A bittersweet occasion: The boy is ours

Connor

We had some amazing news yesterday. Our youngest son is now officially ours! Its been a long journey which has sometimes been tough, sometimes scary. But always worth it.  The courts awarded us the adoption order and we couldn’t be happier.

To be honest though, it’s felt like he’s ours forever – always a risky feeling to have when dealing with adoption – after all until that adoption order is granted, nothing is set in stone. But you can’t help what the heart feels and our hearts have loved him for a long time now. Thankfully, we can breathe a sigh of relief, boy three is ours. He’s stuck with us!

In a way though, it’s a bittersweet moment. I can’t even begin to pretend that there aren’t two people out there who are feeling an overwhelming loss at our gain. His birth parents.

You know, when we first entered into the adoption arena – this is our second time adopting – the one thing I never really considered was the feelings of the birth parents. I just always assumed that they wouldn’t deserve their child anymore. That they had given up that right through their choices and actions. I know that sounds harsh, but my role as a police officer has put me in contact with so many parents, and I use that term in the technical sense of the word, who just couldn’t give a shit about their kids. Parents who would always put themselves first. Their drugs first. Their drink first. Their chaotic lives first. Anything but their child first . The one thing that really needs them. Their children would be neglected or abused or both. Under-fed and under-clothed, their parents next fix more important than their kids next meal.

Then there’s the other, more common, yet almost equally undeserving group. The ones who had their kids as a meal ticket. A means to a bigger flat. A steady ‘income’. Once the kid had done the trick they become a nuisance, an obstacle. Their kids become exposed to a completely unsuitable lifestyle. Inevitably becoming part of the same cycle as they grow, unable to avoid it, it’s what they know. It makes me so mad. These people who couldn’t care less about their children and yet fall pregnant at the drop of a hat. So unfair on the hundreds of loving couples out there who spend their lives, their savings, their health, their sanity in trying to conceive – often without success.    And then there’s people like us. People naturally unable to conceive and yet so sure, so determined that kids, a family, is what we want. Willing to do almost anything to make that desire a reality, to make parenthood a reality. Sometimes it’s soul destroying.  It’s hard not to judge sometimes.

So it was with this mind set that we initially entered into the adoption process. We believed that we would be adopting a child who’s parents no longer deserve to be able to ‘parent’ their child. That we would almost be the child’s saviours. In fact, that wasn’t how it was for either of the children we have adopted. You see both sets of their birth parents have varying levels of learning needs. They didn’t want to give their kids up. They just couldn’t look after them sufficiently or safely.  I struggled with this for quite a while. My perception of helping a child in need was almost shattered. Surely they didn’t deserve this.

It took me some time, but eventually I got my head around it. Clearly there was more to each case than the birth parents just being unable to support their children. There were recorded incidents of harm and neglect, whether intentional or not. Social services had offered intervention and support at every step. The birth parents were either unwilling or unable to make sufficient changes to their lives, even with support, that would mean that their child was raised in an environment where they were safe, loved, nurtured and developed. The paper trail showed us that social services had explored every avenue and done everything they could to enable these children to stay at home with their birth parents. Their support just wasn’t enough and ultimately I am in no doubt that being put up for adoption was in the best interest of each our children.

OK, so our children’s birth parents aren’t crack heads, alcoholics or child beaters. But I have no doubt that their children are in the right place with us now. But I would like to make a promise. A promise to our children and to their birth parents. We will never hide from our children where they have come from or the reasons behind it. We have had the privilege of meeting both of their birth parents. We will tell our children what lovely people they were, how warm and friendly despite the circumstances.  We will pass on their love and their letters as the years go by. And when the time comes, if it does, when they may wish to meet and form relationships with their birth parents we won’t stand in their way. Far from it. We’ll be there supporting them, helping them, guiding them every step of the way, because it’s the right thing to do, the only thing to do. We’ll do it with pride in our children. Confident that as their parents we will have given them a family that they are proud to be a part of. Confident that they will never doubt our love for them. Confident that they will always be our sons and we will always be their Dads.

Welcome to the family boy three.

The adoption agency tells us ‘No!’

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First I must apologise. My last blog on wanting more children left you on a bit of a cliff hanger. I never meant to leave it so long before writing this follow up. Sorry!
The thing is, we were turned down by the adoption agency initially. Not quite the words they used, but that was how it felt. It wasn’t exactly a no, more of a not yet. For us though,  it was still a not soon enough.
After we’d attended the adoption agencys’ information evening and signed to say yes! We want to adopt! We were assigned a social worker to complete an initial report on us.
We received a call from a lady from the adoption agency a few weeks later. She made an appointment to come and visit us at our home. As is my usual style, as the day approached I was nervous and fretting. What would she be like? What would she ask? Would she like us? What if I buggered it all up?!
We spent hours cleaning the house from top to bottom. Ivan baked cakes. I washed the dogs. It was more like we were trying to sell the house. In a way though, I guess we were trying to sell ourselves.
The evening she was due arrived in a haze of nervous excitement. This was the first real step to expanding our family. All we had to do was get this meeting out of the way and our journey would begin it’s next exciting leg. Or so we thought.
At the alloted time a formidable looking lady arrived at our home. I immediately felt like I was about to be interviewed by a governess. As is the true social services approach, we were grilled for hours. At least that’s how it felt.  We revealed all; who we were. Where we’re from. Our families, friends, loved ones. Our relationship history. What we were like as a couple. Where we lived, our neighbours, local amenities. Wil. The list went on. Once she’d exhausted us with her questioning, the social worker left.

Her parting words were “I’ll be recommending you wait for 18 months”. Shit! So much for the next leg of our journey. It felt like we’d been yanked back to the real world by the elastic on our breeches, like daydreaming schoolboys.

Of course she discussed the reasons for her decision with us. If I’m honest, it didn’t really sink in though.

We were devastated. We’d truly thought this was the start of the journey and that we’d be going full steam ahead. It felt like our dream was being taken away from us.
Her reasons were sound. Wil was only 6 months old at the time, they like an age gap of 2 years. Also she felt by waiting it would add longevity to our relationship, we’d been together for about 2 years at the time.
We were gutted though. The visit left us feeling like she had disapproved of us, as a couple, as people, as parents. Not from anything she said, just a feeling we’d got. In reality I know she was just doing her job, but we felt dismissed. Like she hadn’t given us a chance. We really felt we were ready. We knew we could make it work. Why couldn’t she see that? I realise that they have to go on policy, experience and learning from past situations and best practice. It just felt so wrong. We were a loving couple, already demonstrating we could raise a child – and there were so many children trapped in the care system it felt unethical, wrong, insane to wait. We also knew what a long process it could be, surely we should get the ball rolling, not wait 18 months?!
A week or so later we received the full report. Along with the formal recommendation that we wait for 18 months. As gutted as we were, the report was incredibly complimentary and a stark contrast to the impression she had left us with. It spoke about our qualities as a couple. Our beautiful home. The great job we were doing with Wil. Whilst it didn’t change our mind that we wanted more kids….and we wanted them now! It did make us appreciate that the decision wasn’t based on any form of disaproval, but instead on the social workers experience and best judgement.
Still, I wasn’t giving up. 18 months was such a long time to wait…

Finding Gold

wineI was sitting in the garden the other evening with a glass of wine having just put our gorgeous sons to bed. The sun was setting over the fields and as I felt the glow of the evening sun warming my face I took a few moments to reflect on just how lucky I am.

I love my life. I am a gay man. I’m 34 years old this September. I have an amazing husband in Ivan and I am the proudest father of our 3 wonderful boys; Wil 4, L, 2 and C 1. We live in a beautiful cottage in Hampshire which overlooks fields and woodlands. We share this with our range of animals from dogs to chickens and horses to turtles and numerous others in-between (more about them in another post!). We adore where we live and are always out in the garden with the kids. We also grow our own vegetables, well if I’m honest, Ivan does most of the growing!

I really am living my idyllic existence. I have found my pot of gold at the end of the Rainbow. My children. My family. My life.

Ten years ago I would never have imagined myself where I am now. I was young(ish), gay, and carefree; living the life that suited me at the time. I could be found most weekends drunk at the local gay bar where I lived at the time in Sussex. I would be at the gym all the time and holiday as and when I wanted. My meals were mostly take out or eat out. If I wanted something I bought it. I worked to fund my carefree life and I loved it – I still look back on it and smile. I imagined that this is how I would always live my life. After all I had the pink pound. The option of kids would never be open to me. My money would always be my own! How wrong!

Roll on 10 years. I have no money. Time is not mine, it’s the kids. If I want it I can go whistle. A holiday is a weekend camping up the horse field. Getting drunk is an evening in with my better half and the TV and an early start with the kids and a bleary head. Do you know though, I wouldn’t change it for a second. Yes I would love to have more money to make those stresses easier and yes I would love a weekend just me and Ivan in a nice hotel, with a nice meal and a bottle of wine and more than anything I would love a holiday lying on a beach somewhere getting tanned. But, if it meant giving up anything I have, its not going to happen. Nor would I want it to.

After all. Those things don’t matter. What really matters to me now is that the kids are happy and healthy and clothed and fed and exposed to a life that is full of adventure, fun and opportunity. This makes me happy. Hey, I can always lay on the decking next to the kids paddling pool with a glass of red can’t I!

Wil our eldest was born through surrogacy in 2009 – an amazing gift from my sister and the first child born to a UK surrogate ever.  L joined our family through adoption in 2012 and C by the same route in 2014.

My god I have so much more to say , so this will have to suffice as an introduction for now. Rest assured that I will be boring you with the wheres and why fors in the days and weeks to come. In the meantime if there’s anything you want to know or any areas you want me to touch on in this blog, please email me at pondersigston@aol.com or comment below.

Lots of love

S xx