We were approved to be adopters in late October 2014. It was such an exciting time. We knew now though that we would potentially have to play the waiting game. We heard it from all angles- the social workers, our agency, the adoption charity where i worked... All we heard was that there were no babies available for adoption, only older children from 3 to 4 and many a lot older. So we knew the odds weren't in our favour as we wanted to try for a baby to begin with (as we didn't know how long this would take). But we also had faith/belief/a vision... whatever you want to call it, that our baby was out there.
We were added to the adoption register (this happens automatically once you're approved), we joined Adoption Link and we pestered our social worker and agency daily. We would check Adoption Link all the time, seeing if there were any new profiles being added. It's a free resource available only to approved adopters where Local Authorities would upload the profiles of all their children seeking their forever family. It's not easy viewing profile after profile. Children are up for adoption for so many different reasons. The main ones are due to the child experiencing neglect, abuse (physical, sexual and mental) and also drug abuse from birth-mum whilst inside the womb which can lead to additional needs upon birth well into childhood. Some of the reading we went through was difficult. Really hard. These poor children. You wonder how anyone could ever do some of things you read... This is what all the training and assessment should hopefully prepare you for. But to be honest, nothing really prepares you. Well, that's my opinion. But what the training does is makes you aware of the situations. You can never be prepared i guess. I think you have to live it to really learn it. What gave me some comfort was that profiles were being removed every day which meant more and more children were finding their families. And more and more adopters were being approved who were looking for older children or sibling groups so that brothers and sisters wouldn't have to be separated.
A month had passed and we knew we hadn't seen our child in any of the profiles we were being sent. We weren't getting sent many though. I thought i would feel awful saying 'no' to profiles... but in reality, this is the biggest thing you will ever do. It's forever. You can't go into any decision halfheartedly or show any interest in a child unless you are convinced you're looking at your son/daughter. But i do appreciate and understand how that could be difficult to understand or get your head around emotionally.
Then one evening, we received an email from a family finder at the agency. She attached a profile of a boy. He was 10 months old. The photo included in the profile showed him sat in his high chair. A smile on his face. A silly little quiff of hair on top of his head. It sounds crazy but he looked like i was looking at a mix between my husband and i. Even now people say it. Little did i know when i woke up that morning, that same evening i would be looking at my son. In my heart, i knew this boy would be coming home to us. It was in all of our destiny's to be together. Adopters we'd met along the process had told us of this feeling, but i didn't really believe it at the time... that you would just 'know'? Really? How? But it was true. I knew. We knew.
I don't think we even read his profile in great depth initially. We skimmed the top lines and just replied with "We'd like to know more please... NOW!". It took a few days for our social worker to hear back from his social worker. I can tell you now, those days felt like years. Had his social worker already met a family and decided they were his parents? There were so many thoughts and outcomes swirling around my head. My husband and i kept telling each other that if this beautiful baby boy was adopted by another family then that was his path. His family. And i had to accept that. But when i thought about that fact being a reality, i felt incredibly sad. Almost like i was mourning. I don't know how, or why, or when... but i was pretty much already in love. And we'd never met. This feeling was so much bigger than just an adoption, a process or anything i had felt before. It truly was quite a crazy connection i felt we had created and with no explanation.
I think a week later we heard back from his own social worker (each looked after child has a social worker, just like adopters do). She was very positive about our PAR (prospective adopters report) and was keen to meet us (YAY!) but mentioned another family had shown interest in him (NAY). This was terrifying. Had it become a competition now? I didn't know what to think. I was worried, of course. I had heard some not so positive whispers that social workers had chosen straight couples over gay couples plenty of times, especially in the case of babies. Was it just a rumour? Does this particular social worker feel that this boy needs a dad AND a mum? Was she homophobic? Why did she say she liked our PAR then? The waiting game went on... and on. Into Christmas. And the new year. We heard nothing. Not a sausage. We were in limbo. All the while not being able to say a single word to anybody during the holidays. Looking back, it was such a weird few weeks. Everything felt on hold but we enjoyed Christmas knowing the outcome in the new year could be positive.
Then one day, between Christmas and new year, something switched in me. I went rogue and just started buying nursery furniture online in the new year sales. We didn't really talk about why... i think we both just knew we had to get our asses in gear. We were both open and honest with one another, we knew we had to make room for him. Not in our hearts, because he already owned them, but in our house. His room needed to be prepped. His bed bought. His curtains hung. We went into full nursery and equipment buying mode. My parents said they'd want to get us a pushchair when the time came, so in the January sale we picked one up... mum and dad didn't question why we were getting a pushchair without having a child yet. Maybe they knew but were waiting for us to announce? I bet they knew deep down...
We got an email shortly after returning to work in January 2015... his social worker wanted to come and visit us. This was it. This was the time. The brownies had to be made, the house made cleaner than i have ever cleaned it, the cat kicked out for the day... This was what we had been waiting for.
She visited. We talked. We got more information than that was on his profile. And nothing phased us. I don't think she was testing us or trying to put us off. It all felt very natural. We were told everything about him, his birth parents and the situation. Nothing changed for us. We were even shown another photo of him (we were living off that one photo since early December). Emotions were high, i don't think either of us breathed for the whole session. Our social worker, Sarah, was there too asking all the questions we were missing whilst we were trying to appear as the worlds most perfect dads-to-be. The little boys social worker asked to see around the house, where his room would be, the garden etc etc etc... then the meeting came to a natural end. And she said, quite simply and nonchalantly, that she thinks we would be the perfect match for this little boy and she wouldn't be progressing with the other adopters that had shown interest in him.
I don't really remember what happened in that moment. Was it real? I think i was just on a different level by this point. We discussed next steps. She would do what she needed to do and speak to who she needed to speak to and then would be in touch with dates for medical meetings, meeting the foster carer and matching panel.
Then she left.
Sarah, my husband and i all looked at each other like "Did this just happen?". Sarah couldn't even believe that it was almost decided there and then. I think we were stunned. Sarah asked if we would now tell people but i just had no idea if i could. Like... were we even allowed? Is it official? Will he be our son? We had to go through panel to be approved to adopt him but it was all looking so likely. Yet it felt so surreal. I remember Sarah saying "You better get yourselves ready...!" with this huge grin on her face!
Once Sarah left i think it was pretty much a blur. We had heard what we wanted to hear. We felt we had won the lottery. No... better than that, we had found our son. And i really think he had found us.
Next was to start telling people. We had been asked so many questions for months now about the process and the famous "Have you found your child yet?", "Did you get sent any profiles today?" And these questions were becoming so tiresome. This was really our 'pregnancy announcement'. How were we going to tell our family we'd found our baby boy? Their grandson and nephew. My brothers engagement party was coming up... so we planned to do it before we all headed out for the celebrations. We shared that one picture with them. They were all looking at their new family member and I can't imagine how it must've felt for them all. There were so many tears from all friends and family in the few weeks we spent telling them the good news. It was a true joy sharing the news as and when we saw them. It just felt magical.
In the back of my head i think i always felt dubious. Worried. We still had to get through matching panel and what if there were any issues along the way? Nothing felt final til i would have him in my arms. We'd been given a panel date in April 2015, so we had another couple of months to wait. There was just so much in our heads and hearts. So much to organise. So much to plan and achieve before he was home. It did feel like it'd never happen. In that time before matching panel we really got ourselves together. We sorted our shared parental leave with our employers and planned and bought as much as we could. It was a time i look back on now and will never forget. It was the last couple of months we'd have as a couple and not a family. We had so much fun. I can honestly say as nerve wracking and scary as it was at times, we had each other and we really relished in preparing our home and our lives for our baby boy.
Before we knew it, April was just around the corner. We had so much to get ready for... Meeting the birth parents (last minute decision from all parties but we really wanted to do it), ready for matching panel and if successful at panel, getting ready to then meet the foster carer who had looked after our son since birth. We were on the home stretch.