Adopting as a single mum was hard – but the best thing I’ve ever done

For National Adoption Week, one woman shares her experience of adopting on her own during lockdown

National Adoption Week single mum adopting lockdown

by Grazia |

23rd March 2020 is a date that will forever be imprinted in so many people’s memories as the day Boris Johnson declared the start of the first Covid lockdown in the UK. For me, there’s another reason why I’ll never forget the announcement from the Prime Minister that day.

Just days before, I’d been approved as a match to adopt a little boy, George*, and our first introduction had been set for 25 March. I was prepared mentally and the house was ready for George, and I’d finished work ready to start my adoption leave. Then to suddenly have everything put on hold with no idea when things might proceed was just heartbreaking.

I’d started the adoption process at the end of 2018 with Coram, an adoption agency working across London. I’ve always wanted to be a mum and assumed I’d meet someone, get married and have children. But it didn’t turn out that way for me. Relationships hadn’t worked out and when I hit 40, I realised that my desire to become a mum was much stronger than my desire to meet a partner.

It’s wonderful that there are so many options out there now for people to start a family, and adoption was already on my radar because my sister and a close friend had also recently adopted. Seeing them go through it gave me the confidence to think I could do it too and I was really encouraged by the diversity of other prospective adopters I met through Coram. I felt welcomed as a single adopter.

My application proceeded to Stage 2 of the adoption process in early 2019. This is the part where they get to know you more, and at the end of it your social worker will present a report on you to the Independent Adoption Panel. I found this part of the process quite intense, and almost like therapy. I think my social worker knows more about me than my closest friends. You don’t have anyone to bounce off as a single adopter and every session is just you talking about every aspect of your life. But at no point did I question my decision.

Once I was approved as an adoptive parent later that year, I had honest conversations with my social worker to understand the type of child I could be the best parent to. When you read children’s profiles you want to adopt them all and feel guilty saying no, but my social worker was brilliant at helping me understand the children’s needs and what I could and couldn’t cope with as a single adopter.

I remember the day I read George’s profile. I just knew straight away that he was the right child for me, but I tried not to get too excited. Despite this, everything looked to be on track in early 2020 when I was approved as a match and I was all set to bring him home, but the pandemic had other ideas.

Despite the huge uncertainties of what would happen next, with the support of my social worker and George’s foster family, I was able to use this time to get to know George virtually. I recorded videos of myself singing nursery rhymes and reading books for him so he could get to know me. His foster parents sent me lovely videos of George clapping for carers. My employer was understanding of the situation, and I was able to delay my adoption leave and continue my job from home.

Then, as the government announced that lockdown restrictions would be gradually easing over the summer, Coram looked at ways the adoption could progress. Following a week of isolation, and with safety measures in place, I was finally able to meet George.

It was an incredibly special day. When I met him at the front door of his foster home, I noticed a flicker of recognition, so I think the videos really helped. And after a week of introductions, George finally came home.

Some of the lockdown measures had eased by this point but there were still some restrictions that brought both benefits and challenges. It helped us bond because it was just the two of us most of the time. We met family members over video calls, with my parents reading George stories. But all the clubs and groups I’d wanted to take George to were closed – there was no soft play, no swimming. The later introduction of ‘support bubbles’ were a huge help, and I was so grateful to have help from family, especially as George wasn’t sleeping well at that time and I was exhausted.

The bonding process can take time and the best piece of advice I was given, by my friend who is also an adoptive parent, was ‘don’t worry if you don’t love them straight away’. I struggled to say the word ‘son’ for a while. But love grows over time and now I couldn’t love anyone as much as I love George. He’s 100% my son.

I’m so proud that he’s coming on leaps and bounds. He’s a happy little boy and doing well at nursery, which is reassuring to see. It’s also great to see his close relationship with his cousin – my sister’s little boy who is also adopted – and knowing he’ll have that support as he grows up.

If you’re a single person thinking about starting a family, adoption is a great option to explore. I think there’s still a stigma around being single, but my experience showed me I can do it. It can, of course, be incredibly hard and lonely at times. I’ve got to know other single adopters and have found that building connections with people who understand what you are going through to be a big support.

Despite all the challenges I’ve faced along the way, it’s all been completely worth it. George has given me the best gift in the world – he’s made me a mum. We are a family and it’s wonderful.

*names have been changed

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