Recently, we met up with an old friend and his family who adopted a gorgeous little squidgling of their own at the back end of last year. It’s the first time I’ve spoken to any other adoptive parents face-to-face and it was great to compare stories. We chatted about our experiences of going through the adoption process, and I started thinking back to how I felt at the very outset of this incredible journey….
Social workers are programmed (robotically, some say *winks at my social worker friends) to ask all kinds of invasive and delving questions. They poke and prod you, narrow their eyes as they scan you from head-to-toe. Through the adoption novice’s eyes, they may initially seem to bear an uncanny resemblance to a cross between the Childcatcher and Miss Trunchbull; wafting their Biros in front of you like long, thin sugary lollipops before slamming you into The Chokey, throwing their heads back with a muahahahaaaaa as they try to catch you out with their probing questions.
These were our preconceived thoughts.
However, the process – though intrusive – was by no means as scary as that. Or at least it wasn’t for us!
Our social worker was, in fact, a dream. She was polite and understanding, and I found the ‘show-off’ choc-chip shortbread biscuits worked a treat at eking out her inner softness. Obviously, she wanted to know the ins and outs of a duck’s derrière when it came to our personal and professional lives.
The home study groped with long, gangly fingers into our extended family history, education, religious beliefs, parenting experience, and overall lifestyle, as well as ferreting out any past misdemeanours. Not that I had anything to hide of course *shines halo. Quite rightly so, we were thoroughly scrutinized.
Frozen to the settee by the icy, penetrating glare of the social worker’s expectant eyes, we fumbled around trying to find the right things to say or should I say the right things we thought she wanted to hear, whilst at the same time trying to give the least altruistic-sounding response possible.
SW: “So, if the adopted child with whom you were matched was called Beaujolais, Pinot or Bacardi Breezer, how would you feel? Would you want to change his/her name?
Me: *purses lips, snorts deep intake of air. “Of course not. It is a fundamental part of the child’s identity and having been stripped of everything else that s/he has known, we feel it would be very remiss of us to then snatch away the remaining link to his/her heritage”. *glances at OH with a was-that-ok-was-that-the-right-answer kind of look.
Don’t get me wrong. I actually believe this wholeheartedly, but I also have to be honest and say… I really don’t like Pickle’s birth name. He has 2 beautiful, solid middle names and I did toy with the what-if-I-just-swapped- them-around idea in my head.
But at 3 years old, with his own very steely and established identity, and having been taken from two prior homes, we felt that we couldn’t suddenly tear him away from his foster placement and after 10 days say “Whey hey! Here we are. This is us. Complete strangers. Large quantities of bonkerness running through our veins of sanity. And oh, by the why, you’re no longer going to be known as Smirnoff!
Some families are advised to change an adopted child’s birth name for clear and understandable reasons relating to his/her background. For us, having been given – let’s be honest – Hobson’s choice, it did ultimately make sense not to take away that piece of Pickle’s jigsaw. (Still don’t like it though *stamps feet, sulks)
Would love to hear your thoughts and feelings on those initial meetings.