Commitment and a dose of patience

When Maria and Rob dreamt about the fun they would have together as a family – the birthday parties, the day trips, and much else – they didn’t then envisage that the family they would create would be through adoption.

I had always imagined myself to be a parent one day. I’d spent many an idle moment dreaming of holding my newborn baby for the very first time. Rob and I loved to talk about the fun we would have together as a family. We envisaged all the birthday parties we would throw, all the day trips to the zoo, all the ‘firsts’ we would come to cherish for a lifetime. The first smile, the first step, the first word…

Thus my infertility came as a bitter blow. Having married in the spring of 1997, we had assumed that an imminent pregnancy would follow, just as it had for so many of our friends before us. It was not to be. The path to accepting that we would never have a birth child was long and hard. Eventually we managed to work our way through it. We came to realise that we could still be loving parents to a child who needed us. We could adopt and offer a child a home where they could feel safe and secure and loved.

To this day I can still remember the joy and excitement when we told our families of our plans. Grandparents were delighted – there was never a moment of questioning our decision. Their support was important and valued. My niece and nephew – aged four and nine respectively when Peter first entered our lives – played a hugely important role in making our son feel an integral part of the family. Quite simply, they adored him, as did each and every one of our friends.

Peter had just turned three when he first moved in with us. He had been moved from one end of the country to the other, a huge upheaval for such a young child. His anger and confusion were only too evident to see. Those early days were difficult. I kept a diary of those first days, months and years. I turned this diary into book, entitled An Adoption Diary, which was published by BAAF last year. Peter loves to look at this book. He knows that I wrote it for him. It is the story of how we came to be together as a family. It is testament to our young son’s ability to learn to trust and love again. The bond we now share is nothing short of extraordinary.

The adoption experience itself was a massive learning curve for both Rob and myself. The workshops were unflinching in their honesty and the home study was gruelling at times. However, the delight at becoming approved adopters is etched on my mind forever. So is the ‘fall’ after panel, when the wait to be matched with a child puts your life on hold. When that moment finally arrived, we could hardly believe it. We were given a photo album of our son and look the greatest of pride in showing our families and friends his gorgeous, cheeky smile. I felt as though I had given birth.

When Peter first came to live with us, public interest was high, sometimes bordering on the intrusive. We live in a small town in Sussex, where adoptions are few and far between. Neighbours were genuinely curious about the whole procedure, which proved somewhat overwhelming for Peter at times. He did not appreciate all the ruffling of his hair and the incessant questioning. Three years on, no such curiosities remain. Peter is like any other boy in the street. He is simply our son – with his own set of friends and his own wonderful character, enjoying chatting to the neighbours as if he had known them all his life!

We are very lucky to have found Peter. I can truthfully say that the bond between us is unbreakable. It did not happen overnight. I did not fall in love the moment I set eyes on Peter. There were times when I was sorely tested. Sometimes I’d wonder whether I would make it through another day.

But I did. And the love grew. When my son first said, “I love you Mummy”, I cried. It was one of the most wonderful moments of my life. I simply could not love a birth child more. Rob feels the same. His support has been unflinching. When I felt ready to quit, he carried me through such moments. I am so very glad that he did.

Adopting Peter has been one of the best things we have done in our lives. Our son knows that we are his forever family. He does have memories of his past and we have talked to him about this at length, sometimes with the aid of a therapist. We have never lied to him about any aspect of the adoption process. We have tried to answer his questions as honestly as possible. This has sometimes proved difficult.

Nonetheless, we have persevered and consequently Peter’s behaviour has improved beyond recognition. School has become less of an issue and his friendships with his peers have deepened – indeed, Peter recently confided in two of his friends about the adoption. These boys listened to everything he said with the greatest of interest. Then they went back to playing Star Wars – as six-year-old boys are wont to do!

Adoption is not an easy option, nor is it for the fainthearted. It takes immense commitment and a healthy dose of patience. Having said all of that, words simply cannot do justice to the amount of joy and fulfilment we feel at having our young son in our lives. Rob and I have watched Peter grow from a troubled and angry three-year-old into the bright, confident young boy that he is today. We cannot imagine life without him. And the best part of all? Peter says the same about us.

Maria James

All names have been changed

Originally published in the Be My Parent newspaper in September 2007.

This article is published with the kind permission of the people involved. You may download it for your own reference but if you wish to use it for any other purpose, please contact Be My Parent for authorisation: Be My Parent, BAAF, Saffron House, 6-10 Kirby Street, London EC1N 8TS. Telephone: 020 7421 2666/5/4.

Last updated: 05 September 07

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