A life without children for me was like considering Jelly without ice cream, the beach without the Sea, Gin and tonic without Ice and a slice or Ant without Dec….it just didn’t feel right.
We had it all planned, the big white wedding followed by the pitter patter of tiny footsteps. We hadn’t settled on how many, but we had picked their names and it was decided that if we had a boy he would be named after my Great Grandfather and if it were a girl she would be called Caitlin a name picked by Daddy with love. We’d have a big house, maybe a dog, and we would live happily ever after. ………
Sat in the Guinness Factory in Ireland with my old Irish Nan my wedding a distant memory we watched the film about Arthur Guinness and his twenty one children. My Nan had an alcoholic remedy for everything in life, God bless her soul. Port and Brandy to settle the nerves, Champers to celebrate, snowballs at Christmas and apparently Guinness for my infertility! ‘The Irish never struggle to have babies Joanne, you need to have a few Guinness’ she said. Prescription issued…. well it was worth a try wasn’t it?
My Mum on the other hand forever has her nose in some herbal remedy book and was always on hand to impart some wisdom. ‘I’m telling you Joanne you need to be taking vitamins, drinking smelly herbal tea, burning incense…..oh and did I tell you about this article I read about Pomegranates and their fertility boosting powers?’. After a few months I was ready to tell my Mum where to stick her books, and as for pomegranates if I ever see one again it would be too soon.
More advice would follow. “You need to stand on your head for twenty minutes…it worked for me”. “You need to use these sticks it worked first time for us”, “Take these pills they are amazing”. Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!
After a while of course the advice dwindles and people just stop asking about children. Caught up in a sea of thermometers, fertility sticks and charts, I would spend every month sobbing on the bathroom floor, or down the phone over an empty little window of a pregnancy test.
Sat in the fertility consultants office well over a year later from our trip to Ireland I waited patiently for her to impart upon us her expert advice as she peered over her spectacles ‘I will run some tests, but you’re still very young and your BMI is on the low side…..if you want my advice Mrs O go away and eat a few pies! Even taking this ground breaking advice from a medical professional ‘in the know’ proved useless as the test results were soon to prove.
Not to be put off by our failed attempts so far I went to visit my Nan again; born on Friday the 13th in some ways she was the luckiest lady I knew. She was forever winning competitions, raffles and even the lottery, so maybe it was just simple dumb luck we were after, although this wasn’t paying dividends so far! There on hand to offer me sherry and sympathy whenever I needed it, I told her ‘I just don’t think I’m destined to have a baby. Imparting what transpired to be her final pearl of wisdom (as she passed away days later) she took my hand and said to me ‘trust me Joanne, you will go on to have a baby it’s written in the stars’. Here’s hoping I thought!
Some time later after my Nan’s passing we conceived ‘the idea’ of adoption; which started in our minds and grew in our hearts. My labour, unlike the standard 9 months, took an agonising three years of visits, checks, training and searching. To this day I will never forget the day I clapped eyes on our little fairy princess on my computer screen. I picked up the phone excitedly to my husband and garbled ‘I think I’ve found her!’. Of course in reality it’s never as straight forward as this and there was still a long way to go, but that deep down gut feeling that I had found my daughter in this world transpired to be true. She danced into our lives like a little ray of sunshine, she made us laugh, she made us cry and she took over our lives (and house) with dolls houses, scooters and pushchairs. She showed me tantrums with a capital ‘T’, she left tiny little paint smeared hand prints up my walls on a fairly regular basis, but we didn’t care because it was everything we had dreamed of and our love grew for her every day.
I’m not sure if the pain of labour gets any easier second time round, but I’ve heard women say that whilst you never forget the pain the end result is so worth it that you’d do it all again in a heart beat and my experience was not too dissimilar. Thankfully I have found some truth in the saying that it gets quicker the more you have and after ‘conceiving the thought of adoption’ much quicker second time around (a very ironic nine months later) saw the arrival of our eldest son. Sat in bed trawling though pages of writing and just a tiny description of looks I excitedly threw the report at my husband. ‘This is it, he’s the one!’ He burst into our lives like a whirlwind one Christmas and has remained my best Christmas present ever since! He showed me a world of football, trucks, grazed knees and muddy little footprints (thankfully not on the walls this time). He brought our daughter a play mate and he made us a family and we loved them equally.
Feeing complete we embarked upon our fostering career several years later, inspired greatly by the two amazing foster families who had cared for our babies before us. This gave us the opportunity to experience caring for our very first newborn, as our children had come to us at 2 and 1 years old. Even if it was only for a brief moment in time and the child moved on. The children we cared for came and they went, but they will always have a special place in our hearts. One afternoon we received a phone call with details of yet another placement. There was a baby soon to be born who needed a home ‘‘He’ll only be with you six weeks and then he will be moving on to adoption’, fairly routine at this point.
The call I received to say he had been born sent shivers down my spine as I was aware that he finally arrived but more significantly on Friday 13th. “What a poor baby being born on Friday the 13th” the voice said down the phone reminding me immediately of my Nan. So you can imagine how shocked I was when I was told that his name was the very same as my Great Grandfathers (the one that I’d picked out all those years ago to name our first son). Sat in the hospital cradling the tiniest little bundle I’d ever handled with little tubes coming out of his nose I whispered in his ear. “Did you know all the greatest people are born on Friday 13th”?
Of course I never truly believed he was mine, as he was due to leave us in six weeks but in the weirdest twist of fate ever, we were privileged enough to nurture and watch him grow for an entire year before we conceived the idea of adoption for the third time and legally we were allowed to do so by the time he reached his second birthday. Which of course we did.
Later when he was officially ours, we sat in DisneyLand Paris where dreams of course come true and we raised a glass in toast of Nanny Annie…..it turns out we were destined to have a baby after all and perhaps, just perhaps, it was written in the stars!
UK National Adoption Week
16th – 22nd October 2017