The adoption dread

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There’s something that we don’t like to talk much about in the adoption world. As parents it’s something a large proportion of us live with daily to one degree or another. It’s something we don’t admit to and certainly don’t mention to social workers once we realise it’s there. What is it you might ask? The only word I can find for it is dread. When we first had our children I noticed it all the time. When I woke in the morning that feeling of ‘what will they be like today?’, at 3pm when on my way to pick them up from school ‘I wonder what today has been like?’, getting close to bedtime ‘will they go to sleep well or not?’. Lots of times when I was getting used to being their Mum, knowing what their moods might be like and more importantly the big question of ‘can I cope with them?’. Over the seven years since we have had them that feeling of dread has weakened – I don’t think it’s gone away but it’s less near the surface. It rears it’s ugly head when my mobile rings and I see the school name come up, or I see one of their faces as they come out of a club, or a teacher approaches me at the school gate to have a chat!

Recently I was with a group of other adoptive Mums and we were discussing this feeling of dread. Maybe it’s something all parents have I don’t know. It’s certainly seemed common around our group. I remember someone saying to my Mum a while ago when my Dad died that the feelings of grief don’t go away over time they just get deeper, and we struggled to understand what that meant at the time. Now when I think about the dread feeling I remember what that person said about grief and it feels similar. The feeling of dread hasn’t disappeared it’s just got deeper. Less things trigger it, the right underneath the surface feeling isn’t there so much. Of course for some of us it may have come back to the surface as we go through another stage of development or something difficult is happening for our children right now. 

Around birthday times I sometimes get that feeling of dread too. Another year older can bring up all kinds of feelings of regret, frustration at where your life is, a sense of time slipping away. Is having a birthday a delight or does it bring dread? For my children I know birthdays can be a difficult time for them, along with other milestones, as they think about their birth parents maybe, or they struggle with a sibling getting all the attention. I’ve come to try to lower my expectations of birthdays being a special day for me or my children and trying more to focus on spending time together and seeing the progress that’s been made.

So it doesn’t feel like such a positive blog this week but I know sometimes just opening up a subject that we maybe don’t want to look at can be healing in a sense. To be able to say ‘yes I feel that dread and it can be overwhelming at times’ can actually be helpful. I know for myself those intense feelings of dread have subsided for now and I’m pleased about that but I also know, just like grief, it has not gone away, it is maybe part of me now like the grief over my Dad will always be. The hope is that the sense of progression and contentment of where we are as a family right now kind of covers that feeling of dread. There are many positive emotions that come with adoption but the feeling of dread is certainly something you’re not told about during the process. If we talked more about these emotions then maybe we would be more prepared when they do surface.

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