There are so many things that we were unprepared for, but in all honesty, I’m not sure how we could have prepared ourselves any better.
We read the books, we met with other adopters, we researched and we listened to our social worker.
But there are somethings that no one could have prepared us for, not really.
I want to write today about the losses and changes that we would face ourselves, not the loss of hopes and dreams of a birth child, because for us, this wasn’t an issue. I’m referring to the losses and changes within our lives, it sounds dramatic I know but so many things have changed over the years and it hasn’t all been good. We’ve lost many friends along this journey, people who we once considered to be our closest friends we now call strangers. Some couldn’t handle the hard truths about adoption. Some just didn’t understand that we were so busy regulating our kids that we were unable to come to their hyped up play dates. Some just drifted, I have no explanation for those and they probably make me feel the most sad. Some lost interest in us, I guess we became boring over time, the predictability and routine of our lives now does take some getting used to, I guess it’s the same when you have a child by birth. Suddenly you stop drinking in wine bars, swap your stilettos for comfy slippers and share more In common with other parents at ‘stay & play’ and the health clinic. For us though, with older children being placed there was no ‘play & stay’, there was no health visitor never mind a health clinic so rather than swapping our friends, we just lost them.
Then there’s family, inevitably your relationship with family members changes, suddenly you become a parent of an older child and possibly have to deal with things that some family members who have had children by birth, haven’t got round to yet. Like school, friendships/peers, spellings, math, tooth brushing, the tooth fairy, toileting, you get the idea. Then there is all the attachmenty type stuff, the control battles, the loss the trauma and even the most enthusiastic friend or relative just wont ‘get it’, you have to ‘live it’ to ‘get it’ I’ve learned.
So family can respond in different ways. There’s the ones with children of their own that go in to a panic and fear for their own children’s status within the family. The ones that try to over compensate and completely freak out your kids with their over the top fake attention and affection. The ones that aren’t sure how to ‘be’ and inevitably end up rejecting you as a family. The ones that don’t really consider these ‘new’ children to be part of the family. And of course the ones that already have children (or not) and know ‘everything’ and make it their job to tell you what your doing wrong. Even with the ones who manage the new arrivals well, the relationship between you changes. Your no longer just their sister, aunt, niece, daughter, cousin, your a parent, and that changes things.
The relationship between your partner changes too, they’re no longer just your wife/husband, they’re also the parent of your child/ren. You hold new expectations for them within your relationship and new expectations for yourself. The person you are used to being intimate with, suddenly looks less sexy and more ‘dad’ or ‘mom’ like and that takes a bit of getting used to, there is no post pregnancy glow or aura, just mental exhaustion and needy children. The dynamics of your whole family changes, suddenly there are more people to consider when planning a trip or lunch or even bedtime, there’s no more helping yourself to a chocolate biscuit from the barrel unless your prepared to share with the beady eyes that will suddenly appear, and they will appear, I promise you, like cats to a tin opener, kids will appear as if by magic the minute you so much as approach the biscuit tin.
Then there’s your role within the family, there’s no more coming in from work and chilling on the sofa for 10 minutes, its go go go! There’s homework to oversee, reading to be listened to, after school clubs to be taxi’d, dinner to be prepared, children to be bathed, bedtime routines to be put in place, uniforms to get prepared etc etc etc and there is a lot of etc’s I assure you, so who does what, how do you decide when its thrust upon you over night and in the middle of all of that you still need to find the time to spend with your child, to love them, nurture them and help them ‘belong’.
Car journeys need to be planned, toilet breaks factored in, snacks and entertainment thought through. Visits to family and friends need to be well planned, what will the child/ren have to keep them entertained, pack sugar free drinks you dont want a sugar rush happening in someone else’s lounge, pack the wet wipes (yes even older kids get messy), working out if the visit will overlap a meal time, and if so how will that be tackled, if there are food/eating issues that can be tricky. Going to a busy place can be a problem for hyper vigilant children, there is just too much to listen to and watch out for. So that small dark and busy pub you used to eat in or that popular resort you liked to holiday in, could just be too much for them to handle.
Then those times when you casually flick the tv on during the news report and don’t realise until its already been heard by little ears, that the days headlines involve murder, rape, child abuse. Or worst still, its one of those programmes where people with no shame air their dirty laundry on tv, you know the ones, ‘I found My baby momma and my mom in bed with a giraffe’ or some equally absurd headline, all of which will need to be explained. Thank god for catch up TV I say because these days you really don’t know what your going to be presented with when you switch on that tv, but a long long time ago in a life a million miles away from this one, it didn’t matter, and neither did any of that other stuff.
In that life things were different. There was a much slower pace and less planning. I didn’t need a diary to keep track of appointments and school events, in fact I didn’t need a diary. I miss some of that. I miss the spontaneity. I miss the relationships that were lost along the way. I miss the ideals I’d hoped for for family life. I miss trashy tv. I miss just being a daughter, wife, sister, cousin, niece. There are no training groups that can prepare you for these losses.
I don’t miss everything about that life, because in that life no one called me ‘mummy’.