When our daughter’s social worker visited our home to see that we could accommodate the little person about to enter into our lives, she mentioned the “honeymoon period” that adopters often have. We said we hope that our “honeymoon period” would be as short as possible, because it’s a honeymoon for adopters but a nightmare for the adoptee.
Well, how about no honeymoon period at all?
The day we brought our daughter home wasn’t anything like we imagined it would be. We knew it was going to be a bit sad for her, but we thought there would also be happiness, excitement. Instead, it was one of the toughest days in the lives of all three of us.
The first few weeks were incredibly challenging and lonely. We had moments of happiness that felt like they were surrounded by grief and sadness. We remembered that we were told this might happen in our training, and our social worker Jane was always just a phone call away – day or night, 24/7/365.
That made it easier, and the tools that St David’s provided us with were producing results, which gave us a great sense of empowerment. We felt like “we got this”- and that whatever would be thrown at us, we can handle it.
Adopting an older child has its difficulties. It sometimes feels like we’re “sharing” her with her birth family and foster carer. She’s also burdened with so much guilt, that often if we have happy moments she’ll feel like she has to compensate by expressing her loyalty and love to the people she’s no longer with.
On the other hand, in many ways it makes things easier. She can talk and has the self awareness to help us understand what’s bothering her. She also has clear memories of her family and a connection to her past. That, we feel, takes a huge burden off her in terms of her identity and also off of us as we don’t need to “carry” her past for her – she knows what she’s been through.
There are amazing highs and devastating lows in this journey. Two weeks after our daughter moved in with us, one of our two cats of 9 years died unexpectedly. It was crushing, but we had to deal with it while we had a child who was herself grieving and finally letting out the pain that she had kept inside for a long time.
For a long time it didn’t really feel like parenting. It felt like supporting a child who was going through stuff that adults would struggle with, a child who feels like at any moment her whole world can turn on its head and once again she’ll have to start over.
Of course, when that period finally started to end after the first couple of months, other challenges came up. There’s always something, and every day has its trials and tests. But it’s different now: it feels more like parenting, she feels more and more like a child who’s confident in her place in the world. A child with a feeling of self-worth and who isn’t afraid of new experiences.
Seeing that difference in her, and hearing her social worker and other professionals say what a different girl she is to the one who moved in with us, that makes it all worth it. With St David’s amazing support, we’re doing OK.