Lauren (UK): Longing to be normal
These days the concept of ‘family’ is anything but normal, but throughout my childhood and growing up a family was a mum, dad and their children. It was played out on TV, in books and all around me, so it was no surprise it was all I ever wanted: to be normal.
To some extent, I was. I finished school, went to university, got a job, met my husband and got married – all by the age of 25. Now for the children, right? Wrong. After nearly five years of trying, I never even managed so much as a false positive pregnancy test. We found out that this was most likely due to my PCOS and that was a massive blow. I even told my husband to leave me at one point, I felt so guilty that I was putting a stop to him becoming a Dad. An excellent Dad at that.
We looked into our options for fertility treatment but didn’t get very far, as I was told my BMI was too high. After a few disappointing appointments, it became clear that this increasingly ‘normal’ route wasn’t meant for us either. I am in total awe of those who go through that IVF, often for several rounds before finding their happy ending, but it just didn’t feel right for us. That didn’t mean the end of our dream, just the end of our ‘normal’ dream.
Together, we decided we were ready for our version of ‘normal’ and begun to pursue adoption. I took the first plunge and contacted an agency for more information and met with a Social Worker who accepted us into the approval process. We were scrutinised to the highest degree and no stone found in our past was left unturned. We were asked about the rationale for every decision we had made in the past and how we would tackle every problem we may come across in the future. In the UK, the approval process is in two stages: first, the prospective adopters attend training and their social worker completes a report; and then this is presented to a panel for approval and used by family-finding social workers who are looking for a match. We had to prove to our social worker and then a panel of strangers that we would be good parents to the children we would be privileged to bring into our family. What to some is a God-given right, often one that comes so easily, we had to earn.
When the obstacles had been crossed and the hurdles had been jumped, we were finally approved by the panel. The last question our panel asked us was ‘how will you prepare for the wait to be matched?’ We expected it and had been told many times the average wait time for a match is six months to a year. Our social worker smiled as she walked out of the door and told us that, as we were interested in sibling groups of up to three children, she had already had two requests for our Prospective Adopter Report from family-finding social workers.
We were on a high from approval and never considered that our match would come so quickly. Three days later the profile of three children, a girl and two boys, arrived in my inbox and I was convinced. That night my husband and I dove into the 200 page report that detailed the birthparents’ childhood through to everything the children had experienced. A lot of prospective adopters often ask ‘how do you know which ones are the right children for you?’, and in truth I couldn’t give you an answer. We just knew that we needed this trio in our lives and our whirlwind began.
Within two weeks we were visited by the children’s social worker and they agreed the match. The next two months were filled with visits to foster carers, nursery, school, paediatricians and psychologists who gave us more and more information about the trio and we felt like we knew them before we even met them.
Less than three months after being approved as adopters, we sat in front of yet another panel, who had the final decision on if we matched as a family. Thankfully, it was a yes and after two weeks of introductions we were a family of five within our own home and our adventure could truly begin.
We went from being a married, independent couple with a relatively tidy home to parents of a 19 month, 3 and 4-year-old and a living room that resembled ‘toys r us!’ We had three weeks before hubby had to return to work to settle in and form routines – and we did just that!
The trio settled amazingly and I finally felt our family was complete. We had ups and downs but overcame them together. I won’t lie, there were some days that I totally grieved for my old life and questioned what I had done, but then I only needed to see a smile or hear ‘mammy’ and I was reminded of why we had made our decision. We needed a family and so did the trio. They complete us and make us whole. I have no doubt that we will face countless trials and tribulations in our future but I also know we have a lifetime of love and happiness ahead of us. Our family isn’t normal. But who wants normal anyway?