Our adoption story

Part 3 – Bringing our girl home and the first nine months


To read Part 1 – Our adoption story, up to approval to adopt, click here.

To read Part 2 – Our adoption story, finding our girl, click here.


Child's painting


Introduction week to our new daughter was without doubt a roller coaster. Despite all involved being lovely, trying to develop a relationship with a three year old who very much knows her own mind, under the watchful eyes of social services was enormously stressful.

I had no idea how to be a mum and felt like I had absolutely no maternal instinct. I was terrified about how I would cope. No change there from natural birth parents – but imagine being handed a fully formed three year old.

Same, same but different.

We travelled daily back and forth to foster mum’s house. It was physically and emotionally exhausting.


Bringing our girl home


Up until that week I’d never seen Frozen, let alone heard any of the songs. But eight days later with the last of her things packed into our car, we drove away from foster mums for the last time to a sound track of ‘Let It Go’! At a time when I was looking for significance in everything, it seemed appropriate that we should be blaring out ‘the past is in the past’ as we drove home.

Nine months on, like many mothers I’m now bloody sick of it. But let’s not ruin a beautiful moment!


Hitting the ground running


I’d managed to create a life over which I had complete control, so spent the first few months of motherhood greatly mourning its passing. While it’s true that I’ve had one of the world’s longest adolescences, I found giving that all up really hard.

In the mean time, our girl was busy going through all the developmental stages we’d missed with her at warp speed. We had a week of her being a baby, a period of separation anxiety where she would literally sit on me so I couldn’t leave her unless I was dismissed.

I couldn’t even go to the loo without an audience!

We had another phase which was a complete inability to decide upon anything – and the tantrums! I don’t come from a shouty family and I don’t have a shouty relationship, so to one minute be chatting away beautifully with this very articulate little girl – and the next to be faced by a raging banshee purely because her socks were wrong turned me into a nervous wreck.


A Summer to get to know each other


Thankfully we had a glorious summer, so spent a lot of time exploring the parks, playgrounds and soft play centres of Greater Manchester. Turns out I’m a lot braver than I thought on climbing frames – though needs must when your new child (parental responsibility of whom you still share with social services) is stuck half way up and screaming.

What else have I learned?

Pushing a child on the swings is great for bingo wings.

Ice cream vans ……. why are you always where I don’t want you to be?

Mister bloody Tumble gets everywhere!

I’m too fat to get through the tunnel in Head Over Heels.

Why does everyone else’s child seem to eat hummus and carrot sticks?

What is it with children and balloons?

Why do all her toy snakes have to be called Keith?

The toddler diet is by far the most effective I’ve ever tried.

I now live in leggings!


Tooth brushing


Highs and lows


For the good stuff I’ve been looking back at my Facebook status updates from the last nine months (as it’s clearly illegal to share the bad stuff!).

Here are some of my favourites to give you a flavour:

Tris and our girl dancing to sisters are doing it for themselves! Priceless!

I have a daughter who likes to head bang to the Kaiser Chiefs! Result!

Lovely to see our girl cheering on her Daddy at her first park run. Sprinting down he home straight together.

Stuck in tunnel! Can’t go backwards as string of toddlers behind. Can’t go forwards as can’t bend leg around enough. Trousers at half mast and thong on full display. I’m 45 I should know better.

It’s remarkable how much happier a toddler is after a big poo. Why did nobody tell me this! Turns out she doesn’t hate me after all!

Took our girl to Media City and introduced her to the Daleks in reception. ‘Daleks’ she said. ‘Like Dalek bread!’

To top it all as I tucked her new school top into her new school skirt I got a kiss and my first ‘I love you mum!’

Daddy is delighted that our girl would rather watch the third round draw of the FA Cup than Abadas! Daddy “Do you want to watch Pingu?” Reply “No, I love this (FA Cup)!” ‪#‎DaddysGirl‬

School nativity today. She was a little star – literally. She sang all the songs and was word perfect. It’s times like this when I get a split screen moment. One eye sees our girl now – the other sees her old life. It made me just a little bit teary!





We’ve gradually introduced her to her new family – she’s so excited and happy to have grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins.

We’ve built memories with holidays and family days out.

She’s started pre-school – and is doing really well. Our walk to school is fantastic. We call into every shop for her to say hello ….. in return they all love her to bits. None of them know her background, and none of them know the important job they are doing in helping our girl settle into her new home.

We’ve had her birthday – with a party for all her new friends, and we’ve successfully negotiated our first Christmas.

We sing, we dance, we laugh. She throws herself into absolutely everything. She’s a strong character and she knows her mind, but we are enormously lucky to have her in our lives. I am so proud of how she’s dealt with so much change in her short life and embraced her new life.


We can’t change the past – but we can change the future


However, it’s not all been a bed of roses. Through the summer she grieved enormously for her foster family. And until recently, the door to memories of her birth mum, which was very firmly closed, has started to open. While traumatic for all of us, it shows that she trusts us enough to go there and to let us help her.

She’s now legally ours and one day I’ll have the conversation with her about everyone’s story being different. I never thought in a million years that I’d adopt a child for example – and we’ll see where that takes us.

The dilemma that we will always face is trying to decode whether certain behaviours are purely age appropriate, or whether there is something deeper going on. We’re never going to know for certain because we weren’t there for the first three and a half years of her life. We’ll just have to do a lot of wondering and try to fill in the gaps while not over thinking things.

Five years ago I was very unlucky to be struck down with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. But I was also very lucky to defy the odds and live. When I was so ill and struggling to see the point in anything – well the fact I survived must have been for a reason.

Our girl was that reason.


Alison x  (your 4Manchester Women Editor).


Photographs: Alison Staples


To read ‘Our adoption story – part one (up to approval to adopt)’ click here

To read ‘Our adoption story – part two (finding our girl)’ click here






Our adoption story

Part 2 – Finding our girl


While I thought getting approved to adopt would be the hard bit, it was nothing in comparison with what was to come.

You can read Part 1 (our adoption story up to the point where we were approved to adopt here).


lego house


Myths and cold feet


With adoption you can stop the process at any time, which meant that I never stopped questioning whether we were doing the right thing. The urge to chicken out and run for the hills was at times enormous, as was my analysis of my motives.

Thankfully I’m old enough to realise that it’s the things that have scared me the most that I’ve got the most out of. I also know that when I was ill and thought that my time was up, the most important question to me was whether I’d been brave. So I put on my big girl pants and kept moving forward.

One common myth is that there are lots of babies flying around in the system waiting to be adopted. Another is that adopted children are relinquished – given up at birth by young girls who have ‘got into trouble’, reluctantly giving up their new born babies so that society won’t scorn them. This 1950′s view of adoption couldn’t be further from the truth in 21st century Britain.

Instead, it’s more likely that social services will have tried very hard to keep birth mother and child together, and will have considered every family member as a possible permanent carer before adoption is considered. And rather than being relinquished, the children are usually removed once all other avenues have been exhausted and when the child is at risk of harm. As a result babies are very thin on the ground.


How do you know they’re the one?


Once approved we were allocated a ‘Family Finder’ social worker. From this point our mythical child started to become very real. The pressure of choosing the right child for us was huge. Surely they were all in need of a new loving home?


Child's stick drawing


Again we were enormously lucky with our new social worker. While the thought of glorified children shopping didn’t sit at all well, we were encouraged not to think of it in terms of rejecting children, but to focus on the search for the right child for us.

As it happened, our daughter’s profile was the first one we looked at, everything just seemed to fit us.

We’d asked for a little girl who was interested in things – who had something about her and would give life some welly! Now with the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that we’ve got that in spades!

We’d also asked not to see photos at this point. It’s true to say that as soon as you see a little face smiling up at you, it doesn’t matter what their profile says, your heart over-rules your head.

There was something about hers being the first and only profile we’d looked at, which made us a bit uncomfortable. However we decided that just because it was the first profile we’d seen – it wouldn’t have been the first considered by our Family Finder. So we trusted her experience and judgment and believed that she’d just done a really good job.

After all – it wasn’t like we looking at houses or needed three competitive quotes!


Seeing our daughter’s face for the first time


I’d imagined many, many times what it would feel like to see a photo of my daughter for the first time. I wasn’t disappointed. This cheeky little girl smiled out at us – and blow me if I couldn’t see myself and my sister at that age in her. It was uncanny.

From that point on we started to invest in our girl – and the social workers and foster carers in us. We were locked in.

We were presented with numerous reports, court documents and medical assessments to wade through. It was tough reading at times but invaluable information.

Then we met her social worker and foster mother. They also needed to feel comfortable that we were the right forever mum and dad for this little girl who’d had such difficult start to life.


Our feet didn’t touch the ground


The speed of things did get the better of me at one point. Our schedule seemed to be governed by matching panel meetings and government targets. It was overwhelming and I panicked, so we slowed things down by a month and went on our final holiday together – just the two of us. We backpacked along the Croatian coast, finishing in the least child friendly city we could think of – Venice!

Our matching panel was on the 25th April 2014 – the same room and the same faces that approved our application to become adopters three months earlier.

Once again the decision was unanimous. It was really going to happen.


Meeting our girl for the first time


If seeing a photograph of her was big – meeting her for the first time was massive. This was going to be forever. What if we’d got it wrong. What if we’d had the wool pulled over our eyes just to tick a government box and get a child out of the care system. What if she wasn’t right for us?

I just had to focus on each day at a time otherwise my brain was in danger of melting.

We had just seven days to get our act together before introductions started. We had a lot to get ready and the clock was ticking.

We were also asked to put together a butterfly book of photos and audio messages so that our girl could start preparing for her new forever mummy and daddy.


Butterfly book


We included photos of Tris and I, the house, our cat, the local park and so forth, and followed a carefully worded script.

Hello – I’m mummy, and I’m daddy – and we can’t wait to meet you.

Here’s mummy standing outside your new house, and daddy digging vegetables for us all to eat.

You’ll be going to the park with mummy and going for bike rides and playing games with daddy.

This is your new pussy cat – he’s called Charley Bucket.

We love you ……..


Alison in the park


I felt like a complete muppet, but actually the butterfly book has become our girl’s ‘go to’ thing when she’s feeling a bit insecure. She’ll look at the photos and listen to the messages over and over. But now she recognises my top, the park, daddy’s bike and I can say “There you are – it was all true. It was just waiting for you to find it!


On the big day, following a meeting between social workers and foster mum at the adoption authority offices, we all drove in convoy to foster mum’s house. By this time I was employing breathing techniques to get me through.

As we parked up on the drive the first thing we saw was a little face jumping up and down with excitement in the bay window. If this day had been a long time coming for us – then it had been a long journey for her too.

“Who is this then?” asked foster mum.

“Mummy and daddy” she replied and then rushed off to get me a surprise.

Forty five years and no one had ever called me that, I’d grown to believe and accept that being a mum was what other people did, not me.

Apparently not!


Mother's Day Card


Next: Bringing our girl home and the first nine months.


Alison x  (your 4Manchester Women Editor)


Photographs: Alison Staples, our girl, Amazon


To read ‘Our adoption story – part one (up to approval to adopt)’ click here

To read ‘Our adoption story – part three (bringing our girl home and the first nine months)’ click here







Our adoption story

Part 1 – up to approval to adopt


It’s been a long time since I’ve written such a personal blog – and in this particular case it’s taken me nine months to feel ready to share. It’s written in three parts – I really hope it helps anyone else who is thinking following the adoption path.





Five years ago


Just at the point where we’d decided to try and start a family, I was diagnosed with a rare form of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and given quite a poor prognosis.

We went from being in full on ‘trying for a family’ mode to the stark realisation that if I chose to have my life saving treatment, then it would draw a very thick line under us being able to have children of our own.

It was a very black and shocking time.

April 2010 is a blur in my memory. There is little I can remember of my month stint in practical isolation in The Christie having high dose chemo and a stem cell transplant.

But unknown to me, as the treatment fried my insides beyond use, at the very same time a new life was being made – my daughter.

If you take only one thing away from our story, then let it be this – when it looks like there’s no hope, somewhere unknown to you the universe will be reoranising itself to put things right. The only question being when it decides to reveal itself.


Three years ago


When I was little I always took for granted that I would meet someone, get married and have a family. It never occurred to me that things would look any different.

But as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realise that everyone has their own story – mine is just different. And while life dealt us some really crap cards that we can’t change – what we could change was the future and how we responded to them.

So while it meant we couldn’t have our own family, what it did give us was an opportunity to do something really incredible for another little boy or girl through adoption.

In the summer of 2012 I finally plucked up courage to apply for an adoption information pack and in September of that year, very tentatively we went to an information evening.

Christmas that year was a tricky one – by that point I knew that my child would have been born. But I also knew that it was unlikely to be in care yet. Which meant that my child was out there somewhere and in trouble, but I didn’t know where and I couldn’t get to them.

It was an unexpected and awful feeling.


Two years ago


Now that we were in the system, we knew that the clock was ticking on our newlywed, ‘just the two of us’ time together, so we made sure that we ticked off some of our bucket list. We canoed across Scotland, back packed around Zambia and blitzed the house to get all our renovations finished.


Canoeing the Caledonian Canal


It was also important to put some distance between myself and my cancer. Cancer is traumatic to say the least, and I needed time to heal emotionally. I also needed to come to terms with the guilt I felt towards my husband and all my ancestors, whose genetic line finished with my broken body.

In the summer of 2013 we went on a four day intensive adoption preparation training course with 10 other couples. At the end of the last day we were asked what we’d learned and what we’d managed to let go.

I wasn’t sure, and then it came to me …… what I’d learned was that although I didn’t yet know my new child’s name, what sex they were or where they were, by learning about the chaotic and often dangerous situations these children are plucked from and how they would most likely be affected, I was already starting to bond with my child.

And what I was letting go were the two little girls who were sitting on the floor just to the left of me. I didn’t even know they were there until that moment, but they were the two little girls we would have had if everything had worked out naturally for us. They would always be there, my two little ghost girls – my genetic legacy – but I needed to let go of them. My future was now destined to go in a different direction.


Adoption approval process


Things started to move very quickly from this point on. Reducing the length of the adoption process was by now high on the government’s agenda. We’d come into the system through the old process and now we were the first going through the new.

I expected the weekly visits from our newly allocated social worker to be enormously intrusive. They weren’t. I think we were really lucky with our social worker – in reality it felt more like free facilitated couples counseling. I quite enjoyed it, and it gave us a unique opportunity to learn even more about each other.

What I found most difficult about the approval process was thinking back to how I’d been parented. I lost my mum to cancer 12 years ago – revisiting my childhood so vividly was incredibly hard, but also made me realise that I really wanted to adopt a girl, because I wanted the kind of relationship with my daughter that I’d had with my mother.

What was also very hard – and I still feel very uncomfortable talking about it was deciding what sort of child we wanted.

For anyone considering adoption, I’d really recommend that you get the box set of the TV series Cold Feet. Not only is a slice of Mancunian history, it also contains an adoption story line which is fantastic preparation, so I knew that the ‘tick list’ was coming.

Initially you want to say yes to everything – partly because you don’t want to be discriminatory, and partly because if you have your own children naturally you don’t get to choose.

But when you are faced with, ‘would you choose a child with or who has suffered’……

  • Physical disability
  • Mental disability
  • Visual impairment
  • Hearing impairment
  • Learning difficulties
  • Life limiting illness
  • Birth mother consumed alcohol during pregnancy
  • Birth mother took drugs during pregnancy
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Born as a result of incest
  • Born as a result of rape
  • And so the list went on

Each one had to be explored, and many of them were on a spectrum …… how visually impaired? Glasses, no sight at all? As someone who spent six years working for The National Library for the Blind it was very difficult.

The realisation that this wasn’t a popularity contest, and it wasn’t about being a saint was a huge relief. Rather it was about what we could cope with and have the best chance of success. So we chose the easiest possible option.


Christmas 2013 came and went, but this time it felt a lot easier. Although I still didn’t know where my child was, at least I knew by now they’d be in care and would be safe. The light was at the end of the tunnel for all of us.


Approved to adopt


On Friday 24th January 2014, we walked into a room and looked at the 12 faces sitting around the table who would decide whether or not we were to be a family.

They had all read the 30,000 word report prepared by our social worker, the references provided by family, friends and work colleagues and very importantly the medical report provided by my clinician at The Christie – which said that four years on from my last treatment, my prognosis was very positive. It took a long time to get the report, and my health history hung over us, threatening to derail our adoption ambitions for a long time, but it was necessary to prove to the panel that I was going to be around to watch our child grow up.

Our application to adopt was approved unanimously.


While I thought getting approved to adopt would be the hard bit, it was nothing in comparison with what was to come next.

Next: Finding a match and meeting our girl and Meeting our girl and the first nine months


Alison x  (your 4Manchester Women Editor)


Photographs: Alison Staples






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