A match made in heaven

Andy and Sarah* had longed for a child and after more than a decade of childlessness, invasive tests and a failed IVF attempt, they decided to try and adopt. They share their story with Lisa Phillips

Adoption is a lengthy and an emotional process. It took 18 months of preparation, courses and interviews before Andy and Sarah were finally approved, and three months later, they were told about a little boy called Joshua*. Even then, it was policy to move slowly, making sure that the match would work before this potential new family were introduced to one another. In February 2007, the match was approved, and Andy and Sarah were ready to meet their new son.

“Even though we knew it was so right, and we felt peaceful about it, I had butterflies as we stood outside the foster family’s house talking with our social worker,” says Sarah. “It seemed to take an age for the front door to be answered!

“While we were waiting, we did hear some little feet running towards the front of the house, and a moment later a little face looked excitedly out at us. He looked so excited, it was lovely, and I waved a little wave hello. We were told by his social worker that his only comment as he looked out of the window at us was ‘they look just like they do in the photos!’. I’m so glad we did . . . it’s important to get what you’ve been promised, isn’t it?”

This first visit was followed by a series of further daily visits, outings and overnight stays, ending when Joshua came to live with the couple forever at the end of March.

“We gradually spent longer and longer together, but by the end of the two weeks, we were all so tired and getting very emotional. Joshua stayed overnight towards the end and he was so ready to move he cried one night and said, ‘why can’t I stay here? Why do I have to go back?’ He was exhausted. It wasn’t a reflection on the foster family, but an indication that he had a good understanding of where things were headed and was just ready to move on.”

The day Joshua moved in was emotional for everyone, and a day that Andy and Sarah had dreamed about for years. “When we got home, mum had hung balloons outside with a welcome home banner across the door. Inside were lots of balloons and some presents we’d bought for him, which he ripped into. He didn’t spot the football goal we’d put in the garden until we lifted him up at the window. He went all quiet and I worried we’d got it wrong. Then he quietly said, ‘I really love that!’ Phew! There were so many emotions . . . it was a relief and such a momentous day.”

Their first weeks together were a whirlwind of playing football, running, climbing, roller-skating, cycling and visits to the park. “Our social worker tried to tell me we were doing too much, but she didn’t push it,” says Sarah. “We came to that same conclusion eventually. She graciously said that it was just all a part of the excitement of becoming new parents.”

As well as the steep learning curve of falling into their new roles of mum and dad, Andy and Sarah had to be sensitive to Joshua’s special needs arising from his fragmented past. At four years old, he had to relearn dependence on the adults in his life, and needed continual reassurance that this was to be his home forever. It was at times a daunting experience.

“I think at the end of it, the reality of being an adoptive family is different than most other families, and you notice it in the little things,” says Sarah. “When people talk about their children, they expect you to share similar stories – a lot of the time, I can’t! I don’t know how he got that scar; I don’t know where he gets his ability to do those things he can do so well; and I can’t tell you when he got his first teeth! Thankfully though, he does have quite a few similarities to both of us in terms of likes and dislikes, and ways of learning and interests, and eye and hair colour. I keep meaning to make a list of them so I can tell him. It’s nice to be able to say, ‘I do that too’ or ‘you’re just like your dad’.”

For other couples considering the route to adoption, Sarah says this. Take care of your relationships . . . with your spouse, your social worker, and the people you’ll meet on the journey. Pray each step of the way. Andy and Sarah would literally describe their new family as “a match made in heaven”, and believe that bringing each step to God has been absolutely crucial.

Find a godly friend to go to for wisdom and advice, particularly one who is familiar with the system. Read reports carefully and ask questions so that you’re aware of all the good bits and the tough bits. Accept the child’s history and don’t be afraid to talk about it with them. “For them, all the mess of it is a fact and we can’t change it,” says Sarah. “To show acceptance of the facts of their early life will show them acceptance, which will ultimately lead them to knowing a sense of belonging in your family.

“I remember on at least one occasion crying on the phone to my mum because I felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of being a mum and the fear of failing. But once I’d cried about it, I was able to get on with it, and I didn’t fail.

“I said to Joshua on a recent holiday that we were still learning to be ‘three’ together, and we were still learning how to be mummy and daddy. He replied, ‘I fink we done nuff learning now, we’re OK!’ I took that to mean he’s quite happy and content and that we’re a good enough mum and dad!”
* names have been changed

Take it further

For more information and advice about adoption contact

* British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF)
Tel: 020 7421 2600

* Adoption UK Tel: 0844 848 7900

The other side of the story

Kumar and Georgina Rajagopalan live and work in London and have been married for 14 years. Eight years ago, they discovered they were unable to have children, and in 2005, began pursuing adoption. Everything seemed to be going well, but then their hopes and dreams came crashing down around them.  They talk to Lisa Phillips.

Kumar and Georgina went through all the procedures and were finally introduced to two children, aged four and nine.  “We connected with one of the children really easily,” recalls Kumar. “Everyone said we would connect with the four year old, and have more difficulty with the older child. But actually, we connected with the nine year old and struggled to bond with the younger child.

“Before we met them, our social worker told us the story of a woman who felt guilty about saying no to a child, so she took the child on, knowing from day one that there was no connection or bonding. Two years later it all broke down. It was far better, she said, to face the pain of that early on, rather than to take a child on and find further down the line that it’s not right.

“We had to come to a difficult decision. We had very, very mixed emotions, but the children came as a unit and we felt that for their sake, and also for ours, we couldn’t proceed.

“There was a lot of guilt,” says Kumar. “It raised all kinds of questions about our own faith . . . Did we lack faith? Had we not trusted God? . . .and we wondered at times if we should have gone ahead with the adoption.”

In the weeks and months following their decision, the couple found that their greatest support came from non-Christian family and friends. Interestingly, it was the Christians who had trouble coming to terms with the choice Kumar and Georgina had made.

“Within the Christian sphere, there are very definite parameters as to how society works,” says Kumar. “So single people are always asked when a husband or a wife is going to come along, and when that’s happened, they’re asked when the patter of little feet will come along. But what about when you don’t fit into that?

“We faced questions like: “Wouldn’t God have stood by you?” and “Shouldn’t you have had the faith to go ahead?” People didn’t know how to categorise us, or how to support us, and couldn’t accept that maybe this was our calling in life. “

“It was quite sad,” adds Georgina. “The Christian community was much less accepting of the situation than non-Christians were.”

Coming to terms with their childlessness was a process like any other bereavement, and Kumar and Georgina relied on their faith and each other during this time.

“We were angry at God,” says Georgina. “We asked questions like, why can’t we have children? Why can they all have children? What’s wrong with us? What have we done wrong?.”

“Initially there’s denial,” says Kumar, “then anger, and we worked through those processes. We kept pursuing a child, and then we came to the point where we had to stop pursuing it and we had a  peace about that. At one point, we were so consumed with having children, and following that path, that we weren’t really looking at what we had, or listening to what God wanted for us.”

Georgina began to do some research into support groups that dealt with couples who would remain childless. She couldn’t find any British Christian organisations which dealt with the issue, but did eventually come across one UK-based group called More To Life.

“It was helpful because for the first time, we met people who understood where we were coming from,” she says. “Adoption wasn’t right for them either, or perhaps they’d unsuccessfully gone through IVF. We felt normal and we didn’t feel judged.” Now Kumar and Georgina have helped set up a similar group in their church. The group is called Connect4.

“As Christian communities, perhaps we need to look more closely at the option of singleness,” says Kumar. “And we need to adopt a positive attitude towards couples who, for whatever reason, may be called into that arena where they remain childless. How do we support them, rather than seeing them as anomalies? They’re part of God’s plan and God’s kingdom, and we need to see them as integral to that.

“In order to fit in, it’s easy to go down the route of ‘I have to do X’, when ‘X’ may not actually be what God is calling you to,” adds Kumar. “There’s great pressure to conform. It takes strength of character to say, ‘Let’s see what God wants for us,’. It’s tough, but it’s important.

“We would love to have children of our own, but that hasn’t happened, and we have to accept it rather than continually wrestling with it.” We have to accept who we are,” agrees Georgina. “We’re a couple, and we’re a family. We’re not lacking. You can have a fulfilled life without children.”

* For help and advice on childlessness, contact More to Life Tel: 08701 188088