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By Gabrielle. Limited edition print by Helen Dardick.

Despite a few momentous rough patches, Zoe’s story is a pure delight. I could not stop smiling all the way through, which is such a testament to her storytelling skills and also her inherent positivity.

What a wonderful bunch of words I get to share with you today! Welcome, Zoe.

Me and Mr. Bob met ten years ago, and embarked on our wonderful adventure with passion, laughter, arguments, and tears galore. We moved in together quickly, on our six month anniversary, and it was as difficult as much as it was wonderful. Mr. B hadn’t quite discovered his work ethic at that point, and so stress about money was high. But the good far outweighed the bad, and one year and nine months after having met — I proposed to him on the leap year.

We couldn’t make up our minds where or how we wanted our wedding to be, but after much deliberation we tied the knot on a sunny Greek island in the presence of 80 of our wonderful friends and family. We had the most incredible week of sunshine and celebrations. And so our blessed life continued.

We were happy in our bubble and whilst we recognized our desire to be parents one day, we weren’t quite ready……still not ready……not quite……a bit longer……right, I think we are now!

So at the beginning of 2013 we began trying to start our family in earnest. We watched friends have babies; get pregnant; have more babies; get pregnant again. It was never ending. Facebook was page after page of scan pictures and announcements, and there we were, our happy faces looking more and more forced. Our congratulations sounding less and less sincere. Another announcement by close friends on the eve of 2015 found me barely able to muster a congratulations at all.

Now, there will be those amongst you reading this thinking ‘But that’s hardly any time at all! We have been trying to conceive for ten years! Two years is nothing!’ For those of you to whom that relates, I salute you. I really do. I, personally, do not have the strength to have continued on that journey for much longer. I felt like an utter failure, and I hated the way that I was resenting the people closest to me because of their happiness. Mine and Mr. B’s desire has always been to be as happy as we can be, and at this stage neither of us were happy. Something had to change.

Adoption had always kind of been an option for us. We always said that if we couldn’t have children naturally, we could always adopt. But it was said with the thought that we wouldn’t have to worry about it. That whilst we were more than open to it, it wouldn’t matter, because this time next year we would have a gorgeous little baby.

Anyway, 18 months of ovulation sticks, temperature taking, scheduled intercourse — off I went to the doctors to discuss what would happen next. I had blood tests to check that I was actually ovulating, and to check my egg store or something like that. I was given the all clear for various ailments (including syphilis!) and Mr. B was chuffed to be told that his swimmers were perfectly healthy. We were, for the time being, put in the category of unexplained infertility with more tests to follow. I was given leaflets about tests that would be carried out to check my tubes, and I was butchered once again by a nurse taking yet more blood. I hated the thought of being poked and prodded — it just didn’t sit right with me — and so I was becoming more and more miserable, and more and more obsessed with monitoring every little cycle sign.

A month before my 30th birthday, Mr. Bob and I went out for a night on the town. We were going to test out a few cocktail bars for my birthday party and, as usual, the conversation turned to our struggle. I admitted that I was utterly fed up and miserable and tired of being able to think of little else.

Then, my wonderful, gorgeous husband quite simply said: ‘Well, let’s just stop then.’

‘What do you mean, let’s stop? I thought we wanted to have kids?’

‘Yeah, we do, but we can always adopt them…we’ve spoken about this before.’

And then it felt like the sun had come out. The weight that had been getting heavier and heavier on my shoulders lifted, and for the first time in a long old while I felt excited and happy again. We discussed it on and off over the course of the evening and then put it to bed, saying that we would address it again in the morning. By that point, the cocktails were flowing and we were feeling very happy and very much in love.

The following morning, hangovers dulled with hot bacon bagels, we cuddled up on the sofa and opened up the laptop. ‘How to adopt a child’ we searched for. And so it began.

Three weeks later we had a meeting with the first of three adoption agencies, and five weeks after that we submitted our formal application to our chosen one. There followed six months of paperwork, questions, training days, information evenings, more paperwork, almost weekly meetings with our social worker, and then moving house. Our social worker wanted to recommend us to adopt a sibling group of up to three.

NO WAY’ said I. ‘There is no way I can cope with three children. Please just put the recommendation for two. I definitely only want two children.’

All of this work and discussions were building up to our approval panel on the fourth of November 2015, a day that I was so nervous about, and also the day that marked the six year anniversary of my dear father-in-law’s death. We needed good news.

On the day I felt okay. Surprisingly okay, in fact. There were no nerves, no panics. My hair did what it was supposed to, my clothes looked good, and even my makeup looked flawless! However, we got into the room, sat down in front of the panel of ten people, and my heart started racing. My vision went blurry, and I really thought that I was going to faint. But a reassuring hand on the knee from Mr. B set me straight and we smashed our answers out of the park. We received a unanimous yes from the panel and we left that room on cloud nine.

We knew then that we were likely in for a long wait to actually be matched with children, but nevertheless we were very excited when it came to looking at profiles of children who could potentially be ours one day. We decided to do this exercise separately so that we didn’t influence each other too much at the beginning, and we reconvened a week later with our shortlist.

(For those not familiar with the adoption process in the UK, this may sound a bit clinical and harsh. And, believe me, it’s a very strange process to go through. BUT you are choosing children that you want to look after FOREVER, so you need to go with your gut in those early stages.)

‘You go first,’ I said to Mr. B.

‘OK,’ he said. ‘But my favourite profile is quite a lot different to what we said we wanted. I don’t know why I’m drawn to them but I am, so I just want you to have a read through before you say anything.’

‘OK, well likewise. I’ve surprised myself in the profile I’ve chosen, so as long as you promise to do the same…Let’s turn over together?’

Lo and behold — out of almost 150 profiles of children — Mr B and I had picked the exact same one as our favourite. And what were the children? Three boys! That’s right, three. THREE. A trio! I had been adamant that I didn’t want three, but here we were, both suggesting that we wanted to find out more about these kids.

We sent an enquiry the next evening, which I spent two hours writing. You can only write a paragraph and it has to stand out. There are more people approved for adoption in the UK than there are children up for adoption, so you really need to sell yourself.

Just the following morning, we had a response from the boys’ social worker to say that they were impressed with our thoughtful enquiry and would love to hear more about us. I was baffled and excited and terrified; this was suddenly getting real now. We actually found out later that they had been planning on removing the boys’ profile that day, as no one had come forward up until that point that had grabbed them as being suitable or able to manage a sibling group of three to the level that they required.

Fast forward another six months. We have gone through more house inspections, completed more mountains of paperwork, we have visited schools for children we don’t even know, we have bought toys and clothes and beds, we have bought a new car — and then last week we finally met them. These three boys who have occupied our every waking thought since we learned about them in November, whose rooms we have had set up and ready for months — were finally right in front of us!

I came down with a chest infection a couple of days before we were due to meet them. I was so ill. I slept the entire three hour journey to meet them, and was woken by Mr. B half an hour before we arrived so that I could load up on painkillers in order to be able to spend an hour playing in a park. After that hour I was totally wiped out, and I was in bed for days afterwards but my God was it worth it! That hour is up there with my wedding day in terms of happiness. We were allowed to have some photos taken with them, and mine and Mr B’s cheesy grins say it all.

We met our sons! And they were every bit as awesome as we had built them up to be.

Now, we have to go up in front of another panel to formally get the approval for these boys to come and live with us. This will be followed by two weeks of spending time with them at their foster carer’s home, before bringing them back to our family home together.

I am excited and terrified, and so incredibly thankful for Mr. Bob and his strength. I knew that I had found a special man the day after I met him, and there is no one else that I would want to be going through this adventure with.

We have such a long and tough road ahead of us, with a lot of uncertainties. And I know that it’s going to be far from plain sailing. But we can do it. And more importantly, we are doing it together. Every. Single. Step. It’s our next great adventure. Our calling. All of this. It was meant to have happened like this. Without a doubt.

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There’s always a bit of a lag time between between post submissions and the publish dates, so I was supremely curious about Zoe and Mr. Bob’s progress with their three. Here’s what Zoe replied: “It’s going great thanks! We’re moving house again, to our dream home in a couple of weeks, ready for the approval panel on the 20th of July. It’s a busy time!”

We’ll be thinking of you, Zoe!

P.S. – Find all the stories in this series here. Do you have a story about birth, pregnancy, adoption or infertility? Send your story to me, will you please?