Sunday, 10 February 2013

Intrusive?

I've thought hard about whether to write and indeed post this, but after seeking views from a couple of adopter friends about how they'd feel...I've decided to go ahead.This is an honest post based purely on my own experiences.

A few months ago I shared a link on a social media site, which provoked a comment from someone about how intrusive the adoption process was. I responded a little fiercely with a link or two to further reading. I strongly felt the need to defend the process. I'd like to explain why...

Intrusive: coming without invitation or welcome; intruding

When I was pregnant, I was just that - it was a normal situation for a woman of my age. For us it was completely unexpected, and we had the complication of my diabetes, but it was a natural pregnancy.
I spent almost 9 months reading about breastfeeding, colic, reflux, nappies, birthing positions, weaning and formula. I knew that I'd get a brand new baby, I knew she'd be a girl, I knew when she was coming (not just roughly, but within a day or two as I was induced), we'd picked out names and I knew that she would rely on me for everything. But...my pregnancy was such a surprise, I didn't really come to terms with it or believe it until it was over and I held my daughter. Physically I changed, emotionally I had a lot to cope with too (what with being told I'd never have children, and having to back out from adoption number 2 who already had a name and face). Imagine finding out that someone you grieved for, whom you loved very much, was alive all along, or had come back from the dead - that's how I felt with bells on. And I was scared out of my mind about childbirth.

When the NC and I were becoming adopters it was a process - that sounds so much more formal don't you think? We all refer to it as the adoption process, and like any other process, it had certain steps that had to be completed in the correct order to achieve the desired result. I spent 10 months reading about feeding, nappies and milk, but I also read about trauma, support networks, parenting styles, the adoption triad, neglect, abuse, foetal alcohol syndrome, poo smearing, developmental milestones, hereditary mental health issues and attachment.
I had little idea of how old our potential child would be, what gender they'd be, when they'd be coming, what they'd be called, and what preferences and abilities they'd already have. I knew that we could be approached about a child, set our minds on that child, but it could all fall through. It was also emotional, but not a rollercoaster or fuelled by hormones. I was excited about becoming a first time mum, protected somewhat by rose tinted glasses.

Both of these situations were emotionally difficult, one involved physical changes too. But which one was more intrusive? Well...

In my pregnancy I had fortnightly prods and pokes to measure baby's length, fortnightly blood tests, fortnightly scans (exposing my belly to a stranger each time), heart rate monitors strapped to my tummy, injections for my blood type, physiotherapy to help with symphysis pubis dysfunction, 2 short stays in hospital and random people stroking my belly. I had raging hormones, awful morning sickness for 18 weeks and all the other unpleasant side effects of pregnancy, and to this day cannot stomach certain smells without gagging, or even think about those smells without feeling sick.
And then in childbirth I had several pessaries inserted to induce me, fingers inserted to establish dilation, fingers inserted to attach a clip to baby's head, straps around my belly to monitor heart rate, I was shaved in preparation for surgery, had to wear a clip on my finger, more fiddling to insert a catheter, double cannulas inserted into each hand, a needle inserted in my back for an epidural (whilst being barked at to sit still during extremely painful contractions, surrounded by strangers), an anaesthetist rubbing ice cubes around my breasts to ensure the epidural was strong enough to see me through a c-section, weird inflatable tubes put on my legs, strangers seeing me naked (inside and out) as I had the c-section, being sewn back up, and then more injections, a bed bath, more injections, and midwives trying to shove my breasts in my daughter's mouth as I struggled with breastfeeding.
Very intrusive and not all very nice, but I'm not complaining, everything was necessary to keep Dollop and I safe. (I do appreciate not all birthing experiences are like mine, many are easier but many are much more complicated and difficult).

During the adoption process, we were asked about all sorts - our feelings about our infertility, grief for my dad, the way we were parented, our own parenting ideals, expectations, our financial situation, morals, and our sex life, in so much as were we using contraception (to be on the safe side)? And were we prepared for our time together to change? I don't recall it being intrusive - at times a little uncomfortable maybe, almost always enlightening and reflective. And as an honest, emotional person I was happy to talk about those things. We had a brilliant social worker who explained why she had to ask those questions, and we were very comfortable with her. And like in childbirth, everything was necessary to ensure that us, and our potential family were safe.
And not only safe, but we had to prove that we were able to parent a child who'd experienced trauma, or that we were at least able to find help and support if we needed it in the future. We also had to be assessed so we could be matched with the right child. The 'process' might have flaws and need some areas overhauled, but ultimately it is for the well-being and safety of the child, and we totally understood it and accepted it. And though frustrating for those around us, I'm so glad we spent that time learning and being prepared - we needed it (and more if I'm honest!). I've said before that we never saw it as jumping through hoops. We didn't just answer questions etc for the sake of it or to please social services. We answered those questions and learnt about ourselves with interest and enthusiasm for the sake of our family.

These are the reasons that I don't feel 'the process' is any more intrusive than having a baby. I applied to adopt, I knew what I was letting myself in for, and I wanted it...at the time, more than anything in the world. Personal questions were asked, but I still don't feel they were intrusive.
Perhaps because my pregnancy was unplanned a miracle, unexpected and a shock it felt more intrusive...I didn't ask for it, I didn't enjoy it, perhaps that's why adoption seems different to me?

I know there are women out there who would give *anything* to have experienced pregnancy and childbirth - even like mine, and I know I'm lucky to have experienced it at all (though it didn't feel that way at the time!). I love looking at Dollop and knowing she's mine, thinking about where her temper comes from, and who she'll take after, and seeing her facial features shift between mine and the NC's as she grows, but..I found it traumatic having her.

Let's be clear, life as an adopter is different, even at the very beginning I knew being an adopter was different. The parenting is different, but then parenting any two children will vary. But I'm talking about the process and the journey here, and well, let's just say I haven't entirely ruled out adopting again (though a long way in the future), but the NC has had a vasectomy!


18 comments:

  1. A very well written, thoughtful brave post.

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  2. Loved reading this! Thankyou xxx

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  3. It must have been difficult to write this post so I thank you for sharing your feelings and experiences. Whilst not having had a successful pregnancy I can relate to the physical intrusiveness tht pregnancy and miscarriage brought. The adoption "process" was a very different experience but I would say for me that the process was very emotional because there was so much tied up in it. I felt like my entire being was under scrutiny. That's not really what was happening but my insecurities after so many miscarriages were at the root of those feelings. Now, with distance from the experience, I can see that now and appreciate more the reflection time and the relationship building with our SW that the process brought also.

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    1. I think it's very personal to us all, and what we bring to any experience is as important as what we take away in terms of reflection and understanding.
      Pregnancy is clearly more physically intrusive, whilst adoption is emotionally so, but for me, my pregnancy had a combination of both, fuelled by hormones which meant it trumped the adoption process in that sense.

      Perhaps I'd have felt different if we'd had Dollop first? Perhaps if it had been an easier pregnancy/childbirth I'd feel different? Who knows, I just wanted to share my experiences...

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  4. The ordeal of your pregnancy sounds like something I can't even begin to contemplate. I have never been pregnant so speak with no knowledge of what it feels like but the physical invasion you experienced does horrify me. It must have been very difficult to recall and write here.You've been very strong.

    I too did not feel our assessment process to be intrusive. Our Social worker was lovely and the time we spent with her whilst sometime being emotionally intense I also felt enlightened and educated by. Each visit took us one step closer to out goal and I welcomed that. I know that my open and emotional personality probably assisted in easing the process for us but I think the warmth and kindness of our SW was the key to it all. When you have to share so much it's a lot easier when the person you are sharing with is able to put you at ease.
    xx

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    1. Thanks Sarah.
      No, not difficult to recall, I got Dollop at the end of it all, but it's definitely not an experience I want to go through again.

      I'm glad I'm not the only one who felt educated by 'the process', like you we were lucky to have a SW who we were very comfortable with. We still see her occasionally too, and I'm grateful to her - she taught us a lot, and without her I'm not sure I could be as reflective as I am now... xx

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    2. I agree with Sarah on her last point, my wife and I are closer than before because of what we have been through. IVF was horrendous, more so for my wife, and I would wish that on no-one. It compounds when it fails obviously. For me the adoption process was not 'intrusive' as much as a hard slog. By my own experience I know that different adopters will be treated differently depending on which agency they use, but I too have defended the adoption process on the basis that everyone complains about it, and yet I have heard no alternatives to what is happening. I certainly cannot offer a better alternative at the moment (except to throw a bit off government resource at it - but that wont happen any time soon), so I feel obliged to be a little defensive. This is indeed a brave and frank post - well done.

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    3. Thank you. Brave, perhaps slightly too intimate, but honest!

      Interestingly the person who originally commented as to the intrusive nature is not an adopter, but was a referee for us. But I have also spoken to adopters who are very angry at the process, and do feel it was intrusive. Indeed I know of some who refused to answer certain questions.

      However, until a better alternative comes along, this is the system we've got, it might be slower than some would wish, but it works, and I am, like you, inclined towards defense.

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  5. I couldn't agree more Vicki, in fact I'd probably agree for more intrusiveness rather than less in the adoption process. These are children and young people whose needs are incomparable to birth children, and to avoid adoption breakdowns, or children who are damaged even further, it's really important that social workers and potential adoptive parents are aware of all the implications, are trained and prepared, and most importantly well matched to their children. This isn't something that people should enter into as a 'second best' to having birth children, and you've so clearly explained, it's something we should welcome, not be frustrated by.

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    1. Absolutely. In order for adoptions to work, there needs to be honesty, reflection, education and understanding. It would be lovely to think that loving a child in need is enough, but it doesn't work like that does it?
      As frustrating as the speed can be for some, it is essential that all aspects are covered and totally necessary for the reasons you state Anita. x

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  6. We found our adoption "process" positive too... a really therapeutic process that I think all prospective (not just adoptive) parents could benefit from! If anything I have often wished our assessing social worker was still around to re-assure us from time to time, that we are doing ok. She was a wise and knowledgeable woman, unlike some professionals we have worked with subsequently! Whenever I hear talk of speeding up and streamlining processes it rings really loud alarm bells. No one would want unnecessary waiting for children or adoptive parents, but not at the cost of cutting invaluable preparation and assessment... If anything I think we needed more preparation.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

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    1. I definitely feel we needed more preparation - particularly on the emotional front, we talked a little about how we'd feel if our child didn't meet our expectations academically, or didn't enjoy the things we do, but on reflection we didn't talk enough about this, or other potential feelings and realisations.
      This is something that I'm only just recognising and we're 5 years in. Perhaps too much focus is on the short-term, and not enough long term preparation?

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by...

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  7. thanks for writing this. I was told that the process would be intrusive and that i would be under the utmost scrutiny - by some friends and family - none of whom have adopted. At my Preparation group, they said we might have heard that it would be intrusive but to rather be open and honest throughout.I found that part fairly easy and enjoyed being refelctive. Unless we know ourselevs, have worked through our issues which every person has many - and can reflect on it, we cannot give of ourselves to another - especially a broken and damaged child, as with adoption. None of us are whole but the more healthy we are as people when we adopt, the better for us and the family we are creating, I believe. The waiting inbetween all the various stages was the really hard bit - and that really does need to be speeded up - but that is for another post!

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    1. As I mentioned in a previous comment, it was a non-adopter who made the comment about intrusiveness, but I have spoken to other adopters with similar feelings, so it's not limited to non-adopters. But I do wonder where this impression comes from?
      It seems quite clear that preparation varies by area, and a good social worker can make/break the process for adopters.

      We were lucky to have virtually no wait (well, 4 months between approval panel and Mini moving in), but I do understand how frustrating this can be for people.

      Thanks for commenting x

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  8. Love it: Honest, straight forward, and well put:) I have similar thought on our 'process'. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. Really interesting post Vicki. Our process didn't feel invasive either but gave us space and encouragement to really think about the children we might one day adopt.
    Adoption is very complex and has to be fully explored to ensure that the bests interests of the child are protected.
    I'v often heard the same 'it's so intrusive' comment. I often want to reply that it is nothing alongside the truths which we've had to share post-adoption.

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