When I’m asked why I’m positive about my boys having contact with their first mum, the short answer is because If I can love two boys then why can’t they love two mums? The long answer is because I’m aware there’s a different way of doing adoption.
In the second episode of our podcast, I mention that adoption in Australia is done differently; it’s commonly accepted that adoptees should be helped to re-connect with their first family, whether through access to records or therapeutic support. This wasn’t just governmental lip service either because requests for information were acted upon with a sense of urgency. Perhaps more importantly, forced adoptions no longer happened. Babies were released for adoption, genuinely released, not coercively, like they were in the post-war period. Open adoption was not just the norm it was considered best practice for the child’s well-being. It was a given that adoptees knowing where they’d come from and maintaining connections to their first family, was important.
It took us forever to conceive, only to miscarry soon after. We grieved our loss. After this we had the option to pursue fertility treatment, but our situation meant the odds of success were far too low to justify the stress, and inevitable repeated losses, of trying. We grieved for the children we would never have. We learned to live with the reality that our love was not enough to create our own children. We accepted the loss of our imagined family and eventually made peace with the idea of creating a different type of family.
We applied to adopt and, once approved, were included in the relatively small pool of potential adopters. Back then, in the late 1990s, across the state of New South Wales there were only around twenty babies relinquished annually, and that number was falling, which meant only around twenty couples were accepted into the adoption pool at any one time. When a mother decided on adoption for her baby, she was given the profiles of two or three couples and asked to select the adopters. We carefully prepared our profile, even having professional photographs taken; but we didn’t stay long in the pool.
Once our focus shifted from the application process to the waiting, it suddenly dawned on us that being selected by a mother to adopt her baby would mean living in Australia for at least the next twenty years. Adopting in Australia meant either losing touch with family and friends in the UK or dishonouring our commitment to our adopted baby’s mother. We knew what it was to yearn for a child and so couldn’t inflict that yearning on any woman who trusted us to raise her baby. Nor could we consider ourselves good parents if we deliberately arranged our life in a way that left our child yearning for their first family. We chose to return to the UK, removed ourselves from the adoption pool and grieved again.
Although we thought we’d drawn a line under adoption, several years later we applied again to adopt, this time here in the UK. By then we had grieved and accepted our loss and also accepted that we’d be creating a different type of family to the one we’d originally imagined. This time we planned to adopt hard-to-place older children or a sibling group; yet another differently imagined family.
This acceptance, that we weren’t creating our family in the traditional way, coupled with an awareness that there is another way of doing adoption, is the reason why we’re positive about our boys growing up knowing their first mum. Laura’s grief and loss are different to ours, and it could have been a barrier, instead we feel lucky that she too has embraced a different, more open style of adoption. Together, we genuinely believe we’re doing the best for our boys.