The concluding part of the interview with our adoptive mother looks at how to tackle the topic of adoption with your children, and some great advice for anyone looking at starting the adoption process within the UK.
How did you first address/discuss adoption with your children?
This applies to my youngest child. I believe in ‘drip-drip-drip’ and not any kind of sit down talk. We began by reading adoption bed time books together. I would mention things such as the day I brought him home, when it came up. Saying he has gorgeous eyes, much like his sister and first mother. Seeing pregnant women was another time for talking about adoption. It has taken him many years to ‘get it’ (in reception year, his teacher got pregnant and he did not realise she would be keeping the baby to raise herself) but adoption is just a natural part of life for him.
Has anything surprised you about being an adoptive parent?
The first is how adoption would change me so completely. I knew parenthood is a game changer and people are different once they have children. But I did not appreciate the extent to which ‘adoptive parent mind-set’ is different to ‘birth parent mind-set’. I am a very different person with a different outlook on life now compared to how I used to be.
I would say I have a heightened awareness – of children’s issues and brains in general, but especially of MY children’s issues and anticipating their reactions to everything, of adoption itself – if I read something my brain has a little honing device to pick out the word ‘adoption’ if it comes up! My mind is set up to be careful and consider everything in light of my children’s needs, and it’s mostly automatic.
Secondly, is the extent to which the internet and modern technology has changed adoptive parenting. It provides a valuable resource for parents, with blogs, forums, medical information, and advice.
Prospective parents starting the process today might not be able to imagine trying this process with zero information which does not come from the LA/VA. Now I can sit in my own home and click online and say ‘hey, can i have some advice please?’ When going through a rough time, there are adoptive parents out there I can connect to. However, the internet allows for other kinds of connections.
My eldest daughter and her birth siblings found their other birth sister on Facebook and reconnected with her (the sister was under 18 at the time). The issue of birth parents and their children contacting each other on Facebook comes up more frequently. With my second daughter I am living this right now. It is emotional, difficult, raw, throwing up so much for my daughter, for her birth mother, and for me. A chance meeting between them led to Facebook contact, which has led to frequent contact, which has changed the dynamic in the family hugely. I could never have anticipated this in 1996.
Do you wish you had done anything differently at the start?
I wish I could have known how to parent differently from the beginning. I wish I had used better parenting techniques when my first daughter moved in. Above all, I wish I had been easier on myself.
I did not attach quickly or easily to my children. Instead of seeing this as normal, I had no idea why I did not love my children quickly, and I blamed myself. When I resented my eldest daughter’s presence, I felt awful and blamed myself for being a horrid woman. In fact, I was normal and attachment came, in time.
I learned my lesson and the truth before my youngest came home, and when he did I did not expect instant attachment and felt so much better for it.
Apart from that, I wish I could have learned to take non-blurry photos sooner than I did! I am missing too many photos of nice times. They are a lovely way to build sense of family.
What one tip would you give someone starting the adoption process?
If you’re starting the adoption process, then congratulations, and I wish you the best of luck! I hope you are able to adopt and can look back and feel positive about adoption as I do. I wish you joy with your new family
My advice is two-fold (they link to each other, so I’ll count it as one bit of advice!)
Don’t expect that attachment will just happen. Sometimes it does and that is wonderful, but here is this little stranger who has just moved in, and if you do not feel anything for them, then that is OKAY and you are NORMAL!
If you sometimes like your new addition, and sometimes you do not, that is OKAY and you are NORMAL! Attachment takes time. Even if you bond and love your child very quickly, you will find your love gets deeper and deeper with each passing month.
If it takes you months and months to build up love for your child, that is normal. Lots of adoptive parents experience this initially. Just remember that love builds up with actions. Fake it till you make it.
Hug your child, kiss them and cuddle them even if you are not feeling a bond. Snuggle them into bed and force yourself to spend lots and lots of time with them even when you don’t feel like it. Partly because this is what your new child needs and deserves but also because love and attachment is built up through ACTIONS.
Doing these loving nurturing things is key to developing attachment, and it will happen eventually. It took me well over a year to feel love for my elder children, but it happened and it’s wonderful so hang in there.
The second part is simply – do NOT beat yourself up if you don’t feel love. Don’t beat yourself up full stop; not if you make a mistake and upset your child, not if you struggle to bond, not if you feel stupid. Everyone makes mistakes and experiences strange feelings that seem wrong.
How can we take care of our children if we do not take care of ourselves? [click to tweet]
Part of taking care of yourself, means being kind to yourself; forgive yourself.
That is it. The final part of my interview with an adoptive mother. I am glad to annouce that our subject for this interview has now started her own blog called Last Mother – so make sure you check it out.
If you would like to be the subject of an interview, and can offer some worldly advice on adoption, parenting, fatherhood, or related topics, please contact me.
About the Author: Andrew McDougallAndrew is an adoptive father, and stay at home dad. Having adopted his son in January 2013, he is a new adoptive parent, but well versed in the adoption process. He is a married, coffee drinker, Xbox addict, and a Marketing graduate. Andrew McDougall is an alias he uses to protect the identity of his adopted son.
Sites That Link to this Post
- My Interview, part 3 | Last Mother | May 8, 2013