The big day is finally here, PANEL DAY!! We have been awake since the early hours of the morning and to be honest neither one of us could sleep properly. Our minds going crazy feeling excited but at the same time terrified we might be rejected. Lying in bed we both agreed to just get up, shower and take Nutter for a long walk together as the weather was nice and may take our minds off the subject or at least that’s what we were hoping. We have the whole morning to kill as we are the last couple of the day which we were worried about, as we didn’t want the panel of people to be tired and just say no to get off home. Our minds needed to be filled with positivity and not just the reasons they may say no, so Richard stated we should go to out for breakfast. We decided to find a café on route to have a big breakfast, well for Rich to have a big breakfast as he just doesn’t function properly without food and a few coffees for me, as I cannot eat too much when feeling nervous about something. I’m not sure a swift exit from panel due to a certain tummy issue would not be appreciated, so best to just not eat and stuff my face afterwards. We literally enjoyed our food and drank our drinks, weirdly we didn’t say much just sat in a comfortable yet terrified silence, probably due to the feeling of anxiety of what we both knew was to come. We are basically expecting to walk in to a room full of people who want to find a reason why we cannot adopt, but surely that cannot be the case, although I am sure we are both being too irrational thinking like this. We just need to go in there, be ourselves and not say or do anything stupid. I mean knowing our luck, one of us will take the glass of water or drink that is offered and drop it all over the table, as that’s just the sort of thing that would happen to us. Anyway, let’s stop thinking negative and get ourselves to office for the meeting, we pay our bill and get on our way.
On arriving at the car park, a whole 45 minutes early we have the chance to chat through some ideas of what we can say and who might lead on certain questions or examples. Lew with his old presenting skills suggests that we do not to talk over or interrupt each other when talking. We did make a plan to sit as close as possible and kick each other under the table if we needed emergency interruption with any potential uncontrollable babbling. With our logical plan in motion we decided to head to the office and just wait it out there until it was our time, hearts starting to beat hard and fast.
As we walk into the office and say good afternoon to the receptionist, “we are here for panel”, the lovely lady replied with “you must be Richard and Lewis, here are your badges, take a seat over there and good luck for today, you will be fine” in a very supportive and positively excited assuring way. I mean why can’t she just come in with us or be on the panel as she seemed so nice. We take a seat and in what felt like not even a minute Gemma arrives and immediately we feel more comfortable, knowing that she is going to be in there with us and ensuring we put across our best positive us. Gemma takes us into a little meeting room, where we could have a tea or coffee and made us really feel at home to settle our nerves. Gemma seemed really positive and was giving off this air of confidence, as if she was actually really looking forward to going in there. Rich clearly couldn’t cope with this, as he does get rather serious with things like this and asks Gemma “you seem quite happy and confident, is there something you are not telling us as I am worried sick” and she responded with what we felt was music to our ears. “We have been working towards this panel meeting for all these months and I would not be bringing you here if I did not think you were ready, you have everything that any adoption panel is looking for, so you now just need to go in there and say it. I will also be in the room with you, so don’t worry”. I mean for a moment my heart started to slow down and feel a bit more comfortable and relaxed, but I knew this wasn’t going to last.
There was then a knock at the office door, which we thought would be someone coming to offer us a drink or let us know when we can expect to go into panel, but no, it was the chair of the panel. He came in and introduced himself, weirdly it was as if he knew us and all he wanted to really know was which one was Richard and which one was Lewis, followed by a joke of “aha you are the one who was in Sesame Street then”. It gave us all a gentle laugh but all of a sudden the nerves were really starting to accelerate, my heart was racing ten to a dozen and I could tell just by the look on Rich’s face that he has switched into robot work mode which is his mechanism usually for coping with these sort of difficult situations. He then says that we will be due to go into panel in five minutes, so just relax and the clerk would come and collect us shortly. As soon as the door closed, me and Rich looked at each other as if to say “oh my god” but didn’t want to act like that so just spoke about how that was really nice of the chair to come down and introduce himself like that and help to settle our nerves. A few seconds had passed and the clerk was here to collect us and we were about to take the short walk along what felt like a never-ending corridor.
We walk into the room and can only describe it as a scene out of the tv programme the apprentice, where someone is being taken in to be fired. There were so many people around the table, with their names clearly displayed with some saying Doctor, some saying previous adopter, some even labelled as Councillor, each one making us feel that little bit more nervous. The chair starts the panel meeting with introductions of who is who, including ourselves and a quick overview of how the panel meeting is going to run. I mean we knew all of this but just pretended like this was all very useful information and smiled. The initial questions seemed quite simple from the chair, mainly focusing on what was written in the report and confirming that we are absolutely wanting to adopt. The first real difficult question came when they asked “so you have put down that you would like to be considered for one child under the age of 2, is there any reason you changed your mind from wanting to adopt siblings” so we explained that after talking about it together and with our social worker, we felt concentrating on one child would be best for our first time as parents but would definitely adopt a second time if we felt it was the right thing for our family.
The chair then opened up to the rest of the panel, as he mentions that some of them have questions. It turns our quite a few of them did, well it felt like all of them did, so the first question then comes in from an experienced adopter “how will you cope if you have a girl with some of the difficulties at certain periods in their lives” clearly this question was due to us being two men, but an absolutely fair question but luckily for us, it was one we was expecting and had rehearsed. Rich took control and responded with “well we have a very large support network and both have sisters who we are very close to, so would always go to them for advice on ladies stuff like this” to which the member of the panel was quite impressed, as we had thought about it and was pleased we brought our support network into the response.
We then got specific questions around the health risks of potentially taking on a child so young and how would we be up for the risk, and how would we deal with it. By this time, we were somewhat rambling with our answers and maybe going a little slightly off track, so Gemma interjected and rounded up for us with a very positive message about what she has seen of us and how she has got to know us so well. Basically, she was singing our praises to the panel, who were clearly taking this onboard. When Gemma finished, the chair said to us “now isn’t that very lovely to hear about yourselves, as I think it certainly is for us”. The chair then asked if we have any questions for the panel which the answer was of course was NO, but what we really wanted to know was whether they were going to say yes and approve us, but I doubt we could just ask that outright. The panel then informed us that we would now have a break and be asked to leave the room, while they discuss our case and come to a decision.
Ten minutes later we were asked to go back into the room and with a big smile on the chairman face he was delighted to say “YES you are approved, we are all in agreement and recommending you as prospective adopters”. We tried to remain calm, but Lew couldn’t hold back a little tear, which was a lovely moment for me as I knew it meant so much to him. It was then that the panel seemed to immediately transform from very scary people in high powered positions, making a decision about our future, into very supportive experienced people seemingly quite happy that we showed our emotion, offering a tissue and being genuinely nice about the fact that we have just been approved. They then reverted back to formal arrangements and confirmed that it would still need to be ratified and that this could take up to ten working days, so yes you are approved from panel but it needs a second view and authorisation from the Council lead. We then said our goodbyes to the panel and left the room, this time somewhat running down the never-ending corridor to get to the end and embrace in a hug that included not just us two but Gemma as well. It was a true hug of thanks and admiration for all of her help to get us to this stage, now being able to think about the possibility of a child and not just the process. I am not sure if Gemma really knows how much we will be chasing her down to find us the right match, but we know deep down that she is going to know best. We then head off out of the building, not forgetting to say goodbye to the lovely receptionist who then congratulated us before we left.
On getting into the car, it was like all the emotion that we had built up over so long and tried to never let it get to us, just came out in a waterfall of tears but the happiest tears you could ever imagine. The one thing that we have both wanted so much to be parent, has just been given the seal of approval. After a couple of minutes of acting like emotional wrecks, we decide to ring both of our Mums to tell them the news, which obviously then lead to more happy tears at both ends of the phone. It was a realisation at this point that everything had become real and we can actually start thinking about a child of our own and not just whether we might or might not ever be able to have one. The drive home was amazing, it was as if we felt different about it all, being excited at every stop to hold hands or share a cheeky kiss on the cheek. We were clearly running away with ourselves imagining all the things we had to look forward to like holidays and all the fun stuff that comes with being a parent. The change was clearly down to the fact that we now know, that we will be Daddies and all we needed to do was find our baby.