So…we were officially going to parents. Like I said once you are at panel its pretty much a given but it was still a nerve wracking experience. The next day I was back at work…and TT was coming with me. Buenos Aires, Argentina..one of our favourite cities. TT still says that was the best week of his life. We got approved as parents, we returned to Buenos Aires and City won the Premiership. I say two out of three ain’t bad. No prizes for guessing which two. We had a great trip..I was working in Business class so TT was waited on hand and foot by his wife. Nothing new there then. It was only on our return that things went hideously wrong. The following Friday we were flooded. Oh and let me tell you now, it wasn’t a leaky tap or a burst pipe. Oh no. I can better that. Britain had the largest amount of rainfall in the space of 4 hours for god knows how many years, the banks of the river in our village flooded and we ended up knee deep in slime, water, dirt and god knows what else. We had to move out of the housed as the house was deemed uninhabitable and contaminated. We would be out for at least 6 months. The poor bloke from the loss adjusters from the insurance must have thought he had been faced with a screaming demented banshee. “We’re in the middle of adoption! We can’t move out! They won’t let us adopt if we don’t have a home!” I started crying uncontrollably…TT tried to put his arm round me but I pushed him away. I didn’t sleep a wink and was absolutely dreading picking up the phone to Social Services on the Monday. So near and yet so bloody far….Read More
Our assessments with Cool SW were over. We then had a visit from the manager just to go through everything and make sure we were happy with everything that had been discussed. She was very nice, but she didnt give too much away even though I had tried to weasel bits of information out of her. She explained that next step was a date for panel. This came through pretty quickly..and approximately 3 to 4 weeks later we found ourselves in the reception of social services waiting to go in front of a panel to hear our fate…… well this isn’t strictly true…to be refused at panel some random madman would have to run into the room and shout “Stop! Don’t go any further you can’t let these two freaks have a child, they are both serial killers!!” or something on those lines, ie something hideous would have had to have come out of the woodwork at the last minute to change their decision. (Though at this point I am still slightly worried about the incident with the car radio and the chill dog in the cinema back in 1992, but like I said previously I was young and feisty and didnt know any better). But seriously its still very nerve wracking sat there waiting whilst 12 complete strangers are sat in another room contemplating your fate.
So there we are TT and I sat in this room. Waiting to be called in lke a pair of naughty school kids. Everytime we heard a noise outside the pair of us would sit up straight and our eyes would zoom towards the door..this happened probably about 53 times on average in the space of 10 minutes whilst waiting.
And then. “Mr and Mrs Burke?”
We both looked up and a very pleasant gentleman in a suit came in and introduced himself. I cannot for the life of me to this day rememember his name, and then led us into the room next door. We took our seats at the end of the table and I quickly scanned the room. The gentleman who was chairing the panel asked everyone to introduce themselves. It was a real mixed bag. A couple of social workers, a medical expert, two ladies who themselves had been been adopted, two ladies who were adopters, a lady from the post adoption team, it was all a bit of a blur.
And the questions began. What can you offer a child? How would I manage to look after a child if I was away on trips? And the best question was for TT.
A lady leaned forward (I think it was a lady adopter) and said specifically to TT:
“What if you get a difficult child?”. TT came back as quick as lightening with “And what if he gets a difficult dad?”. This was met with laughter and lots of head nodding and note making. Touche TT!
“Well Mrs and Mrs Burke, we are now going to have a little discussion with your social worker, so if you could kindly leave the room and I will be in to see you very soon with our decision.”
We walked out, walked back into the room and sat there like a pair of lemons.
I leant back on the chair and said to TT, “Do you remember Crown Court? That TV programme back in the seventies that was on at lunchtime? It reminds me of that being a criminal waiting” This was a completely useless comment of mine and was met with “I’m not as old as you remember” and a withering look.
“Mr and Mrs Burke?”
It was the chairman of the panel. We both shot up from our chairs.
“Congratulations. It was a unanimous decision. You are going to be a mummy and a daddy”.Read More
The assessments were coming on nicely. I used to look forward to our meeting with Cool SW, but they would be coming to an end in the next couple of weeks. I almost felt quite sad, that probably sounds a little unhinged but we really enjoyed seeing him and chatting and it had been like I had previously described “free therapy”. The next assessment was probably the most important and life changing. It was to discuss the sort of child we wanted. It was an emotional assessment on all counts. You are basically saying yes to one type of child and no to another.
We (TT and I) had discussed at length what we would accept and what we wouldn’t. You really have to be brutally honest with yourselves here. We wanted a child. There was no question about that. BUT (and I may shock a few people here) we weren’t so desperate that we would accept just any child. And I think again if I am brutaly honest that is good because if they (the agency/local authority) can smell desperation on you then that’s when your problems start.
Cool SW went down his list. Yes to a child from a drugs background. We knew that a majority of children in care are removed because of this so if we said no then we really were limiting ourselves. We were adamant that we wouldn’t accept a child with a background of sexual abuse, I have the greatest admiration for anyone who has but it wasn’t for us. We also said no to foetal alcohol, again this was just something we decided wasn’t for us. Cool SW was pretty good when it came to doing the list. When we were hesitant about some things, he would guide us and rephrase it another way. I got very upset at one point when we got to the subject of disabilities. But like he said you have to be practical about what you can take on and for us, it wasn’t. We both work and certain children need 24 hour care and we weren’t in that position. He made me feel better that explaining that a lot of the foster carers keep long term or even adopt these children. After that two hour session I can safely say that bottle of Pinot Grigot in the fridge that had been cooling rather nicely was enjoyed that night. We felt emotionally drained…but in a nice way. We were ready for the last assessment.
And now for the other assessments….both sets of parents and two of our friends that we had known since we were young. I can tell you now that I know my mum would have got out the best china and she did ask me “Does he like Greyhounds??” yes seriously. As it happened he did. And Daisy liked him. Thank god for that. He went over to Manchester to see my husbands parents and also his friend. I wasn’t duly worried, we didn’t have too many skeletons in the closet. My friend was the best. I think she unnerved him somewhat as she asked him “So will Jo get an Easter Egg baby then??” as this interview was a couple of weeks before Easter. He just smiled and said “She wont get an Easter Egg baby but I think there could be a baby in the pipeline of some sorts”. Of course she rang me up as soon as he left and told me everything he had asked her. Its quite a funny feeling really, someone who really is a stranger is interviewing your parents and friends and asking questions about you, though as intrusive as the process was I never felt like he was being intrusive if that makes any sense? He was always the consummate professional at all times yet we felt we could really talk to him. I really missed our chats when the assessments were over but I am pleased to say I still text him occasionally and the day it was all made legal with Jellybaby I sent him photos of us in court. He also came out to visit me and meet Jellybaby which as lovely (he no longer works for that particular authority, he is now working for a private agency) so it was ok for him to come and see us. It was lovely for him to see the “End Product” so to speak. The “Easter Egg” baby that had once just been some questions on a file was now crawling all over him. I think he forgave me for the sticky gingerbread man Jellybaby wiped all over his trousers.Read More
After my “chat” or rather nonstop ramblings with Cool SW on the last assessment.. The next time it was to be hubbys turn. I don’t think he was quite relishing the thought. He’s not big on talking my husband unless 1: He’s consumed lots of alcohol or 2: He’s consumed lots of alcohol. He is very quiet and reserved until he gets to know you, but at the same time he doesn’t take crap from anyone, least of all me. And that was one of the qualities that attracted him to me, apart from having a mutual love of Argentina (random) but true. So I think the thought of having to talk about himself, family, me etc etc was quite daunting for him.
It was my turn this time to disappear upstairs..I was extremely tempted to sit on the top of the stairs like I used to as a kid trying to peer through the bannisters so I could see whatever programme on the television that I couldn’t watch as it was “passed my bedtime”.
2 hours later. TT emerged upstairs sans can of Fosters in his hand. “You weren’t drinking that in front of him were you???” I gasped. TT gave me one of his “God you are so ridiculous” looks.
“As if” he retorted. “I need it now though”.
We sat on the bed and chatted. He had been asked the same kind of things, family, marriage, “The Event”. (Yes, he got quite emotional at that point.) He always does. I don’t think there will ever be a time when he doesn’t to be quite honest.
“He said tonight that he will be starting to interview our parents in the next week or so” said TT.
It was becoming more and more real. Mummy and Daddy. Us. Used to doing whatever we wanted, when we wanted. Holidays here, weekends away there. Meals out weekly, expensive shopping habits. Things were going to change. Well except the Marc Jacobs shopping habit, think we can sort out some sort of deal there. But whatever the outcome…we were both ready.Read More
Cool SW is due to arrive later. Its Valentines Day, when he had pencilled us in for the next assessment which was the first of the two individual ones. He asked was it ok to come on Valentines or would he be intruding? Absolutely not…I don’t like to celebrate a Saint being killed and the contrived card giving, so feel free to pop in!
Biscuits at the ready, Cool SW has arrived and TT despatched upstairs to watch Ice Road Truckers or back to back episodes of Time Team and I get ready to take my position on the couch ready for my Freud Q&A session.
“Ok Jo, probably best if you just chat and I’ll take notes and ask the odd question” Chat? Crikey that’s my middle name…I’m ready!
Jo. Born to John (now retired fireman) and Brenda (also retired nursery teacher). Only child. Named after Paul Newmans wife Joanne Woodward as mum was a fan. Thank the lord she wasn’t a fan of Hilda Ogden. Only child due to a difficult birth (Forceps. Too much info?). Very happy and loving childhood. Two sets of doting grandparents. Wonderful childhood friends who I still see. Privately educated at an all girls school from 11-16. Loved that due to having a slight obsession with Enid Blyton and Mallory Towers school books as a 9 year old & thought it would be very similar. Short (extremely) short stint at college doing NNEB course (nursery nurse) due to the fact that at 16 I really didn’t have the patience to deal with small people and I had only picked that course due to getting my childcare badge in the Guides. 12 years in a local security company. Out of the blue redundancy, resulting in applying for the airlines as at 28 I didn’t have a clue what to do next and I liked the glossy advert in the back of Cosmo. 18 years later I am still tossing that chicken and beef out like a pro.
Next…tell me about your childhood. Very happy. Parents had the right balance when it came to letting me do stuff. I remember them letting me go to nightclubs when I was 16 but my dad used to pick me up but miles down the road so no prospective snog could see him.
No ex husbands hiding in the woodwork? Nope. And I wont mention the occasional freak I encountered either.
What about u and TT? Describe your marriage. Bloody hell, has he got all day? I won’t tell him we squabble every day he might see that as an unstable relationship but its usually over the tv remote or the fact that I have been fiddling with the air con in the car. OK. I am impulsive, he’s more of lets sleep on it person. I’m the fiery one with ridiculous tantrums, he’s the calm one, but believe you me when he has had enough I know about it. He’s tidy, I am disorganised but strangely anal when it comes to time and arrangements, and my memory actually scares the shit out of me sometimes with its ridiculous facts. (I am extremely popular when it comes to pub music quizzes) Don’t ask me what I was doing 20 minutes ago but ask me what I was doing on the third Saturday in November 1982 and I’m your girl. Moseley Street disco with my ra-ra skirt and hoping the fit lad with the blonde wedge and burgundy jeans was going to ask me to do a slowie to “Zoom” by Fat Larrys band. It didn’t happen by the way. I like to dream. He is more pragmatic. I’m a lightweight when it comes to drinking. He’s got hollow legs and end up absolutely steaming ( I decided to leave out this interesting fact in the end funnily enough due to the fact he may have thought we had some sort of alcohol abuse problem) I cry at stuff like Animal Hospital and he will say “Its not real!”. Yes it flipping is, that poor hamster now has 3 legs. I am extremely competitive when it comes to shouting the answers to Pop Master on Radio 2. He messes about too much with the CDs. He wriggles and talks in his sleep and likes to fall asleep to music. I like it dark, quiet and woe betide you moving as I am pretty good at handing out karate chops in the night. It usually does the trick. Very different childhoods and backgrounds but somehow it works. Well most of the time. When he admits I am right.
I think that assessment lasted 2 hours. He’s still liking those biscuits & I think he could be getting quite addicted to the old Mellowbirds so I think we are onto a good thing. Your turn next time TT. Don’t tell him about the time we sat on Southport beach on the sand dunes on an extremely hot day and you nearly burnt to death because I had forgotten the sun cream and me having olivey non burning type skin and completely bypassing your pale irish extremely prone to burning skin scoffed and said “Oh you will be fine stop moaning!”. He spent the next day in A&E at some random hospital in Newcastle where he was working at the time. He’s never quite forgiven me.Read More
After this first proper assessment I was feeling really happy but understandably still very aware of what could lie ahead. It must have been fate then that on my next two following trips I met two people who had been through/were going through the adoption process and both had very different outlooks. My next trip was a 9day Singapore/Sydney, I had been dreading this a little, purely as someone with obviously one brain cell had rostered me as the ONLY girl on the crew with 13 men. Plus 3 flight deck who were also male. Great. So shopping and dinner for one on the agenda as let me tell you now an all male crew on a 9 day trip will only have two things on their mind. Getting leathered and getting even more leathered. As it turned out, it was a really good trip, I quickly became one of the lads so to speak but at the end of the 9 days I was crawling the walls for conversation that didn’t include the size of womens breasts, Alex Ferguson and various sexual positions with actions to match just incase I didn’t quite get it. Anyway halfway through the trip I got chatting to the incharge crew member, a really nice bloke, no names but we will call him B. Again as I have previously explained..usual questions, married, kids etc. So this time I mentioned that we were going through adoption and had just had our first assessment.
“Been there Jo, got the t shirt. its pretty intrusive isn’t it” remarked B.
My face lit up with realising we had something in common. “So you have adopted then??”
He nodded. I was busy pouring juices for the passengers. But stopped mid flow after hearing the next part.
“Yes we did. And to be honest Jo, it was the worst thing we have ever done.”
Now THAT I wasn’t really expecting. All my fluffy wispy dreams just evaporated there and then all over the galley top and right down my pinny.
So it unfolded. He admitted that he and his wife had been so desperate for a child/children that they had probably ignored a shed load of warning signs. He also said it was definitely a postcode lottery of where you lived and how good your local county council were. He felt a lot of stuff had been “hidden” from them. He also told me that if the child/children had been to a few foster homes (his had been to over 10) then steer clear. They had adopted a 3 yr old and 5 yr old. Now I would like to point out here before anyone jumps in and says that they adopted an child of that age or had been adopted at an older age that not all children are like that, but his two children has suffered extreme mental and emotional abuse from their birth mother and should have been removed a lot earlier, thus the problem had got worse. There was no happy ending. Now 16 years later he told me that he and his wife had reached the end of their tether and at that moment in time one of the children was on the run as the police had a warrant out for their arrest. He said their marriage had nearly broken up with the stress ans strain. It was a very sad story.
“I hope I haven’t put you off Jo” said B.
“To be honest I am glad I have met you and we have got talking about this” I replied. I still hadn’t poured out the drinks at this point. Poor passengers, Singapore to Sydney nice little 9 hour jaunt and there’s me still not poured them any juice as I am too busy listening to a potential lets not take this any further situation.
And I’ll be very honest. As much as it was a bit of “bring you back down to earth” revelation, well when I say bit it was bloody scary. I am glad he told me. I think I am pretty much a realist when it comes to certain situations and it was very easy to get carried away with all the nice bits about adoption. We swapped email addresses as he asked to keep him up to speed with the outcome. I did message him recently and he was thrilled with my news but they had definitely reached the end of their story as he and his wife were now completely estranged from both the children and had started a new life abroad. He stated that they could no longer carry on with the constant phonecalls or knocks on the door from the police.
My next trip was a nice little jaunt to Tel Aviv. Short flight and good food. Let me tell you now, THE best hummous you will ever taste is in Tel Aviv in a little run down beach bar and that’s where the next instalment takes place. I was working in ecomony, and we had a really nice little crew working down there. One lovely girl in particular I shall call her A. Now by now you know the script…I don’t have to tell you the usual crew questions do I? But this time I wasn’t met with yes, I have two lovely children and a holiday home in the Algarve, I was met with…..”And we are going through adoption at the moment….”
I nearly spat out my hideously weak airplane tea and threw my copy of OK in the air.
“Are u kidding??? So am I!!”. The OK has landed and nearly whacked me on the nose.
“Jo, I have just got goosebumps you saying that. I can’t believe it” said A. So then we hatched out plan, get to hotel, quick shower, dress and out for some food and a serious adoption gossip.
An hour after landing we were walking round the back streets of Tel Aviv talking nineteen to a dozen. It was brilliant to chat to someone who was also crew and would be able to relate to all things airline and adoption. A was ahead of us in the process, they had most of their assessments, with just one to go if my memory serves me well and then waiting for a date for panel.
We chatted our views on the whole political correctness of the system, and how parts of the course had been brilliant and really helpful there was also parts that we both thought were just textbook so to speak and you just couldn’t always carry through in the real world.
As we sat in the beach bar (It’s the Banana bar folks if you ever end up in Tel Aviv, cheap as chips and totally yummy food) eating our lamb kebabs, hummous and pitta, we exchanged mobile numbers and made a note to request as facebook friends. 18 months on we both still keep in touch and will be meeting up (when we both get our arses into gear) and both ended up with our little families. Funnily enough I had been swapped onto that trip to keep me on another..looking back I had obviously been meant to do it. Life’s funny like that.Read More