17 February 2016
We met in 2007 and from the earliest days of our relationship we’d always agreed that, at some point, we would have children. How this would happen exactly had always been quite fuzzy.
For some time our long term plan has been to move to the countryside and build our own place. This would be a thrilling lifestyle shift for me and a sort of homecoming for my partner, having grown up with horses. Kids have always been a part of this shared vision of our future.
Instinctively we had felt that best way to become parents was probably surrogacy. My other half especially liked the idea of having kids of ‘his own’.
Around that time, and quite by chance, my partner appeared in an advert for adoption services along with a male colleague. The campaign was seen by many of our friends, who were highly amused to find that my partner had become the face of gay adoption, but not with me! It also had the unintended consequence of putting adoption on the agenda for us. We were getting to a point, financially and in terms of how long we’d been together, where it felt like we could go for it.
With no sense of judgment for others, we came to the decision that with so many kids needing forever families, adoption just made sense. We very firmly believe that the way you’re brought up has a huge impact on the person you become, so there would never be any doubt that our adopted child would be as much ‘our child’ as one to whom we were biologically related. We were also more interested in raising a child than creating a baby, but still keen to start early, we defined 0-2 years as our ideal age group.
We got engaged to be married in 2013 and the following year put ourselves forward to be considered as adopters.
The adoption is – barring exceptional circumstances – definitely going ahead by the first time you meet your child. Our first meeting marked the start of a ten day process called Introductions.
One of the most impressive parts of the process is the extent of efforts made by social workers to protect the kids from any more upheaval. There have already been so many moves, different adults, losses, and change, that it wouldn’t be right to keep introducing the child to different prospective adopters, just so that they can consider whether they are wanted or not.
We knew about him from photos, social workers’ descriptions, and the fact that he met the criteria we had been supported in outlining. We put a great deal of trust in our social workers to know that we were the best match.
Even with all of this in mind it was extremely nerve-wracking to meet him for the first time. We had spent months and months talking about what was about to happen, buying a new house, and renovating it on a tight schedule. All at once it came down to two guys meeting one little one.
Would he like us? Would we get on? Would we be any good at actually interacting with him? A huge array of doubts suddenly emerged amid the certainty of so much preparation.
On the day, and ever since, it was amazing.
We played together and struck up a rapport very quickly. He was adorable and clearly enjoyed being with us. Over the course of our week of introductions he started to get more and more attached, to the point of crying when we were leaving. This raised mixed emotions for me – it was a good sign of his growing attachment but upsetting to see him in any kind of distress.
On the tenth day he came to live with us permanently.
Caring for our son together
I took five weeks away from the business that I co-founded, whilst my other half took a year of paid adoption leave. The economics of the situation made for a simple decision. Not only would my business struggle to offer such a generous benefit to me, my absence from the role I fulfil would be quite detrimental.
It’s important to me to be involved as much as possible. Even on working days, I take the lead after tea by doing bath and story time. I’m lucky enough to be able to get home by half past five most days, so I get at least a couple of hours with him before bed.
Our lives have changed in any number of ways since our son came home. We now have very little free time. I chide my former self for the number of times I used to say “I don’t have time for that.” In fact I had more spare time than I could have ever imagined.
We also have a very tight routine. Days follow a similar schedule which is good for most kids, but especially those who have been adopted. A regular rhythm of activity and expectation is deeply reassuring and forms a very strong foundation for their growth and development.
Most toddlers have tantrums as they start to work out how to express themselves without yet having the full toolkit of language. The more intense ones can represent some of the worst lows.
Illness also brings a mixed bag of experiences. Being able to look after our son and solve problems, like putting cream on a sore or giving him a warming drink, bizarrely can be the time when you feel most essential.
At the same time it can induce a feeling of powerlessness. You can’t always make it better immediately, and there’s nothing worse than to see him suffering.
Seeing the world through his eyes is massively rewarding. Sometimes a simple walk to the shop can take an hour, but in that time you’ve discovered a new way of looking at the road you live on, taught some road safety, and explored (in depth) the movement and aims of snails crossing the path.
There’s such simple enjoyment in experiencing everything for the first time and it’s highly contagious. You forget how much of life and the amazing world around us we take for granted until you have to explain EVERYTHING to someone from the very beginning.
The fact that he is adopted, the reasons why he doesn’t live with his birth family and the fact that he now has two daddies instead of a mummy and a daddy: these are important topics of conversation on which we’re encouraged to be always truthful, in an age appropriate way.
When we explain why he doesn’t live with his birth family, we talk about what it takes to look after a baby so that he knows what we’re talking about when we say they were unable to do that for him.
Our being two daddies comes up more and more as he notices other kids being collected from nursery by their mums. We’re already explaining that families are all different – some people live with just a mummy, just a daddy, two of one or one of each. Also knowing and having play-dates with other same-sex couples with kids allows us to always have a variety of real-life examples on hand. We think this will be increasingly important as he progresses through school.
Family and friends have been more than accepting. They have, without exception, been thrilled by both our decision to adopt and then by meeting and getting to know our son.
They say it takes a community to raise a child and our social worker was impressed by the support network we were able to connect to via our friends and family. In a way they were all part of our experience from the start, and we definitely find it a massive help to know everyone is there for us.
In my family it’s been a significant twelve months. Not only did we adopt our son, but my sister gave birth to my niece, and my brother will soon have a daughter too. Add to that the fact that so many colleagues have recently started their families – it feels like we’re taking part in the timeless cycle of human life; the dawning of a new generation.
To feel part of this as a gay man is as surprising as it is delightful. The most difficult aspect of my coming out at sixteen was to accept that I’d never have a family of my own.
We have so much fun together and I find his rapid development and fascination with the world transcends anything I’ve experienced before. He has a wicked sense of humour and I know we’ll find a lot of laughter together over the years. We plan to adopt again and I hope that as our family gets bigger, together we can continue to provide our son with stability, love and opportunities to grow.
I look forward to being there through all of his stages of development; watching and helping him grow into an independent adult. I can’t wait to support and encourage him at every turn, in the way my parents did for me.
He’s such a good boy. He deserves everything we can offer.
Because of the sensitivities around their recent adoption, this week’s blog contributors requested anonymity on our website. We’d like to thank them for so honestly and eloquently sharing their story and wish them and their new family the best of times together.