'Peas in a pod': The WADDL story

Anna and her family wrote a series of books to help share the adoption journey

My husband and I are proud parents of three gorgeous little girls, we became a family almost four years ago and haven't looked back. (Partly because we haven't had the time!) We adopted our children all at once and that’s when I stopped work as an Occupational Therapist to become a full-time mummy.

Now they are starting school and, with their help, I have started a brand new venture writing books and resources for other families like ours, but more on that in a minute.

We applied to adopt after realising God had been preparing us to be adoptive parents for a long time, His prompts were really too obvious to ignore. Right from the little ideas we both had when we were younger, through to numerous conversations about adoption in unexpected places, we could see God’s direction.

On a gap year abroad we fell in love with the huge hearts of children in care we had met at a safe house – and we fell in love with each other there too! God was nudging us, (with one huge elbow) towards adoption.

Later issues with fertility removed any doubt we may have had that this was all His plan. So rather than pursue starting a birth family, before long we were in front of an adoption matching panel explaining how we were prepared to parent three children under four years old. People were understandably cautious when we announced we’d be competent parents to three pre-school siblings since we had so far only really evidenced our practical parenting skills through babysitting for friends, Sunday school and working with teenagers professionally. But the training we received really gave us confidence as we entered the final stages of the process and were matched with three children.

Time seemed to slow right down waiting to become parents, but it’s certainly sped up now we are a family of five.

With three girls very close in age, we found ourselves swimming in three sets of everything pink, but there’s little doubt that we welcomed in three unique little personalities. Even now, at the same table we can have one child refusing to eat, one overeating and one throwing food back at us. For all their valid and complicated reasons, life is never boring.

In the first few weeks especially, we felt as though we had dropped straight in at the deep end of the parenting pool and whilst we may have appeared calm on the surface, we realised we’d have to work pretty hard if we wanted to swim anywhere. Really, when we needed help or advice we were only coming up for air just long enough to grab the most simple resources we had. A leaflet from the speech therapist or a quick internet search on fussy eating was considered a good effort.

Not long after adopting we found ourselves in breakfast-time conversations that we had expected to be having a few years later. Still three years old at the time, our daughter asked why some people say ‘well done’ when they speak to us and why her playgroup friend didn't know what ‘adopted’ meant.

Some questions were tricky to answer age-appropriately. No children’s book could ever properly explain all the issues surrounding adoption and identity in one go, but we began to look for books that at least didn't show an adopted child as totally different or the odd one out. We wanted to focus on nurtured similarities and a sense of belonging. We also wanted something visually simple that our children could immediately identify with.

When we couldn't find what we were looking for, we made it ourselves and this is how ‘Family, A Picture Book' came about and our writing adventure began.

The ‘Family’ picture book has a sequel, ‘Meet The Peas’ , which describes thoughts and feelings of the Pea family members, pictured in the first book, after adopting (or fostering) a pea into their pod. ‘A Stranger Called Mummy’ offers another perspective on adoption, through the eyes of the child, written by our six-year-old in her own words. The final book in this series is called ’I Guessed’, a poetic collection of snapshots from life as an adoptive parent.

We wrote these books for ourselves to begin with. Though we barely knew what we were doing at first, we found ourselves immediately and reluctantly having to educate other parents, wider family and professionals on some aspects of adoption. As such, the books have since become more about helping other families to start conversations and giving adopters a resource to pass on to friends, families or schools that need an easy way into talking about adoption.

I created a website to link all the books and resources; ‘WADDL' (When Adoption Doesn’t Define Life). As an Occupational Therapist I have been trained to see ability before disability and the ‘WADDL concept’ is similar. We can acknowledge that adoption is significant in a child’s life story but choose to first see the child for who they are and recognise their potential. My vision as an author and Occupational Therapist, but especially as a parent, is to create simple, positive resources that can be personalised and used therapeutically as far as the adult wants, recognising parents as experts in their own family*.

I have come to realise that being able to identify with something in print is immeasurably valuable to children. Perhaps through resources like this we can encourage children to talk about adoption freely, and persuade adults to have the same expectations that our three year old had when she assumed everyone would know a bit more about adoption. Maybe the book she has since written herself can help others understand why a sympathetic ‘well done’ didn't really make sense.

As a family, we love that we are like those peas in a pod. We know that according to the eager eyed, we don't quite match. But to those who know us well, we are perfect for each other! We are all made by the same God in His image.

We are comfortable with the fact we might not ever be the same size, the same shade of green and we don't have the same original pea plants. We just want to grow together and encourage others to do the same.

*WADDL Resources for children use simple colours, words and images designed to start honest discussions about adoption-related issues among children and adults. Guides for parents and professionals to use the books therapeutically are available for FREE download to accompany the books.

Author:
Anna Carey (for Home for Good)


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