Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Mr Spouse got his annual Christmas cold and kindly passed it on to me when he was finished with it. Hence I cannot breathe properly and didn't sleep well last night. Although I didn't actually strangle my mother, when this morning she asked what was happening with a rubbish bin and I was in the middle of my shoulder exercises and said "it would be helpful to empty it into the other one" and she told me not to treat her like a servant, and then when Mr Spouse asked her to do the same and she did it, you may understand why I am repeating my usual Christmas mantra:

"Extended family is God's reward for having to be related to your immediate family".

And my extended family are mainly jolly nice. One of my aunts wins Olympic prizes for weirdness and stinginess and another uncle and his wife for having the most dangerous house in the world to eat/sleep/live in (mainly due to salmonella risk), and another aunt still thinks we are all 9 and refusing to eat sprouts, and if we don't, reminds us of when we did. But when you have 12 cousins and 5 blood uncles/aunts and almost as many by marriage, you have to hit lucky with a few of them - and I have. My youngest uncle is writing our family adoption reference; his middle child (just a teenager) thinks Mr Spouse is highly hilarious so perhaps we should get him to write it.

Both my mother (gratefully, in fact) and my brother did eventually acknowledge our desire to tick a childcare experience box and we were In Charge on Sunday from (more or less) child-up to child-down (I let my mum get them up). We only had one tantrum (niece 2) and 3 whining sessions (niece 1). No screaming whatsoever at bedtime and both of them managed to sleep in a bed without either parent, and to go to bed when told by an adult, not waiting to decide for themselves when they wanted to go to bed. They are 6 and 3 by the way. I am not sure how long my brother has before the older one notices it is weird to share a bed with your parents.

(Top "aww" moment - we were sleeping at my dad's and the family were basically convening at or just after breakfast and then parting after dinner/at bedtime each day - on our last day niece 2 charged in the door and saw me in the living room, not good enough apparently, she demanded to know where Mr Spouse was and charged off to see him instead. He has a slightly difficult name to pronounce - many children ask what he's called several times - and before this visit she hadn't seen him for about 18 months - so, when she was very tiny - but he had become a firm favourite very quickly).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Oh dear

We are off to my dad's tomorrow for Christmas (he lives the other side of the town I grew up in to my mum, they are divorced but get on OK if dad's new woman is not around, which she isn't at the moment) tomorrow and I was looking forward to it but now I am starting to become very apprehensive.

I spoke to my nieces on the phone last night and the older one was very sweet ("oh, you are staying at Grandpa's? Oh. Will you maybe come to Granny's to see us?") and I'm looking forward to seeing them but as usual my mother has rather overplanned (this is of course where I get it from) and Mr Spouse will get very stressed with all the together time (having no siblings and only 1 cousin his age, he is not used to The Hordes). And everyone else (brother, sister-in-law, other relatives) is very relaxed about timekeeping and this sends my mother round the bend. And my dad has supposedly upgraded his spare beds but we are not convinced they will be sleepable on.

And... we have been saying for months to both my mum and my brother that we'd REALLY like my older niece to come and stay when we come back home after Christmas, and my mum initially said "good idea" and my brother said absolutely nothing (which is precisely what he and niece said when I asked whether she'd got her birthday present, too), and I didn't ask my niece yet because she can be a bit shy and I haven't seen her for over a year.

But now my mum is acting as if it will all be TOO inconvenient for her, she does not want to look after the younger one if brother and sister-in-law want to go away on their own (they are borrowing our holiday flat), I don't think it would be a good idea for us to take both (the younger one doesn't really know us, as I say we haven't seen them for over a year and she is only 3 so that's a long time), and my mum doesn't want to come and pick my niece up (and since we'll have done the whole journey twice already we don't really want to do a quick-turnaround drop-off, so we offered an overnight for my mum but she's already booked something on the best day for that, which she didn't tell us was that day).

This is all very complicated and moany, but we were kind of hoping to have niece to stay mainly because we really like her and get so see so little of her, but also as adoption-related experience - we can't really ask friends to lend us their children overnight despite what social workers would like to believe. Our SW is very positive and doesn't seem to think we need to bolster our experience, but I would like to get the experience myself and I think niece would have a good time. And if we say this to the family they will either say "social workers are mad, how can they make you jump through these hoops, you should refuse" (yeah, you just try that with social workers) or, probably, just get all negative about the whole idea of adoption.

And in other adoption-related business, we have to find a nice, natural photo of the two of us for the agency (I don't know if this will actually serve any purpose as we'll do a whole set of photos and a letter for our proper profile with the agency later) and we have been instructed No Alcohol in the photo, but if we could get some decent photos of us with the girls that would be fabulous. The main decent photographer though is Mr Spouse and again, having to explain that we need loads and loads of photos from which we may be able to use one or two, and get people to keep taking them in casual situations (most of my family think photos should involve standing still, staring into the camera, wearing special clothes, grinning madly and preferably having redeye), and again not give up and say "why on EARTH do you need so many photos? surely that one of you in front of the Christmas tree in the nice red jumper I made you will do?" will be, er, challenging.

Now before my sentences get any longer, I will go and do something else. Lament the icing sliding down the sides of my Christmas cake, I suspect.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The four members of the triad...

It's been a very interesting fortnight.

N. My fellow Brownie leader. She's only 7 years older than me but claims to be "feeling her age". While I do feel my age a little (frankly, I was never a clubber, I only pretended), I really hate it when people say that who are under, say, 70. Anyway, she's a lovely lady, very good with the girls and a good person to do this with. Turns out she is a grandmother and the grandson is the child of the daughter she relinquished when she was 19. I only found this out about 10 days ago and have not let on about our plans. She has met her daughter as an adult - she has two other children who have also met her - she met "my daughter's Mum" before she sadly died of cancer but the Dad does not want to know, and recent efforts to contact birth dad to get a medical history have proved fruitless. Anyway, interesting, and seems definitely open enough that I can talk about stuff later when I have news.

J. Lovely lovely friend from my favourite forum (except when I'm being slagged off for saying Absolutely Anything About Parents, even jokingly, as You Can't Possibly Know Anything). Adopted herself and has two older siblings who were adopted, one of whom was not voluntarily relinquished and over whom there was a bit of a court battle. One younger "mistake" birth child of her parents as they call him in the family. She has met her "natural mother" as she refers to her, and her half-siblings - one of whom died of liver failure. Very pleased to be out of that family, she says, and a total argument for nurture I'd say.

Although I do know quite a few adoptive parents, I've not had any unexpected or unusual encounters recently but I did meet both J and E for lunch the other day. E is also a lovely lovely friend (well, as she comments here, I can't say much else, can I?) but she is sister to an adopted brother who, again, now as an adult (I think - can't quite remember his age) has contact with a birth sibling who lives round the corner. Obviously there are loads of other people affected by adoption, but we've been thinking about relatives who are not the adoptive parents (in our case grandparents - in her case siblings) and how they are affected by it. Short book review to follow, also (short review but also short book).

Although I'm not 100% sure about N., talking to E. and J. gave me a really positive feeling. As with our last SW chat, it actually feels like we might be able to plan for parenthood this time.

On that note, I have just put in my promotion paperwork. All of the senior women I have talked to seem to be the "work part time through maternity leave and then come back at 4 months" variety. I think that is probably a group that will never really "get" adoption and how it might be different (for a start, I've waited so bloomin' long I want to enjoy it!) but one encouraging very senior colleague who normally seems very anti-having-a-life said that she went back to work full time and worked 9-5 and then stopped. It is very tempting in my profession to put things off, work in the evenings etc. but it's nice to see even dragons think you should have evenings off. This is actually in contrast to a couple of colleagues who are mothers who say it is essential to work after the children are in bed so was a very helpful observation.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Another SW session - again quite relaxing though lengthy - you'll have to get your fix of posts now as there won't be much after we finish the home study.

This time it was about Us. I think we are used to talking about Us - mainly when I read a tale of someone's thoughtless/cheating/scumbag other half on my favourite forum, and don't bother posting a smug reply, but thank my lucky stars and mention to Mr. Spouse how lucky I am that he doesn't do X, Y or Z (whereupon he usually says "Oops, didn't I tell you?". The wag). Apparently a couple of times she has had people separate after, having ignored the problem, talking about their relationship made them realise it was going nowhere.

We have a break now till January before which we have to produce:
A family tree each (me: 11 cousins. Him: 2)
A chronology of our life so far (places lived, jobs, schools. Me: average stay in one place about 4 years. Him: hadn't moved over 5 miles from his place of birth till I whisked him to the other end of, er, the county. Me: 3 schools, 2 universities, 6? 8? jobs. Him: 2 schools, one job.)
Brief account of each of our childhoods (he'll have to think back a bit further)
Financial statement (just a month's worth - that's Mr Spouse's job though!)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Miss Manners

I just love Miss Manners (probably because I am etiquette-challenged). She has a letter about adoption this week. I do think that she has an extremely good point - removing your child from a potentially damaging situation is probably the way to go. I expect when their child is older, though, they (like parents of children who are conspicuously different in race) will have to reassure or educate their child about the ignorant and rude people. Or do people stop making rude and ignorant comments when they think the child can understand? I somehow doubt it.

Anyway, I had my "solo" SW interview yesterday. As with Mr. Spouse's, I get the impression some of the questions the SW thinks are helpful and some are "just there because they have to be". She's also quite good about saying "you don't have to give me any details if you don't want to" and seems to understand that my family are, indeed, mad; it's not normal to go to family events that your ex-husband is at but only if his new partner is not there, nor to go to elaborate lengths in trying to find out if she is there. Nor is it normal to enrol your children in music lessons, and greet an offer from your mother to buy a suitably-sized instrument with "I hope you don't think buying an instrument means she's going to play this for ever". And neither is it normal to take the huff when you ask to arrive for a visit on Thursday afternoon and are told that your host/daughter has quite a bit of work to do on Friday and was hoping to work from home, so please could you arrive on Friday afternoon instead.

But she's absolutely right, I do resent the fact that getting pregnant and having children seems to be really easy for everyone else and particularly that my brother was disappointed when he found out their second child was also a girl.

I didn't spot any tissues in her bag and I think I will lay some in for future sessions.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

More pieces of paper

9. Reference form with two friends (one each) and one relative (not my mother, you won't be surprised to hear!)
10. Second reference/personal details form with employer (current - knows about plans) and employer (past - will probably be a bit non-plussed), and volunteer "employer", well, which one? Out of three Guiding District Commissioners and about 8 Guiders I've run Brownies or Rainbows with? If asked to pick, it will be the one that knows about the last miscarriage, and is very motherly, but not too much older than me.
Just about to fill in:
11. CRB form

(still haven't got money sorted for 7. and 8. CA and FBI have taken money for 5. and 6. but have not sent us anything. Where's the eye-roll smiley when you need it?)


We are going to need to face the fact that we have to tell our families about the adoption process. Very much not looking forward to it - not just the negative attitudes I expect from some quarters, but frankly the indifference I expect from others (e.g. my brother who has mentioned once in 5 years the miscarriages - even my dad has engaged more). Mr Spouse's mother is a bit less problematic as she'll forget what we told her anyway...

So, we were talking today about a large heirloom piece of jewellery we have in the bank. We pay a fair bit to keep it in there, plus insurance (which would be so much higher if it was in our house so it's worth keeping it there). The value of this piece of jewellery is more as a "replacement" than we could get for it by selling it, but we could still get a fair bit. In fact, we could get an amount approaching what we are paying the UK agency. I never wear it and never will.

So I feel I may have an opening with my mother (whose family it came from)... Can we sell your grandma's jewellery to pay for our adoption?

(Incidentally, if anyone on the US open adoption side ever stops by this blog, I'd really appreciate ideas of grandparent books to introduce her to the concept... thanks)

Monday, November 23, 2009


Although I know my visitor rate is not exactly massive, some of you may have spotted a very weird comment over the last day or so. Sadly I can't moderate only anonymous comments so I've removed the option for anonymous comments. I believe that this means Typepad/Wordpress people can still comment without registering for an evil Blogger account.

In other news, after Mr Spouse's session last week we had A Bit of a Misunderstanding but we are all sorted out now, and in consequence, quite a lot poorer having paid a large chunk of money to the agency. Coal and satsumas for Christmas for us, I think.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Mr Spouse had his individual session with the social worker today - he reports that it took an hour and a half, and he missed out a couple of sections (on siblings - as he has none - and on close friends, which is fairly typically male, I think, as close male friends do have a tendency to meet up for a drink every two years and grunt "yeh, got married, yeh, trying to have kids, yeh, no luck yet".

So that suggests my individual session (thankfully all the rest will be joint) will be even longer. Will make coffee beforehand. Our social worker though very lovely and friendly is missing one crucial social worker characteristic, at least as I understand them - she refuses all offers of tea and biscuits.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My flabber...

...is well and truly ghasted.

I was due to have a phone meeting with a PhD student yesterday morning; she is in her home country (in the tropics) doing fieldwork, and I have a week-long supervision visit with her in 4 weeks' time. I rang the switchboard at the unit where she works only to be told she had delivered a baby girl in the night.

Now initially I was very worried the baby was very premature because a) she had not told me anything about it, b) she had not appeared at all pregnant when I saw her in June (nope, sorry, it was early July), c) she was clearly planning to be fully functioning next month and d) SHE HAD NOT TOLD ME ANYTHING ABOUT IT.

Today I found out that no, the baby was 2 days early, but clearly not outside the realm of possibility. So she was planning, apparently, according to her boss (her work supervisor - she is a research assistant at the unit) to work part-time for a month and for that to be her maternity leave, and to come back full time in time for my visit.

I find myself in an incredibly awkward situation - completely leaving aside the personal feelings which this brings up.

The travel (very expensive travel) is paid for and the ticket is I think non-refundable. I paid for it but the unit is supposed to be refunding me. I am extremely uncomfortable about going. This student has a history of over-reaching, of saying she'll do something and circumstances getting in her way. This is her third child, and she did only take 6 weeks maternity leave with the previous two (common in her country), but at this point things could still go wrong, I know she will be breastfeeding, and I don't want to go for a week's visit and find myself unable to do any work, nor do I want to be left with the bill for the ticket, or no other time to go and supervise her fieldwork (which needs doing at some point).

Students have a limited period of time in which to complete their theses. A student with a very similar project, but much better writing skills, and no new baby, just finished hers - only a couple of months short of the maximum. If students take longer than this, there are sanctions - for the student, yes, but for the department and the supervisor. As I said, this student has a history of not being realistic. It leaves me open to potentially being removed from the list of possible supervisors. Which would be A Very Bad Thing. It would take a couple of students in this situation to have this happen, but one is more than zero.

But I'm not her employer (this is a relatively common situation, where a student is employed to do research, the employer allows them to do a PhD and pays their fees). One of the things that boggles my mind is that her boss allowed her to just carry on and not tell me about the pregnancy. And it worries me too - as if I say she has to take a break in her PhD, her sponsor has to agree, and they seem to be saying "whatever floats your boat, we're happy to make you work hard if you want to".

I am feeling very taken advantage of. I know I am going to have to put my foot down about something. I have already given some supervision time to this project before the student was enrolled with us - normally this wouldn't happen - and I've been asked by a similar student in the same area to be an "adviser" even though again she won't enrol with us. This is all very difficult as - although of course this should make no difference, and financially it does not, I am not "rewarded" for such supervision by my employer in terms of it being an official part of my workload. I can, of course, and do, collaborate informally with other senior colleagues - but this is somewhat different. But it makes me look unfriendly, and being friendly is the way to get productive collaborations, and students who actually enrol, and people to write grants with you. And I cannot really afford to appear unfriendly to colleagues, but I cannot afford to appear to be a pushover to my students.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And so it goes

It is looking even more likely that I'll need the manipulation under anaesthetic. But can I be very wicked and say how I was actually pleased I'd need 2 weeks off work to spend every minute doing my exercises? Work does not please me at the moment.

(Although I had quite a good lecture today, a newly constructed lecture which is always a bit nerve-wracking, on Down Syndrome which is also something relatively new to my research, and I managed to shock the class with the 90% termination rate for pregnancies with DS which I quite like doing, sick I know but it is a fact that I feel is brushed under the carpet, and I also used my Brown Owl Powers for good in spotting the two know-it-alls in one group and talking over them for a bit and resolving to split them up next time.)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Not waving, but drowning

Cliched, I know, but I'm not doing very well and can't think outside cliches. I feel bad for moaning when so many other people are doing much worse, either because of really horrible things happening in their lives or because of serious ongoing issues. I think with me it is just a bunch of stuff and it is all getting on top of me. I am sorry, but this is going to be long and self-indulgent.

My shoulder is better, but nowhere near as good as it should be. I have probably 2/3 of the movement I should do in the forwards and sideways directions but only about 25% backwards. I can't do up my bra, it's challenging to zip clothes up on that side, and to tie wrap tops. I will probably never be able to do up my bra in place. Never. I still can't drive as it is very painful to get into 2nd or 4th gear (and a little sore holding the steering wheel, though that would be OK mooching round town).

I am still having physio but she has suggested I don't go twice a week for manipulation (yay!) but instead do more exercises on my own. I had been doing about 15 minutes, 3 times a day, which is preceded by taking a high dose of ibuprofen and warming my shoulder with a heat pack for a further 15 minutes. It's painful and time consuming but do-able and gives me an excuse to sit down in front of some crappy TV 3 times a day.

I was given some pulleys to use and the physio then suggested I start using them in the middle of the day, at work. I work in a 1970s building and they do not fit over the doors at work. But now the physio wants me to do at least something - preferably the pulleys, but that just isn't possible - every hour, as my shoulder apparently stiffens up if left immobile for even that short time. I have been trying to do this for the last week, I find it nigh impossible to coordinate with meetings, travel, setting my phone alarm but then going out of the room but I have been doing my best. As far as I can tell it is not making my shoulder more mobile - just more painful.

And that's another moan. I've been given very large amounts of ibuprofen and a low dose of codeine. I have been taking most of the ibuprofen as I also had some finger tingling, likely caused by inflammation in my arm. That has almost gone, and I'm running out of ibuprofen again, and am starting to get worried that I'm getting an acid stomach. I have to take the ibuprofen after food, and I always seem to end up at the right time to take the pills, but not the right time to eat, and as I say my stomach is not too happy. I have been avoiding taking the codeine. I started taking it at night because it makes me sleepy, but found that if I skip it, it is harder to sleep. This may be psychosomatic as it is a tiny dose, but I am paranoid about it (and don't want to fall asleep at work/in the cinema/on the bus, if I take it earlier in the day. I do take it before physio if I'm having manipulation, but after that I go home and groan anyway). So I'm worried I'll have to stop taking anything that actually works.

I am very likely to need a manipulation to my shoulder in a few months' time, under general or local anaesthetic. And frankly I am beginning to wonder if there is any point in doing the exercises if I'm only going to need the manipulation anyway.

And and and... sitting at my desk makes my shoulders hurt - in a different, new place. I am getting very little work done (though my office is quite tidy since I get up and move stuff around quite often, except of course when I sit at my desk saying to myself "shoulders hurt... get up... no... just look at blogs... forums... Facebook... hence spending more painful, but massively unproductive, time at my desk). I've managed I think ONE day starting at 9.30 and lasting past 5pm in the last month, and two where I got in before 9 and stayed past 4.30. All the other days have been 9.30-10am start, long lunch, go home at 4pm.

And I need to get a promotion in the next 18 months. Very badly. I need to be earning more when I go on adoption leave so I'm not trying to fight for it when on leave/working part time, and because Mr Spouse is likely to be on a new graduate salary at that point. And I've put in I think 5 grants in the last year and 4 have been rejected (and we haven't heard about the other one). I'm basically treading water at the moment, no grants or papers being submitted, just fire-fighting. I am normally a bit of a slacker, but I think I work in a more condensed manner than some people, plus I'm rude to students, so they don't bother me too much. So normally I'd get some of this kind of thing done in term time, which many colleagues say they don't. Now I'm not, and it's scaring me. My colleagues seem to work all day in the office, all evening at home, and the dedicated ones work all weekend and Christmas Day too. I don't do that normally, and couldn't possibly now.

And the whole adoption thing is just so, so dreary and boring and is going to take forEVER and suck out my soul (and our savings - at least we have them, for the moment). And I started my period yesterday, a day early, at least not too crampy owing to the rattly-pill-bottle nature of my stomach these days. But I feel bloated and have put on a couple of inches anyway with not being able to exercise much due to only having one working arm (no cycling, yoga, swimming, or Pilates for a start, and I've only just managed to start running again, just as it got too dark to run in the evenings, and then only after taking yet another painkiller).

And also, very sadly, my MIL is not well - we hope this is temporary, she had a fall but nothing broken, and she has an excellent appetite and is in reasonable physical health, but she is 89, we fear starting to get a little confused, but it is hard to tell if this is because of some other cause (infections are a common cause in the elderly). So she is in hospital for investigations, and we visited her last night.

So, given that at least we have a little money at the moment, and I have no toddlers with chocolate on their hands to smear on me, I thought perhaps cheering myself up with a little retail therapy might not be bad. Which is why after the hospital visit we headed to Kitsch Temple Of Shopping which is Very Badly Signposted, hence it taking me forEVER to find one of the shops I was very keen to visit. And just as I picked up 8 garments from the rails, they closed the changing rooms and would not let me in. 15 minutes before closing. It is over an hour away and I do NOT go there often enough to justify buying 8 garments on the offchance one will fit me.

Which is why last night I was in tears all over Mr Spouse on a bench sitting in KTOS.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Absent from post, guv

I have been slacking. Well and truly slacking. I don't quite know why, as I tend to intersperse my working day with spurts of blog- or forum-reading and I've been feeling a little out of sorts with a couple of my regular forums, but have kept on reading them despite this. So I totally missed what was going on in May's life and feel very, very sorry about this.

I think things are just very slow and vague for us at the moment. Five years on, and we are still not much further. The social worker is nice, and actually has a sense of humour (which is apparently rare). Although we are now sure that the US route is our first choice, she did ask us to justify this, not because she thinks we are wrong, but because in her words "I don't want you wasting your money". We came away even more convinced that we were right: although they initially said they'd take us on if we were open to children aged over 2, she is now saying over-3s only; I would really like to parent at least one child under this age. But more than this, she seems to think that the children available for adoption in the UK are moving more and more towards older and older children, and towards multi-sibling placements - they seem to place few singletons any more. I was also slightly amused to find out she didn't really have any idea how old Mr Spouse is, and like most people thought he was much younger than he is - him being older means we'd be less likely to be chosen by a placing authority for younger children, though the agency takes the age of the younger partner only into consideration.

She again recommended that we have a word with our local authority, who are much more likely to place younger children, but frankly we want to get on with it at this stage. I am reserving the right to see if we could adopt a second child through them, but for now we are going ahead with this and have booked in 5 of the 8 home study sessions we need. Some of it seems rather irrelevant to us, so I'm trying to hold my tongue; I think she can also see that I'm on the same page and do know something about the whole business. We had an interesting discussion about foetal alcohol exposure, for example. Sounds like we should finish this part around February.

First up, I think, is the Adult Attachment Interview. Joy.

Monday, October 26, 2009

To Do List, This Evening's Version

  • Ring grandmother of Brownie whose mother has learning difficulties to find out full situation
  • Then, ring mother to offer her our remaining ticket to the Panto (she won't be the only mother going, and I strongly suspect some other girls of having forbidden their parents from embarassing them by going too).
  • Remove entire contents of wardrobe and linen cupboard, currently draped around dining room/kitchen, drying.
  • Pile spare Brownie equipment slightly higher so it is possible to walk to said kitchen without killing oneself
  • Hoover living room so social worker, coming tomorrow morning, does not die of dust inhalation.
(Not entirely clear if social worker is only coming to reassure herself that we have decided which adoption route to pursue, or is actually intending to start our home study, but whichever - perhaps a slightly cleaner house would be an advantage. Most prospective adopters tell us that the social worker rarely steps outside the living room and only judges the house on the quality of the biscuits; unless my rep for great home-made biscuits has followed me from the preparation group, and she's expecting fabulous, I think we're OK on those!)

Thursday, October 15, 2009


We were watching a "hard-hitting 70s drama" the other night and suddenly I realised one of the characters had had a miscarriage. I think I'm probably sensitive to this but it was one of these dramas where you cannot work out what on earth is going on, because nothing is directly stated. It all added up though, first the conversation between husband and wife "what, Vietnamese babies now?" (clearly the overseas adoption option du jour), then the frantic phone call of which you only heard the husbands end "oh no, not again, I'm coming straight there, we can try again". Mr Spouse didn't pick it up, but they did state it explicitly later in the show.

Tonight is the Wave of Light -- 7 PM till 8 PM here. I feel no particular need to go to any public events, but will remember this I think.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


When you have an adoption on hold and a broken shoulder and can do very little, what should you do to keep yourself occupied?

Why, open a Brownie pack of course!

I have been wanting to do this for quite some time - I came back to Guiding on a slight whim about 7 years ago, and have been helping established groups (a couple that are fabulous, one that is small but cute, and one that frankly was a waste of space) since then. Our part of town is badly served, as is one particular ethnic community (largely due to religious classes directly after school every day, and lack of awareness of Brownies even by UK-born mothers).

There is a stack of paperwork to fill in, mostly by hand, and many of my contacts were surprised to get multiple phone calls from me organising this, that, and the other at the point when I couldn't type. The church that owns the hall we are now meeting in unfortunately would not know an act if it came up and slapped it in the face, let alone how to get one together, and I say that as a member of that particular church. Despite that, I have had many fabulous (though I say them myself) ideas over the summer, having had lots of thinking and surfing time, and we had our first meeting last week.

Thankfully it was a beautiful day, and equally thankfully even though there was no wind, kites fly when a seven-year-old is running very fast and pulling them along. And little girls get very excited when you tell them they can take their kite home.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pieces of paper

Adoption paperwork so far (this attempt):
1. Official application to agency (sent in August? early Sept? - the agency has 8 months to complete the process from that date).
2. Feedback on whole preparation course (sum: first two days repeat of fostering course; middle day by guest speaker interesting for the first hour, then too detailed on stuff we don't need, not enough on stuff we do; final two days mainly relevant, and helpful especially if we go down the UK route).
3. Letter saying that we intend to go down the US route but would like to keep UK route (ages 2-5) open for the moment because of agency uncertainties in the US.
4. Six fingerprint record cards (two for Mr. Spouse, four for me).
5. Application for FBI records for both of us.
6. Application for CA state criminal records for both of us.

7. and 8. Application for criminal records from the two African countries in which I have lived. This would be fairly straightforward (information on how to do this is published in multiple places on the web, including the High Commission Website in London of one of the countries. However the other country has neglected to inform anyone publishing this information - e.g. the USCIS, who need such records also - what their fee for doing this is).

Next up:
UK CRB (criminal records check).

And then (probably concurrently):
Very very large UK homestudy report.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I am at work, using my new speech recognition software. It's a bit of a pain, especially around navigation and spaces, it's not too bad at working out what I want to say, or at least at giving what I want to stay as one of its alternatives.

It's just hitting me, exactly how long it's going to be before I am a parent, and how old I am going to be. Either way, we're relying on someone to pick us, be it birth parent or social worker, ironically if it's a newborn and it's a birth parent doing the picking they may not know our actual ages, which may be in our favour (I'm not 100% clear on this).

But all those days, weeks, months, not just the process -- but the waiting, and the boring work, (sure, I like some of my work), and just stuff.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

So, really, what do I want?

Because it is really me - Mr Spouse is happy with whatever I decide.

The adoption course was good - about half of it was, anyway. Some of it was the same as the fostering course, some rather basic and pointless (and at points, wrong) stuff on child development, but some I felt gave us the confidence (if not all the skills, mainly because you can only learn so much without doing) to deal with children with difficult backgrounds. We also, happily, talked about contact quite a bit - we are, of course, on the extreme end of the spectrum, for the UK at least - our end being "family holidays if we can manage it", the other end being "over my dead body". We are not quite at "together for every significant moment plus sleepovers", which I know some US open adopters are. But that would be unlikely given geographics, anyway.

In the last couple of weeks we found out a career-related piece of information about Mr Spouse, which is good, helpful, and makes adopting now a good idea - but makes going to the US for a protracted period less possible. He feels more geared up about what he is doing, and I'm really pleased about that. It is all good - it just means that we will probably have to do the UK process first whatever we decide.

Mr Spouse would be happy to be the parent of preschooler(s) first (or verging on, at least UK, school age). We have spoken, and will speak again, however about how likely it is that we'd be chosen for a younger child or a sibling group with a younger child. I do not feel that I have to have each of my children from birth, or even from babyhood. I just feel that I want the experience of parenting a baby. Not even necessarily a newborn (I do like my sleep and, though I know older children don't sleep either, it shortens the sleep deprivation period if they are a year older). A newborn would be lovely, but a 1-year-old from the UK would be, er, well, free.

Matching times might be similar (our agency would not let us go through with it if there was NO chance of matching, but we might wait a lot longer fora 1-year-old in the UK, even in a sibling group, than for a newborn in the US), but there's an additional admin step before sorting out the US end. So on time, we have little to choose between them. We're looking at parenthood within 2 years, definitely not within 1, if we're lucky between those two.

So the question is really, if the agency doesn't think there is much chance of matching us with a baby in the UK, how important is that period to me? And, despite my feeling more confident about parenting an older child who's been through a lot (which, obviously, we'd need to do if we took on siblings), I'm not sure I want to give that up.

(Can I just add: feel free to comment, would love you to, but PLEASE for my sanity do not gush about how lovely it is to parent your genetic child as a baby? thx).

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Same old same old

Have had the first two days of our adoption preparation course. Not surprisingly it is almost exactly the same as our fostering course, except longer. At least we don't feel quite so much like we've been repeatedly whacked after the session on abuse/safety which we had today.

It's just such a long way from home and not really new to us (even the social work stuff that was new to both of us last time).

It is pretty much exclusively geared to UK domestic adopters from foster care, which isn't too surprising, though at least one other couple wants to adopt from overseas (they are of an ethnicity which is difficult to match in the UK but one of the fairly common sending countries). Much of the foster care agenda is useful for adoption from an institution overseas, though, and we'll get individual sessions which are country-specific anyway. If we'd never done the foster care course this WOULD be a helpful course, but we did, and it isn't really.

We're still keeping a slightly open mind about our 3rd option - the UK foster care one - but really moving away from it, I think. If we wanted to have an under-2 placed with us, it might just be possible in the UK, but probably not with this agency, and possibly not with some other agencies/local authorities, partly because of Mr Spouse's age. I think we will ask one last time whether there are any circumstances in which this might happen (e.g. if we took siblings) but not really that confident about it.

There have been a few interesting or fun moments - e.g. discussing adoption in the media - "Everyone knows about adoption!" as one of the social workers put it. Yes, they do - they know what's in the media - everyone knows that social workers snatch babies, and that no white British couples are ever approved to adopt in the UK...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Joy of joys

We are going to a Dedication this weekend for the baby of the Now We're Fertile couple. These are the ones who, although they sympathised with us during the three years and unexplained infertility diagnosis it took them to get pregnant, conveniently forgot that it's NOT nice to be broadsided with pregnancy announcements, and told us while we were on holiday, with just them.

Dedications, for the uninitiated, are the Baptist/"We're So Special We Don't Fit In a Denomination" version of christenings/infant baptisms. One is not supposed to be baptised until one is old enough and savvy enough to stand up and speak for oneself, but strangely, parents still want Tradition and Ceremony for their baby. Hence the Dedication.

Now, unfortunately I have known a lot of Special church people in my life so I know all about these, but the general population doesn't. Especially not card shops.

So, having bitten my tongue, agreed to go, started steeling myself for the Shouty Church, the Over The Top Reception (in the same venue as their Over The Top Wedding - at least there isn't a river boat to take us between the two this time), and come over all Good Wife and gone to the card shop, what did I find?

Lots of Christening cards (no Baptism cards for either babies or adults - I'd actually call it a Baptism whatever the age, but no matter.) A selection of It's a Boy cards and of Naming Ceremony cards. Nothing whatsoever for infant dedication.

See, when you try and behave, where does it get you? I've a good mind to buy them a Civil Ceremony card, well, it's a ceremony, and I'm hoping I'll manage to be civil.

[Theological aside: you may switch off now, but my take on this is: baptism welcomes infants, children, or adults into the church, and anyone can be a member of the church, it does not take knowledge or maturity. Refusing to baptise infants because they cannot answer for themselves begs the question, what of those who are adults or adolescents and cannot answer for themselves? It seems to me rather insulting to children (and parents of such children) who have severe learning disabilities such that they will never be verbal. They should not be refused membership of the church either. Likewise, my godmother's sister-in-law, brought up Baptist but with Asperger's Syndrome, refused to answer "yes" to the questions put to her in her adolescent baptism preparation, because having Asperger's Syndrome she would not answer anything that she was not 100% sure about. No-one is 100% sure about belief, and if they are I'd be mighty suspicious, and I think the sister-in-law wasn't intending to be refused baptism. It is, to my mind, a dangerously gnostic model of belief - if you know certain facts and answer correctly to certain questions, you are a member of the church - if not, not.]

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Although we haven't adopted yet, I have done some thinking about names (I've alluded to it before, but can't be bothered finding relevant posts, as I don't think I've written a whole post on this); I thought I'd weigh in on the debate, despite not being formally part of OA Roundtable.

UK social workers dealing with domestic adoption from foster care are very, very anti changing a child's birth name under almost any circumstances. Even where a child was abandoned in the hospital I have heard social workers say "but the nurses gave him the name". If a child's birth father and grandfather are both called Murgatroyd and they gave the son the name and, clearly, there are no other Murgatroyds in the country, it may not be safe for him to keep the name - most social workers would be positive about a name change under those circumstances. Otherwise not. I have also heard social workers saying that children must keep their original name's spelling, and their original nicknames (sometimes even if the nickname was given by a foster carer, not the birth parent).

They are very fixated on no name change. They "allow" addition of middle names, obviously change of last names (though recently the law has changed to allow no change of last name until the adoption is final; again I think safety may allow for exceptions). Until the adoption is final, the social workers are in your face, wherever you adopt. So, it's not a case of "my family, my rules". You'd be hard pressed to change a child's name when they had already been with you a year, although I know people who have fought for the right to change the name/spelling/nickname.

It sounds quite prejudiced - I think it is a social worker culture sort of thing, but also stemming from some of the Bad Old Days mistakes, ideas that children can just forget everything that happened before adoption, that it is best to pretend they are birth children.

I think I'd probably considered using a family name/name we had chosen for a middle name and, gradually if we/the child wanted, merging/changing over. For example, we saw a child in a Waiting Children newsletter with a name for which a nickname could be a shortened form of my mother's name, which I would like as a child's name. In this circumstance, we could keep the long version as a full name/first name but (even if the social workers said no, as it's something you can move into on a variable basis with a child) use the shortened form within the family. But if we were matched with siblings called Chardonnay and Wayne, I'm not sure what we would have done. Perhaps, as a forum contributor I read once said, have the best behaved Chardonnay and Wayne in the whole education system.

I don't know what UK social workers say about name changes for children adopted past babyhood from overseas; I would suspect it's the same, but from most countries adoptions are completed overseas so the social worker does not come along and "advise" post-placement.

When we decided that we might go for US infant adoption, one of the gifts I felt I had been given was the fact that I might get to give our child a family name. But now, reading some (sorry, especially US) comments on the whole name issue, I'm not so sure.

I'm not comfortable with the "did you give the birth family a say" question - perhaps it would be more honest to say to a child when they are older "your name before was X and your name now is Y"; acknowledging that the birth family did name them (if they did).

I think I'm of the opinion that, if a child is old enough to know their own name, then any changes should be minimal (or security-driven). I don't think you should take in an 8 year old and say "would you like to be called Charlotte now?" But parents shorten their children's names all the time (and children come home and say "I'm going to be called Aurora now").

I am also slightly agnostic about changes of names for children from overseas. On the one hand, children have names that are completely unpronounceable, or mean something strange in English (I understand that Nastia is a common shortening of Anastasia. Or perhaps it's for Natasha. Anyway).

On the other hand, the most common - and to me, cringeworthy - analogy is "We have a Polish builder, he just calls himself Paul, because it's the "same" as Pavel, he doesn't mind when people change his name". He's an adult. And his name is perfectly pronounceable in English.

So, look back here when we have been matched with a mixed-race, half African American baby whose mother has named him DuKwon.

Friday, August 21, 2009


A very lovely mother on the girly message board I frequent has found herself in a desperately awful situation with a very, very sick child and of course, as in all these situations, she reports that a posse of well-meaning individuals throw up their hands and say "I Don't Know How You Cope!".

She feels she is NOT coping - but I'm sure my fellow fertility-challenged friends will empathise with this. I am not quite sure what the parents of healthy children, the parents of three happy rapidly-conceived, healthily-carried children spaced ideally, think the alternative is. Are they saying that if they were the parents of a sick child, they would just walk off and leave them in hospital? If they had problems conceiving, would they give up on having children (although I know this is the solution that some do end up deciding on)? Would they give up on their marriage? Stay in bed all day for 5 years?

Sometimes, as we come up to the 5th anniversary of starting to try to get pregnant, I find I just have to get up every day. And I just have to stay married. And I just have to try and see if there is a step forward.

We are officially booked on the adoption course next month. Unusually, it doesn't clash with anything. In case we do decide either to revert to domestic adoption, or go with the UK approval/US domestic adoption process, we think we should do it. It may be that we pay for it and don't use it, but it's here, now.

In other news, I've been told by the hospital to go away for a couple of months and have some physio - those who believe the NHS involves interminable waits for everything take note - I had my hospital appointment on Friday, was rung up about physio on Monday and had my first appointment on Tuesday. I am taking the exercises seriously and consequently have had to up the pain relief (though I am still not great with codeine, and was very woozy this morning after taking it last night due to a very achy arm). I went to the GP for some better anti-inflammatories and pain killers and she suggested a higher dose of ibuprofen (cheaper, it turns out, on prescription, so I have two large boxies of pink Smarties) and the codeine.

She also gave me a repeat prescription for the high dose folate - if we are, in fact, going to be spending the next year mired in immigration paperwork, rather than adoption soul-searching, I can probably stand a little reproductive suspense. Though currently, despite our best efforts, anything, er, active, is rather painful and awkward.

Friday, July 31, 2009


Us, that is - we are leaning heavily towards a temporary move back to the US in order to adopt. I did have a couple of good and helpful chats with KAS, who put us in touch with another couple in our position, with whom I also had a lengthy helpful chat. But although selfishly we are pleased not to be alone - and especially pleased that the other couple is further ahead than us (and hence has wasted more time), and also we are not completely ruling out trying to (as a group) get the DCSF to change their rather ill-formed policy, which seems DIRECTLY a result of the US ratifying Hague - it's too much of a coincidence otherwise....

but still... it would be a lot quicker and possibly cheaper to do the overseas move.

Mr Spouse worries about my job if we do that. I get the standard UK allowance of just over a year's adoption leave but we need to be abroad for at least 18 months. I know, however, that if we adopted from the UK I'd need to work very part time after the first year - if not also to take extended leave (I have heard of several people adopting in the UK being "told" by agencies to request this). I am wary of telling work detailed plans as no-one is particularly discrete - but I think I need to ask sooner rather than later. I'm debating whether to do this all at once with my annual review (due soon) which is likely to touch on return-from-sick-leave (thankfully we have done return-from-sabbatical); or whether to try and drip-feed it. Either way I am going to keep it general and just point out some slightly relevant precedents. Currently I am thinking "worst case scenario, I resign and find another job - or reapply for mine". How good a prospect this might seem down the line I don't know.

Anyway, mind on other things, seeing v. well known Irish band in small (and rainy) Scandinavian city tonight. Woo hoo!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Still waiting...

...to hear from KAS, who has assured me she will call back today.

While I've been off work I've been at least catching up with friends on the phone - something I'm often bad at - but easier to do than typing for me at the moment.

FET twins friend is doing OK but completely broke. She is my inspiration if we do end up with more transatlantic moves - the twins & older sib moved over here from the US when twins were, I think, 3 months. She took a step back in her career to have a life with the family (in-laws are here & she prefers living here).

ICSI no 2 friend just got a positive test. After 2 FET miscarriages she isn't even cautiously optimistic - just cautious. She's also getting over a brush with OHSS and banned from going back to work as swine flu is rampant where she works so is just a bit fed up.

Called Central America adoption friend but haven't heard back. Depending on the outcome of the call from KAS, I definitely need to talk to her about adoption leave negotiations with our mutual employer.

So just waiting to hear at the moment. At least I've just found out how to get police clearance from the two African countries I've lived in.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ow 3

Still here. Still armless. No pins but improvement frustratingly slow & typing FAIL. No news from KAS. Mr Spouse out at job interview. Me in pyjamas.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Confused? You will be, after this episode

I know we are.

So, to try and tell this in order, and not quite remembering what I've already said:

1) DCSF say no non-Hague adoptions from Hague countries
2) Kick-ass Solicitor says this is news to her, but she has other families in similar situations & will get back to us in about 3 weeks (2 weeks ago)
3) Supposedly helpful adoption advice organisation discusses situation at length by email and does not comprehend any of "birth mother can make best decision for child", "US feels placement with citizens abroad EQUALS placement in country" or "no agencies in US seem to want to do Hague outgoing" (18 months approx now and no cases have been through). Definitely not of same mind as KAS (i.e. client right).

4) We find agency in US that will attempt Hague outgoing. Not ideal demographic or location - you'd be truly stuffed if Hispanic - v. pricey and have never processed any cases, but we tell UK agency and KAS.

5) UK agency gives us place on August course. I have by now broken arm so not keen to sit still in pain for 4 days in July anyway.

6) Still crossing fingers DCSF will show pity/ be intimidated by KAS and not make us be guinea pigs with no choice of agency and no US precedent. Selfishly feel a non-US couple should be doing that. Bemoan not having done this 2 years ago. Point out to each other we were busy grieving 2 years ago.

7) Do many sums and conclude it would be cheaper for me to take approaching 2 years (to make immigration of child legal) off work, move back to the US, and get Mr. Spouse his green card so he can support me/us. Would also be cheaper. However wish to keep job/career, continue residence in long term in Small City In North, and have health care especially for Mr. Spouse that doesn't involve deterioration of his diabetes. Feel immediately post 6-week sick leave not best time to broach long term absence with employer.

8) Tired now.

(afraid Mr. Spouse is keen to leave this blog entirely to me - he neither reads nor comments)

Ow 2

So, a week on, I can now just about type both-handed on my phone - slow, but not limited to words containing letters on the R side of the keyboard (oil, kin, jim).

I've been signed off work for 6 weeks but am waiting til Friday to find out if I'll need an operation to put in a pin. I've broken my humerus right at the top, L side. In the meantime I can read t'internet but not really write (only Blogger really works on the phone, and sitting at the 'puter for too long is pretty uncomfortable anyway), can read hardback books (paperbacks don't stay open on their own), write by hand (remember that?) and can watch TV. Lots & lots of TV.

I will try and muster the strength to post something about the complicated adoption situation, later...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Have outdone Mr. Spouse and broken arm in similar bike incident - but with ambulance, and mention of surgery, and signed off for 6 weeks. Cannot really type.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Do not disturb

Yes, I am in a hole. No, I do not particularly want rescuing.

Phone call on Friday from agency. DCSF have got back to them and will not be prepared to issue a certificate of eligibility - not entirely clear whether they would be prepared to if we were telling them we'd be going through a Hague adoption from the US, or whether they'd put conditions on it if so, or how they would know what the US agency had done. Also not at all clear why this is at odds with what our reputedly kick-ass solicitor has said. Rang KAS immediately but she may be KA but is rubbish at responding so have not heard back yet.

I think I'm not so much despairing that this may not be possible for us, as either a) in denial or b) just depressed that once again things are more complicated and slower than they need be.

One good thing, I suppose, is that Mr. Spouse has not immediately said "well, let's just give up then". He is full of plans to write to the press and write to our MP, and was very excited when I suggested writing to the Foreign Secretary - not in his capacity as the Foreign Secretary, but in his capacity as a parent who has adopted two children from the US and as the British husband of a US citizen wife. Funnily, a good friend of ours was doorstepping with said Foreign Secretary a couple of weeks ago (pre-election). Apparently he is very nice and polite (well, he'd have to be).

I'll go back in my hole now. At least we have not booked our holiday to clash with the next preparation group, which was a possibility. And we are accidentally going to see U2. Well, we didn't realise they were playing, but booked travel dates to coincide with their only Scandinavian gig, and the tickets are quite a bit cheaper than they are in the UK, too. So of course it would be impolite to be there, and not go and see them, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Do you think I've matured?

Or perhaps I've just got more shallow?

I was chatting the other day to lovely friend J, who I've known since university, and who is the single mother of a 9-year-old (er, I think), an "accident" on the mini-pill, and who she didn't know she was pregnant with until about 20w. But I digress.

She was asking how the niece(s) were and I realised that I have more or less managed to stay out of the whole palaver recently. Both my mother and my brother are behaving like drama queens, but I am happy to leave them to it. I have come to the conclusion that it upsets me much less when my nieces are sitting all day in the house my brother's building, watching DVDs, and not going to school, than it did when the younger one didn't see her dad for 3 months and her mum for 6 weeks, and they were planning that the older one wouldn't have seen her mum for 3 months (they were about 15 months and 3 at this time); the older one was faced with a maximum of 24h with her mum in the middle of that time and was begging with her mum to come and see her for longer.

I'm not entirely sure whether this is because it is intrinsically more upsetting to see the girls tiny and missing their parents than to see them older and stagnating at home (they are now 3 1/2 and nearly-6 - in theory they are being home schooled but my brother does nothing with them that could constitute schooling - his philosophy is that they'll ask for the education they need, but he doesn't exactly encourage them either), or if it's because it feels more likely we'll have kids so I am less invested in the girls. Or perhaps it is that, even if we do end up with children who have experienced some difficulties before they come to us (whether that's before birth, or with their birth parents) I'm pretty sure we're going to be giving them educational advantages that my nieces will not be getting.

I am already a competitive parent, and I don't even have any children yet.

(no news from the DCFS or on the adoption preparation course, but it's likely to be next month, though if I haven't said so already, we are OK to go ahead with the process without hearing from DCFS first).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Mr. Spouse is not working at the moment. For different reasons, he hasn't been working since August last year. He is sort of looking for a job at the moment, but he's likely to be going back to university in October* and there isn't much temporary around at the moment - particularly not that would allow him to take random days off for adoption courses etc. So he may do some volunteering instead, which is what he was doing in the US; we are actually OK for money for the moment, though I don't feel like we are. He also has some Open University courses to finish before the full-time study starts.

Right now, though, he's feeling a bit sorry for himself - his arm is not back to normal, and he's not able to do any of the DIY stuff we need to get done, but he's also not really done much of the lighter stuff around the house, partly because tidying up also involves lifting. And I'm feeling pretty sorry for myself too - I've had a virus the past few days (I am worried it is the pleuritic thing I had last year, unfortunately), have loads of marking to do and a grant deadline.

But in general he has been enjoying working less (I say less because he's been very committed to his volunteer work and has spent quite a bit of time at it) and I have only slightly felt that I'm benefiting from having a stay-at-home husband (he does, to be fair, do a reasonable amount of cleaning, but he is not one for elaborate or particularly imaginative cooking). And I know it's because I'm jealous. I would really quite like to be at home, at least part-time, preferably with kid(s). I am worried we won't be able to afford this.

This is a slightly irrational fear - we can definitely afford for me to take a good chunk of adoption leave, and if it's appropriate for me to go part-time after that, but money is an issue, he has a good pension from his old job that he can take early. I think it's partly triggered by various discussions that are ongoing on a website I frequent which main centre round how much, or little, women make after paying for nursery fees. In fact, I suspect that even if the answer was "nothing" for me, I'd still work. I enjoy my job, and if I stopped until a child was school age, that would really be it for my career. I do also slightly worry that what a colleague with older children says is true - that working part time also means curtains. In either case I don't want that. Work is not just about money for me. But life is not just about work, either.

*I say back, but in fact he never went when he was 18 so it will be to university, but to retrain in a subject he really enjoys and which is pretty marketable, but in which he has no formal qualifications.

Friday, May 22, 2009


That's my public profile, not the Clearblue-marketed contraceptive monitor, in case you were wondering.

I have just started another blog, which is very embryonic, and is intended to be a "communicating science to the public" type thing. I'm not hiding it, but it's not something I'm desperately promoting yet, either.
However, if I link to that from a non-IF site or blog that I read, I wouldn't mind people knowing it's there. I don't necessarily, though, want people to find this place - it's possible I may ultimately go public at work with the new one.
So, I reset my Blogger profile for Dr. Spouse to only show the new blog, not this one. Now, if I comment via Wordpress or Typepad I just put in the drspouse url and you can get here via that link. But if I comment on someone's IF-related Blogger blog then you get to the new blog, no longer here.

I'm assuming people can google Dr Spouse and find this blog, anyway*, but really they could find me that way if they were desperate - I tend to use Dr Spouse as my alias on some work-related sites too.

What with keeping friends and (more particularly) family away from this blog, I'm getting confused. Any suggestions? The one I've just come up with is, when commenting on non-IF blogs, just enter "name" (Dr Spouse) and the new blog address. I have a couple of friends' blogs where I just put in my first name, no address or login, though I caught myself out once by accidentally commenting as Dr Spouse while I was logged in, and had to go back and delete and recomment.

It's so confusing having multiple personalities!

*Actually, I just checked, and although there is an unfortunate British academic who is really called Dr. Spouse, this blog doesn't come up anywhere near the top.

Friday, May 15, 2009

And a bath bun

With, er, lemon curd?

Anyway, we went over to the latest adoption agency today as I said and had what was a pretty productive, but lengthy and tiring, chat. It was almost all focussed on the adoption process and our story to date, and very little on what we do and enjoy and are like, but that will no doubt come later.

The social worker we spoke to seemed relatively knowledgeable about both inter-country adoption in general (as she should be, but this part is going to be very helpful as the arcane windings of the DCSF are no doubt going to become part of our own personal family swear-words) and US domestic adoption ("please don't say in your profile you are hoping to 'complete your family circle' as I will have to strangle you". "No, that's OK, and we also promise not to say 'we think God has brought you into our lives'".). There were a couple of things that might be slightly concerning - because the law is different in the two countries about things like TPR, we'll have to tread carefully on our opinion of the two, and also since we won't be doing a Hague adoption, but everyone here has Hague firmly planted in their heads, we may have to keep reminding them, for example, that we are allowed to be pleased about birth parents, rather than agencies, choosing us - this is a Hague no-no.

Anyway, they don't do the CRB check now because, as I hoped, they sensibly do it later in parallel with other things; we may (fingers and toes very firmly crossed!) not have to do all of the preparation course, having done our fostering course; and even if we do have to do it, then dates in July are perfectly possible given the time frame (there's also an August one that would clash with a trip we're planning).

So, we are supposed to go away and "think", and I know we've been "thinking" for about 3 years, but I suspect we're not supposed to ring back this afternoon, perhaps next week will be soon enough, and while we're doing that, and she did say it would be today, she'll ring DCSF and say "this is an unusual case, is it OK with you", which is not a question you want after you've shelled out for a home study. But she was very impressed with the name of our UK lawyer, and said if we need people at DCSF to quake in their boots, it's the right name (many thanks, 3rdculturemum - old blog link, I'm afraid).

And yes, we will need criminal records checks from the US (easy to do as per instructions from US Embassy website) and from the two African countries where I've lived for longer periods of time (er... will they accept dodgy PI website court report summaries, do you think? There are lots of those about!), and our referees will need re-poking, and convincing that indeed, this time, we are serious, yes, honest. As she said, it makes you feel like you are doing something. Here begins death by paperwork.

So, we came home on the train, it is raining VERY hard, and I had to go and run a couple of errands, though I was supposed to be getting on with some hard writing this afternoon - but I feel like someone hit me with a big stick. So I bought a bun and had a cup of tea. But I've never had a Bath bun that had lemon curd in it. Strange.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Me too

I'm reminded by the Stirrup Queens pair of posts about an internet sympathy scam that I was the subject of a few years ago. It turned out that the scammer had perpretrated a previous scam on the same group of people, an extremely friendly, non-IF bulletin board. It's very much a community and includes some dear friends; it's where I met Mr. Spouse.

Although the scammer was not primarily IF-related, it is clear they sought, and obtained, sympathy for similar reasons to IF-related internet scammers. This person had several sock puppets on the message board and those personalities "suffered" from brain tumours, long-term illnesses, and finally two of them "died", one in a motorway pile-up. Along the way one of the characters caught my attention as they claimed to be going through the adoption process. Together with another friend (who, yes, I have met in real life) who has two young children with special needs (I think this was after the first was born but it was definitely before the second was born), and who lived near where this person claimed to live, I got very very caught up in this person's tale, including exchanging emails and promising to chat on the phone (but never quite going through with it, not surprisingly). This deception was very lengthy and complex and drew people in much, much more than the single claim made by someone scamming the blogger Niobe - it was on the scale of some blog scams, though probably more short-lived

This person was caught out by repeated use of the same IP address, or something similar, I believe; this is easier to spot on bulletin boards I think, where the owners have some degree of control. I know that other scammers have eventually confessed or been found out in some way; but although ultimately I do retain my faith in human nature, I guess I find myself thinking "but what if?" when I'm drawn into some stories. As I usually only think this after becoming emotionally invested, I then beat myself up for again becoming potentially emotionally scammed.

And a minor technical question

Although my ratio of commenter:visitor is tiny, I have reached the log size limit with the free Statcounter.com accounts. It's not like we have spare cash to spend on a paid-for account - is there a free alternative with more generous limits that anyone knows of, by any chance??

Could this actually be...

... a sensible adoption agency?

We were told by the social worker we are meeting on Friday not to bring our identity documents to complete our criminal checks as "we don't do those at this stage". I was a bit puzzled, to be honest, as the previous agency had done them at precisely this stage, and normally agencies and local authorities love to introduce waits into the process, and seem to particularly like it if absolutely nothing is happening, especially when you have no real way to check that the thing that is supposed to be not happening, is in fact not happening. Hence the obsession with not moving a muscle, making any appointments, or being able to see you until they have completed the CRB. I am worried there will also be a "thinking stage" at this point.

However, on enquiry, I find that some agencies - shock horror - do these in parallel with the other parts of the process; so that the wait for the checks to come back can be filled with actual activity.

Although for some overseas adoptions, any criminal convictions are a total no-no, for a UK adoption you can be approved with anything short of assault or child abuse. You'd hope most people have some kind of handle on their criminal record, and in fact it's common for people with minor drug convictions e.g. possession age 18, to assume they can't adopt when in fact they can. So frankly, you'd have to be a bit deluded or forgetful to say "OK, go ahead and check my criminal record" and hope nothing showed up, when there was likely to be something there. I don't know what situation that would leave the agency in, whether they would be entitled to ask for their costs back from someone who'd failed their CRB.

I haven't watched them yet, but there's a series on Channel 4 this week about adoption. I registered some hollow laughs on a message board I read at the adopters saying "it takes MONTHS". Try YEARS.

Friday, May 01, 2009

What a waste

Today is our fifth wedding anniversary. It's horrible weather, but we're headed out for dinner in a country pub with gorgeous food - our default Lovely Food location. It's about CD13 and my body is saying "go for it now". However there will be almost no drinking and no nookie, because a) I haven't sorted anything out about seeing the GP and b) much more importantly, Mr. Spouse has cracked a bone in his elbow.

He was riding my bike (yes, he is taller than me, and not very good on a bike, why do you ask?) and fell off onto his arm. In mitigation, he was riding it back from the bike shop where it had been serviced. This was on Monday but nothing looked better by yesterday so we had a record quick trip to A&E (makes a change for me to be driving him there) and a rapid X-ray, and an appointment at the fracture clinic today. It will probably take 4-6 weeks to heal and no driving (so I'll be driving), not much typing, no leaning on ones arms during sex, and sadly (given the state of the house) not much cleaning or tidying too. And painkillers (so not much drinking for him, either) Gah. I'm trying to throw myself back into work so feel extremely disinclined to run round evenings and weekends like a mad thing putting away stuff from our travels or getting out stuff from the loft.

I don't feel as disappointed as I might, especially having looked back at my three previous wedding anniversary posts (ignored, just had miscarriage, and 5w pregnant but miscarried obviously, respectively) and thinking that now I feel much calmer and more on track, and that perhaps being pregnant is not very good for me. Or at least, knowing I cannot possibly be pregnant is better for me than wondering if I could be and if there is any way to keep me that way.

In other news, after a bit of phone tag and a broken phone line (theirs) we are seeing the adoption agency on the 15th. I am not quite sure what they think the next step would be as when I asked if I should bring our documents for the CRB they said "ooh, not just yet" and finally admitted that it might be easier if we brought them in and they then verified they'd seen them and photocopied them. Apart from "go away and think about it for a while" I'm not sure what can come between "initial chat" and "check you aren't a criminal" in this process.

With that, I will leave you with something I'm sure you're dying for, but which I've somehow managed to omit thus far.

The church (also where we had the reception - the tables are behind the white drapes. A mile of fabric is a lot cheaper, and less allergenic, than flowers when you are decorating what has been called the Cathedral of Non-Conformism, which seats 1000):

And that's me just got out of the taxi outside the church (plus my best woman, and fellow infertile/miscarrier's left leg). That is a pawn shop in the background, in case you are curious.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Do you have any children?

I'm just catching up on a series I love - the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. It is incredibly evocative, with all kinds of little things that make me feel like I am really there - I have never been to Botswana, but I have visited Namibia and Zimbabwe (the latter back in the day when it was almost as rich as Botswana) and lived in the region. I look at the furniture, the gates, the roads, the signs, the kitchens, the way people wear their clothes, the gardens and the trees, and I'm back there. I know just where the girls in the Go Go Handsome Man's Bar get their clothes and how the beer tastes, and the ketchup on JLB Matekoni's table, and what the detectives are drinking, since they aren't drinking beer themselves, and how Mma Ramotswe's tailor makes her clothes, and how Mma Makutsi is squeezed in the minibus, and what the bush smells like (and, sadly, how the dust in such dry places stops me breathing properly, and hence why I could never live in that corner of the world - only on a humid coast).

As some of you may know, the series would have to be (under my rating system) rated M, as Mma Ramotswe lost her newborn baby while she was married to her violent ex-husband. I believe there was at least a hint that he had caused the baby's death by beating her up though I don't particularly want to go back and check*. In one episode she helps an American woman find out what happened to her son, who had been living in Botswana, and she tells the woman that she, too, lost a child and knows what it is like. At the end of the episode we find Mma Ramotswe at the baby's grave**, and we also find me in floods of tears.

In the next episode a father is worried about his daughter and he asks Mma Ramotswe whether she has children. She does not answer but pauses and looks down, and he says "well, take it from one who has". I do find - and stop me if I've harped on about this before - oh, yes, that's right, you can't stop me - OK, stop reading if I have - that my friends and family divide into those who believe that no-one can possibly know what children are like until they have had their own and that their own children are so special and unique that I cannot possibly even comment on their development, and those that accept that I know something about child development, and are interested in the topic in general and although they are the ones that know what their child is doing right now***, ask for my opinion or explanation of this (they've spotted he is crawling backwards/thinking you can hide by closing your eyes/spelling words with letters missing and want to know if this is common or why it happens).

A perfect example of the former is, as we know, my brother. 'Nuff said. A good example of the latter is my primary-teacher-trained uncle's wife - she has 3 children aged 5-13 and although she knows about the school stuff, we've had many lovely conversations about them when they were preschool, and also about spoken language things which at least when she trained wasn't a major part of what they studied.

I didn't mean to get this on to a rant about people who think you know nothing because you haven't any of your own, 25+ years' experience of working with children notwithstanding. I was actually wondering about something that, again, I may have waffled about before: if you have lost children, what do you say when people ask how many you have? Do you acknowledge the ones you've lost? Or only some of them? If you have children living, do you also mention the ones that are not?

*Another not-for-the-squeamish story: When I was doing my PhD I was working on speech and language disorders and some of the individuals I worked with had had strokes. The youngest was a woman in her 20s who had been pregnant when her boyfriend karate chopped her on her neck, causing a clot to move to her brain and a subsequent stroke. The baby, happily, was fine (I think she was very near delivery) and she survived, but with severe speech and langauge problems. When I met her she was worrying that her baby's language was soon to overtake hers, and that she couldn't read his books very well. Apparently pregnancy is one of the commonest times for a partner to first become violent to a woman. Lovely.

**I hadn't seen the little grave shelters before, as where I've lived they tend to concrete grave stones, and the little baby-sized one was heartbreaking.

***In fact, this is a big theme in my research - the abilities of parents to report on and assess their own children's behaviour, and how to get accurate information from parents that isn't either wishful thinking or ultra conservative.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

This is the problem

with having an easygoing, relaxed Spouse.

Another cycle started - and I have to say, without nearly as much angst as some of the previous ones, so perhaps knowing we can't get pregnant (because we knew we'd miss the window) wasn't such a bad thing. This does mean though that we needed to think about whether this next cycle would be one in which we Try or Don't Try.

If we don't, I think for the moment we'd be either abstaining over a relatively large time-slot or using old-fashioned Protection. My only other idea for the moment is properly using the Persona (or using it in conjunction with Protection) but I don't have any sticks for it just now.

If we do, I need to see the GP (and, potentially, the Big Hospital) for some more progesterone supplements. I could probably survive a month on what I have left of the nice ones, plus the nasty ones.

And, of course, I'd also have to start taking the mega folate again (I'm taking my regular women's vitamins which have the normal dose), ditto baby aspirin, watching the caffeine, alcohol etc. (there is a whole post on this, I think).

I'm not sure what to think. I really, really don't want to have another miscarriage in the middle of the adoption process again, nor do I want to put it on hold because of another pregnancy, only to have another miscarriage and (likely) a break in the adoption process because either we or the agency are unwilling to continue so soon after a loss (it's just as likely to be us as the agency).

But then I don't know how far we are into the process, how long it is going to take, what the gaps are likely to be, and also whether there is any chance of us ever getting pregnant again.

I am pretty sure we'll have a six month or so wait after agency approval while the UK government gets its act together. I am also quite sure I wouldn't want to be holding off for all that time. Likewise, if we're waiting for a placement, frankly, I think I would take a placement if we were newly pregnant, and just let people think what they think if the pregnancy works out, while hoping I'm too sleep deprived to care if it doesn't.

Until we get to those stages, I have a feeling there will be a lot of "hurry up and wait". But as I have said, even the fact that we are talking about taking a break seems huge. I actually thought that I would be getting to our five-year point - which would be in September - and going "just another month, let's give it one more". And I'm not. I really want to forge ahead with the adoption RIGHT NOW. But Mr. Spouse is no help at all - all he has to say is "I don't know" and "It would be really stressful if we got pregnant".

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I actually slept last night (7 solid hours), though I'm not betting on that being the last of the jetlag, and my mother is making coffee, so I'm pleased. Although her laptop seems to think I am moving the cursor randomly from line to line and typing in odd places so if you find any incomprehensibility, don't blame me.

Yesterday I escaped the maternal clutches and took my life (and our car) in my exhausted, LH drive, automatic-accustomed hands and gingerly made my way down to the top of the hill where the Hairy Farmer Family live. It's about 10 miles from my mother's house and very beautiful it is too. And of course they are a very lovely family, with a very gorgeous (and yes, he is verbal, just not very good at pronunciation, honest!) child, and it was delightful to meet them, and refreshing to talk to someone who knows exactly where we are coming from in so many senses, even down to the school system and local knowledge and geography and, well, I hope I'll be back. Especially if there is cake.

In a bit of a rush before we left CA, we finally heard back from the Nice Agency in state - who (yay!) think they can deal with us. Now, these may all be prejudiced positions, but I can't help feeling that we will do better with this agency for a number of reasons. One of them being that you can actually look at the website without going blind (in the case of one agency) or feeling someone knocked it up on the back of an envelope (in the case of the other). One of the others being that this agency takes gay couples, unmarried couples, and singles (I think cluttered-website-agency also does but blank-website-agency only takes married couples). Although we do not fall into those categories, I think we are probably more likely to appeal as a family to someone less conservative.

I also had a pleasant chat with the UK agency who were very surprised we hadn't received their information pack (frankly, I wasn't) and promised it would be sent out immediately, and asked nice but not too difficult questions about where we were in the process and what we were thinking of doing, to which I gave the right kind of answers ("yes, we do want to adopt from the US because we're more likely to get an infant but also because we want to try and have some degree of openness which might not be possible elsewhere"). Middle-class, high earning families are the ones that adopt internationally here, but generally there are at least a few who don't want any contact with birth families and that's why they choose international (certainly there were some on the course our friends were on, who chose China over Central America for just that reason). So at least we'll get social worker brownie points for that. I didn't ask if we get let off part of the course for having done the fostering course, but I will at some stage.


Wednesday, April 08, 2009


  • Months spent in Southern California: 7.5
  • Miles on our year-old car when we bought it: 6,000
  • Miles we've driven on our year-old car: 7000
  • US$ amount lost on the sale of our car: not telling
  • GBP amount lost on the sale of our car: considerably less owing to more favourable exchange rate at purchase
  • Amount made on sale of random goods on Craigslist and at yard sale: approx $700. Guess people are buying second hand goods these days. But not clothes, even some of our stuff that's in really good condition, strangely.
  • Trips outside the Californias: 1 (and that last week, to Colorado for a conference. Brr.)
  • Trips within the Californias: 6 - 4 in SoCal and 2 in Baja.
  • Useless OPK sticks: many, many.
  • OPK sticks that actually worked: about 6
  • Useless pregnancy tests: about 4
  • Progesterone supplement tablets left over: about 30 i.e. a month's supply
  • Months spent trying to get pregnant: 6
  • Months spent NOT trying to get pregnant: 1
  • Days till I leave work: 2
  • Papers written since I have been here: approximately 5
  • Grant proposals written since I have been here: approximately 3
  • Days till we leave SoCal: 3
  • Days till we leave NoCal where we are stopping over: 7
  • Adoption agencies contacted: approx 20
  • Adoption agencies in the US who have replied to us to say they cannot work with us: approx 8
  • Adoption agencies in the US who have not replied to us: approx 10
  • Adoption agencies in the US who have replied to say they CAN work with us: 2
  • Number of these that are in California: 0
  • Social workers who have said they can do our US home study in the UK: 1 (and that's the only one I contacted)
  • Adoption agencies in the UK who have said that they can work with us: 1 (the non-UK work is parcelled out geographically so it's not too surprising that there is only one)
  • High today in SoCal: 18C (low 12C)
  • High today in NW England: 13C (low 4C)
  • Approximate winter low in SoCal: 4C
  • Number of radiators in our house in SoCal: 0
  • Number of radiators in our house in NW England: er, 10?
  • Approximate thickness of walls in our house in SoCal: 0.02mm
  • Approximate thickness of walls in our house in NW England: 1m

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Can't buy you love, or can it?

I was having coffee (well, chai latte, if you must know) today with the very delightful Sam, and the topic of money came up. I have not spoken at all about our new plans to my mother (regular readers will have an inkling why), but I know she was on the verge of offering to pay for IVF at various points in the past, and I have a feeling she will be more pleased about our new plans. In some ways that is why I am not mentioning them - especially not until they become more concrete. But her mention of David Miliband gives me a clue (and incidentally, at the time he adopted, there was nothing to stop non-US citizens going down the same route), and I think she realises it costs a fair bit and she often says "well, you'll have it anyway some day".

When I left home my parents paid my maintenance until I graduated from my undergraduate degree (there were no fees in those days) and my grandparents gave me a credit card while I was volunteering as a high school teacher in Zambia (I used it to buy dollar-priced sugar, at times the only kind we could get, as well as chocolate, cheese, and biscuits. Oddly I lost about a stone that year). I then fell on the mercies of the Medical Research Council, who funded my PhD, and after that have been gainfully employed, or for a couple of brief periods have had savings to draw on. I have not lived at home since I was 18; Mr. Spouse lived at home till he was, I think, nearly 30, but paid his parents rent and after about 5 years working was earning more than them.

My brother on the other hand seems to have been on a rubber band until about 6 or 7 years ago; he still keeps some books at our mother's house, and alternated between the two parental houses for the first 5 or so years after undergraduate. I don't know about his financial affairs after that and before getting married but I do know he has my mother's credit card (he is 39), has been known to use it without asking (the understanding is that it's for locally bought presents for the nieces, almost exclusively), and she often pays for his flights to see her.

Now, my father has also offered to pay school fees for the nieces to attend a bilingual school in their area. I could not work out why I thought this was a good thing - perhaps just because I approve of the school - but not of the smaller amounts for the credit card in particular, and for the odd other payment he "can't quite make". But a wise friend in the computer has suggested perhaps it is because it is a big, group-type thing - the ultimate education of my nieces being important to the family as a whole, and not something any one section of the family may be able to accomplish. So perhaps if it is offered, help with adoption costs would not be such a bad thing to refuse.

I'm very curious, though, about my readers (hello, I do have some, don't I? Or is Google Reader/Bloglines failing to update my feed? I know Reader takes hours if not a day sometimes). Do you receive financial help from your family, or do you give it? What are your parameters? What do you see yourself doing for your own children?