I realised the other week that I don’t know much about the days my boys were born. This wasn’t brought up in a toddler group (well it was, but only because I was questioning someone), but as a preparation for an activity day. When looking through our notes, I realised that we have been given 3 different birth weights for boyo, I have no idea what time of day he was born, I have no idea what the weather was like. The same for Jelly – although I do know his birth weight! I also don’t know how long they were at birth – but I have since found out, that it isn’t generally recorded any more.
When I mentioned the lack of birth length at our local toddler group, it led to some interesting questions. Such as ‘why do you need to know?’ and ‘why does it matter’. And in some respects it doesn’t matter, but at some point in the future, my boys might have questions that they can’t have answered, but their friends know. And it just adds to the unfairness of adoption.
I was trying to explain about the importance of life story work to some of these people, and I’m not sure that I did a good job. So I am trying again…
When you live with your birth/genetic parents, or have contact with your birth/genetic parents, you are able to see how you fit into the world. You might have the same colour hair as you mum, eyes like you grandfather, you might have a facial feature that reminds you off a relative. Adopted children don’t have this core belonging. And whilst you can tell somethings from photographs, what about interests. Boyo loves playing football and any sort of activity outside… what about his birthsiblings? He likes making things, building things, gluing things… is that something that happens because he is with us, (nurture) or something that his birthsiblings like (nature)?
Boyo doesn’t have a core belief that he belongs with us, if you were to ask him, he would say ‘forever’ but he doesn’t understand what ‘forever’ is. When Jelly moved in, he was convinced he was going. When we moved house, he was convinced we were leaving him behind. He can’t believe that, we are always going to be his family.
Only by accepting these facts, only by acknowledging these facts can we help him to recognise that we are here forever. We received a book giving his life story from his social worker, but it was inappropriate in many ways. So we set to and made him a new one. He will turn to it, and look at it a lot for a week or two, and then ignore it for a couple of months. When something is raised, through a conversation or seeing birthsiblings (just two of them), or a throw away comment from someone else, it gets looked at. We talk about what we know, and how we know it.
He has a story of a life before he came to us. We cannot ignore that. Jelly has a story before he came to us, we cannot ignore that either. They have different experiences, different families, but they have a story outside of our lives together. But it is a story, a book. It is something we read.
Boyo has difficulties with some aspects of life. We can tell him something, and realise that he does not understand what was said. There are various reasons for this, but it adds to the complexity of life. So although we have his book, which we look at, and talk about, I’ve always felt we needed more, to help him understand. I’m sure in the next twelve months, it will be more necessary with Jelly…he is starting to talk more and understand more.
I am lucky in that we have an active adoption community locally. Not just a support group, but meet ups, and how are you’s and phone calls and texts. As part of this, and as an off shot from support group a few of us have been working on some life story work together. There are various aspects to what has been researched and discussed, and we feel that locally progress is been made. We have put together an activity day, which has run twice now, to help adoptive families better understand their children’s beginnings. Boyo took part and enjoyed the activities, and he and I came away with some idea of how he was.
He and I have also done some work at home. He has in his bedroom a collage of his families… birth family, foster family and us, and an important reminded that although we don’t see these people, it’s okay to think about them, and wonder how they are. We have looked at photo’s of his birth family, and spotted how he is like them. We have looked at how he is, and spotted where he is like myself and himself. We see his two birth brothers about 3 times a year. We are starting to make sense of who he is, and where he came from. He knows why he couldn’t live with his birth mother, (in simple terms), he understands that a group of important people thought that we were the right family for him.
And we will continue. There will be more work, more processing, more upset, more happiness, but we will continue. Because he needs to know his place in the world, and he needs to know his story.
And I am about to start it again with Jelly.