To mark LGBT Foster and Adoption Week , here's a little about our adoption journey.
It began almost ten years ago. On a beach. On holiday. In Spain.
In 2005 the UK enacted legislation allowing same sex couples to apply to adopt children.
My husband Jay & I had been together for a number of years. We'd talked often about our view of family. One of the things that had drawn us together was a common view of what family was and what it meant to us both.
And so, lying on the beach in Spain, looking out to sea on neighbouring sun loungers, we spoke honestly and openly about our hopes to create a family of our own and agreed, once home, to investigate how we could work towards that goal.
The process of obtaining approval as prospective adoptive parents took over eighteen months. The questioning was rigorous, detailed and at times intrusive, but always we felt appropriate.
Approval came in the early Summer and by that autumn we had been matched with our son, then four, who had been removed from an abusive and violent family about a year beforehand.
Our son came to us scared, hurting, damaged by both his past with his birth family and his journey through the care system.
A transition week flew by, as we slowly assumed care for him from his foster parents and moved he and his (very few) belongings to our home.
Nothing prepares you for that first night with a child for whom you are entirely responsible. We were both terrified. Although our bedroom was just next door we set up a baby monitor in order that we could hear him in case he awoke. We expected he would wake, would be confused and would be frightened as he found himself in an unfamiliar bed and bedroom. We wanted to make sure we were there as quickly as we could be, to limit the fear and to reassure him if that were to happen.
We tried to sleep, but couldn't. Listening in to his room on the baby monitor wasn't enough for Jay. He moved to sleep on the landing outside our son's bedroom, while I lay awake listening in on the baby monitor. We both slept fitfully, Jay much less comfortably than me.
Of course, our son slept for twelve hours solid, so was bright and breezy the next day, while we got through it solely due to high caffeine intake.
We test ourselves regularly over our decision to adopt. Asking questions of ourselves about our motivation.
Was our decision to adopt purely for our own benefit? Were we so arrogant as to think that we could offer our children a stable and happy new family, when the 'family' we offered them was one so different to the traditional concept?
Who has creating our family really benefitted? Our children? Or is it that we are just fulfilling a desire for societal 'normality' that our sexuality wouldn't otherwise have offered?
Each time we come to the same conclusion.
Our son had an awful time through the first four years of his life. His birth family were abusive and neglectful to one another and to him. When he was taken into care he was placed in a foster placement that very quickly broke down and ultimately did more damage.
He had been a victim, that's beyond doubt. But he had also learnt from those experiences. He'd learnt how to manipulate a situation to his advantage. He'd learnt how angry and demanding behaviour was the only way to get attention. He'd begun to learn to be like his birth parents.
So whilst he desperately needed stability, love, tenderness, compassion, he also needed to unlearn many of the behaviours he had witnessed and considered normal. That meant boundaries and consistency. It meant being kind yet resolute.
We were able to set those limits. To provide both security and structure.
Figures show that in the UK one in five adoption placements break down. Anyone who adopts children faces challenges. Ours have perhaps been no different to most and, quite probably, much less than many. When reflecting about the last few years we feel that both being male added something intangible but still positive to the task we faced.
Our daughter was younger when she was taken into care. She carries less 'baggage' from the past. She can though be very challenging in her own right. The same still applies.
We won't know for many years, perhaps ever, if we have been successful. We do feel that both being male made this task somehow easier. That knowledge at least has provided an antidote for our own anxieties.
As a couple and as individuals we have been blessed with extraordinary lives. Jay has a very successful and well noted career in medicine. I have had a similar career in business and politics.
None of this has been as amazing and fascinating as adopting our children and building our unconventional (and rather dotty) family.
Families come in all shapes and sizes these days. Those with two Mums or two Dads are increasingly familiar. We have met with nothing but kindness, tolerance, support and, sometimes, admiration. The number of children needing new, loving, strong, stable 'Forever Families' grows daily.
Regardless of your sexuality, gender, colour or background if you're reading this, haven't yet taken the step towards considering adoption but think you may then please do so. The opportunity to change a life for the better is a blessing. My experience has been it will change your life immeasurably for the better too.