This week we spoke to Gareth, from our Truth be Told podcast, who adopted a sibling group of three children with his wife Clare. We discussed how they prepared for bringing not just one, but three children home at once, how they found the transition period and that first meeting with their children.
You adopted a sibling group of three. Can you tell us about why you decided to adopt and your decision to adopt three children at once?
We always wanted a big family and because of our age, we had discussed potentially adopting after having a child. We ended up not being able to have children naturally, but we still wanted a family. Because we had already discussed adoption, it made sense to go down that route.
I always joked about having six or seven children but in the end, we had to settle for three because that’s as big as the house allows!
How did you prepare yourself before the first meeting? Did you do anything to try and prepare the children?
We focused on getting the house ready, setting up their bedrooms and just making sure we had everything ready for them. To help prepare the children we bought them butterfly books that we could programme our voices into, so we said ‘hello, this is mummy and daddy. We can’t wait to meet you’ which meant they could get to know our voices. We also made a video for them, showing them the house, their rooms, the garden and the local park. Then on the first day we met them, we made sure to wear the same clothes as we’d worn in the video.
The foster carer was great and put photos of us up around the house so the children could get used to our faces. We also bought each of the children a pillow that we sprayed with our perfume and aftershave so they could get to know our scent to help with the bonding.
Speaking of preparation, can you tell us a bit about the shopping you have to do to prepare to bring home three children at once?
It was definitely a strange experience. I remember going into Ikea and telling them we needed three of everything but not in the same size. They just looked at us a bit strange until we explained the situation. It’s definitely a big task to prepare not just one but three rooms at once so it was very busy but also very exciting because it was finally happening – three little people were coming to live with us!
We were lucky to have a good relationship with the foster parent as well so we could ask her what kind of things the children were into so we could get something they’d like.
You had seen photographs of the children, but can you tell us about the emotions during that first meeting?
It’s everything – it’s frightening and exciting all at once, but I suppose that’s probably how every parent feels at first. I wouldn’t say I was overwhelmed, but you’re going through a lot of emotions. When we first arrived, the foster parent asked the children if they knew who we were and they looked at us and said ‘that’s mummy and daddy’ and I remember just thinking ‘wow, this is it. We’re in, this is real, we’re a family now’. It was honestly amazing.
Can you talk us through the transition/ meet and greet period – how long was it and how did you experience it?
I think the initial stage was about 10 days or so for us. Our children came from quite a distance, so we stayed at a hotel for the transition period and went to visit the foster carer every day. Towards the end of the transition period, we went back home and the children stayed nearby with the foster carer who brought them to our house during the day.
It is a very exciting period because you’re getting to know these amazing little people and you’re becoming a mum and dad. But the days are very long. I remember us just living on instant porridge because we were so focused on making sure the kids were taken care of that we forgot about ourselves – but that’s parenthood I guess!
Can you tell us a bit about the first day you brought your children home, when it was just you and them?
I remember just feeling like ‘oh my gosh, what have we done’ but in the most amazing way. We were sitting around like a couple of kids on Christmas morning just bubbling with excitement that there were three little, lovely people upstairs who were ours and we were finally a family.
What did you enjoy the most about the first week at home with your children and what was the most challenging?
The relief and joy of finally having them home with us was what I enjoyed the most because you go through a bit of a process, from enquiring to adopt and going to panel to the process of matching and then finally it’s all done, the children are with you. Just like that, our family was complete.
For us, I think the hardest part was not seeing our family and friends for the first couple of weeks as that was the advice we were given back then. It wasn’t easy to suddenly have three children – it would’ve been helpful to have the grandparents pitching in, which they were desperate to do. We are pleased to hear this has changed though, and depending on the children’s needs and how they will cope you can now start to introduce close family members earlier. They can be asked to help with some of the chores whilst you focus on developing the attachment with your children.
On the podcast, a few of the adopters talk about there being a ‘honeymoon’ period at the start, did you experience that?
We definitely experienced an initial ‘honeymoon’ period but it didn’t last that long for us and the children’s natural behaviours came through pretty quickly when they settled in, and they haven’t really changed since. What has changed is the way Clare and I now deal with their behaviours which is thanks to the therapy sessions we now get.
I think it’s important for people to remember that children can have issues but there is also help available to deal with those issues. The ‘honeymoon’ period is different for everyone, from how long it lasts to whether you even have one at all, it’s a learning experience and I certainly wouldn’t change anything for the world.
How did your expectations of what the first week would be like compare to what actually happened?
Throughout the entire process whenever I was asked about my expectations, I always just said that as long as the children were healthy and happy, that’s all I wanted. I tried to not really have any expectations at any stage of the adoption process and my only expectation of that first week was that we all lived through it and survived, and that the children were happy. Which we did, and I think they were.
What advice would you give people who are just about to start the process?
Be honest and open with your social worker. Adoption is a life-changing thing, not just for your children but also for you so you have to be happy with the decisions being made and that can only happen if you have a good relationship with your social worker.
And of course, stock up on instant porridge!
To hear more from Gareth and the other adopters about the first week with their adoptive children, tune in to episode four of the Truth be Told: Adoption Stories podcast.