Wow what a crappy year 2020 was!!! Started on a high following our first family Christmas and New Year, we were looking forward to having our first family summer vacation with the in-laws but COVID had other plans!!!
But a positive of 2020 I actually accepted and finally opened up to those close to me about my mental health struggles which had come to a full on crisis last month to the point where I was drinking more, not eating properly (whether not eating at all or bingeing), going to very dark places, feeling that it might be better for those around me if I wasn’t around anymore. I held on to a lot of guilt and self hatred for the family separation during the initial part of the coronavirus pandemic.
It all came to a peak when I developed a ‘exit plan’, this is when I scared me I knew I needed to speak to my Gp and get some help, I spoke with my work and decided to get signed off sick. I knew it wasn’t safe for me to be there and I needed to actually take some to focus on myself and my family. After talking to my immediate family on how I was feeling, speaking with my therapist and the community psych nurse as well as starting a new medication I started to feel a tad better. I’m still not feeling back to myself but I am in such a better place than that I was say at the end of November.
But there is something about being a dad that makes this so much harder. Society dictates that as a Dad your not allowed to feel certain ways, and dads are often overlooked. For me there’s also the explanation that I’m a gay dad which is either responded to with raised eyebrows or that’s amazing….which I find patronising. Adoption as well just adds a lot more stress and pressure, adopted children come with a traumatised history, emotionally they are not the same age so when they have an emotional meltdown and you handle it in a therapeutic manner those around you tend to not understand and label it just ‘naughty behaviour’. This is also a parenting technique which isn’t associated as a norm for a dad. Modern day dads are hands on with parenting (regardless of parenting technique), housework, involved in their education and it’s still not deemed normal in society.
But thanks to the wonders of the online adoption community, LGBT community and the online dads community (namely the Dad AF app) have been amazing. There’s a world of support out there, and we dads have to be that pillar of support for each other as not many others get it.
An amazing campaign in the UK launched yesterday. The aim of this campaign is to dispel the myths of what stops people from adopting and to encourage those thinking of adopting to take the first steps in their journey.
During mine and my husbands adoption journey we came across people who had been hesitant in the past to register with local authorities or agencies because of reasons like they would be single adopters, they don’t earn enough or because they rent their home instead of owning it. These are all myths. I’m so happy that this campaign has begun as their are so many children waiting for homes as well as children deemed ‘hard to place children’ because of their background, previous broken down placements or because they are over the age of 4 which is crazy, this means that our little boy was within this category as he had just turned 5 when he was placed with us. At the time of me typing up this blog there are currently over 2500 children waiting on the adoption list of which 28% have been waiting for their forever home for over a year.
There are common myths of why people can’t adopt such as being single, having a disability, not owning their home, not earning enough money, not having a spare room. But these are all myths. The only requirements in the UK are that you are over 21 years of age and are resident in the UK. Criminal record checks (enhanced) are done so make sure you declare any convictions to your social worker. Also as long as your in good health including mental health all should be good.
For us all these things were fine. I have a history of anxiety and depression but this was not a problem once I opened up and spoke about it with our social worker. This was difficult initially just because it’s not something at the time I talked about, but it’s totally worth it if it gets you further along the adoption process. My tip to you just be honest and open with your social workers, this is what they are looking for from you during the pre approval phase. It also helps you as well, because of my history our social worker checked in more with me during the early days of little mans placement to make sure that I was coping ok.
Check out these sites they also have social media accounts, I really recommend Adoption UK’s Instagram account. I have found this super helpful, there is also a great adoption community on Instagram to. Plus there is also my book (available on amazon). Also feel free to reach out to me if I can ever be of any help.
Well, hi guys! Its been a while since my last blog post, I think probably around 6 months and as I’m sure as you all know the world is a crazy ass place at the moment what with the massive spotlight being placed on inequalities in our communities around the world (and rightly so). Despite me being a white male being gay, having an Indian husband, working in a mostly female dominated environment and being a gay dad I have been subjected to many different varieties of prejudice and discrimination, as I’m sure you can imagine or may have even experienced. The LGBT community faces a lot of different issues compared to other communities for example 52% of the LGBT experience depression, 72% of bisexual women and 56% of bi men have experienced anxiety (Stonewall 2018). Further to this 25% of the global population believe that being LGBT should be a crime (Stonewall 2016), here is a link to these stats https://www.stonewall.org.uk/media/lgbt-facts-and-figures
Very early on in my career being a male in a paediatric nursing environment it is pretty much assumed that you are gay regardless of who that person is, the assumption comes from patients, parents, families and colleagues. Fast forward to the present things are still the same, there is this perception/stereotype that male nurses are gay, it’s just a crazy perception thing, probably tracing back to those standard childhood chats (normally from grandparents – mine definitely were like this) that girls are nurses and boys are doctors.
During the adoption process there was naturally a tonne of support from friends and family, our agency mentioned multiple times during meetings that they were the first London adoption agency that took one prospective adopters from the LGBTQ+ community. It felt that they were using this to sell their adoption agency to us and basically saying that they were the best adoption team out of the other London boroughs. Following on from this and once we were matched and having to look at schools there was that worry and to be completely honest a paranoia about double and even triple checking that the schools we were considering for our little boy ensured that diversity, inclusion and equality were factors that they exceeded in, so that we knew this would be a safe school for our little guy and for us as two gay dads who would be attending his school for all events. But also to see what they knew about attachment was as this is something that would ensure they could understand what was going on with our little guy.
Its been great to see that over the course of our adoption journey and since we have been a family of 3 how much societies attitudes have changed towards same-sex parenting. naturally there are people who we have come across who have made comments or given us disapproving looks when we have been out, some people have even commented saying that they don’t understand how two dads can parent a child. Luckily early on we found a national group called New Family Social where LGBTQ+ families can meet up with your children, this not only allows your children to play with other kids in the same situation (adopted and who has gay parents), but you get build up your social and supportive network from those who understand what it is like to be in a same-sex relationship and be a parent. Being around those who are in the same/similar situation helps to build your confidence but also brings some normality into your life and this is beneficial to your whole family. Having those around you who understand what it is your going through makes life so much easier especially, like me, as you can feel very alone and isolated.
There are a few resources available to help teach children about acceptance and diversity when it comes to LGBTQ issues, below is a list of resources that I have used with the little man to help teach him about equality and diversity, and not just in terms of LGBTQ+ rights & equality:
Books by Olly Pike. Olly has written 5 books that focus on LGBTQ+ issues as well as interracial relationships. Check out this link to see his books and other resources, my little man loves his books. https://www.popnolly.com
Pride. This is a great book teaching children about the meaning of pride and why it exists.
Auntie Uncle. Such a great book about a little boy who’s uncle goes out to work in the day but at night he becomes a fabulous drag queen!! Cant wait to get round to reading this to him.
And Tango Makes Three. This is a cute book about two gay penguins that bring up their son. Super cute which my little dude loves.
We are family. This is a sweet little book that talks about 8 different families of different backgrounds, sexualities and abilities.
Stories for boys who dare to be different. This is an amazing book about famous males such as Barack Obama, David Attenborough who struggled to begin with either in their upbringing or in their careers but made it big in the end! A great book to show children that if you struggle at first keep going because you’ll make it.
I think as long as we start to teach our children that people are different and start to get them to accept difference and diversity we can help change peoples perceptions from the beginning. My little dude is a total example of this, we have help create one of the biggest LGBTQ+ allies going, he loves everything to do with pride and rainbows!
Also for those going through the adoption process or know people who are going through the process/thinking of adopting, my first and second book editions are still available on amazon. Check out my previous blog or my website for the link to them.
Hey guys sorry its been a while since I last posted. General life things getting in the way and I’m having to manage my time much more effectively since retuning to work, and making sure I’m spending as much quality time with the little man as I possibly can.
So some people have asked me how we talk about adoption with L considering his age etc. To be honest, we don’t hide that we have adopted him. We talk openly about his mum and his nan whenever he wants to, and only when he brings it up. The way I see it is that he has a mum and other family members out there so he has every right to talk about them. To be honest we will only bring it up when it’s close to the time to send the contact letter which is now every year, we sent a settling in letter shortly after he moved in. At the moment he has asked whether he is moving to a new home soon and he has even asked his social worker the same question, which naturally makes me feel for him and just end up giving him a huge cuddle. We did go through a phase a few months ago where he appeared to be settled and talking/worrying about moving to a new home didn’t come up, but recently it has. I can only think to put this down to my recent return to work, another change which he will have to overcome. We did prep him and he still has an item of mine to look after (its still a magnet from the fridge – which hasn’t changed if you read my last blog post!!). But after speaking with our social worker it is very common for children to take one step forward and 4 steps back, so it will take time for L to remember and believe that this is now his forever home and not another placement.
When we have spoken about his past and things like his previous foster placements we have used his toy car mat to talk about it (something which was suggested by our social worker). On his car mat we used different areas to show where he had been, so his mum and nan’s before ‘driving’ over to his first foster carers (his emergency placement) then ‘driving’ over to his second and last foster placement before ‘driving’ over to his forever home (ours). He often uses another car to talk about his brother as they were separated in their last placement. This allows him to understand his past and his previous placements, but also allows him to talk about it in a more relaxed nature and to talk as much or as little as he wants to. But this is just one of many other methods out there but its what works for us!
With L having two dads we obviously want to talk and teach to him about other types of families to teach him about diversity. He has always been open and shows understanding about difference. He has previously asked questions about different religions but not really on him having two dads or other children having a mum and a dad etc. But we have come across some great resources that teach children about difference, I thought that it would be helpful if I listed them below. These are all ones which we have read to L or utilised them when talking to L about difference, and he has taken them all in with no issues.
1) Olly Pike. This guy is a genius, he takes a new twist on old bedtime stories such as the princess and the frog etc. Olly has 5 books of which we have 3 that we read to L (Kenny loves with Erica and Martina, The Prince and the Frog, Prince Henry) . The talk about diversity from race and LGTBQ+ themes. L loves these books especially Kenny Lives with Erica and Martina as well as The Prince and the Frog, these stories really connect with him which is amazing. Olly focuses his books on teaching children about love, relationships, diversity and equality. With each book there is also the option of checking out his youtube channel for more education, or as he calls it edutainment!. Definitely worth checking out.
2) Two Dads. This is a cute little colourful book about two dads. It is written from the perspective of their adopted child. This is a super cute little book, perfect for bedtime reading.
3) And Tango Makes Three. This is another cute little book, which little man loves. its about two gay penguins in Central Park zoo who, want to start their own family, with the help of a zookeeper their dream comes true. A super sweet little book.
4) Daddy, Pappa and me. A lovely bedtime story book focussed on the life of a toddler and his two gay dads.
These books have really helped with teaching L that difference exists and that’s what makes people special. Hopefully these will work for you too.
So last week I went back to work after having just over 9 months off work as adoption leave, minus my 3 keeping in touch shifts. It was the worst feeling of my life, my stomach was doing somersaults. Knowing I wouldn’t see my little guy for 3 days straight was heartbreaking. When I picked up L the day before I was due to go back to work he told me that he would miss me, this was like a bolt of lightening through my heart. Both me and Ricky had prepped little man that I was going back to work and told him that I wouldn’t see him for 3 days. Although we changed this to sleeps instead of days as this is easier for L to understand. This made him so upset thinking he wouldn’t see me again. It’s important to be honest and give him the time to prepare and understand so that it’s not a shock but also to help him understand the change that’s about to happen.
Right up till the beginning of this month I was longing to go back to work to reclaim my identity, even though being a dad would remain part of my identity I just didn’t want to be known as a stay at home dad. Thats not me at all, I’m by no means a domestic goddess, I hate cleaning with a passion and I don’t think the husband would be happy with me remaining on the couch all day!!
I woke up that morning with my 5am alarm screaming at me, got ready and headed out for the commute to work (minus my uniform as the dad bod is on point at the moment!). The minute I left I felt a huge amount of guilt rushing through me. Me and the little guy had spent almost every day together for almost the past 9 months near enough, leaving him just felt wrong and knowing that I would not see his little face for the next 3 days was awful. Most people that I spoke to were super supportive of this saying that it will get easier yet with adopted children its that layer of trust that is so important. Everyone prior to me and Ricky have just ‘left’ him with no explanation given to L. So then not seeing L for 3 days straight was breaking that trust that I have managed build up with him over the past 9 months, but also making him feel less secure as this is another major change going on in his life. This is why I felt so guilty leaving him, and to be honest I still do. I know that its completely impossible for me not to work, unfortunately I don’t have that luxury.
I spoke with our psychologist about this and she suggested that I give him something of mine for L to look after whilst I am at work, so I gave him one of my fridge magnets, I left it on the coffee table in the living room with a little note. Apparently, according to our psychologist, research has shown that children who have been adopted, will believe that you will return for the object instead of returning for them, this made me feel horrible knowing that this is probably what he thinks. But it worked. I saw him on the Saturday morning and he gave me back the magnet and said that he looked after it for me, taking it to school everyday, followed by telling me how much he had missed me asking me not to return to work. This made me feel so guilty, unfortunately due to my working hours I don’t get to see him before he goes to bed, yet when working a night shift I at least get to pick him up from school.
It was great to see work friends again and feel like I am more than a dad (although this is something I completely adore, but I felt like I was missing my identity), and have some routine back again. Yet, the idea of leaving my little boy again for so long is heartbreaking, even just the small non-fun things like cooking his dinner and the arguments of why he has to brush his teeth!!. Is this just me? Does this actually get easier? I feel that most well, actually all of my worries and anxiety about this is because I know that he has only really adjusted to the changes he has gone through and now I’m throwing more change at him, and this time its me making him adjust!!
I guess only time will let me know whether I can handle these crazy shift hours and not seeing my sidekick or not.
It’s been so long since I last posted up a new blog. Sorry, it’s our first ever summer holiday and time just flies by. I was so worried that little man would be bored and I had no idea what to do with him during these 6 weeks but time has flown by I had no reason to worry. But don’t they just crave your attention?!?!?!?!
It has been 8 months since our little guy moved in. There have been many ups and many downs, in these 8 months, naturally most of these began once Ricky went back to work . But from talking to many parents this appears to be a very common thing!
The first couple of weeks we had regular visits from social workers, ours and L’s, to check and see how things were going. Making sure we were all settling down and that L was settling in ok. Things were going well he seemed to settled in very quickly with no major problems, sleeping super well like 12hours a night which was amazing!! We had a few trips out to local parks and in to town to go and check out the natural history museum. He loved it even the simple things like just getting the tube. He was adapting to his new life with us really well, we did two school visits with him, the first did not go very well at all, he freaked out and was clinging on to me and Ricky, the second visit went much better, it was more of a 1:1 session with his teacher, even getting her on to the climbing frame with him! The second visit was a push to get but it was very much needed and went really well. It felt amazing to finally be a family, even though we were still having regular contact with his social workers it was great.
So all the drama and downs started with L becoming unwell shortly after Ricky had returned to work and during L’s first week at school. Well he has had multiple health and sickness problems. In the first few weeks he developed scarlet fever although this was only confirmed after multiple GP visits including out of hour GP visits and a urgent care visit, he then had bacterial tonsillitis which was horrible and hit him really hard sot this was 3 A&E visits and more recently head injury where he somehow fell up the stairs. We knew that it is really common for adopted children to have behavioural issues but this is something that we have struggled to handle with our little guy. He tends to lash out at himself, he will pull his hair really hard, throwing himself to the floor when he’s told no or gets upset as well as hitting himself. There could be multiple reasons for this after finally speaking with a psychologist (which took a lot of pushing on our part and bringing this need up with the independent social worker in his LAC review) she has said he has missed out on a lot of care and input in his early life. She believes that he is 3-4 years of age in terms of his emotions and mental well-being.
Adjusting to life has been difficult, for me, I suppose many new parents would say the same thing. But adoption brings about its own individual dilemmas, depending on the child. For me I used to pile on the pressure to be just the best dad ever, I had dreams of what we could do during the days and just imagined this almost perfect life, but this was far from the truth. I didn’t realise how much my life would change, going from being a husband and working to being at home. This was worse when L went to school, I would often find myself alone at home waiting to go and pick him up from school. I felt like I had lost my identity. The lack of adult contact and adult convo has been very hard. These are things that you just don’t realise are going to happen and that you will feel kind of alone and isolated. Me and L took sometime before we found our click possibly because of in the beginning I was dealing with his sickness and all the other problems that arose over time such as his dental pain and I kind of withdrew because I felt the was something missing in mine and his relationship. We hadn’t found something in common which all changed when I started taking him swimming.
There are many issues with adoption and I think once the child is matched most social workers will be involved in the first month or so then they disappear and you get the odd catchup phone call here or there. But this is when it’s the most stressful time. All this being said I can not wait until we get the court order and he is legally ours. We can relax and enjoy being our little family. Adopting this little boy has been the best decision we have ever made.
The day finally arrived, the 18th of Jan ’19! Our little guy was moving in and we were becoming a family of 3. There had been months of waiting for this day since we first saw his profile back in the summer.
We drove to his foster carers accommodation about half an hour from where we live. We arrived slightly early so messaged the foster carers to see if his social worker was there as well, no surprise but it was his old social worker and not his new one!! We walked up and knocked on the front door he was already and packed up. His old social worker gave us his passport, birth certificate and all the legal paperwork we need. We then said the goodbyes and left. It was all done super quickly as we were told it had to be. Kind of ripping off a plaster. I could see it was difficult for his foster carers, I was also fighting back tears. I knew and could see that it was difficult saying their byes to L he had been a massive part of their life’s for so long. Me and Ricky were and still are keen for them to be involved in his life because they were the first proper piece of stability he had. So we definitely will keep in contact with them.
We left their accommodation and headed for home. We had no plans to do anything that day other than spending the day at home and bonding with our little boy. We had lunch and chilled with him, playing in the garden and in his bedroom. He had dinner and got him ready for bed, we both read a story and stayed with him till he fell asleep. There was no crying or anything from him he didn’t even ask about his foster carers which was a little surprising, but also nice because it showed he felt safe and comfortable.
The first night was so difficult I don’t feel like I slept at all. I was checking on him constantly through the night making sure he was sleeping, breathing ok and all was good!!
It felt so surreal almost like a dream. We had waited so long for this to happen and now he was here. So many emotions were running through me. But I was so happy. Our family was now complete.
Another slightly of topic/track post!! So I had my first night shift back at work last night (I’m writing this post whilst waiting for my train home!!). I have done a day shift but that was fine, the little guy was at school and all was good, obviously I was busy at work and since I hadn’t been working since the new year I spent have my shift trying to figure out what I was meant to be doing. As well as getting to know all the new faces! Well tonight was a chilled night but I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing out. Major FOMO!
This is natural though…right? Although I had dropped him to school that morning it was going to be over 24 hours before I would see my little guy again, plus the mr had taken him out after school yesterday so that contributed to the FOMO!! But being away overnight just felt wrong, it was the first night that I had spent away from my newly made family. I know it was the first of many given my job and I always knew that I wasn’t going to be given the luxury of being a kept husband, but it was bloody hard.
The past seven months of being a dad have been difficult, naturally. Parenting an adopted child is so much more difficult. Even I didn’t really anticipate how difficult and challenging it would be despite the consent mentioning of this by our social worker, but then until your in it you don’t know. It’s been difficult having to explain things to others especially when they go “oh all children do that” hmm they might but this is different! Being with him everyday for the past 7 months has been amazing, challenging and questioning my abilities on a daily basis, but so worth it. The idea of going back to work properly in September is tugging on my heart strings. Any tips would be greatly appreciated!!! Or at least reassure me it gets easier!!!
We hadn’t really moved in to our new home for that long before our social worker arranged a visit to assess the house, to make sure it was ‘ok’ to have a child living here as well. She briefly looked around and checked all the rooms but was more than happy with everything. The check was very different than the first assessment we had!
After our social worker had checked over the house and said that she was happy, we all sat down to go over things. She wanted to know how things were and if we had done any additional learning. She said that her team had their matching meeting recently and had a possible match for us. I was desperately trying to hide my excitement but it wasn’t working, I knew I had the most biggest smile on my face as she said this. She went over some information and told us that the child was an 18month old little boy, mixed race. He was doing really well, and explained his background. She handed over his ‘profile’, my excitement went straight to disappointment. From looking at the picture I knew something wasn’t quite right, and all was confirmed when I looked at the health section of his profile. He had a chromosomal disorder.
I straight away questioned this with our social worker. She said the team felt given my work background (working in paediatric nursing) it was a good match as I have experience of this. What was this as a reason? I was fuming. I felt that we had been completely ignored in regards to what our matching requests were. We were looking for a healthy boy not one that was going to have both physical and emotional needs later down the line as well as significant learning difficulties. Granted I would be able to care for this child but I know emotionally I would be drained. It’s one thing to care for a child at work but also to be doing this at home as well is something else.
This match was not fair at all, and their reasoning for this was a load of BS to be honest.
For us it was an immediate no although she wanted us to think on it. Me and Ricky spoke about it between the two of us and I spoke with colleagues at work but our decision wasn’t going to change. I did feel really guilty for saying no. This little boy was in foster care and by saying no I had no idea what was going to happen once we said no. How long would he remain in care for? But it was the right decision.
For now it was back to looking for the right match, for us.
Firstly I just want to say sorry for it being some time since my last blog post. Who knew how much time and energy the school holidays take from you!! One of the issues of adoption is that until the adoption order is granted you can’t leave your child with anyone at all, which meant that due to the mr working I had our little dude the whole time. Don’t get me wrong it was amazing, and we got to bond a lot, its just extremely tiring and a 18hr day at least 4 days a week is draining!!!! I thought my 12.5hr work shifts were tough. But it was amazing to see my little guy grow, we went swimming and did some baking, sight seeing. It was a fab easter.
So on to explaining the beginning of our stage two journey. Following the news of being approved to continue we were so happy, but this is where the work really begins. Stage one is predominately formal paperwork to ensure that you are suitable to progress on to the second stage. We met our social worker at the apartment and she explained to us the stage two process. we were given a folder which again explained the process and the dates of the almost monthly meetings! We were also told that we would be attending a two day training day early on in this stage. Other potential adopters who were also in this stage would be attending however, they would be further on in the process than us along with some other social workers. The reason for us attending so early on was because they didn’t want to delay our application as the next assessment day was not for a while. We were told that these assessment days would consist of different elements such as role play, which is a huge fear of mine, it brings on massive feelings of anxiety and I just completely withdraw. I also don’t do well in group activities because of not knowing the other people. This assessment day seemed like it was going to be a complete nightmare for me. We were given some advice which was to be ourselves and not to try and second guess what the social workers were wanting from us. Our new social worker also went over the forms that we completed in stage one which was what child we were looking for etc and if anything had changed. We decided that we were now looking to adopt a little boy and decided that we would be happy with an age range of 2 to 5 years. We wanted a healthy child,, we were given the tick box form back and we had multiple choice options which were not open to, would consider or yes would accept. We had to list from these multiple choice options what we could consider based on physical health problems such as Cerebral Palsy, emotional difficulties, learning difficulties such as Downs syndrome and mental health disorders. All of these included parental health such as maternal mother has learning difficulties or has a mental health disorder. The problem with this form was it is so very basic and some of the health disorders listed had such a large spectrum that it was almost impossible to tick that we would accept because we didn’t want to open ourselves up to much incase we then had to reject a possible match later and then have to explain why we couldn’t adopt that particular child. However, after speaking with our social worker at length we agreed to mark that we would consider/be open to most of the conditions other than mental health. This was due to personal feelings after I had done a lot of research into parental mental health and genetics.
Between this initial meeting and the assessment day we had a few email communications with our social worker but one face to face visit to ensure we were ready for the assessment day, I think she could sense that I was anxious about this. She went back over the advice that she gave us as well and told us that there would be two other couples attending two day assessment along with two single female potential adopters. There would also be four assessing social workers. This did nothing to calm my nerves!!!