Monday 26 January 2009

Un/Comfortably Numb

The last week has been unbelieveably stinky. I feel like I'm stuck back in last october / november again, what with the unexpected arrival of bad news, and ... okay, actually, mostly just that. I'm not quite sure how to say these things, or what order to put them in, so I'm just going to type them in the order they happened:

  1. J's father was diagnosed with colon c.ancer
  2. Due to very recent changes in immigration law, it looks like our adoption might not be able to progress any further until I am granted citizenship. Which will take about 6 months. We found out on Friday.

Okay, so you can probably all imagine what a FANTASTIC weekend was had in the Chapman household. It. Was. Bad. However. The mitigating factors:

  • Quite possibly, the c.ancer will be operable. It was found via a routing screening procedure, and there aren't any symptoms yet, so hopefully it is at an early stage. We'll find out early next week. Obviously, we're worried. But J's dad is remarkably calm and cheerful - his attitude has been a real encouragement.
  • We were always planning for me to get citizenised (yep, that's a word), but as it wasn't required for the adoption (until about ten minutes ago) we were delaying doing the forms and so on until the bulk of the adoption assessment for panel was out of the way. In order to keep my passport, and not need to send it to the home office, I needed to book an appointment to have my documents officially checked and photocopied at a registry office. It takes about 2 months to get one of these appointments. And I happened to finally make mine about two months ago. Which means that my citizenship appointment was TODAY. I'm incredibly thankful for this - it would have been very, very, very hard to wait for this appointment, knowing that I couldn't join the citizenship queue until it was completed. Providentially, I only had to wait for one weekend with that knowledge, and now my forms are in the post, having been stamped by a lovely lady named Beverly.
  • Even better, it's possible that my immigration status of 'indefinite leave to remain', which I got about three years ago, might just be enough to make our adoption possible without needing the citizenship. This is a bit fuzzy. Immigration law is... complicated. Obviously. But we're not having our papers pulled until we've at least found out whether this is an option.
  • I get to add a new ticker - 'time spent waiting for citizenship'. Hurrah.
  • Cindy got her referral - baby Olly's coming home
  • I have a new name, which is a nice novelty - it's Claudia, by a whisker, and the cat is now Kevin (that was a landslide).
  • As I had my appointment this morning, and it was in Oxford, I get to take the day off. So I'm going to spend the afternoon here:
and here:

Sadly, you have to pay extra for this:

so I'll have to content myself with the hydrotherapy jet pool, aromatherapy steam room and heated loungers. I think I'll manage.
  • I had a very big slice of cake earlier, which made everything feel a lot better
  • There's only so much of this stuff that can happen before it's almost - almost - funny. I think I'm pretty much there.

Thursday 22 January 2009

Anonymise me!

Okay, so, various factors have led me to realise that this blog is a lot, lot more google-able than I would like. And since I've been, errr, kinda open about some of my issues and struggles, I've decided that I don't like it being this way. If my friends and family want to know what I really think, they can wait to buy the book, darnit. So.... I'm going to get around the issue, I hope, by renaming myself. And yes, I know google caches things and so on, but anybody who can be bothered going through the google cache must have better ways to use their skills than in finding this blog.
So. I need your help. I've randomly (well, almost randomly - I avoided any names that are high on our list for an actual baby) chosen some potential names off the 'top 100 baby names in England' list, which is helpfully maintained by the office of national statistics. Who shall I be online from now on? There's a poll on the top right (if I can ever make it work) with the options: Chloe, Siena, Rose, Freya, Claudia. If it doesn't work, please leave me a comment instead (my blog gadget skills are not fantastic, and I keep getting a 404 error, so I'm a little worried. But I'm going to try again). Alternatively, if you've got any other great ideas for alter-ego names, please suggest them. I'm not totally in love with any of my ideas, to be honest. I'm also sort of considering Martha, because I really liked the German film 'Mostly Martha', but I'm not sure about that one either.
Oh, and the cat needs a new name too. His choices are Fluffy, Stripey, Ginger and Kevin. Or something else, obviously.
So! Vote!
And by the way, I've seen a few people say 'person x found my blog by searching xxxxxxxx on google'. HOW DO YOU KNOW?? Anyone who can tell me how to do this will be highly esteemed by me forever.

Monday 19 January 2009

Who was I kidding?

When I said there was a chance that we might get through before the rainy season? There's no way.

A dear friend sent me an email asking about when we might be meeting our baby. I replied with a list of what we had to next (a long way of saying 'I don't know'). So here is our quick, off-the-top-of-my-head list of stuff that has to happen now. Some of this is the same as the US process, some of it is different. :
  • Wait for our approval to be ratified (probably early Feb)
  • Appoint a notary
  • Wait for our local authority to send our ratified papers to the department of ch.ildren, scho.ols, and (D.CS.F) (Should be ~1 week after ratification)
  • Wait for the D.CSF to certify us as 'eligible' adopters (could be 2 weeks, could be 6 months)
  • Wait for the DC.SF to send our papers to our notary
  • Get the rest of our dossier to the notary (really, there would be NO EXCUSE for not having all of this together after how long we've had to prepare): (bank reference, personal references, birth cert, marriage cert, post-placement obligation letter, why we want to adopt from ethiopia letter, photos, proof of life insurance, etc - y'all know the drill)
  • Arrange for notary to photocopy and authenticate all the relevant papers, then send to Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Ethiopian Embassy (I'm not quite sure why this costs close to £1000. A mystery).
  • Wait for Eth. embassy to legalise papers and send back to Notary (probably about 3 weeks - 1 month)
  • Notary sends back to D.CSF
  • Wait for DCS.F to send papers to Ethiopia (YAAAAAY!) (could be 1 week, could be 2 months - looking like 2 months at the moment. Another mystery. All they have to do is measure the parcel so we can call DHL and tell them to collect it).


  • wait to be notified about a suitable child (unknown time frame - could be quite quick, could be a few months)
  • Fly to Addis
  • Officially 'identify' child recommended by orphanage and apply for a court date for an adoption hearing
  • Ask british embassy to provide confirmation that child will be eligible for citizenship
  • Wait for notification of court date
  • Wait for actual court date (approx 2 months after application). I will possibly be in Addis for this time - J will probably have to come home. I'm hoping to volunteer at the orphanage for this stretch but I have NO idea whether I'll be allowed to or not. Not thinking about this yet. It's too early for me to be disappointed if the answer is no. I'd rather have hope.


  • Fly back to Addis (if back in the UK) for a second, 3-4 week trip. Arrive a week before court
  • Court date
  • Apply for Ethiopian passport for baby
  • Wait for British embassy to give us entry clearance for baby
  • Fly home!
Notice a recurring verb?

So. I'm kind of getting used to the idea that our baby probably isn't born yet. But sometimes it hits me that maybe they aren't even conceived. J and I have regular, half-joking conversations about the fact that maybe, since it's going to take so long anyway, we should hang out for as long as it takes to get a twin referral. (Oooh, sorry, recommendation. Independent adopters must not use the term referral). But then sometimes I think 'but our friend K got her first set of papers through the D.CSF in a week! It could still happen!' until reality slaps me down again.

I love my country. I really do. But this adoption is messing with my brain enough, anyway, without all these UK-specific logistics to send me doubly crazy. I wish adoption was a bigger part of our culture. I wish there were enough adoptions each year for us to have an agency in Ethiopia. I wish I had some idea when I could be leaving work. I wish I knew who my baby was. I wish I could at least pray for him or her, knowing that they exist, already, whether inside or outside mother #1. I wish that I could communicate to some of my friends that okay, if they don't see ME as an expectant mother, could they please pray for / be thinking of mother #1? I wish I could explain that right now, mother # 1 feels more real to me - is more often in my thoughts - than Hypothetical Future Baby, who, contrary to what I expected, feels more shadowy than ever. I wish I could explain that I'm not adopting to avoid morning sickness.

Okay, I'm a little off the topic now. Sorry. Normal service will resume soon.

Wednesday 14 January 2009


It's been a week since I posted, because my head has been swirlingly full of all kinds of craziness. After the elation of Wednesday, I feel like the rest of the week totally spiralled out of control. To illustrate: normally, I like to cook a 'proper' dinner for us. The idea is that it's ready so that we can eat together as soon as J gets home and I feel like I'm contributing something other than my pathological mood swings to our marriage. However. This week we ate:

1 x shop-bought pizza
1 x meal out (that was Wednesday)
1 x home made soup (only 5 ingredients and I FORGOT TO ADD TWO OF THEM)
1 x shop-bought soup (learning from above)
1 x macaroni and cheese
1 x dinner at friends' house
1 x leftover macaroni and cheese

Yes, I was overwhelmed enough that I paid good money for pre-made SOUP.
Why so overwhelmed?

Well, apart from a very small number of people who said 'that's really... great!' in a way that made it clear that what they meant was 'actually, I'm a little freaked out by this!' I've been overwhelmed by people's joy for us. Two different people at work have given me champagne, and even a few people I was a bit nervous about telling have obviously been thrilled for us. I've been so touched by people's kindness. I should stop underestimating my friends.

I've been overwhelmed by how many of you left us congratulatory comments! Thank you so much. Nobody else knows like all of you do just what a big milestone this is for us.

I've been overwhelmed by a few very emotional conversations. Top of the list was talking to my maternal grandmother on Wednesday night. She's been very sick for over a year and I'm more glad than I can say that she lived for long enough for us to tell her about Hypothetical Future Baby. Talking to her was especially sweet because she is an adoptive mother herself- my youngest uncle was domestically adopted as a baby- and she said this was the best news that she has had in years (sorry, L, I think she was even more excited by this than she would have been by the idea of another bio great-grandbaby). She said every possible right thing that anybody could have said, finishing with 'I just can't wait to see you walk in here holding your own baby'. Considering how ill she is, and the unknown factors in our timescale, I have to accept that she might not see this. But I'll never forget how happy it made me just to hear her say it. And - ummm, oookay, actually, I'm going to have to move on because I'm totally tearing up as I'm typing and I'm doing it in my lunchbreak at work.

From the sublime to the ridiculous. I've been overwhelmed by just how silly some people are. By those who have never learned the 'if you don't know what to say, dont' say anything at all' rule. And yes, I'm thinking of you, person who told me that you knew someone who adopted from country xxxxx, and their child was 'a bit, simple, but otherwise it was very much like she was their daughter'. I'm not going to give that one any more space.

I've been overwhelmed by baby pictures. We emailed a lot of our friends with our news, so that we could tell them all at once. Anyone else find that you can't email a friend with kids without getting baby photos attached to the reply? Often with absolutely no relevance at all to the content of the email? It seems to be a a completely uncontrollable compulsion - I've begun to think of it as parental-baby-photo-attachment-tourettes. So this week, I've lost count of how many emails I got saying 'That's great news! Here is a photo of baby Archibald eating cheese'.

Most of all, though, I've been overwhelmed by general overwhelmingness. I couldn't possibly express this any better than Julie already has. (Thanks for the timing, Julie!) My head is spinning with a thousand different fears and hopes and distractions, from money to discipline to inadequacy to boredom to joy to sleep to distance from family to skin colour to the thought of several months in Ethiopia on my own to timescales.

Oh, yes, timescales. Tantalisingly, there's a slim possibility that,if every single step of our process went quickly from here on, we could possibly, POSSIBLY, get through court before it closes for the rainy season this year. I know it's not likely to happen - not really likely at all - but I can't help hoping. I almost wish that we were a month or two later, so there would be no chance and I would't be disappointed. But no matter how much I tell myself not to hope, I am hoping. This means that I've suddenly gone into hyperdrive with trying to sort out the paperwork (yep - it's all very different from the US process - once I've sorted out what I actually need to do, I'll try to put up a post about the UK procedure). I don't want to waste a single day, because that day could be the difference between BEFORE the closure or AFTER the closure and AGGGHHHH, my brain fries just thinking about it.

Looks like this is going to be another opportunity to deal with those control issues.

Amongst all the overwhelmedness, though, I am so so grateful that wehave reached this stage. Grateful that we've been approved. Grateful that we have finally been able to share good news with our family and friends. And most of all, grateful that finally, Hypothetical Future Baby just might not be so hypothetical after all.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

Kevin has some good news to share

Oh yes - he's going to have a little sibling from Ethiopia because we GOT OUR UK PANEL APPROVAL!

As you can see, he's thrilled:
and so are we!! So thrilled that we went home via a baby shop and paid £6 for a Tshirt. And then wrestled it onto our cat. It was a beautiful day.

Tuesday 6 January 2009

Banging at the closet door

We have our panel date tomorrow. Yes, really, tomorrow.

I mostly feel quite calm, and then huge waves of nauseous panic overtake me. I don't even really know what I'm panicked about, just that it feels like a weird combination of nerves and excitement. I'm excited because this time tomorrow we might be APPROVED - finally - but the nerves? I don't think they are just because I'm worried we might not be approved (though of course I am worried about that). It's also because if we are approved, we then have to do all the 'telling', and to be honest, I'm nervous. I'm nervous that people will ask really nosy questions about all the 'whys' that I won't know how to answer, or that they won't be interested at all, or that they'll think it's not a big deal, when it feels like a HUGE BIG ENORMOUS DEAL to me, or someone will say the a sentence with the words 'Angelina Jolie' in it, or people will think that we're trying to save a child, or not realise how much of my heart I have poured into this process (and how could they realise?), or make jokes about how all their husband has to do is LOOK at them and they get pregnant, as if that's somehow relevant, or not mention our news at all as if adoption is something to be ashamed of, or tell us not to worry because we'll have 'one of our own' as soon as we adopt or be offended that we didn't tell them sooner or any of the other things that are multiplying like rabbits in my fevered imagination.

And suddenly, if all goes well, it will be REAL. In this stage, now, we still might not be approved and it's all 'if'. But if tomorrow is successful I get to start saying 'WHEN we adopt' without loading the sentence with eighty-four qualifiers, and it will mostly be a matter of waiting for bureaucracy rather than being personally judged and then at the end of it someone is going to be expecting me to LOOK AFTER A BABY and is it too late to withdraw our application?

If that all seems confused, imagine what it's like being inside my head right now. Please think of me at 11.45 am Greenwich Mean Time tomorrow!!