Support From Friends and Family

I realised recently that every post I have written so far on this blog has arisen from anger. The unfairness, the absurdity and the futility of what we are enduring drives me to record and describe our experience. It is necessary, but for those visiting the blog it can be heavy reading! So today I want to share the love that I have also experienced during this challenging time.

We are gradually letting those close to us and in contact with our son know what is happening in our lives. All the information surrounding the adoption can be a little overwhelming, and I have worried that some would react negatively to the choices that we have made. But the reality has been quite the opposite so far.

Those that have listened have done so with compassion for us and our child. They have sympathised, understood, hugged and comforted. They have given us those precious words of encouragement that remind us why we are doing this brave act of love for our son. They have looked at the situation from the outside and validated our sense of injustice and feelings of hurt. They have commended us for taking this difficult path that will secure our child’s future and his place in our family.

My best friend sat and listened to my update today, and quiet tears rolled down her face as she heard what I had been through. Her understanding was all that I needed to pull myself out from under the sad cloud that had followed me these past few days.

The supremely talented Tric at My Thoughts On A Page wrote a beautiful post dedicated to us and our quest yesterday, and the comments that followed gave us such comfort during a difficult week.

It is these acts of kindness that will help us find the light at the end of this long tunnel.

If you are currently undergoing this process, I would advise you to keep talking about it. Do not hide your feelings. Share your experience and your woes, as those around you may be able to hold you up when you feel most like falling down.

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Informing the Birth Father: Part Two

(The first part of this post can be found here)

The next stage was contacting the birth father to request that he sign the form, the contents of which I have not seen but informs him of our application. He must then state that he has no objection to the adoption going ahead. Easy peasy. Luckily he agreed to sign them but he was late in doing so. The first step is a letter sent with the forms enclosed. This should be returned within 28 days to the HSE. If it isn’t, the same forms are sent through registered post to ensure that he was definitely received them. Again, another 28 days are given to the biological father to return the signed form. I’m sure there are parents reading and chuckling at this stage; babies teach you to be incredibly productive and efficient with your time, so eight weeks seems like a very generous amount of time to fill in a form and pop it in the post. If these steps yield no result, you then must go through the original channels, which is being put on the waiting list. It is an incredibly unfair process. All the power is handed to the birth father, and if he decides not to co-operate, he can delay your application to secure your child’s place in the family.

Because I was aware of the importance of getting these forms back, I have since endured a hostile, personal attack on my character from the person in question. When I asked that he send the forms in after over two months of not receiving anything, he informed me that I needed to “relax”. In his eyes he was doing me a huge favour,and I owed him big time. The anger and hurt over what he had put me through since I found out I was pregnant resurfaced. It took all the willpower that I had to restrain myself from imparting some home truths to this pathetic, scared man about what it means to give birth and to raise a child. I apologised profusely. For what? I’m not sure. I just knew that if he felt that he had the upper hand in this awful exchange I would  managed to get his signature and do what was best for my son. The one positive aspect of this ordeal was that I had sometimes doubted myself and the decisions that I had made while pregnant. Now, I am so relieved that this immature, selfish person has kept his distance and my son has a father who adores him dearly.

At the end of this horrible conversation, he said that he had sent the papers, so we should know within the next few days if this is true. At which point, the most difficult part of the process for us will be over. The social visits will be fine,as anyone could see how happy my son is with his loving, close knit family. Although I am emotionally battered and bruised after the nasty exchange, I know that I am doing what is best for my son.

Some may feel that by refusing to ask for maintenance and by following through with this adoption that I have let the biological father off too lightly. It is true that he never has, or ever will, take any responsibility for the pregnancy or for my son. I have endured a huge amount of pain, heartache, stress and sacrifice that he will never understand. But he will also never know the shining light that is my son.  He is a precious, beautiful person, and I am so lucky to know him. I am thankful that I get to be in his company every day, to love him and have him love me in return. It is the best feeling in the world. I have no doubt that he is the best thing that this man will ever have a hand in creating, and he was too much of a coward to realise and appreciate his presence.

We wait once again.

Informing The Birth Father: Part One

I have been quiet for the last few months despite there being plenty of activity around our adoption application. I think that I was perhaps a little superstitious, in that if I wrote about what was happening the result of most recent efforts might not be what we had hoped. Strange, but then so is Ireland’s stepparent adoption process. It has been incredibly difficult, and I am very, very angry. In my frustration I thought that perhaps I should abandon the blog. But having finally seen some lovely comments left by readers in a similar situation, I am encouraged by their bravery and commitment to their children to continue writing. If there are any others out there reading this, please connect if you feel comfortable in doing so. We need to keep talking about this.

Once we changed my son’s birth certificate, we submitted it to the HSE. We received a phone call saying that they had added the birth certificate to our file and that we were now officially through to the next stage. Fantastic, we thought. The expense, the inconvenience, and the stress of a third DNA test had finally brought us closer to securing our son’s future. We were more than ready to make some progress after handing in our original application over six months ago.

The next stage was informing the birth father.

This has to be done regardless of how much contact he has had with the child. In our case, there has never been any contact between my son and his biological father. In three years, the man has never asked his name, whether he is in good health or if he can provide any practical or financial support. They have never met. When I informed him that he was the birth father, he did not respond to my e-mail(his phone number was no longer in service when I tried to call). If I acted in the same way and refused to care for my child for three years my son would have been taken from me, placed with another family and I would have eventually lost all rights to him. But the birth father still has the right to be notified. He also has the right to halt the application and take the family to court for access and/or guardianship. It would mean dragging the process of adoption even further.

We asked when contact would be initiated as we had provided what contact details we had for the biological father in the application form . The social worker replied “Oh, there’s a waiting list to be allocated a social worker who will contact the birth father on your behalf. You’re looking at six months at the very least”. I didn’t shoot the messenger, but I made her very uncomfortable sobbing down the phone.  We would be trapped in the country until the process is done, my son would have no security with his dad if I were to die and this process did not serve my child’s best interests. She apologised but said that there was nothing she could do as they were understaffed.

Livid, my husband and I sat together that night and discussed our options. There had to be another way. There was. We just weren’t told about it. My husband rang again and this time spoke to a regional supervisor, who informed us that if we had the biological father sign the form ourselves, we would not have to be allocated a social worker. This would cut the six month waiting period for us. I had to fill in a form stating the nature of our relationship previous to my pregnancy, his current contact with my son and how much maintenance, if any, he paid. This form was quite bare for us.

Why on earth did the original phone conversation not result in us having this information? Why did we have to speak to a supervisor in order to find a better, faster alternative for our family? Surely each social worker working with the adoption board should be familiar with the rules and processes. It was very worrying and showed desperate lack of communication skills within the team. I wonder how many families have had to wait unnecessarily simply because their social worker did not impart useful information?

You can find the second part of this post here