My journey to parenthood – part 2

Andy Heathershaw · 2nd August 2017 · Reflections

My second post in a series of articles about James and my adoption journey is our experience of the first day of “prep group training.” You can read part 1 here.

A few days ago we turned up at the Halesowen Barnardo’s office for day 1 of three days of prep group training – a course that’s designed to provide the information, explanation and tools we will need as adoptive parents – not just to get through the adoption journey, but for the life of our future children.

When we went through the adoption with Leicestershire council a few years early, we were in the minority as a same-sex couple, and this had been a slight concern for me when we applied again this year. However I needn’t have worried – the other two couples on the journey with us are same-sex male couples as well.

It’s not to be underestimated how much easier that small fact makes this whole daunting process. For example – we were able to have an open conversation of what will the child/children call us: dad, daddy, daddy Andy/daddy Jimmy?

The Barnardo’s team made us feel welcome from the moment we walked through the door. They supplied us with tea and biscuits and were the same friendly, happy people that had met us at our home some weeks previously. It was comforting to have the continuity of the same person that came to see us initially, also attending the prep group days.

Although the team were trying to fit a lot into the day (they’ve said the next one they run will be 4 days to fit it all in more comfortably) they still allowed us to question things they were telling us and discuss topics openly and freely.

The day itself comprised of a mixture of teamwork activities, talks from the social workers and a couple of short YouTube videos/DVDs. We also had the opportunity of meeting an adoptive parent and the two children they had adopted, which was a great opportunity to meet and chat to people that had gone through the process – on both sides.

It helped to see that despite all the “worst case scenarios” they were preparing us for, here was a healthy and happy family who had been through it and come out the other side relatively unscathed.

The general theme of the day was understanding what your future adopted child may be going through – and to see and understand things from their point of view. For example – a situation the child was in may seem really terrible to us as outsiders, but if it’s a child’s daily life and what they’re used to – it is still their life. A life we as adoptive parents have taken them away from.

One aspect of the day really resonated with me, and hit home that point. One of the social workers read out a short piece of text – aimed at us as adults, but really shows what a child may have gone through. This isn’t the exact text – I’ve recalled as much as I can from memory.

  • Imagine you got up one morning as normal, brushed your teeth, had your breakfast and left for work.
  • When you get home from work, you want for a shower as normal, got changed and went downstairs.
  • Then you heard a knock on the door, and two strangers were stood there. They told you that for your own safety, they had to take you away.
  • The people you’re living with – loved ones – weren’t able to come and say goodbye because they’re too upset. You’ll never see them again.
  • You get taken to another house, with nothing but the clothes you’re wearing, and told that this is your new house.
  • Upstairs in your new bedroom, there are new clothes waiting for you. A new bed. New bedsheets that smell nothing like the ones in your previous house.
  • You meet your new family – new loved ones – who tell you they are really glad you’re here.
  • Tomorrow you’ve got a new job lined up to go to, but you don’t know what it is, or who you’ll be working with.

It’s difficult to imagine how we – as adults – would cope with that, and yet we’re expecting a very young child to have been through that – and still be a “normal” child afterwards? It was tough to hear and take in, but it will stick with me forever.

We were set a piece of “homework” to complete for day 2: map out a typical day’s activities (work, sleep, personal time, partner time, parental time) and the time involved for each one, and think about how this may need to change when we become parents.

It was surprising how little time myself and James actually have for each other. For both of us, work plays a big part of our lives, and Mickey – our Labrador – takes up a lot of what’s left. We will need to adjust our work/life balance – which in itself isn’t a bad thing – and make more time for our future family.

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