very exciting holiday. I know this would have served to confirm to him that holidays were bad and not for him. I know he would have been confused and unsettled. Perhaps he would have felt rejected or abandoned. I think he would have returned to his foster placement some weeks later (though there was talk of them not accepting him back again) and after a period of settling, preparation for adoption would have begun. I know it would nearly have been Christmas by then and Little Bear would not have been placed until the New Year. I know he would have been nearly 4 at this stage and assuming things had continued as previously, he would still not be potty-trained, still not sitting on a proper chair, still unable to walk appropriately beside an adult, still unable to understand language or express himself. Still not doing any of the things expected of a nearly 4 year old. And he would have been stuck in this delayed limbo for 5 months longer than if we had taken the risk of speeding things up. How far behind would he have been by then? I think his behaviour would have been getting towards unmanageable…

We knew these risks at the time and we listened to our gut instincts to go ahead with the expedited match. I am grateful that we allowed our hearts to rule our heads and we forwent the leisurely build up and time “to rest”.

I think that had we not, there is a significant chance that the placement would not have happened at all or would have happened but not worked out. I know that we were Little Bear’s last chance of getting adopted and that had things been different, he would now be embarking on a whole childhood within the care system…

I can hardly bear to think about what would have happened if the placement had disrupted during introductions. Suffice it to say that I have a deep sympathy for those who have had to disrupt placements and can only begin to imagine the stress and heartbreak they must have incurred.

I am extremely thankful that we did find the strength to persevere. We were certainly well scaffolded by key people around us who listened, counselled and dared to hope, whilst never judging us. Grizzly’s Mum came with us for introductions as we were staying far from home and needed help with Big Bear. She was with us every step of the way and I know she felt our anxiety and stress as much as we did. I’m not sure we could have successfully navigated those agonisingly difficult days without her unfaltering emotional support. And her practical support too – she just kept making food appear as if by magic!

We also had long distance support from my parents on a daily basis, from our friends and of course Our Social Worker, Anne.

We have been very lucky that the support has continued since we have returned home and is ongoing. It is hard to imagine adopting Little Bear without the comforting shroud of our support network encircling us. Those who feel isolated or unsupported on this journey again have my full sympathy. I find it difficult when Twitter friends are clearly struggling alone: if only I were nearer or could somehow improve things with some magic words. It’s hard to know how much impact you can possibly have in 140 characters!

I know I cannot change the course of events that have passed and it is certainly not helpful to dwell on them either, but now and again a little backward glance can be enlightening. This little pause for reflection has made me feel grateful for what has been and relieved we didn’t need to face the ‘what ifs’. After all, if we had, we would not now have Little Bear. We would not have had the joy of witnessing his progress, felt his gorgeous little cheek against ours, been able to comfort and cuddle him, hear his tinkly giggle or be amused by his endless mischief. Big Bear would not have had the chance to be a great big brother or have his world irrevocably altered by the funniest playmate he can imagine.

I’m not really sure if I believe in destiny but there is certainly serendipity about our story. There are so many points at which things could have gone differently, junctions at which Little Bear could have moved away from us. But somehow, whether through the intervention of something greater or not, at each of these intersections he headed in our direction, to us. Where we feel he is supposed to be.

So, despite some less than favourable circumstances, misinformation and considerable challenges, I am truly grateful for our journey.

 

Our adoption journey: what if?

The Adoption Order

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.

And yet..

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. .

 

The Adoption Order