This month we meet dads via adoption, Michael and Ian from Birmingham, UK. Michael and Ian adopted their son, DJ almost three years ago.
Welcome to Daddy & Dad! Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
I’m Michael (also known as 2Daddy), I’m an Early Years Consultant and my partner Ian (1Daddy) is an HR Director. We've been together 19 years.
Life was very different 19 years ago. Apart from being thinner with less grey hair and Ian actually having hair, we were both living and working in Barcelona as holiday reps. Due to the nature of our jobs and the amount of moving round you do, we were living together after only six months, starting in Tenerife. Marriage was not a thing then. We refer to ourselves as married and we wear rings, but it was a kind of 'do it yourself' thing in Barcelona.
Between then and now we've lived and worked in most of mainland Spain, Canary Islands, and Balearics as well as a few other places. We also spent a few years in London. Late nights, long days and traveling takes its toll so we decided to move back to my home town of Sutton Coldfield to become proper grownups with a house and everything. So at the grand old age of 40 and 46 we're now settled in Birmingham with a house, a cat, some fish and the most amazing little boy, DJ (he has just corrected me, he is a big boy!). DJ is fast approaching four years old and has been with us since he was 18 months. It’s amazing how life changes - if you had asked us 19 years ago, five years even, we wouldn’t have said we would be dads now.
How did you find the adoption process?
When people ask about the process I always say it was what it was. A means to an end. Speaking to other adopters, people have such different experiences. Yes it's intrusive, but it has to be to make sure the matching process is right. For us it was a long process, from the first call to meeting DJ it took nearly three years. Some parts move very fast then we had moments of nothing. Not particularly anyone’s fault, but it can be very frustrating. I’m a big believer in fate and if we had gone through as fast as some couples do now, we would not be dads to DJ.
I really enjoyed the training provided by our adoption service; it was our first opportunity to talk with other adopters going on the same journey and we have all managed to stay in contact. In fact I enjoyed it so much, I now train for the adoption service, helping prepare other adopters and sharing our experiences. Ian’s best part of the process was meeting DJ and getting to know all about him (I spent introductions a nervous mess!).
We were very lucky with our social worker, she was very experienced and extremely supportive - we managed to keep her through the whole process. Other adopters we met along the way had to face lots of changes including changes in agency social workers. That must have been very frustrating as you open your heart to them and share some of your most guarded secrets and experiences. I have to say it did take me a while to build a relationship with our social worker and I was very emotional after our first meeting. I was worried she didn’t get me, especially my dry sarcastic humour which I tend to use as a defence mechanism. But after a couple of one-to-one meetings and some very open conversation we bonded over a cup of tea and a shared joy of fairy lights.
After that it was hard to shut us up. This probably just added to Ian’s frustration of the whole process as he likes things to move along at a quick pace.
How did you get on at the Adoption Panel?
Panel seems a bit of a blur now. I was very nervous, but we managed to get through it. In total it took about 40 minutes - the panel was very supportive and tried to put us at ease. Our social worker had prepared us very well and guessed correctly what question they would probably have so we were ready with our answers. Ian allowed me to take the lead, but questions were directed at both of us, based on our assessment report.
The period of time after panel was a bit surreal; it's like you have just been told you are pregnant, but don’t start preparation as you may be pregnant for a month, but it could be years. You go from excitement to limbo in a very short space of time.
Did you know you wanted a son right from the beginning?
"We were absolutely having a girl. No Boys!! What would we do with a boy??? "
As part of the training process you're challenged to write about your ideal child. We wrote things like 'twins', 'blond hair', 'pig tails' - we went the whole way with a stereotype.
At Adoption Panel we were actually approved for a girl or a sibling group as we thought we wanted two children. Along the way things change - matches aren’t right and your heart becomes more open.
After a year of waiting we decided to widen our search to boys. We were handed DJ’s profile two days later and we knew straight away he was the one. We hadn’t even seen a picture, but we knew. I still feel amazed how well the three of us fit together. It’s like we have always been.
How did your extended families take to your son? Are your parents hands-on?
Our families have been great - we couldn’t ask for more. Everyone was very very excited for us, after they got over the shock! DJ has just slipped into family life as though he has always been there and is very loved by all our family. We are incredibly lucky.
My parents see DJ regularly. They can’t be as hands-on as they would like to be because of their age but they do spend lots of time with him. Our sisters help out when they can - one of my sisters and nephew went on some training before DJ was placed with us to help them understand some of the challenges we may face.
What are your experiences of Primary School or nursery? How's DJ getting on?
We are just about to start looking at schools ready for next September. I hope they are ready for us. DJ has been very lucky with his nursery. I knew where I wanted him to go, even if it meant waiting for a place. Also Ian knew it was the right place after an unplanned visit. It was important for us that DJ went to a nursery that understood his needs, had experience of working with children who have been in care, understood attachment and could adapt to our needs.
You would be surprised how little nurseries know about early trauma and attachment; something I am on a mission to change. DJ attends an open-plan nursery - this means he has one Key Person for his whole time at nursery. This is incredibly import for us due to some of his early experiences. Most nurseries move children from room-to-room as they grow.
DJ also has access to the outdoors all year round no matter what the weather and has forest school sessions. Outdoors is where he is at his best and it meets his needs well. We often arrive at nursery to find him up a tree or in the mud kitchen. The nursery are also very supportive of us as a same-sex couple and have recently challenged some negative comments that had come from another family at the nursery.
Have you taken any family holidays together?
We have been away a few times. We tend to take short breaks rather than long family holidays. DJ struggles being away from home so we do four days max. Holidays are currently a compromise of my wants and desires and Ian’s. Our ideal holidays are opposite ends of the spectrum. We also need to take into account DJ’s needs, but we have had some great adventures. My ideal holiday is camping; Ian’s is a 5 star hotel and a plane ride. So we have been enjoying some of the Hoseasons sites. They cater for all our needs; we can be as busy or lazy as we want and are not too far away from home. Although it means on holiday we have visitors in the shape of grandparents and aunties!
Our first trip away with DJ was a family holiday over New Year. DJ had been with us for three months so this was the first time he'd spent any sustained time with family. It was amazing!! We had two log cabins in Devon - it was like a movie on the Christmas Channel.
What do you like to do in your spare time as a family?
Spare time, what’s that?? Our down time is often spent with family and friends. We are entertaining fanatics. Thankfully DJ loves a party and because we don’t get out as much as we used to, we built a bar in the back garden and bought a big hot tub!
More seriously, we are still finding our way - becoming a family is such a life changing thing so we are rediscovering ourselves, holding on to some things we have always done, but also letting go and trying new things, especially as DJ has changed so much since we first met.
We swim when we can and we've bought bikes this Summer. My first bike since I was 13 which was a shock! We also love an adventure when we can, so will often disappear in the car to find somewhere new to explore.
What one piece of advice would you give to people who are considering a family via adoption?
"Be open minded, be honest, be yourself and just go for it."
If you decide it's not for you after you have started the process that’s OK.
If you're an LGBTQ parent (or soon-to-be parent) at any stage of the family planning process and would like to share your story with us, please get in touch here.