Different Needs

The Curly Haired Thunderbolt and her sister were separated in seconds.

Taken from their mother’s side, and placed immediately into separate arms, driven in separate cars, and handed over to separate carers.  In one moment, their fates were sealed.

‘Different Needs’, it says in the records.

So much heartache, pain and trauma held in one, sharp edged decision. A wound so raw that no glue, no stitching, and no apology will ever touch it. Sibling bonds, cut with a knife.

Successive decisions tear them further and further apart. Apart in circumstance: adoption for one, care for the other. Apart in distance: one in her hometown, the other sent to unfamiliar far flung lands. Apart in experience: one to maintain links with family, culture, and roots, and one to be brought up with new traditions, new ways, amongst strangers. Apart in law: one to keep her name, one forced to change it by the thick wedge of legislation. Apart in trauma: both to grow up in the constant insecurity and pressure of separation. ‘Different Needs’.

So many questions that burn on our lips and our minds alongside the discord that haunts like an angry shadow at the very center of her being.  I search and unpick the disordered records over and over – but no reason, no justification can be found; nothing that reveals the nature of these ‘Different Needs’. The notes, the reports, the reviews, the different departments, the protocols, the risk assessments, the letterbox, the data protection – none of which list or identify any ‘Different Needs’. None of which find alternative ways to address them. Around one judicial recommendation that the girls be kept together ‘at all costs’, continuing pages unfold incomprehensible, unjustified contradiction from faceless professionals who fought to this decision to keep them apart.

In my search, I fail to find the heart amid the reams of paperwork. There is no recognition that the decisions made describe and control real lives, real people, real relationships. No sense that they hold fragile vulnerability, and laughter, and tears, and futures in their grip; directing and shaping the lives of two sisters who bore no part in the circumstances nor the decisions that sliced them apart, but bear the whole of the brunt of its effects for ever.

We can make no change to the past. Our only influence is the now, in how we navigate the situation to find love and sisterhood around the circumstances; in spite of them.  Make our own way through the maze of this impossible situation to make it somehow … possible.

In the everyday we speak of her as if she is close-by.  We bring her into our thoughts and plans and decisions in the ways she should rightly be. We acknowledge but override the fractures in our family with little heed for the rules, and we spend our precious time together building up those little things that make up the ordinary everyday life of sisters; baking, doing our hair, making, sharing. Shining out from these wonderful times are the clear as day ‘Shared Needs’ that no one took the time to consider or hold dear when it mattered most.

The more we look, the more we see that the only ‘Different Needs’ to be found are those dictated by the basic needs of the sisters, and the system that divided them. It is time for change to come.

Further reading: Siblings Together 

This post is linked to #WASO: weekly adoption shout out over at Adoption Social


Days in the Mumdrah house are riddled with holes.

The Sea of Holes – from The Yellow Submarine

CHT describes her hole as big, and red, and inside her; part of her physical anatomy. As she talks of it she grasps at her chest around her heart, and claws at her stomach.  Her hole is empty.  Needy and greedy; it drains her of all security, whilst also being the portal through which the deep fear and shame enter her and expose her to a life that no child should have to bear.  Sometimes frightening – monster shaped and angry, sometimes stupefied – ice like and cold.  And sometimes (but possibly always) mummy shaped.  She has said that nothing fits or fills it; not love, or home, or sweets or presents, not understanding nor acceptance.  And if ever something good finds its way inside, it never lasts long, because it always falls back out.

But I am telling her story, one she must give in her own words.  Until that day can come, this post tells my own tale, and my holes come in two forms; both black and deep, and outside of me.

The first is huge, and elephant shaped. 

It spans the physical space between Mumdrah and CHT at all times.  I go about the day-to-day tasks of my motherhood skirting this crater, in constant risk of slipping.  If I look down, my toes overlap the cliff-like edge.  I scramble to keep on solid ground, dislodging stones that topple and fall in warning of things to come. Every decision and action I take comes with a chance of maintaining or losing my footing, to be swallowed whole into its depths.   One unknowing false move, an ill timed step, a lapse in concentration, the fuzz of tiredness, or an emotional landmine unwittingly stepped on – and I’m in.

Tumbling down, the trust and the bonds I work so hard to build are tested as they stretch and fray and tear.  Inside that hole, every tool, skill and ounce of patience is stripped from me; all lost in the confusion of an emotional world that is wholly not my own, not fully understood.

Nothing good comes of that hole while we are in it, but as I scrabble back out into the sunlight – bruised and a little guilty at my failure to stay clear – I’ve come to recognize the learning and growth it brings.  Repeated over and over, this hole helps more than hinder me.  Look closely at the hole that lies before you: are its edges as steep as when you first fell in?  Mine seems less treacherous, and has slowly become less of something to fear or resist, and more of a place to respect and acknowledge, as I build and develop as a parent.  My acceptance makes it an ally, rather than a foe.

The second is folded and tiny, tucked away in my pocket. 

I take it out in the haze of mental exhaustion.  I enter it willingly, and hide my heart in its depths to find relief from the tensions of adoptive family life.  But staying too long within its sanctuary comes at a price: detachment.  For within this void – just as it offers a break from the emotional torrent – it also numbs the rest of me; cutting off the love and the playful, curious joy that keeps us safe and tight together.  Severed too is the lifeline connection to the uplifting understanding of the adopters and adoptees around me – The People Who Know.

This hole is sticky, and harder to leave.  As much as I need it, I am wary of it and heartless trap that lies within.

Mumdrah has been quiet for too long, stuck in her sea of holes.  It’s good to be back; we have much to tell.