UNLIKELY DAD | Adoption Two Years On

25 Sept 2017

Today I am delighted to share a post from a favourite blogger of mine, Tom, who writes over at UNLIKELY DAD. Tom shares his life as a gay adoptive dad and his blog is one everyone should have on their reading list - I always love checking out Tom's latest blog post and his Instagram feed is a lovely view into family life. Today Tom will be sharing his story of being a gay adoptive dad two years on from where his family become a three.

A picture of Tom of UNLIKELY DAD

Hello. My name’s Tom. I’m a gay, adoptive dad to my wonderful son, now three and a half years old.
We went through the adoption process in 2014 and welcomed home our baby boy (aged fourteen
months) in April 2015. Life changed. Forever.

I am often asked how I found attaching to and bonding with my son. It’s such a loaded question. And
in my naivety, during the adoption assessment process, I didn’t really think about it. Is that bad? I
should have. I guess I was so focused on becoming a dad and finding my little boy that in my head, of course, we’d bond and attach and life would be all rosy and wonderful. That’s potentially quite a
dangerous way of approaching it all.

Attachment and bonding with adopted children is something you’re trained on. It is quite simply
massive. I can’t get across how important it is. In many cases these children are three years old and
over. They have memories. They have experiences. Some unpleasant. The whole exposure to this
world’ can be truly heart-breaking. Building that trust, love, feeling of safety and security is the most
important job you’ll do as a parent. It’s bloody terrifying. A term that probably puts the fear of God
into adopters during the process is 'adoption disruption'. This may be obvious, but it's where the
adoption breaks down and doesn't work for various reasons.

Between 1 April 2000 and 1 July 2012, 565 children were known to have had an adoption disruption
(source: adoptionUK). It may not sound like a lot of cases within twelve years. But it is a reality. And
one disruption is more than enough. Being prepared for what you are taking on is so important.

As you may know, if you’ve read my previous blogs on the adoption journey, my husband and I
adopted our son when he was 14 months old. He is, I would say, one of the lucky ones. He was born
six weeks premature and after a short stint in hospital, went straight to his loving foster home where
he stayed for just over a year. There was no moving around, which can be common in foster
care. But even so, I have read so many interesting articles on the experiences we carry through our
lives from time in utero, which really got me thinking. Whilst in foster care he was surrounded by a
family, children and ultimately love. What a blessing and what a lucky little boy he was. To him, that
was life. It was all he knew of the world. Yet we were coming in to swoop him off to something more
permanent. His new family, his new home… forever. We had so much to do at home and get
everything ready for his arrival. I never really thought or gave much time to the enormity of it all
until I saw his face poke around the door as he came crawling to us. And then it hit me. He needs to
fall in love with us. We already loved him from just a few photos and videos. But he had no idea who
we were.

What every adopter does, regardless of the child’s age, is to create a book with photos in. From
being approved at approval panel to meeting the child/children is usually a week, so this book gets
dropped to them straight after panel. We got creative. My husband is a pretty dab hand at anything
crafty, so he made a book out of felt which would hold photos of us, our cat, his new bedroom and
the wider family. It was perfect because he could have it in his cot with him or around the house as it
was soft. The foster carer also asked for pictures of us and when we visited the house we saw she
had them printed in A4 and dotted all around the house. It was lovely. She would tell him- “Look,
there's your daddies!” This way we weren’t complete strangers that first time we met. We also
made some videos of us doing the most hilarious/ridiculous things… peekaboo, nursery rhymes… I
like to think it all helped. In fact, I know it did.

The week of ‘introductions' was nuts (I have written about it before here). But once that was over, it
was home to our house for good. And the work continued… We just knew we had to be there for
him and give nothing but love, touch, cuddles, smiles. It’s all he needed. To be safe and know these
two guys that have just taken him from all that he knows are good men who love him. Being a dad
almost came naturally I feel. Nothing else existed or mattered. I had to serve this little boy 100% and
let him know we are here for everything. For me, a huge hurdle was sleep. If he felt happy and
comfortable enough with us and his new house and bedroom, he’d sleep. And he did. We couldn’t
quite believe our luck.

The days and weeks passed by all in a blur just like it does for all new parents. We were in this most
beautiful bubble of love, fear, scared of messing up… but we got through it all together. There was
never an alternative in my eyes. I had forgotten the term 'adoption disruption' from the training. Of
course this would work. We hadn’t found him, fell in love with him, for it to go any other way. I truly
believe the power of your mind is such an important player in this journey. If you go into it with
doubt, you could fall apart. And these kids need us more than anything. That is what keeps you going
and motivates you in the morning when you're being woken at 5am.

I thought we had it nailed from the start. And yes, we were all doing well at this whole family thing.
But it wasn’t until about 6 months in that I realised that yes the start was good, but it wasn’t all 100%.
The bond had grown massively since we first met. The trust was there which I wasn’t sure if it was
before. He was too young to communicate. He went along with everything, but there was a
difference after a few months. More affection was being shown, more trust and he started clinging
on. THAT for me was a biggy. He needed me. He didn’t want me to leave. Clinging on might be
annoying to some parents, but to me, that was the ultimate achievement. We had bonded and he
wanted me to stay sitting with him or for me not to go to work. At the risk of sounding needy, I don’t
know a more powerful pull than your child depending on you. In that moment I realised I am his
world. He loved me.

Maybe he loved me before that, I don't know. We were feeding him, bathing him, laughing our tits
off with tickle fights, doing bedtime successfully together… but it was the moments that he’d call for
me when he was scared or when he woke in the middle of the night and I could successfully comfort
him that I considered a huge win. We were attached. We were more than attached, I felt as though
he came from me. Adoption or not, we are part of each other.

Any prospective adopters reading this or adopters struggling with building the bond, all I can say is
give them love. They have been without you for months/years, they have to get to know you and
trust you. 

Two and a half years in now, I have to remind myself that we adopted. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard
work sometimes but we made this beautiful choice, this is our world we're living in now and we
wouldn’t have it any other way. Children, no matter how much you wanted them and love them, will
often really test your patience too. But find your own patience. It will come. I'm still learning and
often have bad days. But the good far outweigh any bad ones. And no-one can truly say what
tomorrow will bring. But I know my heart feels so full when I know he is happy, laughing, fed... (and

If you’re holding onto that hope of creating your family through adoption, or through any different
means, at the moment then hold on tighter and ride the wave. It is all so beautiful once you make it

Huge thanks to Tom for sharing his family and adoptive journey with us today. One of the most wonderful things about blogging is being able to reach people who need to know there are people out there who they can relate to, and I know Tom's blog does exactly that. You can also follow Tom on Instagram @UNLIKELYDAD, Twitter @UNLIKELYDAD and over on the UNLIKELY DAD Facebook Page