Butterflies and Being an Irish Parenting Bloggers Finalist

I have been walking around today with a secret. It wasn’t a heavy, dark burden like those I used to carry with me before the adoption. This one gave me butterflies every time it sprung into my mind. Yesterday evening the finalists for the 2015 Irish Parenting Blogger awards were announced. My little blog, Adopting My Own Son, stood among four other writers for both the Most Inspirational Blog and Best Special Interest Blog. I had to read the words a few times over before I allowed myself to believe it. I was honoured, amazed and more than a little emotional.

These awards are judged by fellow peers, bloggers who I admire and who have pushed me to be a better writer and braver person over the past few years. When I first shared the existence of this blog with the group, their support and encouragement was overwhelming. It has almost been two years since I started writing about our progress and I still haven’t shared the blog with friends or family (apart from my husband, of course). I shared with the group a photo of our beautiful boy the day he was adopted because I felt such support and positivity emanating from their words every time I spoke about what we were going through. I have such respect for their opinions that to be considered by them for an award, never mind two, is an absolute honour. I had the privilege of being able to vote in the awards too and the standard was so incredibly high that some fantastic blogs that I love and read regularly did not get a place in the final. I consider myself very lucky to be a member of such a special group and I am so proud to display the IPB awards finalist badge on my page(top hand right of the home page!)

The downside of an anonymous blog is that instead of shouting from the rooftops that I had received such wonderful news, I had to keep quiet and carry on as normal! This blog will always remain anonymous because my son’s story and my own story are forever intertwined. He has the right to decide how much of his story he wants to share as he grows older. The purpose of this blog was to share my experience and give as much insider information as possible to families who are also going through stepparent adoption. It became a great space to heal and I am in a much better place now than when I had written my first post.

That internal darkness is getting steadily brighter and this gorgeous secret is another light in my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Child and Family Relationships Bill 2015

A few weeks ago a new bill was approved by the Irish government. It was the Child and Family Relationships Bill 2015. This was of particular interest to us because amendments to the adoption process were on the agenda for this bill. Although our adoption was made legal back in January, we were curious to see how things would be different had we only begun the process after the bill was introduced. It amounts to over one hundred pages and also covers assistive reproduction and surrogacy issues. The document itself is complex at times and I found the explanatory memorandum much easier to digest. Here are a few of changes that have been introduced to the adoption process since the bill has come into effect.

  1. Civil partners and co-habiting couples who have lived together for over three years are eligible to adopt. Previously only a single person or a married person could adopt a child (for both stepparent and intercountry adoption)
  2. The husband, civil partner or cohabiting partner of a parent can apply for guardianship if they have cared for the child for two years. This was not an option for my husband at the time of our application and its lack of availability was the driving force for our stepparent adoption. Although a step forward, there is an uncomfortable ambiguity with this aspect of the law. The guardianship has “limited rights” only concerns the “day-to-day” matters of a child. As a guardian, my husband would not have a say in the following scenarios: the right to make decisions on the child’s place of residence, the right to make decisions regarding the child’s religious, spiritual, cultural and linguistic upbringing,the right to decide with whom a child is to live, the right to consent to medical, dental or other health related treatment, the right to consent to the issue of a passport to the child and the right to place the child for or to consent to the child’s adoption.
  3. An unmarried father will automatically become the guardian of a child if they are living with the mother and playing an active role in raising the child. I think that this provision should have gone further to include unmarried fathers who are not living with the biological mother but can prove that they are actively taking on the responsibility of caring for the child over a considerable length of time.  The relationship between the parents should be made separate from the welfare of the child.
  4. Children’s views are now taken into consideration with regards to court proceedings on guardianship, custody and access. The court may consider the child’s best interests in the context of relationships, psychological, emotional and spiritual well being.  I thought that this was a given!

I was a little nervous that the changes made in the bill would have rendered the past two years pointless for our family. While I am delighted that there is some effort being made by the government to keep up with the modern Irish family, we are certain that we would have undergone the same process and adopted our son together anyway if the bill had come into effect earlier. While my husband would have gained certain guardianship rights after two years of caring for our son, he would legally have no voice when it came to the important aspects of our son’s upbringing. The bill also does not address the lack of involvement of an absent parent. A biological parent can still effectively abandon their child for years and apply for guardianship, access or custody if they have a change of heart. Stepparent adoption severs the rights of an absent biological parent and gives control back to the adoption applicants who are actively caring for the child.

I am deeply disappointed that the bill did not remove the need for a biological mother to adopt their own son. They could save hundreds of families so much heartache and stress if they made the necessary changes and addressed this bizarre and unfair law.

But when what would I write about? 😉

Our Adoption Story

As our son grows older, we want him to understand how he was created and what role each person played in bringing him into the world. Because he was so young when we undertook stepparent adoption we promised ourselves that we would always be honest and upfront with him about his origins.  We want him to understand that his biological father and I created him while his Daddy and Mammy are the people who have cared for him since birth. Our son loves reading so we decided to make a little storybook for him. We did stick figure drawings and wrote short sentences that we read to him every night. Within a few sittings he could tell us who made him, who made his little brother and who his parents were. Everything was presented in a positive, happy light. After the adoption we wanted a proper book that he could sift through during his childhood years and ask questions as they arose for him. Our artistic skills weren’t up to the task so a wonderfully talented young man named Thomas undertook the challenge. We sent him our scribbles and sketches and he sent us a beautiful depiction of our family’s story. With his permission I’d like to share a few of his intuitive images.

The story begins with two houses; mine and my husband’s as children. We explain how our parents looked after us when we were young. We use the terms ‘Nana’ and ‘Grandad’ so that our son will start making the connection. Then my husband and I are shown going to separate schools but still being best friends throughout.

The biological father gives me a “present” and my son grows in my tummy

We present my pregnancy as a wonderful present from the biological father. He then returns home and his part in the story is complete. We don’t explain why; at the moment no explanation is needed.

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Mammy and Daddy wait for the baby to arrive

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At home with the new baby

We bring our son home from the hospital and we describe all of the things we do to care for him (eg nappies, baths, walks, cuddles).

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Daddy, Mammy and our son wait for the little brother

In the next part of the story my husband gives me another present. This time it is a little brother. Again we take him home from the hospital, love him and care for him.

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Our family portrait

The final image is big brother and little brother playing on the see-saw together, a favourite pasttime in our house. Although this blog is anonymous, I can assure you that the likeness in these drawings is uncanny! We are forever grateful to Thomas to his sensitivity and talent in creating these gorgeous drawings for us.