Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A Love Less Ordinary

(c) E>mar
A little over a year ago, David and Lisa Chandler adopted twin boys. Fourteen months into their 'happy ever after', David reflects on their very first days as a new family.

It's around 7pm on a Tuesday in late February, or 'Day 1', and there are two small boys in our bathroom, dressed in robot pyjamas, brushing their teeth. They are, more or less, complete strangers to me. And they'll be here forever.

This is the prickly paradox at the heart of the adoption process. They are 'your' children, you have been trusted with caring for them indefinitely and they look upon you with the expectation any child might have of his or her parent – yet you are aliens to one another.

Just a fortnight before, after the kind people of our Matching Panel had given it all the green light, the four-year-olds were handed two little books containing photos of their new mum and dad and their future home, far away. They were told by grown-ups that the dreams the boys didn't know they had would soon be coming true, that this lady and man would be their 'new mummy and daddy' and that they’d be meeting them soon. The boys, of course, as kids do, just accepted this as fact even though, by and large, grown-ups have done nothing but let them down the whole of their remarkable little lives.

And, then, before anyone really has time to do anything, they're here. Don't think that this shock, this reality check, was due to any lack of preparation. It is not always the case, I'm sure, but our agency and the boys' social care team seemed to miss nothing in preparing us for the adoption. No stone was left unturned. The reality, however, is something that no other experience in life can ready you for. We studied, we read, we listened and talked and talked. Then we decorated two bedrooms and bought a few toys. We invested emotionally and physically.

As the lads brushed their teeth that night, on the mantelpiece downstairs sat a half-dozen kind (and very welcome) cards carrying heartfelt and well-intended messages of love and excitement. 'You've got your family now!', 'You all must be soooo excited!!'. The truth is, we hadn't got our family yet. We had four people and some cards.

There are many touching tales of love-at-first-sight adoptions and I don't doubt their veracity for a moment but, for us, it wasn't like this. We liked the boys straight away, of course, and felt confident that love would inevitably follow, as it has. But, in those early days, there was just function and regulation – management, really. No one likes to speak in those terms but, if you're readying yourself for adoption, be prepared.

Long after those robot pyjamas have been replaced (they grow so quickly) these boys, our boys, are loved perhaps more than they have ever been by anyone. It is a happy ending of sorts but the penultimate chapter was by far the hardest. Just make sure you read to the end.

For more information about adoption, please visit the main BAAF website. For more stories about adoption, check out our online bookstore.

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