Guest post: "Adoption meant everything we knew about parenting went out of the window"
Adopting a little boy when she already had a four-year-old wasn't easy, but Swazi Rodgers says she now feels nothing but pride for the boys who have become brothers
Chocolate is not the only fruit
Posted on: Wed 17-Feb-16 14:17:06
(20 comments )
A week before we were due to start IVF, my husband and I decided not to go ahead with it. I'd always wanted to adopt, even before we found out it was 'very unlikely' we would have our own children. And so, we decided that instead of making our marriage a pursuit of babies we might never have, we'd go straight for adoption.
More than a year after gaining approval, and while we were waiting to be matched, we found out I was pregnant. After the birth of our son, we hoped lightning would strike twice. It didn't, and once again, we knew adoption was the way to go for us.
This time though we already had a child in our family and my primary concern was him. When we were matched with a one-year-old and sent a photo of him, I showed it to my son. "Would you like him to join our family?" I asked. He smiled and said: "yes, he looks like me, doesn't he?"
It was meant to be, but I didn't let myself believe it would happen. Just in case.
In the car on the way to meeting the little boy we were going to adopt, I said to my husband, "what if he doesn't like us?" He laughed. "He's going to love us." I wasn't sure. We had sent him a book of photos of us so he would know what we looked like. After a while, he went over to the book and pointed at a picture of me and my husband. "That's right," said the foster carer, "that's Mummy and Daddy." It felt as if my heart stopped. Then he turned to look at me and smiled. I smiled back. It was going to be ok.
At times I've felt torn in two trying to give them both the attention and love they need from me. In the depths of this struggle though, I always hoped they would find a way to be together and love each other.
My husband played with him and made him laugh - yet I couldn't bring myself to pick him up. I wanted to watch him, to get to know him and for him to come to me when he was ready. I knew I loved him and I hoped he would love us too.
We were careful how we introduced our new son to family and friends. They would have loved to meet him straight away, but were kind enough to hold back until we were all ready. The school run was a bit different. Before the Easter holiday it was just me and my eldest son. Then, suddenly, I was dropping him off with a small boy in a buggy too. Most of the parents smiled and didn't ask questions. My older boy told them this was his baby brother and they accepted that. Some of the mums talked to me, asking how long he had been with us and how it was going. One or two went further and wanted to know what had happened to him that meant he had to be adopted. Their questions felt like an invasion of privacy.
Going from one child to two is a challenge for anyone. We went from having an only child, to having a toddler join us who had also been used to having all the adult attention in his foster placement. They weren't prepared to share toys, parents, space or anything at first. I'd go to soothe my crying one-year-old, only for his older brother to start screaming. They would lash out at each other when playing and I couldn't leave the room in case a fight broke out.
On his first few nights in his new house, our little boy was unable to settle. I drove him around in the car for hours and everything we knew about parenting went out of the window - we were in survival mode. I'd wonder if every one of my new son's reactions was down to his past and some deep-seated trauma. My elder son's behaviour, meanwhile, made me feel incompetent. More than once I wondered if the agency had made a mistake in placing this poor child with us in this house full of shouting and drama.
I asked for help and started receiving regular visits from a social worker who could offer me support. In those early days, my younger boy clung to me and my older boy felt pushed out. I had to find ways to ensure they both felt loved and cared for. That included making time for them both to have one-on-one time with me and my husband.
Resolving the issues of sibling rivalry is an ongoing saga. When people say, "oh all children do that," they don't take into account that our boys came to be brothers in a different way than their children. At times I've felt torn in two trying to give them both the attention and love they need from me. In the depths of this struggle though, I always hoped they would find a way to be together and love each other. My beautiful boys who have been made brothers by the wishes of grown ups: the youngest follows and copies his big brother, the eldest is fiercely proud of his baby brother. They fight, they bicker, they laugh, they make my heart swell with pride. It seems odd to call them my 'birth son' and 'adopted son'. They're my sons and this is our family.
By Swazi Rodgers
What a great experience. Reading your post really warms the heart.
Do bear in mind that all families are made by the wishes of grown ups - that's one of the common denominators that your sons share with everyone else, not something that sets them apart.
I think you are probably overthinking it as often with multiple children it's like that anyway. It is in our house any way!
it is completely different though. birth children have shared history and genetics. We never know the full history of adopted children and the extent of the trauma they have been through.
so no she isnt overthinking it at all.
One of mine has SEN she hits or attempts to hit/kick her siblings every day and we are years in. I used to think it would stop but I expect it won't ever really stop.
She is not overthinking it! Parenting an adopted and a birth child together (as I do too) throws up all kinds of complexities and challenges. It's not the same as having two birth children. Can be hugely rewarding, though
My tips are always keep them occupied, never let them be in the same room without an adult, have a high level of structured activities every day. I have had living room and bedroom today set up with a rolling selection of activities. I stay in room with sen child and entertain them/monitor constantly. Mine are a lot older now, except the very youngest.
Also, let go of the preconceptions. I used to worry that I HAD to get them to play nicely, be alone together or be 'normal'. There may never be a time when they can be trusted to be together, and unfortunately that is the hardest bit to come to terms with.
She's definitely not overthinking it -- and she's doing a fab job.
It's definitely very different having one adopted and one birth child, to having more than one birth child. Trying to explain to them both that they don't share a history beyond the last year, that one has another mum and other siblings, and that in theory we are now part of a bigger family they may never meet. There are many complexities that don't come with a traditional family set up. Our current one is my young birth child stating that 'you're not her mum. She has another mum. The one she lived with before us. And the other mum whose tummy she lived in'. But we're a family too, through thick and thin, bonded by a love that grows stronger every day.
Definitely not overthinking it! There is a reason that you have to go through assessments, training, panel, ratification, matching etc; followed on with recognised effects of early trauma on children that has resulted in extra funding at school, numerous courses specifically for adoptive parents to help them deal with emotional and behavioural issues that stem from their children's early life experiences (which are nowhere near enough), the number of adoptive parents who suffer from PTSD, formation of national agencies to deal with really challenging family dynamics, etc etc.
Parenting is hard, being an adoptive parent adds another layer of complexity to this. Totally worth it, but bloody frustrating for it to be so widely unrecognised, especially on an adoption section of a site for mums...
I would love to adopt but OH is totally against it. So many children needing that family unit - their 'people'.
I have the utmost respect for all adoptee / adopter(?) parents.
Congratulations on expanding ur families in such a generous and thoughtful way.
I can't imagine the extent of the complexities you face daily, but I sincerely wish you all the best of luck and love.
Parenting a birth child and an adopted child is not easy but it is rewarding and our lives like this poster have been so enriched by the experience. I would never say adoption is easy but so worthwhile. You are doing a good job just remember that.
Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.
I have three adopted children and one "surprise" child, who was born when my elder daughter was fifteen months old. They were all quite different to each other of course and presented different joys, and of course, problems as they grew up. In spite of their differences, all my children get on very well and truly love and care for each other. They are now adults with children of their own.
I am so proud of all of them - they have all grown up to be lovely thoughtful adults. I love them all - not one more than the rest, but differently according to who they are. People (stupidly) assume that I have to love my "natural" son more that the others. Truly, they are all equally precious to me.
Incidentally, I found out that my "birth" son used to be jealous of the others because he was the only one that wasn't adopted!
Swazi, just follow your heart it is certainly a lovely warm one!
Damn, didn't edit properly. Please delete the first"of course"!