It is the morning of the matching panel and basically the day we have been working towards for the last eighteen months so the pressure is well and truly on today. I think it’s safe to say we did not sleep at all last night, both drifting in and out, of whilst watching a bunch of rubbish TV to keep our minds occupied. This time around for panel we are more prepared as we have been there before and have pre booked breakfast at a hotel near the matching panel building and had planned to leave three hours before we needed to really be there and just relax, knowing there was no unplanned traffic jams or anything else that could cause unnecessary stress. The thought of eating a massive breakfast before sitting in front of a panel, pleading our case to become the parents of the baby boy was not the best idea for me, but Rich still managed to eat his cooked breakfast, cereals and pastries as if we were on some sort of all-inclusive holiday. It is such a strange feeling having to make small talk about random stuff, knowing full well that in a few hours’ time, this massive decision was going to be decided and would hopefully change our lives forever. Our phones have constantly been going off with text messages and calls from family and friends wishing us the best of luck. There was a particular text message and photo that came through this morning though that really set us off, it was a photo of the beautiful blue-eyed boy, simply saying ‘good luck today’. Knowing we have such an amazing support network behind us is an amazing feeling and of course we cannot wait to tell them the news we are all hoping for, but it’s also hard trying to not think about it when all you have to keep doing is exactly that. The waiter kept asking us if we wanted a refill of coffee like he could tell we were both anxious and needed the extra caffeine to get us through the situation. Clock watching every five minutes, we decided it was time to head over to the building and wait there, after negotiating between us what we thought was the right amount of time to arrive slightly early. We were also going to have to drive there, so we agreed to not let on that we have been here for hours having breakfast but just act all casual as if we were just arriving, as we arranged to meet Gemma in the car park.
As we pulled into the car park, Gemma was walking out of it and told us where to park and that she would meet us in the reception area. Our plan had worked and she had no idea we had already been here for three hours. It was the same receptionist who we met on our approval panel day three weeks ago, she seemed to recognise us and wished us the best of luck, which is really sweet and did help to settle our nerves. Gemma signed us in and then took us into the room where we could wait until we were called in. We sat down and she offered us a coffee, which we declined knowing full well we had drunk about five this morning. “You two are quiet” Gemma said to which Rich replied “I think we are just wanting this part to be over with, so we can finally have it set in stone” she smiled and explained we have nothing to worry about, but I know Rich will not be fully happy until we are matched officially. My stomach is cramping so badly, so I am having to deal with the stress of thinking about the panel questions and the thought of having to run out midway shouting “I have IBS” which I was laughing about in my head. We then start to go over the potential questions we might be asked and did a bit of role play in the room, to give us some last-minute confidence which would hopefully last but we both were stumbling on our words. Gemma tells us to stop the role play and questions, just take deep breathes and just remember not to talk over each other and let one another answer, so it’s a good balance, followed by what we have started to hear a lot “you two will be fine”. Fine, this is the biggest day of our lives, we have to be more than fine, we need to be amazing. Rich can tell I am getting all worried and changes the subject onto who was actually going to be on the panel and if Gemma knows them well and whether it is just the same people as last time. Gemma then replies to say that “one person on the panel today is an approved adopter, who wasn’t hear last time and normally asks personal questions about potential parenting styles” and that we shouldn’t let this throw us off track, as we have prepared our answers for this question and know they are fine. We are due to start at 10:30am but it’s still only 10:15am so the time needs to hurry up, but then the there was a knock at the door, with the chairman from before peeping his head round the door. He introduces himself again and was just as friendly as before, explaining that they have all read the information about us in detail and that they are looking forward to inviting us in shortly. He then gives us a brief account of what to expect in terms of the running order and explains like before, that we would be asked to leave the room so they can discuss and make their final decision.
We are invited into the room and like before we sat down with a full semi-circle of faces surrounding us all smiling and watching our every move, but this time it feels a lot closer and intimate. The room was so much smaller than the other huge boardroom, this was a bit of a squeeze and really felt like there was absolutely nowhere to hide. Gemma sits with us ready for any questions we might not be prepared for, so we know we have our sidekick with us, not sure that is really how you should describe your social worker but this is how we see her. The chairman starts of by confirming all the facts about the boy and the dates that led up to this day, stating that all the legal documents to support this were to hand. There was also a young lady taking notes to make sure all the legalities were being recorded which made it feel more like a court room. The questions that they started off with were relatively easy to answer and we were taking our time and making sure we were coming across well, then one lady drops a bombshell. “So, a good few couples who adopt do end up breaking up due to the pressures that come with adoption, what is your plan if this was to happen with you?”. I could feel my face turning red which is one of the downsides to being ginger and I start to stumble on my words which only happens when I feel extremely nervous “welI…I think…we” but thankfully Richard steps in and casually explains that in the unfortunate event that this may ever occur, me as the main carer would stay in the family home and that he would move into a property close by and arrange the best situation possible for the boy, ensuring that his needs were the main concern. I thought to myself ‘Go Rich with your boss head on’. The woman who wasn’t probably expecting the response smiled and just said “thank you” but you could tell this was a question she liked to ask to every couple in our seats. We continue to answer a lot of the other questions in one go and everyone seemed happy and didn’t have much else to say, as we kept giving them the information before they had a chance to ask. We do tend to waffle on in these situations like a force not to be messed with, which is why in past projects we get the job done fast but this process has been very different experience, as we have had no real control at all and has been a huge learning curve for Rich.
The chairman thanks us for answering all of their questions and explains this is now the time they will need to discuss the matching without us in the room and that everyone on the panel had to agree for it to be finalised. We thanked them and left he room, but in the overwhelming situation I walk the wrong way and the office wall is clear glass, so everyone sees me running back the right way to meet Rich and Gemma, gesturing how stupid I was on the way past like a scene out of some sort of comedy sketch show. We go back into the waiting room and Gemma says she feels it went really well and she has never had to just sit there normally but she didn’t need to jump in to save us on any answer we gave. This all feels reassuring but it was not official, we both down a glass of water and joke our throats are dryer than the Sahara Desert. Now we play the waiting game and worrying if one of them didn’t like us and what would that mean, Gemma explained that they would have to have a really good reason for it to not be unanimous. After what seemed a lifetime but was only twenty minutes, the chairman appeared and said they were ready for us to come back and we followed him back into the room and sat down in the same seats. He started off by stating they had all come to a decision and that it was one of the easiest ones they have had to make, as they could feel the love and emotions, from the way we expressed ourselves that we loved the boy and would make amazing parents. The answers we gave them were spot on and they could tell we had really understood how an adoptive child maybe feeling and we showed the skills to help him be the best he could ever be, but most of all they really admired how much they could tell that we had already claimed him. This felt amazing that a bunch of strangers could feel how much we wanted this and how much we needed to be daddies and the reasons were based around providing a safe loving home for this beautiful boy. The chairman smiles and said “so we are all very happy to inform you that we have all agreed that you are the best forever family for this little boy, and it is decided for you to be formally matched to become his legal parents. So congratulations, as you are now both Daddies to this very handsome little boy, you can now relax”.
Beaming from ear to ear Richard turns to me and gives me the strongest hug and I burst into tears, all the pent-up emotions of the whole process finally came out with this news. “We have a son” laughing and then thanking everyone individually shaking their hands, it feels so surreal after all the work we have put into making a family. Gemma then tells us to show the panel all the items we had prepared for the boy’s introduction period and they start to pass around the pillow with our picture on it and gushing over the sweet picture of Nutter. The lady that asked the most difficult question during the panel then says “I have one last question” to which we both looked at her in horror, along with the Chairman. “What are you both going to be called” and we explained that we had thought about this for a number of months trying to come up with something really different, until Gemma gave us some simple and great advice ‘Dad and Daddy’ to which she really smiled and seemed so happy. The chairman then asks us to leave as they have another couple coming in and he is sure we have a long list of family and friends to call, which we did. Thanking him and the panel again we leave and head back to the waiting room for a final time. Gemma gave us both a big hug and said she is so happy for us and the boy. Still in shock and my face now starting to ache from smiling so much Gemma tells us she is heading to the foster carers house to tell her and to take the photos and pillows so he could start getting used to our faces and voices straight away, as it was now only 2 weeks an 1 day before we actually get to meet him. We handed the bag over and thinking I wonder what he will do when he hears us or watches the DVD we made him, Gemma says Sally may send you some pictures now. Wanting to get my phone out and text her straight away, I hold back but think to myself, OMG I realise we can now have some more photos and videos of him, I could feel myself already getting excited to see more.
We say our goodbyes to Gemma and she advises that we will again get a formal notification through from the Council to confirm things, but that we now just need to go home and celebrate with our families. Leaving the building the receptionist said “well I don’t need to ask if it is good news as I could tell from your faces a mile off, congratulations”. We head back to the car and get into our seats and just sit there smiling at each other. Rich then said “we did it babe, we are going to have our own little family finally and I couldn’t be happier that it’s with you”. The happy tears come flooding again but we have a big hug to share the emotion and then I excitedly tell Rich that we better get on the phone and call our parents, to tell them they’re going to be Grandparents to this beautiful little boy. Who would have ever thought that a Council offices car park could be a place to share such joy, knowing that we were now only a couple of weeks away from setting our eyes on a gorgeous little boy of our own.