woman and baby

By the time I was 21, I knew that if I was going to have a child of my own I would want to adopt (Picture: Getty)

We’ve bought the pram, the high chair and the car seat.

The dinosaur-themed nursery is ready and we’ve kitted it out with sensory lights and a box full of colours, textures and noisy things to explore.

That’s because my partner, Simon*, and I will – hopefully – be adopting our soon-to-be son in November. He is one year old, has Down syndrome, and is the most beautiful little boy, with the biggest smile.

It’s been a long time in the making. Simon and I first applied to become adopters in late 2018 but we’ve wanted to adopt for years. 

I’m an adoptee myself although I didn’t find out until I was 15 – I was listening behind a door while my parents were having a row about needing a copy of my birth certificate ahead of my confirmation, and what they were going to tell me.

It was quite a shock and my parents initially gave me very little information. 

My birth certificate led me to my biological nan, and after a conversation with her, my adoptive parents took me down to meet my birth mum when I was 19. We kept in contact with letters for a few years but lost touch. I found out that she had died when another birth relative wrote to invite me to the funeral. 

I struggled with being adopted as a teenager but when I look back now, I know that my parents held back because they didn’t know any different; no one talked about ‘identity’ or shared a child’s birth story in those days, it wasn’t malicious. 

By the time I was 21, I knew that if I was going to have a child of my own I would want to adopt.

Around the same time I saw a documentary about the treatment of children with disabilities in Romanian orphanages; they were tied and left in their cots all day, because people didn’t really know how to support them. 

I remember thinking, ‘this can’t be OK’ and from that point on I always envisaged myself adopting a child with a disability, particularly Down syndrome. I had already started working with adults and kids with disabilities and met Simon at work.

We were both in relationships with other people so initially we were just friends, but after we’d both split up with our previous partners, we went on a dog-walk one day and chatted about life. 

Simon told me that he really wanted to adopt a child with Down syndrome – I couldn’t believe it because that was exactly how I pictured my child. It was a lightning bolt moment for both of us and we got together not long after.

That was six years ago; we’re now married and Simon has easily slotted into my busy household as I have three teenagers from a previous relationship. When we spoke to my kids about adopting a child with disabilities, they all said that we would be perfect for it. 

It was so hard – so hard – to show an interest in only one child when there were so many that needed a forever home. There were three children with Down syndrome we were looking at – two boys and a girl.

Although we would happily have had any of them, I always imagined Simon kicking a football around with a boy, particularly because most of the children at our work are boys.

There were more medical complications with one of the lads than the other and, actually, the local authority weren’t sure if adoption was the right thing for him. So we knew which child we wanted to be matched with, and the social workers agreed.

We already felt a connection to this little boy that’s hard to explain.

So far we’ve only met our son-to-be on video call due to Covid-19, but he’s an absolutely gorgeous child who has waited so long too

We’re aware of the extra care a child with Down syndrome will need. Children with the condition tend to have a lot of medical complications, as well as low muscle tone so physical development is very delayed.

Our son will need a lot of medical appointments, will probably go to a special needs school, and we’ll get support from speech and language specialists, occupational therapists and physios. 

Our own expectations for him might be slightly different to other adopters have for their children. He’s probably going to live with us for much longer and won’t go to university and might not be able to drive but our aim is for him to be happy, and we will celebrate all his achievements and help him learn skills for life.

There’s every reason to believe that this little boy will grow up to be an amazing human being with lots and lots to give back. We just want to have him now.

Adopting a child is meant to take six months, but for us it’s been a lot longer as the process is so massive. There’s criminal record checks for me, Simon and all my children; the local authority wants to see work references and we have to fill out a lot of paperwork.

We’ve gone on a preparation course for adopters, the whole family were interviewed and we’ve had to save a few thousand pounds because adopters should be able to pay their mortgage even if they lose their jobs, and to have a year off on adoption leave. I’ve also had counselling to make sure I had come to terms with being adopted myself.

It’s all been worth it as we have met some of the kindest social workers and fellow adopters on our preparation course, and they have become friends for life.

Ideally we would have started the process earlier, but I got pregnant – which I didn’t expect at 44 – and subsequently had a miscarriage. Local authorities don’t want you to start anything until you’ve had time to process all of that.

Then my dad passed away, so we took a further six-month break. We’ve been unlucky but we’ve always known that we’ll be ready at the right time for the right child.

So far we’ve only met our son-to-be on video call due to Covid-19, but he’s an absolutely gorgeous child who has waited so long too – and that makes us want him even more. 

We have one more matching panel to get through, which is very similar to the approval panel, but apart from his family finder and his social worker, it will be conducted by a different group of people.

They’ll be asking us about why we feel this little boy is right for us, how we feel we can meet his needs and what we can offer him as a family. Hopefully that will be the last hurdle before he can come home.

You can never say to someone, ‘Oh, I’m just adopting’, because it’s never ‘just adopting’.

It’s quite a process; you have to talk about anything and everything, and the waiting is really, really hard; you simply don’t know how long it will go on for. But none of that is even significant now because we’re going to be so lucky to have this little lad. 

I hope our story will make people consider adopting children with disabilities. There are lots waiting longer to find a home. It makes me incredibly sad.

We can’t wait to meet our little boy – he’s certainly worth the wait.

*Names have been changed

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Adoption Month

Adoption Month is a month-long series covering all aspects of adoption.

For the next four weeks, which includes National Adoption Week from October 14-19, we will be speaking to people who have been affected by adoption in some way, from those who chose to welcome someone else’s child into their family to others who were that child.

We’ll also be talking to experts in the field and answering as many questions as possible associated with adoption, as well as offering invaluable advice along the way.

If you have a story to tell or want to share any of your own advice please do get in touch at [email protected].

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