“Are you mad?” The question asked when we first told people we’d decided to adopt a third child. We shrugged it off and laughed. But gradually, as the question became a common response we started to worry that perhaps we had, indeed, lost the plot.

Rewind back to four years ago when, in October, 2016, we adopted two boys. They were five and two years old. It was a baptism by fire. Parenting’s hard enough anyway, let alone having two boys, with seemingly boundless energy, arrive at the same time. Going from zero to two was tough.  I still call that first year ‘the dark ages’. It felt very dark at times. I would sometimes play hide and seek just so I could crawl into a cupboard and have a little cry. So, it’s not surprising that many of our friends looked at us a little dubiously when we made our announcement.

“…an additional presence/absence in our family haunted us: one that we felt we had the capacity to fill with love.”

But gradually, during that first year, I began to embrace the highs and lows that adoption had to offer. And then the highs started overtaking the lows, and I emerged blinking into the light of parental love: out of the dark ages. Adoption transformed my life, and I became a passionate advocate for it; soon, we started considering going again.

It had never been the plan to add a third to the mix. We’d always intended on just having two. But once the idea took hold, an additional presence/absence in our family haunted us: one that we felt we had the capacity to fill with love.

As we’re two dads we were then an all-male family. It felt a bit strange to us not having a female in the mix.  Exceptional women have played pivotal parts in both our lives –  we want to raise our boys as feminists – so we began to wonder: what would happen if we adopted a little sister for them? Not long after that, our friends visited with their toddler daughter, and our eldest announced suddenly: I’d like a baby sister, please.

Well, how could we refuse?

But then all the questions and anxieties: what if we couldn’t cope? What if an additional sibling rocked the boat and destabilised what we’d worked so hard to achieve already? It was a risk; and more specifically, we were putting our family at risk.

“Nobody knew our family better than us and we felt a little sister would be a positive transformative presence for us all.”

Yet, there were also positives. We’d already been through the existential crisis of becoming parents, and we’d done that the hard way. Wouldn’t adding a third seem like, well, child’s play in comparison?  We also thought that rather than intensifying the sibling rivalry between our two close but competitive sons,  a third might actually dilute, re-focus, and evolve the potency of their dualistic dynamic. But for every argument in favour, there seemed to be a counter-argument; so really, in the midst of all this confusion, the only thing we had to go on was our instincts. Nobody knew our family better than us and we felt a little sister would be a positive transformative presence for us all. We arranged to meet another family who had adopted a third and they spoke of it as an overwhelmingly positive experience. It was the final push we needed.

On the advice of the agency we involved our sons in the assessment process early on. This made us nervous because it would make changing our minds far harder once the children were ‘expecting’ too. We found, however, that involving them actually took away many of our fears. Though it was ultimately our choice and responsibility, we were now adopting as a family; and our boys were thrilled. They wanted it as much as we did.

We were approved in April 2019, attended matching panel in February 2020, and were due to start Introductions soon after. But then Covid hit. Introductions were postponed and no one knew for how long. It was an incredibly emotional and stressful time because we’d already started facetiming our daughter.

Thankfully, restrictions lifted and we were able to proceed in July. It was worth the wait. The sun was shining and we spent hours picking flowers in a variety of parks with our little girl. She, like the sun in the sky, radiated so much light and joy. The boys doted on her and she them. They still do. Placement has been relatively straight forward: less another dark age, more a glorious spring. It seems that going from  two to three children is far easier than going from zero to two; and our family feels complete, harmonious, as if it was always meant to be.

Not so mad after all.

Dan x

No turning back – Adopting siblings with Dan Part 2Audrey – Life Journey Stories