Thursday, December 12, 2013

Baby steps. Well, just one baby step. Singular.

We had OHP and New Agency on our backs about permission from Government Department to make a commitment-in-principle, saying we had to go ahead anyway if we didn't want this match to fall through. Fortunately Government Department did come back and say they "couldn't see any reason not to".  

We are still waiting to have our medicals which is really the next important dealbreaker for us.  I am not sure there is much anyone (except the Big Man in the Sky) can do about this. Strangely, this makes me feel calmer.  It will be weeks, I imagine, before we know anything.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

I need my own theme tune

Because this is getting like East Enders.

I can't sleep again (though it's only 1 am which is not too bad for me). We spoke to Nella again yesterday which led to varying accounts of the situation, the upshot of which is either a) she didn't think we were really interested in taking this baby or b) she had committed to the other couple and didn't want to let them down.  (or possibly c) she really likes drama. It turns out she was previously working with another couple who found her hard work and withdrew. I can appreciate that).

She says she'd like to switch to us, and we really have to trust that she means it - we know from our experiences with her so far that she is committed to seeing her children and to her children seeing each other. But as we said to each other, this is the risk from believing that birth parents should have choice.

But there are still hurdles. We are waiting to hear from OHP who is communicating with UK Government Department about what, exactly, we are allowed to commit to, to do and say at this stage. This may not be enough for Nella and her agency. So that (which would be a legal hurdle, we cannot change the law) could stop the whole process.

Nella needs to understand also that if (as is quite likely) there's a gap of a few weeks between the new baby being born and our paperwork swimming veeery slooowly across the Atlantic, the baby will need to be with a foster carer for that time, with us visiting.

And we need to clear the medical hurdle too, mainly Mr Spouse's - we're just hoping that one doesn't take too long, and, of course, is positive.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Adoption drama in real time

Yesterday 4.45 am: I wake, and realise we are meeting our social worker later. I can't go back to sleep. 
6.30 am: I go back to sleep 
7.00 am: I have to get up for work
8.45 am: Dash into nursery in the first minute of drop off time
8.54 am: Dash across campus. Grab coffee
9.01 am: Give lecture
2 pm: Start practical class
2.50 pm: Deliberateky don't tell class they can take a mid-session break
3.40 pm: Apologise to class for leaving 10 minutes early.
4.13 pm: Arrive home with Baby Spouse
4.15 pm: Social worker rings doorbell. General fuss made ofBaby Spouse. 
4.20 pm: Mr Spouse arrives home. 
4.22-5 pm: Discussion with social worker. Social worker has not read email with Mr Spouse's medical information but does not sound excessively worried. Suggests that Mr Spouse not take blood tests "just in case" in the future. Suggests we have early medicals, and that she'll talk to medical advisor tomorrow (today) and send us our medical forms today too. Discuss loveliness of Baby Spouse, Nella's lifestyle, new sibling (notice she calls new sibling "he" too), and also touch on our previous idea of concurrent planning. Their agency now does this and has a few couples doing this now. 
We'll get a letter from Mr Spouse's consultant, hopefully saying he's fine and at low risk of anything serious. Social worker suggests April panel date and also suggests this would mean a couple of months in cradle (foster) care for the new baby. We could live with that.
5.15 pm: Try to ring GP to book medicals. Apparently we cannot do this without forms clutched in our hot little hands.
6 pm: Family tea (Baby Spouse has recently started having his main meal with us at this time. He has also recently noticed that the serving dish has more food ths even Mummy and Daddy's plates, and has worked out how to get out of his high chair). Mr Spouse still having cold feet. I tell him he needs to make this decision for himself, and needs to be positive about it.
6.30 pm: Baby Spouse goes to bed, with his Bebe (dolly). The first time he's asked for it in bed. It's hard plastic. Ouch.
8.25 pm: As it is still relatively early we decide to watch a film.
8.30 pm: Receive email from Official Hague Person who has been trying to call Nella to make arrangements. OHP says that Nella has signed up with New Small Agency in Nice Little Agency Town (good thing) and has decided to work with another couple.

8.31 pm: Head explodes.

8.32-8.59 pm: I think of about 75 alternative plans. Mr Spouse tells me to stop thinking of mad plans. We decide we will call OHP tomorrow (today) and that we will go ahead with the medicals. We will also email the birth GPs and ask if they know more. We have, we realise, no idea if this is a final plan, a strategy, a diversion, and of course no guarantee that Nella will not change her mind again. And again. We chose to adopt in the US because birth parents have a choice about who parents their child, but that is a two edged sword. We actually know that Nella was matched with another couple before us.  
We decide that, as we were thinking of it anyway, we may decide to pursue concurrent adoption anyway. I know it's a bad time to make a quick decision, but we have been talking about this for a while, and we need to start A home study now - if Nella changed her mind in a month, and still wanted to work with us, we'd still have a chance.  

9 pm: We decide it's too late to watch a film, and instead watch Elementary. There are people on the screen, I imagine, but I have no idea beyond that.

11 pm: I go to sleep, thankfully.

Today, 5.45 am: I wake up. My head realises what has been going on.

8 am: I have now given Baby Spouse his morning milk and he needs to get ready for the childminder. I have the day off. I have been instructed "not to spend the day worrying".

I'll let you know how that goes.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

I can't stand the tension.

Although we contacted our SW to ask her to speak to the medical advisor about our issue, and we are seeing her on Monday, she has only confirmed the appointment, not that she has seen the medical advisor, or that she can't see the medical advisor, nor of course that there is anything the medical advisor said.

I'm also having a lot of work issues (of course), my boss being unsympathetic (which is not new) but also a load of previous cr*p coming back to haunt me. Mr Spouse is getting worried that I'm sinking. I'm actually getting worried that I'm sinking. I'm trying to think of a lifeline - I'm sure there is one out there.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

So, we still have no idea really

Mr Spouse had his medical appointment on Saturday and the specialist said that his test results so far are nothing to worry about, so if he wanted, they can just continue to monitor. He has a small chance of having something bad, but even if he has something bad, it's not something that they would necessarily even treat because it tends not to even affect people for years and years and years (we gather that most people who have it die of old age).  So their recommended course of action is to do another blood test in a month, then another one every 3-4 months.  Sorry for being cryptic about this.

He feels comfortable with this and although he didn't think it was very likely, happy that the specialist didn't say "well, we'd better do an invasive test and then we can see if you need to have horrible treatment".  He also feels comfortable now, I think, saying that we'll try and go ahead with the adoption.

The issue now is that we are not sure if the adoption agency would agree with us that we can apply, or if we apply, would approve us.  As Mr Spouse says, adoption agencies tend to want to be sure that you will be hale and hearty for the next 30 years.

I am really really pleased that he feels able to consider going ahead, slightly frustrated that we've had to wait so long to get to this point, but also very worried that they wouldn't even consider letting us apply.

We had already set up an appointment with our old social worker for next Monday, but we emailed her after the appointment and asked if she could discuss this with the agency medical advisor before we meet.

On the one hand yes, I see their point, it is not good to have a child who has lost their birth family placed with parents who have a limited life expectancy and who they then lose prematurely. On the other hand, the information we have does not reduce Mr Spouse's life expectancy, we won't have better information in one, three, or necessarily 6 months, and we cannot wait to be approved because that would mean an unhealthy wait for the new baby before we can parent them. 

Also, if we do not adopt this baby, both Baby Spouse and the new baby will lose their biological sibling.  They will lose them in exactly the same sense that they have lost their birth parents - they will, we hope, see them but they will not grow up with them.

I am slightly considering contacting BAAF and the Adoption Czar (who were both very helpful about the issue of applying to adopt again at our ages), before we hear back from the agency.

Something to pass the time

This little Q&A passed more time than I thought, as I can't edit it properly on the iPad.

But anyway missohkay asked me some questions. The idea is that I tag her, and put this image on my blog.  

So if you want to participate, 1) include this icon in your post; 2) link to the blogger who nominated you; 3) answer 10 questions about yourself; 4) nominate 10 other bloggers to answer 10 new questions; 5) tell the people that they’ve won.

1. What’s the last thing you read?
"The Report", by Jessica Frances Kane. It was a book group book, and is quite harrowing. It's based on a true story, set in an area I know intimately, and has a child loss and adoption theme.

2. Do you believe in soulmates?
No. I could have had a happy, but different, life with another partner, and the "one that got away", I later found out would have been horrendous and probably would have sucked me in to a really awful situation. I'm really happy with Mr Spouse, who would not at all have been the person I would have chosen on paper.

3. What’s your favorite 80s movie?
Something by Bill Forsyth. Probably Local Hero.

4. Cats or dogs (or both or neither)?
Cats. I'd love to have one, Mr Spouse doesn't want one. I plan to get Baby Spouse on my side when he's older.

5. If you could go back in time to warn yourself that something was going to happen, would you?
Yes - I'd avoid being robbed at machete-point. And getting my friends robbed too. But I did manage to give evidence against the muggers and they did go to prison. And it meant that I found out that my neighbours were quite happy to tell the police who it was, they'd relied on all the locals not ratting them out to help foreigners, but obviously my neighbours' loyalties were more with me.

6. Do you have any recurring dreams, and if so, what are they?
Sadly variations on the theme that I'm pregnant and that I've lost the baby, or that our baby has died.

7. Aside from Twitter and Facebook, what website do you visit the most?
According to Chrome, it's the volunteer registration site for GirlGuiding (I've been signed up as volunteer coordinator for our area, and it's "Help I'm a final year student with a thin CV, I think I'll try volunteering" season. I'm at the stage where I'm having to say no, sorry, we can't take on someone who can come to Rainbows once a week for 10 weeks and then leave us in the lurch. This does not help us at all).

8. What artist, band, show, movie, or book do you think is under-appreciated and want the rest of the world to know about?
I'm just re-reading The Dark is Rising, a set of children's fantasy books I loved as a child. Unlike the books below, it has stood the test of time and of my age, and I don't actually like fantasy much any more.

9. What movie or show from your childhood did you love… until you re-watched it as an adult and discovered it was horrible?
Not a show, but I loved Enid Blyton books as a child - I couldn't read them now, and I'm just hoping Baby Spouse doesn't love them - but the adventure ones are more girly I think.

10. How did you find the online adoption, loss, or infertility community?
A friend suggested writing a diary after our first miscarriage. I started it as a blog, and an online friend (from a general message board) suggested reading A Little Pregnant and also Thalia.

My questions:
1. What do you do that you think makes you look stupid, but you do it anyway?
2. What would be your dream job?
3. And your dream holiday?
4. What did you think you'd do for a living when you were a child?
5. Which relative are you closest to, and why?
6. What's the strangest haircut or most regrettable fashion victim outfit you've ever had?
7. Coffee or tea?
8. What's your favourite "childish" thing to do?
9. Do you believe in God?
10. What about Father Christmas?

So I'm tagging 10 people, who are all Twitter friends, and bloggers relating in some way to adoption, loss and/or infertility and who, cheesily, have spread a little sunshine. Feel free to ignore if this is not your sort of thing.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Open Adoption Interview Project

I was very excited to be participating in this year's Open Adoption Interview Project. So excited, in fact, that I have no idea if I am posting this on the right day (blame time zones).
Adoption Blogger Interview Project 2013

I was paired with ArtSweet at Artificially Sweetened. She has two children, one through international adoption and one through domestic adoption and some of the questions she talks about in her blog are ones that are burning in my mind at the moment. So it was a really great pairing - thanks to whoever did that!

Anyway, here are my questions for her, and her answers.

1) You have one child adopted from Guatemala and one through domestic
infant adoption.  Can you share some of the differences and
similarities in how you handle each of their situations (and
questions, though some of that is going to be speculative of course as
Posy won't be asking anything yet!)

P'ito's birthfamily is not present in our lives nearly as much as Posy's is.  We are facebook friends with her birthmom and birthgrandma, we talk or text every couple of weeks - we skype occasionally, although not as often as we should... It feels very much like an extended family kind of relationship. And as much as I single out the class differences between us that I'm very conscious of, we share a baseline culture. P'ito's birthfamily lives in a teeny-tiny village in Guatemala, accessible only by a dirt road. His birthmom and brother don't speak much Spanish, let alone English, so communication is very indirect and mediated. When P'ito's birthmom saw a picture of him playing in the snow, she asked what that was. We send pictures and letters through an intermediary twice a year, and have visited them twice for a few hours, not in their home village. 

For better or worse, P'ito is not an introspective talk-about-my-feelings kind of kid. We're very upfront with him about his story (what we know of it), we have pictures of his birthfamily around the house, and we've had a few talks about why his birthmom wasn't able to take care of him himself, but in general, he rarely brings up the subject or expresses much of an interest in our attempts at starting conversations about it. I suspect that may be different with Posy, but I don't know yet. 

(He's also really been embraced by Posy's birthfamily, and I'm sure that he probably prefers visiting them (and the endless stream of video games and junk food that happens there) to visiting with his own birthfamily.)

In some ways, I think those talks will be harder with Posy, because the reasons that K. wasn't able to parent her are more complex, whereas we can say to P'ito - she knew she didn't have enough food for a baby. But with both of the kids, we've made sure that they know, to the best of our ability (I know P'ito wishes he knew something about his birthfather, and we don't have any contact with Posy's birthfather either), from whence they come. It still blows me away to see P'ito's smile on his birthmom's face. 

I'm not sure I really answered your question, but if I didn't, that's an awfully long non-answer! Follow up questions? 

2) You seem to have a very close relationship with Posy's birth
family, yet you do say that their lives are pretty chaotic.  How have
you managed to keep in touch despite this? Do you have a formal
schedule for keeping in touch, with added extras, or do you just take
things as they come?

Posy's birthmom's life was pretty chaotic after she relinquished Posy - she didn't have a secure place to live for a while or a phone that she could reliably keep minutes on. Fortunately, it's settled down somewhat since then, although she's had to make some very difficult sacrifices to live where she's living now. We stay in most frequent contact with her birth grandma, who is one of the most awesome, big hearted people I've ever been lucky enough to know and who, fortunately, has a much more stable life. We don't have a formal schedule for sending updates or pictures - whenever I've got some especially cute ones, I send her a few through shutterfly or just post them on facebook. Because they are not legal in the state where we adopted Posy, we don't have a formal PACA (post adoption contact agreement) although we were certainly open to doing that. 

3) Your post about Christmas gifts really resonates on a number of
levels.  We also mainly have communication with Nella's parents and we
have thought about giving them or Baby Spouse's big sister Montana
gifts, but decided not to.  Nella gave us boxes and boxes of newborn
clothes that she'd been given, but we couldn't physically take them
all. What did you decide to do and how has the issue of gifts played

C. did send us gifts for Posy and P'ito and a $100 Walmart gift card for us (!), and we wound up purchasing the laptop for her with the explanation that it was so we could keep in touch. She was so excited that she was going to be able to Skype with us that it wound up feeling really good. I didn't get the sense that it felt like a quid pro quo to either of us. I know $ has been very tight for her lately, and she hasn't made any noises about birthday or Xmas gifts this year, which is fine with us too. We will probably send her something small for Xmas - I'm thinking about getting a mug made for her with a picture of Posy on it. We have sent other gifts to the family - wedding and baby presents for her son and his wife, and occasional "do something nice for yourself" checks for K., who has less than no money right now. And that feels right and good too.   

4) Our son came to us through domestic (which, for us, is
international, though for me it's kind of domestic as I'm both a US
and  UK citizen) adoption, but we had considered adopting from UK
foster care if we adopt again (though you can see we had some
interesting news recently!). What motivated your decision to switch
program(me)s for your second adoption?

The main reason is that Guatemala is no longer open for international adoption! If it had been, honestly, we probably would have held our noses and pretended to be "roommates" again and gone that route. But it wasn't, so we jumped on board with domestic adoption, and I couldn't be more pleased about how things turned out. I'm glad to be able to have a more accessible connection to Posy's birthfamily, and we wouldn't have had that had we adopted from Guatemala again. 

We did really want a child who would share some heritage with P'ito and put a lot of effort into looking for expectant moms who had that background (our adoption website was bilingual, we created a Spanish version of our profile, etc. etc.). As it turns out, Posy is part Mexican, although that's not the culture of the part of her birthfamily we have contact with. 

5) Not an adoption question: Mr Spouse also has type 1 diabetes and we
try to limit Baby Spouse's sugar (and overly sweetened
fruit/artificial sweetened foods) consumption as he also has a genetic
history of diabetes. In the world of toddler nutrition and sweet,
sweet foods everywhere (even in the babyfood aisles) do you try to do
this too and if so, can you give me some tips?!

I wish I had tips. P'ito is a fairly picky eater and has the world's biggest sweet tooth, and as much as I never thought I would do this, I find myself bribing him with dessert to eat his dinner. We didn't give him a lot of sweets as a little kid, but it doesn't seem to have made a whit of difference. He had his first taste of ice cream at 9 months - I was wearing him in a front carrier and eating an ice cream cone and he nipped a bite of it. And it's been downhill since then. Fortunately, he's very athletic and active, or I'd be more worried about his sweets consumption. So far Posy is a Good Eater, but P'ito was a much more adventurous eater when he was younger too, so I'm not counting my chickens yet. I am resisting with all my might cooking separate meals for P'ito, but it's hard when not doing that means either he doesn't eat or you limit yourself to what he eats. Sorry, that's not really what you asked about, But no, no tips. 

And a bonus 6) I'm glad to see some of your ideas on not pushing
stereotyped gender roles on your son. I thought it would be SO much
easier to avoid stereotyped roles with a boy. Ha! What else have you
done that you feel isn't going along with the mainstream (for example,
we don't put Baby Spouse in clothes with noisy/car/vehicle/dinosaur
pictures on, for the most part, though he does love steam trains, he
mainly loves animal pictures; and we have bought him a doll, though it
was hard to find a boy doll)

Did I post about avoiding gender stereotypes with P'ito? Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. 

I was full of great intentions when he came home, but I am afraid that my good intentions (and my belief that gender is totally socialized) have pretty much gone out the window. P'ito has always been the stereotypical boy, despite my efforts to the contrary. I woke up early the other day, and heard the garbage truck and had a moment of nostalgia for how INCREDIBLY EXCITED he used to get when he heard the garbage truck coming (and how that excitement almost made up for the fact that he woke up at 5am). His first word was ball, second word was car. I did try to avoid some of the super-butch clothes when he was younger and let me dress him (sigh) and it has been fun seeing some of the cute overalls and onesies that he wore on Posy. I do have to confess that it is SO much fun dressing a girl. There are all kinds of cute dresses available, although again I stay away from the nauseating pink and the blatant sexist crap (little cheerleader, etc. etc.). I wish you better luck than I had in bucking the gender stereotypes! 

ArtSweet's questions and my answers are on her blog, and the full list of bloggers is up at the Open Adoption Interview Project.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

We interrupt your nail biting to say...

If you were a local parent friend of mine.
And you knew that we had adopted Baby Spouse.
And I posted on FB that I was feeling really unfit after being driven everywhere while away from home.
Would you a) laugh b) say that Baby Spouse would soon have me running after him or c) say "that's just like pregnancy"

If you guessed c), and you were me would you a) ignore it b) remove the comment, c) move said "friend" the restricted group or d) both b) and c)?

Let's see if she notices.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

My head is about to explode

So, trip went well, it was odd to not be a parent, essentially, for two weeks, and also slightly odd to come back, Baby Spouse has spent most of the few hours since I came back wanting to sit on my lap for a story. Oh, and headbutting me in the (still slightly painful) nose owing to his excitement at playing peek-a-boo under the blanket on the couch. And I'm jet-lagged. But apart from that. Mr Spouse seems to have coped admirably.

Big news. We found out that Nella is pregnant again. It is very very early but it is already massively complicated of course. We are not sure what we want to do. In particular, Mr Spouse is not sure though I am wary about many of his issues too.  He doesn't feel ready for what would be a very rushed process. 

He's worried about all the post-birth issues and paperwork and hassle in-country (this time with added toddler) and in particular about birth father issues as she is not sure who that is this time (and it was hard enough with the same issues with just one candidate last time).  Those, plus Nella's personal issues, could mean that we go through a whole (difficult but rushed, but also quite long compared to most other matching periods) process only to fail and not bring home a baby.

He's also worried about himself personally (as he has some health issues, and says "I just feel old!", and this has come at a rather uncertain time for the health issues) and his ability to deal with all this stress again. It is also a bad time for my work but they have messed me around so much that I no longer care about that at this stage.

Nella's personal issues mean that she needs a lot of support, and she has already been calling us with various dramas. We just don't feel qualified to give her all the emotional support she needs, and we know this is a long match, and we also know that we are not really allowed to just sign up with an agency that will support her practically through the pregnancy, before we have our UK home study.  She has said that she is thinking of placing the baby, and she is thinking of placing it with us if she does, and we don't want to either expend all our energies trying to explain to her what we aren't allowed to do for her - or have her think we're uncaring because we aren't allowed to do things she'd like us to.

And there is the issue of the UK home study. Last time it took about 18 months before our paperwork was ready. It should be a lot less this time, but even so the time it should take on paper is far, far too long - technically we could just be ready before the due date, but unless there is something that can be speeded up it will be very tight and very stressful. I have suggested we try and find out whether there is any possibility of speeding it up.

I, personally, would be ready to go ahead with this despite all of this. We did say that we would not adopt from the US again but part of that was the waiting and the uncertainty - we still have some of the latter - and part of it was that it would not be an advantage to have a birth family in yet another location that we were in contact with - and this wouldn't suffer from those problems, plus the new baby would be Baby Spouse's birth sibling which is really the main point here.

So I have no idea what is going to happen here. I would go ahead with it, if it were just my decision, and do our darndest to get the home study ready and the paperwork sent to the US and if it started to appear completely impractical - we'd have a home study ready for a future adoption (probably not a brand new adoption from the US).  

It's really hard to talk to anyone about this, too, even other adopters. If it was just a UK case, then we would be pushed through home study, but it wouldn't matter if it wasn't quite ready in time, it would just be a case of a few days/weeks of foster care after the birth, and we wouldn't have any responsibility to the birth parents beyond perhaps a few meetings.  If it was just a US case, we could find an agency and sign up with them and they could look after her while we got our home study together (which would be a lot quicker), and we could probably just have a private arrangement (though we wouldn't want to do that owing to our inability to support her properly).  We would, still, have birth father issues and in-state travel and paperwork issues (I've heard of families being stuck for paperwork longer than we were, just for a domestic adoption).

But as I say, it is not just my decision.  Mr Spouse is, he confesses, very attracted by the idea of another littler Baby Spouse, who would be we assume in some ways like the current Baby Spouse. But he doesn't sound very attracted by any of the rest of this.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The future

I'm taking a break from my tropical sojourn to talk about the future.

It's kind of hard for me to talk about because I really have no idea what the future will hold and yet I'm in a place where I really want to know.

I do feel confident that, if we don't mess up, Baby Spouse will be a pleasant child who is able to do most things for himself. I think we have dodged various bullets - we know that he does not have a major global delay and we know he does not have frank autism (sorry for sounding bleak but that's with my professional hat on!). 

Beyond that, I have no idea if he'll struggle academically, make friends, go to university, find the fact he's adopted hard, or much really but I think to me the big things (that he is able to know love and to be sociable, and that he is unlikely to need lifelong care) are in place. I think when we set out to adopt, those were the basics we were hoping for.

I'm also hopeful that Baby Spouse will see his birth family and grow to know them. I can't predict which family members this will involve, though I'd bet something it won't be his birth father, which is sad.

But it's really the big things in our lives that I'm not sure about. Will we carry on doing the same jobs (I'd say probably for Mr Spouse, maybe not for me)? How much longer will we both work (it's more likely that Mr Spouse would retire early than that I'd give up working entirely)?  Will we adopt again? (currently under discussion still, with the gender division falling along fairly predictable lines, though Mr Spouse seems to be coping OK while I'm away, which doesn't bode too badly, though there has been a development also which could go either way - we'll see).

Friday, October 11, 2013


If you're a long time reader, or if you've read the crib sheet (see tabs above) you'll know we had at least 4, probably 5 or 6 miscarriages. During our home study, our social worker asked if we were "over" our losses. I'm not sure you ever get "over" losing a child, but we weren't at the time interested in pursuing pregnancy again.  I feel even less inclined to do so now, I realised the other day.  I have an implant (this blog is all about too much information, didn't you know?) and I'll need to renew it early next year.  We'll definitely be doing something, though given my age, it might be that we don't need to.

But that doesn't mean it's all in the past.  A couple of acquaintances have daughters the same age as our first child would have been.  I generally forget this but occasionally they mention something which makes me think of this. 

I know this is supposed to be an adoption post, and I am coming to that.  We will some day need to tell our child(ren) why we don't have birth children. Obviously this will be at an age appropriate level but just like children needing to know that they are adopted, I can't see that we would conceal that we lost babies.  

I feel more apprehensive about this I think, than telling him/them about their reasons for being adopted.  There is some training for telling children that their birth parents couldn't look after them. I've never really discussed with anyone how to tell them that their were children before them that died - and yet it's something that parents will need to tell their birth children too. I've even even told I shouldn't be doing his, but to me, if we're open about adoption, we should be open about other things too.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Where was I?

Oh yes, moaning about childcare again.

Well, things seem to have settled down a bit.  Baby Spouse has had a couple of days at his new childminder (for one of which I wasn't at work - I did manage some sewing but mainly caught up on the washing. Sad, I know).  Although I wouldn't say work are being supportive, they have stopped being actively obstructive.  

I've got one more week in the office and then I'm heading off to one of the tropical destinations that used to be my regular haunts (yes, it's for work, and the work itself mainly involves sitting in poorly air conditioned offices trying to get ancient computers and even more ancient internet to work, bumping round picturesque, impoverished villages in a Jeep, and trying not to offend lovely parents whose culture I don't know enough about while visiting their homes, and frighten children ditto). I'm leaving Mr Spouse in charge of Baby Spouse, in conjunction with Lovely Babysitter.

To say this is a military undertaking timed to the last second would be the understatement of the year. We have days when the Lovely Babysitter can drop him off, days when she can pick him up, and days when she can do both. As Mr Spouse works a distance away, this is helpful. We have one day when he will need to do both, and will be in work for about 4 hours. We have one day (thankfully just one) when LB will be putting him to bed.  LB will be a lot richer at the end of this, I can tell you.

I have a feeling this might be make or break with Mr Spouse's estimation of his ability to cope with one child, and therefore two.  I'm hoping it's not the second.

And me? I'm buying insect repellant, malaria tablets, and looking at the website for the hotel I'm going to be staying in.  It looks quite relaxing. Does it make it any better when I tell you it will take 24h to get there? And that I'll be very jetlagged?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

In which I state the bleedin obvious

It is quite tiring having a toddler. It is even more tiring having a toddler and working. You get almost no time that is not either caring-for-toddler or frantically-keeping-up-at-work. Mr Spouse is very supportive and nice but he is tired. Baby Spouse is tired (and I am happy with my decision not to work full time as he finds nursery very very tiring and can sleep for up to three hours on non-nursery days).

Work could of course be very supportive and nice too but no, that would be too easy. The summer has been a tale of stroppy letters from my boss who doesn't read his emails so doesn't know when I tell him I'm swapping my working days, and consultations with the union, as well as other reasonable people wanting reasonable things, but needing them now please.  Needless to say, I'm a little stressed.  I have been diagnosed with a stress-related eye condition.  The consultant helpfully suggested I take some time off work. I have no annual leave left (well, I have 1 day - our leave year starts next month and we can't take leave in term time). I can't think of any other people in my job who use all their annual leave (I never have before), but I use most of it up when nursery is closed (it's closed a lot).

I'm not really sure what the point of all this is - I'm trying to find ways to relax, but I come home and am too tired to go out again to the gym (I do have a regular swim session one morning before work), I would like to learn meditation or some relaxation technique (but I'm not a Buddhist, which seems to be the option for classes, and I'm not motivated enough to do something like that regularly alone).  I do still knit and I was doing some sewing today while Baby Spouse napped but I end up thinking "do you really like having a child or do you just like making stuff for him?"

I think this falls under "you made such an effort to do this, just be flipping grateful you've got it and don't moan". In some ways it's a bit easier moaning to my real life mum friends as they don't seem to see adoption - they just see a toddler.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The House

So, we moved into this house in January 2004. It's a nice house, but the boiler was broken, and we didn't have a bed at first, so we spent the first weekend under about 4 duvets on a mattress on the floor.

We have a yard (no garden really, but we are 300 yards from a lovely park) and it's a big house - in theory we have 4 bedrooms over 3 floors, plus a dining room, a living room and a kitchen.  When we moved in, we both assumed it would be the house where we had our children.

Things didn't work out quite the way we planned.  All my miscarriages happened while we were living here.  At least part of some of them in the house itself.  The room that was my study but, next to our bedroom, always seemed like an ideal nursery, stayed that way. I thought about moving out (I now find out Mr Spouse never felt this way - but I know a few people do this after a home is associated with unhappy times).

Now, though, it's Baby Spouse's home. It's where he slept in our bedroom for the first time, and in a cot for the first time. It's where he learned to climb the stairs and to eat with a spoon (well, kind of, on a good day). It's where we had to babyproof and buy a new washing machine to cope with the nappies.

It's also getting quite full.  I am stuffing the loft with outgrown baby clothes (all sizes including very small, just in case - Mr Spouse is having a small case of cold feet but I'm working on him - and he points out himself he wasn't sure about having a newborn last time and was very besotted). Baby Spouse's room might not be the best room for him long term, but although we have 3 bedrooms on the first floor and one on the second, one of those is used as a living room and one as a spare room and as my sewing room.

So I'm having a declutter.  A fairly big one that may involve items of furniture. One of the reasons is that, although in the long term we may still be able to have 1 child's bedroom, 1 parent bedroom, and 1 spare bedroom, we may in the short term need 2 child's bedrooms, or we may possibly only need to pretend to have the capacity to have 2 child's bedrooms. 

In case you care, this is because non-related children (i.e. Baby Spouse and a not-yet adopted and not-biologically related child) can't share a bedroom, and because although we have a spare bedroom, it's not on the same floor as our bedroom (so not great for tiny children). A not-yet-adopted child can share our bedroom, though, until they are 2 (the NHS recommendation is definitely till they are 6 months anyway).

So if you are interested in Monsoon silk dresses that are now too big for me (hooray!) or back issues of Threads magazine, get thee to ebay.

In other and somewhat more exciting news, today Baby Spouse learned two important skills: 1) to get the Clanger to make a noise and 2) to put two Duplo bricks together.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Birthdays, adoption days, and "gotcha" days

The latter is a rather strange term for placement or "meeting" days used among a lot of US adopters (I think mainly first meeting for those who meet their child overseas before being able to bring them home).

We met Baby Spouse at 3 days old and he was placed at 17.  It seems a bit pointless to have a big celebration for either of those as they are so close to his birthday, and when he's older he'll definitely want to celebrate his birthday.  He was cleverly born on my mother's birthday, rather than his due date which is my brother's birthday, so at least some of the family will remember it (though my brother has a 100% failure rate so far, but we didn't make a big deal of his first birthday, so are less bothered than we could be).

We didn't find out his adoption was finalised until a few days after, so just said a private "yay" and told people as it came up.  I actually just had to ask Mr Spouse when it was, and it's in a week or so, but I doubt it will be a day we celebrate a lot either, though maybe we'll raise a glass.

So birthdays it is.  Last year we arrived in the US the day before, but kept to ourselves for a few days, and saw birth family a few days later.  We are thinking of an adult and child, combination New Year buffet and birthday party next year, it's a good time of year for family and adult parties. It may not be so excellent for school age parties, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Maybe ice skating the weekend they go back to school.  My mother complains that she always got combined birthday and Christmas presents as a child so we will watch for that. We don't want to raise a materialistic child but some of these things hit a small child hard.

But we don't think we'll be going back to see birth family in January again.  We're more likely to see other family and to be able to travel more (my cousin's little girl is 3 days older and lives in New England) at other times of year.  I am not sure if this will be a relief or disappointment to birth family.  We haven't told the grandparents yet, and we were due to have a phone call with Nella but they don't have a current cell phone number for her (as of a month ago) so we suspect she's gone off grid again. We are fairly confident she'll turn up again, and in our heads we know we might go to visit her and have her not turn up, but I guess we weren't expecting it so soon, especially given that we talked regularly last year.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Don't ask, don't tell

As well as calling our own county council, I also emailed a few other locally (for some reason, we live in an area with an embarrassment of riches in terms of councils) and a couple of them have been back in touch. I have ascertained that they would definitely be interested in taking on prospective adopters of a baby under 1, and that we don't really need to start applying now (though perhaps in 6 months time). They also sounded very positive in particular about our interest in continuing to meet birth family. 

I literally just spoke to a social worker who is finding a family for a 5 month old baby. Literally. And in US terms, this is a legally free baby.  As she and I both said, adoption in the UK has changed a LOT in the last 3 or 4 years.

I have not, however, told them our ages. One further council is calling back next week and I'll see what they say, or ask. I am assuming (perhaps wrongly) that if they wanted to know and it was an issue, they'd be asking. Or perhaps they assume that, with an 18 month old, we aren't going to be any more than 2 years older than "the right age to adopt a newborn", in 6 months time. Which isn't really rocket science. So I'm not mentioning it till I'm asked.

So we will see. These aren't routes that are definitely open to us, but they are possibilities. From where I'm standing, I look at Baby Spouse's tiny baby pictures and am sad that we might not have that again. But then I think about how annoying our county council are being and wonder if we'd get over that if we wanted to go with concurrency.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

In which I am a bit calmer than I was

So, last week, post holiday, I decided to call our Local Authority (council - in our case a County Council) which is the largest assessor for adoption from foster care in our area, and the only one that does concurrent planning (if you've been keeping up, you'll know that's where we would be foster carers and if things didn't work out for the baby to go home, we'd adopt them).

We discussed our reasons for adopting from the US, Baby Spouse's family and medical history, contact with birth family etc. The social worker seemed really interested in the system there and in our decision to keep contact and how we were managing it. I actually rang now because I was worried that they didn't hold their preparation courses very often but apparently that isn't an issue. At the end I just threw in that I thought I'd check about our ages. Not sure, said the social worker, quoting a guideline I'd heard before which I'll come back to, I'll talk to my manager and call you back.

So she did, when she said she would. But not with the news I'd been hoping for and expecting. Apparently we are both too old. It's bad that Mr Spouse will be retiring while Baby Spouse is still at school and it's bad that I'll be incredibly ancient very soon (though I will still be working when he, and indeed a younger child, leaves school). We don't really want to wait and adopt an older child (younger than Baby Spouse but older than a baby) but that would be a no-no too apparently. At least they're consistent.

So I was not very happy. I came home and looked at his baby pictures and cried. I ranted on Twitter and was given lots of lovely comments and advice (and apologies if I sounded ungrateful to some people). One good idea was to contact BAAF for advice.

They were also lovely and suggested we write back and say we'd like some sense please, and that they shouldn't reject us on paper without an assessment. They suggested we write to the council and ask them to reconsider, so we have done (at least, the letter may still be on the hall shelf). We were not too ranty, honest.

We quoted BAAF who were annoyed that the council said that they (BAAF) have a guideline of a maximum 45 year gap between child and younger parent. They don't have any such guideline and say they want to include, not exclude.

We have further ideas up our sleeve (we already enquired to some smaller councils about adopting a baby who is legally free for adoption - one who has been in foster care). None of them has yet sucked their teeth in and said "ooh no babies" and one asked for our dates of birth. We would likely make a bigger fuss at the county council too. Mr Spouse surprised me by being very positive about the whole thing actually. He is sensitive about his age and in the past has said "am I too old for this?". But now he feels like we just spoke to the wrong person and they will change their mind when they are having a better day.

So we will see. And I am calmer.

Friday, July 12, 2013

On names, and being a snob

This is in response to a Guardian article and also part of Adoption Social's Weekly Adoption Shout Out.

When we were being prepared for adoption, we did talk about names with our social worker. It seems to be pretty much taken as given in international adoption within the UK that parents will change their newly adopted child's name. I'm not quite sure why this is accepted and changing a UK-born child's name isn't. You'd think it would be the other way round if it were a case of retaining a child's culture.

Most UK families who adopt from China have changed their child's name for the reason that it's just not possible to pronounce them properly if you are a native English speaker.

The family we know who adopted from Guatemala kept their child's original first name as a middle name (I can't remember if they anglicised it or not) but gave him an English first name, which I think was a family name. But given their son's appearance, and the ease of pronunciation of Spanish names for English speakers (their son's original name was a very easy, culturally ok name - not Jesus or anything like that), I was a bit surprised at this. At the time we'd been reading around adoption but hadn't done our home study, so we didn't really know what our social worker's attitude would be.

Baby Spouse's two older birth siblings were named by Nella. The older one would, if she lived in the UK, be marked out as, at least, the child of someone who liked weird names, and there is a strong cultural undertone to her name. She would, at her age, have to explain her name a lot here. The second sibling might also meet the same when older (and we would do too with a young child with his name) though funnily I've met a child here with the same name but a different spelling, so it doesn't scream "not British" as much.

We thought it was a bit mean to carry on calling Baby Spouse "Baby Boy" though, so gave him a name as soon as we met him - as Nella hadn't yet. We suspect she was leaving it to us, rather than that she just hadn't decided, but we also think she liked our choice. His first name is old-fashioned but unusual, his second name old-fashioned and common (they are both our fathers' names) and she liked that his first name is unusual, plus his middle name is her dad's middle name (also a family name), so there is that nice coincidence.

Our social worker asked us if we'd thought about names, and on hearing the other two siblings' names sighed. She just assumed we'd name him, and thought the other two siblings' names were odd or even unwise names - she put them firmly in the same class as a lot of UK adopted children's names.

I am not sure if the author of the Guardian article would feel the same as our or other social workers involved in international adoption, but for me, changing a child's name is not just about their security but about their privacy. Children shouldn't have to tell everyone they meet that they are adopted, and when they are too small to answer for themselves, their parents shouldn't have to either. None of the internationally adopted children I've mentioned are at any risk from their birth parents. But all of them (including the child with the easy Spanish name) would spend a lot of time answering questions about their name.

I think this is true of UK-born children too. I certainly answer a lot of questions about Baby Spouse's name, even though it's English in origin and quite middle class. I can see if we foster a baby in the future we'll get those questions too, even if the name is more common, and some names almost constitute a breach of a child's privacy in their own right.

I know to some adopters we are not typical and will not face some of the difficulties other families do. Our child has not been traumatised and won't suffer attachment difficulties, unless something goes badly wrong with us in the future. No members of his birth family are searching for him, that we know of. But his birth parents did put him at risk, and we did remove him from his birth culture, which to be honest, though it's technically my family culture, it's probably as dissimilar to our culture (even with my family background) as a North of England working class council estate family is to a professional family from Surrey.

But culture is a lot more than names - as international adopters know, as do those of us brought up between cultures (even if these are two different British cultures). It's visits to your birth area - whether or not anyone you can see still lives there. It's the food you, or your parents or grandparents, grew up with: you may eat pasta with pesto, but your grandparents can remind you about the chippy tea. It's places your family visited as children, and stories they can tell you if they are still around. It's famous people who came from your birth area, and its history. And if you don't have a direct link through birth family, it's up to your adoptive family to provide that. All adopted children are going to need and want to know where they are from - geographically and culturally, as well as genetically.

If the only link an adopted child has to their birth culture is a name that they have to explain every time they meet someone, or spell constantly, probably fudging its origins ("it's a family name" is the usual suggestion, but for many names that's highly unlikely in a professional family in Surrey), that seems pretty sad to me.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Hello everyone

Please do stop by Henry Street and give her some virtual hugs. She's had some news that is very bad for her family.

(Incidentally, does anyone else use, or try to use, the Blogger app for Android or iPad? When did it stop letting you put in links?)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

I'm on holiday!

So far today I have:
  1. Dropped Baby Spouse at nursery (he has a regular space on a Thursday, even though I'm off work we don't get the money back if he doesn't go, so he went this morning so that I could..)
  2. Gone to Pilates because I haven't been able to go for ages
  3. Met a friend in town for coffee
  4. Bought some not very short shorts (as it's not likely to get very hot, and I'm short so they never are very short on me)
  5. Complained that the baby carrier I rented for a two week trial hasn't come yet
  6. Picked Baby Spouse up again, miraculously getting a proper (not just pick-up half-hour) parking space right by nursery
  7. Gone to meet a friend for lunch
  8. Stopped a very tired Baby Spouse from screaming all through lunch
  9. Taken him home
  10. Put him down for a nap
  11. Played with my new iPad (well, for some values of "new" and "my" - it's work's and it was someone else's first).
  12. Written a blog post about using dummies.
  13. Re-installed Tweetdeck, since MetroTwit seems to have stopped working.
  14. Just remembered I put a wash in this morning that I haven't hung up.
  15. Been unable to work out how to stop the numbers in this list from being in a different font to the text.
  16. Realised on preview that they ARE the same font
  17. Realised I have no idea what's for Baby Spouse's tea. Nap ending I estimate in 10... 9... 8... 7...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Time flies

Baby Spouse is walking, proper decent walking, a bit of falling over, but he's been very good at it for a few weeks now.  The Oracles say that you should get them measured for shoes about 6 weeks after they start walking - he's in very soft baby shoes at the moment, and I'm thinking "cruiser" shoes next but oh my, the price, and they are all hideous and massively gendered too. We have been given some hand me down shoes, but they are mainly a smaller size and more advanced structure (as they are from a few babies, but babies that walked earlier).

He's also saying more cute things, "bou bou" (bounce bounce) is Tigger, "mamamamama" is both MORE and Mamma, "doe" is "no". There is quite a bunch of words he can say, as some of you know I do this for a living, and I've got a mental note to fill in the questionnaire we're using at work, and keep it to one side to see a) how he progresses and b) how he compares to all the other children in our study when we've collected all their data.  My guess is that he's mid-lower end but I know he's doing well enough not to raise any red flags - and the order in which children develop at this age, unless it's really slow, doesn't predict how well they do at school age, really.

He's nearly 18 months (in about 10 days' time) and we promised Nella a mid-year phone call, so we are planning to email a single picture (we don't really do emailed pictures) to the grandparents, saying it's time for a phone call if she'd like to call us. We'll see what happens.

We're about to go on holiday but I have a really busy week at work to get through (see also: childcare inconvenience, annoying inflexible nursery hours). We are going to a picturesque part of England with gorgeous scenery and lots of history (in fact, the part of England where I was born and where my grandfather used to live, so my childhood stomping ground), but unlikely to have good phone reception. But we have agreed that if we contact them shortly before we go, at least we'll be more relaxed to receive a phone call.

Only thing is, we aren't at all sure how we'll survive without broadband! If you see a battered and moaning Dr Spouse back in about three weeks' time, you'll know why.

Sunday, June 09, 2013


This is the theme for the Weekly Adoption Shoutout this week - and one dear to my heart.

I am quite a bit less stressed about feeding Baby Spouse than I was, but it's still not entirely a stress free zone. However, now it's more to do with the mess created than worrying about getting it down him!

Because he was early, and very sleepy, he struggled to feed as a newborn. We would sometimes take half an hour to get an ounce of formula in him. He did pick up quickly but the anxiety was there. The other thing about early babies is that they may not have as many stored nutrients as full term babies (and we are pretty sure a balanced diet was not on Nella's agenda), so although he put on weight well, we were anxious to get him on solids at six months.

Unfortunately like formula, he wasn't convinced at first. He tried a cubic millimetre of banana and thought we were poisoning him. But again he was soon tucking in. He has a good track record of trying new foods but (as I've blogged before) a lot of it is too much like play - how far can I throw this toast and will Mummy laugh. The answer is, I'm afraid, all the way into the hall, and no.

My current advice to new parents is, ditch the dining room carpet.

He's also a middle class baby. He wolfs down his nursery lunch and we only choose fruit for pudding (they do seem to offer an unnecessarily wide array of sugary desserts). Tea is toast and hummus or couscous and he grabs my olives and blue cheese at lunch.

One thing I'd love to know though, an adoption loss if you will, is what Nella did like to eat during pregnancy - especially as there are quite a few different types of food where she lives - I don't know if his tastes have been influenced by hers but it would be nice to know. I know some people say "ask what birth mum's cravings were during pregnancy" but that just felt too personal to me.

(Blogging from my phone and I seem to be unable to insert links. I'll try and edit some in another time).

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Another one not so good

If you have been reading for a while you may remember that a former colleague lost their baby to SIDS last year. Their third son was born last month but only lived 2 weeks, in Intensive Care. 

I really don't know what to say, but was listening to a piece on the recent death of a child in Wales (I won't put the name) and another mother whose child was killed said that she hated people not saying anything in case they were "raking things up", because it is always at the forefront of your mind.  I know we have not experienced what this family have, but on that I do agree, so I have resolved to try and message her occasionally (and, because I sent a card last time, to send another card), just because I don't want to be that person that crosses the road (metaphorically).

More questions!

I do apologise for thinking nobody cares! (for some reason my email was on strike yesterday too)

So... questions...

Handstitched Mum asks... how does it feel a year in, being a mum?
I guess it still feels miraculous (how did we get so lucky to have such a funny, lovely baby, who is really still an easy baby and a good ad for babies all round, but also how did we get to be parents at all).  It also feels worrying, childcare is one of our ongoing issues, but how do we make it work overall, it was hard enough working out my job and Mr Spouse's job but with a baby in the mix too (and soon there will be school issues).
It also feels completely natural and I cannot remember a time, so to speak, when he wasn't here. I think of things we did and wonder who was babysitting... well erm... we didn't have a baby!
And it feels, as far as I can tell, no different to having a birth child. But also very different. But the main differences are the worry about what went on before birth (some of which we know, and we worry about how that will affect him long term), and some (but only really mild) frustration about not knowing about his genetic history. Really, I'm not that concerned if I don't know what age all his biological relatives walked/talked at, or if they had long legs/arms/bodies, or tangly hair like him (NO I am NOT getting it cut thank you!) but it's a topic of conversation among mummy friends.

Leah (do you have a blog? the link takes me to a page without any blog name...sad face...) asks if we are thinking of adopting again. Yes, we are... and there's a post here about a discussion we had on that. It should take less time this go round, and we have in our diaries (OK, I have in mine) an appointment to ring up the county council and ask about it, in a couple of months' time, after our summer holiday.  

I've been messaging another adopter going through the process we want to go through, and we met a family locally who also adopted through our council (probably using our second choice route), and it seems awfully quick compared to what we went through. This is partly because it will be second time round, but also because the whole country has got its act together a bit more with respect to not unnecessarily delaying adoption, or adoption approval (I don't know where you are, Leah, sorry).

And Vicky, thank you!

Friday, May 31, 2013


So, the only question I got in my request for suggestions (*sob*, nobody's missed me) was the very sensible "how the heck are you all" from Twangy.

We are well. We are doing very well in fact. Baby Spouse has not been back in hospital or even to the GP, though I went to say "get these bloomin' migraines sorted out STAT" and the GP suggested a stronger version of the drug that mostly works, and some stronger painkiller too ("nah, let's not bother with the lower dose, why would we" "well, I think you've got enough data points to suggest that chocolate isn't a trigger" - I do sometimes quite like my GP).  

Fingers crossed, anyway, Baby Spouse has not had a serious cold, hasn't needed his inhaler (though did I mention that when he last encountered his spacer - about a week after previously using it - he picked it up and put it over his mouth? Not sure if that's sweet, or if we're cruel, nasty parents and he's become so used to being tortured with his spacer that he got used to being tortured). And that's nearly 2 months now.  He does have a few spots on his bum. Can you have chicken pox just on your bum??

We think we've kind of sorted out childcare. We've signed up to three days a week for the next year at nursery, and we've found a childminder who will do one day regularly and we hope (though we haven't completely confirmed this) occasional extra days as we need them. However a local, well, situation means that we may ask another family if instead (just to keep things complicated!) they want to share a nanny.  I'm probably going to discuss this with Mr Spouse tonight and see if he thinks it would work for us.  

And I am still wondering about another childminder I know of, who wasn't sure if she had spaces - the advantage being that I already know her, and I have a minor cultural adoption-related niggle with the childminder that does have spaces (basically adoption is not that common in her home culture, and I heard of her through another mum I know from the same culture, whose same-culture friends have asked even odder than usual questions about adoption. But I think people who don't know much about adoption tend to ask odd questions, and I can always get it all out of the way at the start of working with her).

Nothing else to report apart from the fact that a large number of the mums of babies the same age I know are expecting another one in the same week later in the year, and the talk is getting a bit yawnworthy. I'd love to gross them out with tales of miscarriage/infertility/investigations/adoption/fostering approval/training/children's backgrounds, except really, I wouldn't love to do that at all. It's just that sometimes I feel like shocking them all when they think they have it bad.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

I have not been writing

Though I bet you hadn't really noticed.

What do people want to know? What's happening now? What we're planning? What Baby Spouse is up to? Anything about the past that I haven't covered, or that's lost in the mists of time?

I have little time to blog (really, I'd rather just veg in front of the telly and knit) but I also have little motivation. Motivate me people!

Friday, April 12, 2013


This is the theme for this week's Weekly Adoption Shout Out but, a bit like when I posted about Play, it's hard to isolate a transition in Baby Spouse's life.
Other friends - parents of adopted and birth children - talk about transitions meaning changes of school and carer, I'm guessing moving house, that sort of thing. Obviously moving to a foster carer or an adoptive family would be under this heading too.

But I see Baby Spouse transitioning multiple times a day. This afternoon he woke up from his nap and yelled something approximating to "I'M AWAKE AND THIS IS WRONG". Every day when we go to nursery he has to adjust. He had three weeks off over Easter (it would normally be two but he was in hospital before that) and he was pretty upset when he went back. I was very pleased to hear he'd been clinging to his carer for most of the day - it means he knows she's safe. He's also only just started to get excited when I get his coat out, because he's worked out it means he's going somewhere, potentially exciting (rather than being grumpy becaOther friends - parents of adopted and birth children - talk about transitions meaning changes of school and carer, I'm guessing moving house, that sort of thing. 

Sadly, although we know his nursery is great, we are looking for somewhere else. The combination of location (near my work, not near home or the station that Mr Spouse commutes from), and hours (very short) and flexibility (never able to switch days) means I've been having to turn down important work travel - even just short overnight trips or long days - as only I can practically drop him off in the mornings.
Baby Spouse would have to change keyworkers at the end of the year anyway, but the nursery is lovely otherwise, so I am a bit sad to be thinking of taking him out. However I have had a clever idea, to see if he'd cope with some days at nursery and some with a childminder. I think we'd prefer to use a childminder for after school care if we need it in the future, anyway. So I'm crossing my fingers and going to do some ringing round later today or tomorrow. I didn't think they'd appreciate a daytime call today on the last day of the school holidays.
But in my "are they completely mad" mode commenting on adoption practice, I gather from other adopters of fairly young babies that the standard approach is to have a fairly short period of introductions (where adopters meet children first in their foster carers' home and then transitioning to their own home). I also know that adopters have fought - usually unsuccessfully - to have informal meetings before introductions, even where they are already parents of a biological sibling of a new child. Answer this question with your sensible hat on: who is a newly adopted baby going to feel safe with? Someone they've known for a couple of months and have seen at least weekly, and who has been caring for them daily for weeks? Or someone they met last week and who more or less immediately leapt into the parent role?

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Last day

When I went back to work I started at 2 days a week and had some Wednesdays off to make up for some work days while I was on adoption leave. I had a few more before Easter and thought that was it, but then the last one ended up with Baby Spouse in hospital which happily comes under a different heading to actual holiday.
So I have a final day off tomorrow. It feels odd - like I'm really, properly going back to work, even though I'm still part time, and I started back in November. No more mummy and baby skiving off.

Monday, April 08, 2013

File under "mildly sceptical" - part 1

This isn't normally the kind of post I put here, it's not massively relevant to our family, and actually, I should be working, but for some reason I'm feeling a little fidgety and also mildly irritated by some things. I am debating whether to move this to my other blog (where I don't talk much about our family, but what the hey, everyone I know in real life knows we are adopters, so it's not a big secret).


I've been having some Twitter conversations with psychologists who don't have anything to do with adoption, but who are getting increasingly irritated with scientists and clinicians publishing papers saying "this therapy is brilliant!" when it isn't. And I also follow a lot of quack-watch type people (Ben Goldacre etc.), and frankly, the state of "therapeutic" offerings for children who have had dreadful early life experiences is way, way below the standard offered by the slightly self-promoting scientists and clinicians. It seems in some cases to be nearer the homeopathy, cranial osteopathy, and pseudo-qualified nutritionists of this world that are the subject of quack watch types.

Let me say at this point that I know I am going to get comments by people saying "but but but we've tried A B or C and it was FABULOUS and our lives have been TURNED AROUND and this person is a God!".

Fine. You can believe that. But if something, on average, has no effect - then that means half the group gets better, half gets worse.  What if you ended up in the group that got worse? Would you be happy you spent your money on it?

And if on average children on a treatment get better (but only compared to themselves at the beginning, or only compared to children who weren't getting any treatment) then it could easily be because they are growing older (children learn things and become better behaved, mainly, as they get older) or because they've had some special attention.  This is usually cheaper than therapy.

So... I thought I'd see what evidence there was for a couple of the really popular training and therapy centres that are talked about a lot by adoptive parents: the Child Mental Health Centre (Margot Sunderland's place) and Family Futures (which is a voluntary adoption agency,and I believe in that capacity has great inspection reports, I'm not sure that its training side gets inspected).

The Child Mental Health Centre says one of its aims is:

Dissemination of Research
To promote positive social change through disseminating the latest research in child, parent and family mental health
To make available to parents, teachers, child-care professionals, providers and custodians of services, politicians and the lay-public at large, a comprehensive up-to-date knowledge base in child and family well-being
To fund an effective dissemination of psychologically and neurobiologically based research. Organisational isolation can be costly: ...wasting time slowly re-discovering what is already known (Baron Peter Slade, 2000)

Family Futures says:
Our therapeutic interventions draw upon and are informed by the work of Dan Hughes, Theraplay, Bruce Perry, Bessel Van der kolk, Babette Rothchild and Dr A. Jean Ayres and many others.
I'm still looking for a list of research that the Child Mental Health Centre is disseminating, So I'll start with Family Futures. Let's take those in turn and see what evidence there is that these theories and therapies work.

Dan Hughes: I found this paper by him about his therapy and its basis. It doesn't present any evidence for its evaluation, and I am not completely sure (because it's not my area of specialisation) that his therapy described there is the same as Dynamic Developmental Psychotherapy, but DDP is compared in a few studies to treatment-as-usual, and it seems to come out well. The studies aren't large, but then fully diagnosed Reactive Attachment Disorder isn't common.  The studies don't tell us anything about DDP in children who haven't got RAD. This review suggests that the statistics in this study are pretty rubbish, and worries about some of the ethics of it.

Family Futures now offer a training course that includes DDP, which they call "Neuro-Physiological Psychotherapy". I'm not sure what makes it neurophysiological, as neurophysiologists are generally medical doctors who have a speciality in a branch of neurology, or lab scientists who work with lab animals. I'm also not quite sure whether the hyphen makes a difference.
The "Recommend to a Friend test": I might recommend this to a friend whose child had a diagnosis of RAD. But probably not. I'm not sure if enough is known about it to know if it would be harmful or helpful, or neither, to a child who didn't have such a diagnosis.

Theraplay: Chapter 5 in this book talks about the evaluation of Theraplay. The studies randomised children to either treatment or waiting list controls (which aren't necessarily the best control - partly because just giving children attention rather than no treatment can improve outcomes). A lot of the children in this study had some developmental disability, which is typical of children who also have the kind of behaviour problems Theraplay is often recommended for. The chapter says that the children who had therapy improved more than the children who were on the waiting list, though I can't seem to find (perhaps I'm not looking hard enough) any graphs or figures that directly compare these two groups, only graphs showing children's behavioural problems before and after Theraplay. A review I found here says there aren't any other studies showing Theraplay is effective, and makes a good point about its theoretical basis in attachment theory but the fact that it kind of ignores attachment theory in how it is supposed to work.
The RtaF test: I'm not convinced I would.  The Wettig book chapter is rather grandiose in how many different disorders it claims Theraplay can treat or influence, too, which puts me off considerably.

Bruce Perry: I can find a lot of articles by Bruce Perry on the theory behind what happens to children if they are neglected or abused.  Certainly (if they are validated) it can be helpful to understand what's going on when you have a child that's difficult to parent. He does talk a little about therapy, but doesn't recommend or describe any particular type, saying instead 

the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) allows identification of the key systems and areas in the brain which have been impacted by adverse developmental experiences and helps target the selection and sequence of therapeutic, enrichment, and educational activities.
It's beyond the scope of this post (read: I should be doing something else) to evaluate ALL of his ideas about what affects what when development is disrupted. He does have a tendency to say "brain" when he means "behaviour" or "cognitive development". For example he talks about "
NMT Functional Status and Brain ‘‘Mapping’ [...] An interdisciplinary staffing is typically the method for this functional review. This process helps in the development of a working functional brain map for the individual [see Figure 2, which is a rather odd pyramid showing the names of brain areas shaded in dark or light]. This visual representation gives a quick impression of developmental status in various domains of functioning: A 10-year-old child, for example, may have the speech and language capability of an 8-year-old, the social skills of a 5-year-old, and the self-regulation skills of a 2-year old. 
(In other words, they will do some behavioural and cognitive testing, make assumptions about which brain area is responsible in children, and tell parents they are making a brain map. My quack detectors are twitching. We know very little about how normal brain-behaviour links are mapped,and even less about how they develop in children who have difficulties. Many very clever and famous people have said this, lots of times). He is careful not to recommend any specific types of therapy but he also says:
the sequence in which these are addressed is important. The more the therapeutic process can replicate the normal sequential process of development, the more effective the are (see Perry, 2006). Simply stated, the idea is to start with the lowest (in the brain) undeveloped=abnormally functioning set of problems and move sequentially up the brain as improvements are seen.
Erm... well, I'm a developmental neuropsychologist, and I've never, ever heard of this principle. As he's quoting himself, do you think possibly he might be the only person who thinks this? 
OK, it's possible that he's right, and everyone else is wrong - 64 other articles have cited this article. The fact that I can't find any neuropsychologists who have cited it might tell you something.
The RtaF test: Go and do a university developmental psychology course, preferably also a university neuropsychology course, if you want to know how the brain develops.  The Open University is very good. 

If you have a child who's suffered trauma, there is an evaluated treatment for this - which is again mentioned by the Allen review article - Trauma-Directed CBT. I can't see either of the centres I'm looking at recommending this or training people on it.

Right - I'm supposed to be doing something else (oops). I will be back another time...