Last month was the second anniversary of when we brought our daughter home. A beautiful baby bundle, only six months old, she looked around her new home with big wide eyes before trembling all over whenever one of the Labradors came near. Two years on, and her favourite game is draping the oven gloves across Monty Dog’s back like a saddle and bellowing ‘giddy up’ while laughing like Sid James.
Over the last two years I’ve often been asked about my adoption experience, how long did it take? Was it very intrusive? Were we worried about getting a nightmare child, bad blood, somebody else’s cast off? Yes, somebody actually said those exact words out loud.
And I say that adopting our daughter was the most amazing thing ever, it still is and always, always, always will be. Every single day I thank my lucky stars and every single day I whisper in her ear and tell her how lucky I am to be her Mummy. She giggles when I say it now, and often responds with something silly like, ‘Mummy, can you say smellybellypoopoo really fast?’ or ‘Mummy, can you sniff my feet!’ Sometimes, she says, ‘I love Mummy a million, million times,’ and this makes me cry happy tears.
I always knew I’d adopt, call it fate, hocus pocus or whatever, but I just knew, so after several miscarriages we got in touch with social services and were invited to a prep course, one day a week for six weeks. Being a writer with a naturally nosy disposition, spending this amount of time with twenty-five total strangers, was like a dream come true. A policewoman, a teacher, a banker, a butcher, a candlestick maker… only joking, but you get the gist, all kinds of people can adopt, children who wait just want to be loved at the end of the day.
Soon after completing the prep course in September, we were assigned a social worker, she was warm, kind, compassionate and under different circumstances we could very likely have been best friends. She came to see us once a week and we talked through everything, mapped out our respective family trees, and discussed our childhoods, right through to significant relationships, read ex-partners, eek! For this session, Mr B and I had separate meetings, thankfully. Although to be honest, we had discussed it all beforehand, what we would say and had already chatted about our past, as most couples do, so there wouldn’t be any surprises when we read the report at the end of the process.
Now, I’ve heard that many people find these meetings highly intrusive, but I can honestly say that I didn’t. I enjoyed them, embraced them, and I truly believe that if you’ve done any kind of personal development and can get your head around the fact that they’re not trying to catch you out (remember they’re on your side), they need you to adopt the children in their care, then it makes everything so much easier.
Seven months later, we went to the approval panel, made up of about nine people who had already read through out hefty report and probably knew more about us than our closest friends. They asked us a few questions, nothing we couldn’t answer, but the most stressful part for me was the hour long wait for their decision, especially when we’d been told to expect it to be twenty minutes or so. Being the drama queen that I am, I’d practically convinced myself it was bad news and I’d end up staging a sit-in until they reversed the decision and agreed to let us be parents. Luckily if didn’t come to that… they said yes! We were approved to adopt one child 0 – 5 years old, and because we wanted a girl, we were told to expect a wait of up to eighteen months. I should say here that we asked for a girl because we could. That’s an advantage of adoption, you get to choose, if you want to.
Six weeks later, the phone call came, we’d been matched with a beautiful six month old baby girl, only catch was, we were one of three couples being considered and had a four week wait before her social worker would meet with us. I think I managed to get about an hour of sleep during that time. You see, from the moment I read about her, I’d already started to claim her, something I later found out is a natural thing for many prospective adopters to do, and you have to, it’s all part of the bonding process, but it was so hard keeping a part of myself back, a little bit of protection, just in case we weren’t chosen to be her parents.
Luckily again, we were deemed the most suitable match and went back to the panel to have the match approved. That same afternoon, we went to meet our daughter, she was wearing a gorgeous sunshine yellow floral dress. I still have that dress and one sniff of it brings back that glorious moment when I held her in my arms for the very first time. I can’t think, let alone write about that moment without crying, it was so intense. Emotional. It was special, just like our daughter…
Alexandra Brown is an author and columnist who lives in a rural village near Brighton. Her first novel, Cupcakes At Carrington’s (Harper) will be published on January 17th 2013. http://www.alexandrabrown.co.uk