Friday, March 29, 2013


At Baby Spouse's age, everything he does is play, apart from eating, sleeping, and filling his nappy, and I'm not too sure about those either. Play is how we can tell what he can do, how he fills his days (well, apart from the sleeping bit, which he's still very good at, and which we are very grateful for, but even then he wakes up and chats to himself), how he interacts with us, and in a well-used cliche, how he learns about the world too.

Most of this post will have nothing to do with adoption, and the parts that do, I hope don't sound too patronising.

We do have a few minor developmental concerns about Baby Spouse but to be honest, most of them are not genuine - he's meeting all his milestones, in the well worn phrase, and is doing just as well as many other children we know, though of course we'd like him to be doing better. There are a few children who are younger and doing things he can't, but with my professional hat on, I know that's OK.  

We know from the way he plays that he doesn't have several major developmental concerns. He can tell what we are thinking - and he tries to manipulate that - he will offer you a toy, hold on to it when you try to take it, and laugh. He can tease you, in other words. He will anticipate what you are going to do by lifting his arms to be picked up, by smiling before one of us comes into the room. He does not have autistic tendencies to any major degree.

He's appropriately active for his age, and we knew almost from birth that he didn't have major developmental delay, he wasn't floppy, he tried to move, he learned to smile on schedule; he responds to us talking, and has done all along (though he was quite placid in the face of loud noises, which we think we know a reason for, but we weren't worried as he'd passed his newborn hearing test).

I've noticed a couple of tendencies in other parents which I find a little interesting. One is that, as I mainly know parents of first (and at this stage only!) children, a lot of them are really eager to play with their children in ways that I (and they, really) know they aren't ready for.  

Most babies aren't that interested in cuddly toys till around a year old (maybe a bit younger), and then it seems to click - that's been true of Baby Spouse - but a lot of parents of newborns seem very keen to introduce a lovey very early which, actually, could be unsafe if it's a large toy they could get their face stuck in.  A lot of my friends took their babies to the park at a point when they found the swings and slides a bit scary (so did we - bit of a mistake!).  We all read books to them from very young, which is not wrong, but we have tended to buy books that are advertised for babies - flaps, touchy feely, animal pictures etc. - which they don't really appreciate until again nearer 5-6 months when they can handle/feel things, or a bit older when they can appreciate pictures. This is a very natural tendency as you see parents of older toddlers doing all these things and you want it for yourself and your baby. Especially if you have only a few months' maternity leave, you want to make the most of it and do lots of fun stuff.

The other tendency I've noticed, which is related to play but to new adoptive parents can seem more like care, or behaviour, or battles, is that a lot of new adoptive parents of toddlers have had very little training or experience of what babies and toddlers can and should do.  Some of what might be better seen as exploration or trying things out (which I'd include under play) can be seen as poor behaviour, a result of neglect, or of being slightly ignored and/or indulged by foster carers. 

A lot of this seems to be around eating - such as putting too much in the mouth, or being incredibly messy, flinging food.  Children can obviously revert to slightly younger behaviour, so if they'd fed themselves or grown out of playing with food quite so obviously in foster care, they may revert to this on placement.  But it's a stage all children go through and I feel that adopters should learn more about how most children behave and play and should be able to work out what's something they should worry about, and what is perhaps a bit immature but not worrying.  

For example, a poster was worried that her 19 month old threw bowls of food on the floor. Another poster said perhaps the child was seeking her attention by doing this. Now, we don't have a 19 month old yet, and I'm crossing my fingers ours will have stopped doing that by then - but we do have a nearly 15 month old and there's no way I let him have the whole bowl of food, ever. He can have a spoon or fork, and some days he uses them appropriately, some days he plays with them. That's how he learns. And yes, he looks at you to see if you noticed, but he does that with everything else he flings on the floor, and more or less every game he plays too. For his age, this is appropriate - food is a game - and it's not inappropriate for a slightly older child who's been unsettled, either.

The same is true of things like asking strange/inappropriate questions, how much children actually understand and remember (and what they are very unlikely to remember so are probably reconstructing). These are all things that come up when children are playing, and that the large number of people adopting under-3s get absolutely no training whatsoever on. It's completely mad. 

Mildly disappointing

So... 600 pages of paperwork is a lot. Very heavy.

Some interesting things emerged. For example, how much social workers plagiarise from the paperwork they ask you for. Well, plagiarised isn't exactly the right word. Some of it they tell you will be included. Some of it they paraphrase.

Some we had forgotten - particularly around the thorny subject of birth dad.  We had discussed getting OHP to try and contact him on his last known number/address and find out if he was willing to try and complete the medical information again, and see if he's open to contact.  Mr Spouse is not keen on that and has not been made more keen by any new information. 

Looking back at the old notes from our old social worker has, I think, changed my mind on the contact.  Although the social worker did mention photos and letters to him, we now know that he has, all along, had a very good way to get in touch with the agency and, indeed, us should we have wished. And he hasn't used it. I guess we were thinking he only had expired cell phone numbers for a social worker who doesn't do that job any more, and for Nella, but he doesn't. He could have asked for contact, and he hasn't.

My worry if OHP try to contact him is that the details will be out of date and it will be pointless. But Mr Spouse's worry is rather the opposite - that he will behave aggressively to us or Nella, as he did when contacted by the social worker before.  I'm not sure that is a huge risk if he was only contacted by a third party to ask to fill in a form that he had already said he would do. But now it seems he didn't say he'd do it, and he could easily have been in touch with the agency, but wasn't.

I haven't totally changed my mind about hoping we'll get medical information, but the notes also seem to say that he did not even say he would fill this form in, but then lost it. And reading between the lines, it has jogged my memory that the social worker was not completely convinced this was the only possible birth father. So, if we did get the information, it could be worse than useless.

So, and apologies for rambling, but where this leaves us is, I suppose, in kind of the same position as a parent whose child's other biological parent has walked out. I could, if I was feeling unhelpful, ask one of OHP's social workers to pursue the medical information unilaterally. But I think it's better that we are on the same page.

Friday, March 22, 2013


You may remember from last year that Nice Little Agency had some serious problems last year. Some fairly important pieces of paper got lost.

We got a very random phone call tonight (from Official Hague Person's office) to say that some lost adoption paperwork has been found. They are sending it to us.

All 600 pages of it.

There are definitely some things we want, and apparently there IS some birth father information.

We also suspect there may be some things we probably shouldn't see. We won't tell if you won't.

Moving forward

Thankfully Baby Spouse was allowed home from hospital yesterday - he was checked off as fine about midday but Mr Spouse had to hang around for hours waiting for his medication.  He's having another epic nap at the moment, though he's intermittently been trying to crawl at sprint speed, and being very wimpy and tired, today.

We adore his nursery, which is at my workplace, but we are slightly wondering if we shouldn't investigate other childcare options. At his current nursery he moves rooms - and hence carers - once a year at the moment, so he can't have the same carer indefinitely anyway.  One of the immediate reasons we are thinking about this is the illness issue.  Everyone says babies in nurseries get sicker, and if he has a propensity to being seriously ill when other babies would just get snotty, we are wondering if a smaller setting (childminders here would have maybe 3-5 children, and if they had a higher number most would be older) wouldn't help with this.

The other issue is the location of the nursery - there is another one very near our house and hence near the station Mr Spouse commutes from - currently he can't do a full day's work and pick up Baby Spouse but a different arrangement would mean he could pick up sometimes. I know he misses doing this, too.

As always there's an added adoption layer to this. It's not a huge layer, I have to say, as we did tell his existing nursery that he was adopted but they have not asked any questions (certainly not the concentrated level of questioning we got in the hospital!). We know that in any of these places he'd be with children who would be in his class at primary school, so it's something that will be permanently out there. And although the nursery staff seem to be very sensitive we can't guarantee that everyone will be like that.  Again, the hospital staff seem to be rather surprised to the point of nosiness!

It's hard to get the balance right.  We have a few minor concerns about his development, which, especially with my professional hat on, I know are OK, but it's hard to get some people to take them seriously without disclosing probably more than we want to unless we have to. To them he is a normal, happy boy with a past that can be forgotten. But others see the situation as so unusual and shocking that they want to know all about it. And we don't want that either.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Briefly - I've been in hospital with Baby Spouse since Monday (it's now Wednesday night) - I am very grateful that we live 15 minutes walk from the hospital.  Mr Spouse came in Monday night to relieve me while I got stuff, and yesterday while I napped because I hadn't slept on Monday night because Baby Spouse's oxygen levels tanked and the nurses were trying everything to get them back up.

He has a chest infection and either the antibiotics, or the steroids, or the inhaler/nebuliser, or all of those, have helped. He had to have more oxygen last night but I slept, and so did he, and tonight Mr Spouse gets to sleep on the hospital bed. He should be home tomorrow.

We are anxious, but he is doing a lot better, and I think we're more shocked that we weren't even going to take him in, and the hospital thought he would be OK at home but kept him in to be on the safe side.

I've explained to what seems like 25 million people about his adoption, what age he was when placed, to about half of them where he came from, and to one doctor (who did ask "do you mind") why we chose to adopt from the US not the UK. I explained that the same kinds of children need adopting in both countries, but the system allows for birth parents to choose not to allow their child to go into foster care, but can have a say in who adopts their child, in the US. I did not say (as I was not asked, but I did say this to a friend) that they do it that way "because it's sensible to do it that way". I am very aware that there are ethical issues around this, and that the US foster care system is probably at least as broken as the UK system, but something needs to change for babies in the UK.

This whole serious illness is a big thing to get your head round, though, and it's left me at least thinking about other parts of his/our lives (especially childcare).  I'll try and keep you posted.

Update: here