Kate had focused on her career following the loss of her beloved father. When she met her husband they suffered several miscarriages and were considering private IVF treatment.
Then her consultant explained that might not be successful, she and her husband bumped into a former colleague while shopping, who was now a foster carer. They spoke briefly about adoption, with the friend providing some advice.
Kate said “I was 38 then and my husband is a few years older. My husband has two fantastic daughters from his first marriage. I felt all kinds of emotions due to infertility including guilt, it really was a painful time. I also thought we might be too old to adopt, but we decided right then to explore adoption.
“As soon as I switched my focus from being pregnant to being a Mum, things felt much clearer, like we could start our journey to becoming a family.”
Kate and her husband went to an adoption open evening held by their local authority and they were advised that they might be matched with a child more quickly if they contacted the team responsible for Sunderland children’s services, now Together for Children.
“An application followed and I added a letter outlining our particular circumstances. Then we had the initial visit from our social worker. We discussed everything from a child’s attachment to our approach to parenting. Stage one meant thorough background checks were run on us and attending training. The checks took some time and while some people might find that intrusive, we found it to be a cathartic experience, after all most people don’t have any training to be a parent.”
The couple then progressed to stage two, which saw weekly visits from their social worker over a period of several months. During these visits they discussed a range of topics including family history, potential childcare issues and looked for solutions.
Kate said: “This process forced us to face our strengths, weaknesses and capability to be parents. We attended the adoption panel and were approved to adopt. Within a few days we received that important phone call, informing us of a potential match.
“I tell everyone that I fell in love with my little boy, who is called Christopher, through one sentence ‘he has a round happy face, hazel eyes and a lovely smile’.”
A matching panel made up of approximately 10 social care experts followed. The panel supported the match and soon after the couple met their little boy, aged 14 months, through a ‘bump into’ meeting with his foster carer at a local coffee shop.
Kate said: “Meeting our little boy for the first-time was surreal and amazing. Introductions followed, that’s where over the course of a week contact builds up. We started by giving our little boy lunch, and then stayed longer each day, bathing him and putting him to bed. At the end of week he came to live with us.
“Of course his foster carer had done a superb job of preparing him with our photos and a story book that I had made. It was really incredible, how by the end of the week, our little boy turned to us.
“I had prepared myself for all the things I was going do for him, all the sacrifices I would happily make, but what I was not prepared for was all the things he would do for us. The first time he put his chubby arms around my neck, I could feel all the broken pieces of my heart knit back together.
“The first time he called me ‘Mummy’ I thought my newly mended heart would explode and seeing him with his amazing Daddy made me fall in love all over again. I can’t remember life without our son. He is the most beautiful boy in the room, the bravest, kindest, most clever boy there ever was. I feel the same way as any loving mother.”
A few years on and the family expanded with the adoption of a little girl called Eva, who is a full sibling of Christopher.
Kate, who now shares her experiences with other prospective adopters, describes magic moments such as going to panel and explains how she has handled questions from her son.
“When Christopher asked if he grew in my tummy, I was honest and explained that he didn’t. That he has a birth mother who also loves him very much, but who couldn’t look after him.
“Our two children have other birth siblings and we update them about Christopher and Eva through the postbox scheme annually.”
The advice that Kate wants to pass on to other people is to be clear with social workers about the type of child you want. She and her husband were frank about not being matched to a child with ongoing health concerns and she feels some people might dismiss adoption due to fears surrounding a child’s development.
Reflecting on adoption, Kate says Together for Children provided the support she and her family needed. Kate confides that she lies in bed at night worrying is she getting it right, could they do better, worrying about the future. She explains that she is glad of the worries because they are all part of being a parent.
“Adoption is just another way of becoming a parent because parenting is not about DNA and in the life of a child a nine month pregnancy amounts to a small percentage of time.
“There are many children in care who would love to have a forever family. There are very few barriers to adoption and applications are welcomed from older parents, single parents and same sex couples. Every child deserves a family to call their own. Every child has a right to feel safe and every child should feel like they are the most beautiful child in the room.”
To conclude Kate says she isn’t a saint, rather she is a mother and she and her husband now have a family. That sometimes means rushing for the school run or being persuasive when it comes to tooth brushing, but as a family they can rely on each other and are just like any other.