How I Met My Son


Rosalind Powell wrote this blog for Mumsnet, but we liked it so much we thought we'd share it here. You can find the original article here.

My relationship with my son is much like any other mother’s with a growing teenager. I can feel inordinately proud of him and extremely frustrated. I worry about his emotional wellbeing, his friendships and budding romances (should there be any). I laugh at his jokes and despair at his laziness. I look at him and hope one day that someone will make him happy and love him as much as his mum does.
There are two fundamental questions that lie at the heart of adoption: can you love someone else’s child, and can they love you? I know that you can. To all intents and purposes, we are a ‘normal’ family and Gabriel, 13, is completely ‘our’ son – although, in another sense, we’re not and he isn’t.
I’d always assumed I’d have children, but never gave it much thought. When my husband Harry and I discovered we couldn’t have them naturally, without the help of fertility treatment, it felt as if my world had collapsed overnight. After three unsuccessful rounds of IVF and relentless cycles of hormones, hope and disappointment I was left feeling battered and bruised, and as if my body had let me down. After a year of licking our wounds, we turned to adoption.
We knew the climate had changed – it was no longer a case of newborn babies being relinquished by unmarried mothers, and that many of the children up for adoption now have been more than likely taken away from their parents and come through the care system.
Undaunted, we embarked on a homestudy – the intensive, six-month appraisal of all potential adopters undertaken by a social worker – and were asked deeply personal questions about our ability to be parents. We were approved by an adoption panel and spent the next two years in limbo, waiting. It was a strange, frustrating and occasionally distressing time as we were sent details of children to consider whose life stories gave me a glimpse of a cruel, hellish world. Others just didn’t feel right. It felt awful turning them down, but we were determined to do right not only by ourselves but, more importantly, by the children we were asked to consider. We felt it was essential that we knew our limitations and what we could cope with.
After two years we were on the verge of giving up when we were sent details of a little boy. I heard his name and felt an instant sense of recognition. We’d found our son.
Adoption is a leap of faith that co-exists with fear, and I had plenty of fear to begin with. We had spent almost eight years yearning for a child and then one came storming into our life like a small tornado. I’m amazed I didn’t run around our flat screaming, ‘What have I done?’
Our son came to live with us just before his second birthday and overnight my life changed in more ways than I’d ever imagined. I never finished a conversation or put my needs first; I mastered the art of crawling on all fours pushing small cars mumbling ‘brum brum’ and miming actions of nursery rhymes; I rarely socialized but would look forward to relief to my first glass of wine at 6pm, sharp; I had more patience than I’d thought, but also discovered a bad temper; I became intimate with every café and swing park. It was, in short, a crash course in parenting and I hadn’t read the manual. Of course these are common experiences for every parent of a toddler. But most other parents have had at least two years with their child to get into training. We didn’t know each other, let alone love each other yet. Like an arranged marriage, we had to wait for love to come.
It didn’t help that for the first six weeks he called us both Harry, which he’d call out loudly in swing parks. Maybe I had to earn the title of Mummy.
There were difficult spells: he had been taken from the only family he’d ever known and was, in effect, in mourning. At times he became angry, tired of being on his best behaviour and testing us to see if we’d stay. Times of change have been hard for him – moving house, leaving his cot for a bed, changing schools. But he was also incredibly adaptable and brave.
We’ve occasionally had to field awkward questions from nosey strangers. Our son is mixed-heritage, we’re white, and I’ve been asked why he’s got brown eyes when ours are blue. We’ve been told he looks like he’s caught the sun. An acquaintance once explained to her child, in front of us, that our son was an orphan. Sometimes his friends at primary school would ask me if I was his ‘real’ mum. One boy went so far as to tell him – and me – that I definitely wasn’t his ‘real’ mum.
But these incidents have been few and far between and, on the whole, the fact that he’s adopted hasn’t been an issue. He’s interested in his birth family background up to a point, but doesn’t choose to dwell on it. That may change. He might one day want to trace his birth parents and if and when he does, we will give him all the support he needs.
Part of the process of adopting is feeling a sense of ‘entitlement’ to be a parent. I felt I couldn’t just become a mother, I had to earn the right to be one. As I now watch him grow into a young man, developing his own opinions and beliefs, interests and plans for the future, I feel proud of what a remarkable individual he has become. And like any other parent, I can also take some credit for that too.

How I Met My Son: A Journey Through Adoption by Rosalind Powell (Blink Publishing), is out 11 February 

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