Nesting in our minds

There has been a lot of growing in the last month.

Hand-stitched Dad has been volunteering with me, and it has been lovely to share that with him. He really is a natural with the girls, way more than I was when I started. I may have a keen eye for observing and knowing people, but I need to practice relaxing and being in the moment. This is where hand-stitched dad puts me to shame.  I’m learning a lot from him and I wish he would post more often, as he is an inspiration.

We regularly chat about adoption. It’s starting to feel more real to both of us, along with the feeling that we really do have a say in all of this! It’s okay to voice what we want, what we hope for… I know it sounds baffling and obvious, but, after years of having our choices and our confidence taken away by infertility, it’s taken a bit of an adjustment.

I would say that the biggest achievement in the last month has been my sense of self-acceptance. Self-knowledge is great, but what worth is knowledge if you can’t accept it? I have to battle through a lot of bad experiences to get to a place where I feel genuinely accepted (where I genuinely accept myself). I’m starting to feel that way, and it is really paying off in my social life.

I like to think of this as “nesting in my mind” … preparing an emotional home for my future child. It is naturally selfish, as I am the first one to benefit from having emotional well-being. But other people benefit, too. I make no apologies for the time I invest in improving myself. Reading adoption forums makes you feel like social workers will reject you for any sign of weakness. And yet, I can think of nothing worse for traumatised children than a pathologically narcissistic parent!

Successful adoptive parents really do have a beautiful balance of humility and courage. The demands are so high. No wonder so many feel so inadequate so frequently. I’ve been a prospective adopter for years now, and I have deep empathy for adoptive parents. I have learned so much about myself from their journeys and struggles.  I hope this translates to resilience.

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Breakthroughs

After a long wait, I started cognitive analytical therapy this spring.  I have had a lot of different kinds of therapists over the last few years. Six, in fact. But don’t be put off by the number: the best indicator of success in therapy is the relationship between the therapist and you. Simply put: at any given time, you will always be you. Therefore, the therapist really, really matters. It may take a few to find the right one.

In this case, I feel like I have hit the jackpot. There is nothing special about this particular therapist. Or about this particular therapy. But I have lucked out, because it is the perfect therapy at the perfect time for me.

The structure of cognitive analytical therapy reduces my anxieties about the therapeutic process. This makes it easier for the therapist to challenge me during our sessions. I already feel like we have made significant progress.

Our goal is to develop strategies to improve my social skills. The method is to identify patterns in my thoughts, beliefs, feelings and behaviours, much like cognitive behavioural therapy. But cognitive analytical therapy goes a step deeper and also looks at our past experiences to understand why these patterns exist.

I was referred for this therapy because, well, I was kinda already doing it with myself.

Self-development is a huge priority for me. I come from inauspicious beginnings, but I don’t balk at a challenge. Even this last major wall (infertility) left me wondering, in my grief, just what I needed to scale it.

In this case, I needed more therapy. A new job. And friends.

The new job was easy to get. And now that I am settled, I love it. I work from home. I make my own hours. I make more money. I have more responsibility. It ticks so many boxes for me. I have even made some friends. I feel part of something. I feel like I am doing something essential for the community.

Yes!

Making friends has never been a problem either. I can charm the pants off people when I want to. That’s what you do, when you are used to moving around so much. You become good at first impressions: good at making first impressions and good at judging others.

Building friendships, on the other hand, is a baffling empire. The British, especially, do it with gusto. People seem to find friends and link arms for life. Infiltrating these networks (much less navigating them) has been a nightmare. Sometimes it feels like if you weren’t there at the beginning, you aren’t there at all.

Enter from stage left: Therapy.

The best thing about cognitive analytical therapy is that most of the work is up to me. The therapist facilitates the method, and his judgment is an essential ingredient, but the impact? The change? It is all up to me.

For a traumatised child, sometimes retaining that little bit of control can make a world of difference. I can already tell I am changing. I look forward to the person I will be later this year, when I begin preparation group training.

If we meet our goals, I will have less anxiety, more self-esteem, less perfectionist compulsions, and better social skills. Again, therapy will facilitate that, but the real work will be done in the field: making friends, building relationships, and being more of me.

…Breaking through the walls I have built myself, in order to build stairs instead.

Sharing the News

There couldn’t possibly be a more lovely and nurturing person alive than hand-stitched dad‘s aunt. She lost her hearing as an adult, following a car accident, and has responded to life’s challenges with absolute grace. Last time we visited, we told her about hand-stitched dad‘s upcoming surgery. Hand-stitched dad expressed regret that his aunt was left confused about the news while other family members asked us questions. When I asked him how he would like to tell his aunt and uncle about this news, he was adamant that his aunt should know first. We discreetly prepared a message on our iPad and waited for the right moment.

Hand-stitched dad says:

We drove down there. I was feeling nervous.  We chatted about the ‘normal’ stuff first and then we had traditional Sunday lunch. Hand-stitched mum wrote a message on our iPad: “We are applying to adopt.” We showed it to my aunt and I said we were planning on adopting. Then, we told my uncle. My aunt cooed excitedly and asked some questions.  Later, my aunt took me aside and asked me if I had wanted to adopt. I smiled and nodded.

Afterwards, we went to my cousin’s house to tell their family. This time, hand-stitched mum said we were applying to adopt. I can’t remember what they said — I was nervous!

I was less nervous than hand-stitched dad. His aunt and I spoke later; she asked quietly whether we could have kids. I looked at hand-stitched dad sitting across the room and smiled, shaking my head. She repeated herself throughout the evening: “It’s your decision.” I wondered if she thought we were asking them if we should adopt.

At hand-stitched dad‘s cousin’s house, the news was much simpler to give. I smiled around the room and said we had news to share. Our cousins smiled at us. When I said we were applying to adopt, my cousins paused. Their response was positive, but deflated and confused. I told hand-stitched dad later that they were probably expecting me to say pregnant.  Well, a child joins a family of many layers. It is a transition for all of us.

We have now told most of hand-stitched dad‘s family and none of mine.  He is more nervous about telling them than I am. We both agree what will happen: my parents will coo insincerely and nervously and then, after a few minutes of chit-chat, start asking absurd and inane questions. They may blurt out something inappropriate. And we will all itch for the awkward conversation to be over. Nothing against my parents, but they, like many people, need to be eased into things.

We are reassured that no matter what people’s responses are now, they will change when faced with our actual child rather than our plans.