Whilst I was waiting for my result from the embryo adoption, a very old friend called me and said
“Look I am sure it will work but if it doesn’t one of the Mum’s at Holly’s school is a social worker and I told her about you and she said that she can get you a baby.”
As I recovered from the surgery I remembered what my friend had said so I called her.
“Mandy will sort you out, give her a call, you’ll have to go to one of those information evenings, but she said if you apply through her borough she can oversee your case and get you a baby without any problems.” she said.
Could we really get this lucky?
“All that crap about there’s no babies, it’s a lie! call her”
I spoke to Lee, after the last experience he was reluctant but I persuaded him and we put our names down for the information event.
The day arrived, my friend had told us not to mention or make it obvious that we had been introduced via a friend, they’re weird about that sort of stuff she said. Now we had never met her in person, we just had a description, Mandy was easy to find as they all had name badges on. There were lots of tables with information on them and social worker’s taking the details from interested couples. It was fairly painless compared to the last one we went to. we just had to wait now for someone to contact us.
A few weeks later we got a call from one of the social works arranging to come and see us in our home. The date was fixed we were going on holiday the following day so it felt good that something was happening before we left.
I cleaned the house from top to bottom. God we had a lot of crap! Lee’s office was worse than mine perhaps we could skip showing her that room.
I remember a friend telling me about someone she knew who was thinking of adopting, they had the home visit and were turned down because they had a pond and they didn’t like their windows. I was a little worried as Lee was a Stand Up Comedian and I was an Actress/Comedian/jack of all trade’s, not sure what they were going to make of that. Being self-employed could be an issue. So I had a quick look at the criteria and was really surprised to see that they had relaxed it since the last time I looked a few years ago. They had changed the age limit and you didn’t even need to be in employment.
She looked around the house asked us some obvious questions. She wrote in her book a lot and talked about a course that we would have to go on if we were going to be considered as prospective adopters. A four-day course, Lee’s face dropped, I gave him a look. The September course was happening while we were on holiday, but they were running another one in December, but she was concerned that I had not had enough time between that and my ectopic pregnancy. I tried to reassure her that we were ready, she said that she would consult with the rest of the social workers on the team and get back to us, but she felt that it might be better for us to wait another year. She left and I was disappointed but hopeful that we would get a place on the next course. If we waited another year we would be too old, feel too old at least.
Whilst away on holiday I got a message from my friend saying that there was some objection to us being put on the December course. However that had been over ruled by Mandy who had insisted we be invited to attend. So we had insider information, was this orthodox? Probably not, did I care? I am going to say this loud so you can hear me………………… NO! Because for once we had someone in our corner and it felt good.
December came around really quickly.
Lee flew back from America the night before so was sleep deprived. It was snowing so I drove part of the way. There were 4 couples on the course, we had to do the introduction games as you would expect on one of these courses. I remember one of the social workers running the session got the instructions to the exercise wrong confusing the whole group, I put it down to nerves.
They talked about the process. Interviewing family and friends and any previous partners that you had lived with, which again horrified the majority of people in the room. Financial investigations would be done criminal checks, finger prints, your whole life up to this point would be scrutinized and you would have to talk about your past no matter how painful that might be. One guy kept shaking his head and said
“What if I don’t want to talk about all that stuff?”
One particular social worker (who I was growing to dislike) said “Well you better get used to the idea because we have to look into everything!”
I over heard this particular social worker talking to one of her colleagues in the break, she said
“That couple are not right for adoption, they always touching each other.”
I walked into the room unexpectedly another time and caught her talking about Lee, “He thinks he knows everything”
How can you judge people so harshly when you have known them for such a short amount of time?
I later got a text message which read:
“Tell Lee to rein it in!”
I was told that evening by my friend that they had been talking about him upstairs, Mandy overheard, hence the text. He had just challenged them on a few things and I don’t think they liked it.
That afternoon they shared some case studies with us. The picture was bleak, they talked of children who hit, bit and threw stuff, shit! Now I don’t mean shit, as in this is terrible but actual shit.
“How often do they throw excrement? Asked the very middle class older lady with the ugly shoes.
I couldn’t believe she asked that, how could they possibly know the answer. Did she expect them to have a chart of all the London boroughs indicating where the most prolific shit throws and biter’s were.
“It’s not a common problem, but some children will display these kinds of behaviors” said the social worker.
This was the last thing that was talked about before we all left for the day, everyone left the room in silence.
“I can’t wait to hear what they’re going to come out with tomorrow” said the partner of the middle-aged women with the ugly shoes.
The next morning we were asked to work together as a couple to write down our ideal child, dream child! Is there such a thing?
“What do you want your child to look like? Think about your dream child! Write down the color of their hair, eyes, how old do you want them to be? Think about their personality.”
Did she think we had images of babies swimming towards us like in the Evian adverts!!
Lee and I just looked at each other in disbelief, we did not have an image of a child in mind, so we voiced this.
One of the social workers promptly said.
“When asked this question, some couples say that they want their adopted child to look just like them”
We thought that was nuts how can you think that you would find a child that looks exactly like you and your partner when you did not give birth to the child.
What we wrote on our piece of paper was, we want our child to be cheeky and have curly hair, as she was not going to let us get away with out writing anything. Lee put down one eye, I think he’d watched futurama the night before.
You could see the other couples around the room talking to each other quite intently and taking a lot of time to get this right, I am not belittling them in any way it’s just Lee and I did not have an ideal child in mind, we did not have a picture of what our child should look like.
So after about 15 minutes she told us to stop writing and then she said.
“Now (everyone looked up at her) are you sure you have put all your thoughts and dreams down described your child clearly so that if I read it I would have a picture in my mind of what you really want?”
“Good now read it one more time and make sure you haven’t left anything out.”
Heads went down one more time and then she said.
“Now tear that up!”
The whole group looked at each other in bewilderment, what the hell was she asking us to do, one bloke got really angry.
“You heard me tear it up, because you are never going to get your dream child”
You could see some of the people crumble and get smaller, It was hard to witness.
They called a break, and she left the room, I could see one couple close to tears. Didn’t she understand that most of the couples in the room were all for one reason or another unable to have their own children, could she not comprehend that this was a hard pill to swallow without being told that, hey guess what the fantasy you have in your mind of a small boy or girl with the curly hair and the cheeky grin, running towards you call out Mummy, feeling their hand in yours, not going to happen!!! Fuck you bitch, guess what! No one in this room likes you, not even the people you work with, anyone can see that. I had the feeling that one couple really thought that this was a sort of fact-finding exercise regarding the child and it was going to be put into their profile and used as a blueprint when social workers were looking for a suitable match. Instead it was a very cruel reality check.
Later on as we were all standing around in silence having a cup of tea I got talking to the only single woman on the course.
“Have you subscribed to any of the publications?” she said
I knew the ones she was talking about, it was a little early for that wasn’t it?
“I’ve signed up for be my parent, I want to start looking for children now”
I was a little bit shocked, she wasn’t even approved as an adopter and she was already looking for children, insane! I looked through those magazines when we went to the first adoption evening in Wandsworth. Didn’t she know that most of those kids would be matched by the time she’d got approval, and no borough will even consider your enquiry before that.
“I saw a little boy yesterday and he’d be perfect for me he even has the same color hair”
Well that’s all sorted then. She was who the social workers were talking about when she referred to some people searching for a child who looked like exactly like them.
I had to walk away, I sort refuge in the toilet but as I entered I saw one of the other women from the course crying in front of the mirror.
“Sorry!” I felt bad for intruding.
“Sorry, I’m just so pissed off! My sister has had 3 abortions and now she pregnant again, she’s keeping this one of course!! She didn’t give a shit about kids until I wanted one, now she’s 3 months gone. She doesn’t even know who the father is, Christ! We had 5 rounds of IVF, could have done the loft with the money we’ve spent not to mention getting fired from job because allegedly I rammed into by bosses car in the car park, he said I wasn’t hitting my targets. Sorry did you need the loo? that ones blocked.”
“No, I just wanted to wash my hands”
“These social workers have got no idea who we are, they’re treating us like idiots, it just makes me laugh, all of us here seem like reasonable educated people, meanwhile there are thousands of children out there being neglected by their birth parents. How many more hoops do we have to jump through in order to prove that we’re worthy!!”
She had a point, I know that they had to do their checks but some of the stuff they were putting us through seemed a little unnecessary.
That afternoon they asked us all sorts of questions. Would we smack our non-existent children? Agree to sibling contact, letterbox contact or in some cases visits with the birth parents. Then the subject of names came up and the big debate of whether or not we would feel the need to change the child’s birth name. It felt like we were being marked against each other.
“Why would you change a child’s name?” said one of the social workers
We all sat in silence for fear of getting the answer wrong.
“As a rule we would advise that the forever family keep the child’s birth name unless it’s a security risk some names have to be changed to protect the child. Also some names are just unsuitable for a child”
“What like Derek or Tinkerbell” said one of the men in the group.
Two of the social worker’s looked at each other.
“No, like Master Lucifer Demon”
“What that’s ridiculous no one would call a child that!” said the lady with the ugly shoes
“There is a child with that name, unfortunately the registrar didn’t feel the need to challenge this so it is the child’s legal name.”
On the last day they brought in some people who were fostering and two of who had adopted children. The women next to me asked if she could see a photo of them. Every one just stared at her, had she not listened to a word being said regarding the identity of the children. It was what everyone else was thinking. They had painted such a bleak picture, we wanted to see photos to see for ourselves that there were children out there living with their adopted families and that they weren’t all face biter’s and shit throwers.
We finished a little early on the last day and they sent us away with the obligatory feedback forms and an application pack. They told us to go away and think about all the stuff we had talked about over the last week and if we felt that we would like to go ahead then we need to fill out the application form and send it in.
We were leaving on the 22nd December and I wanted to get the application form in before we left, so I talked to Lee and he said go ahead fill it in, so I did and I drove it there and handed it in myself. I wanted to know in my mind that it had actually got there. It felt like things were finally moving and that felt really really good!
PS: At the top of the page is the picture of our dream child