Me and my husband dreamt of having the happily-ever-after when we adopted but our daughter tore our family apart | The Sun

WHEN Pam*, 52, and her husband adopted Becky* in 2016, they dreamed of creating a happy-ever-after for them all.

Nothing could have prepared her for the reality of taking in a troubled, neglected child – or the harsh toll it would take on her marriage. 

Sitting at the kitchen table, I sobbed.

Yet again, my husband and I had argued about how I felt like an outsider in my own family, ganged up on by him and our adopted daughter.

At my wit’s end, I couldn’t process how my beautiful daughter could be tearing my family apart.

In January 2016, my husband Danny*, now 56, and I had adopted Becky*, then four.

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She’d suffered neglect by her biological parents, before being taken into care at just three years old.

We knew there would be challenges, but naively, we felt we could replace the trauma with love and security.

I love my daughter deeply, I want to be clear about that. 

But the brutal reality is that Becky has brought joy, but also resentment and rejection, into our life and driven a wedge between me and my husband. 

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Danny and I met in a pub in 2005 and married five years later.

We were both desperate to start a family, and after trying unsuccessfully to conceive for two years, we started IVF.

Four years and £25,000 from our savings later, I finally became pregnant in 2014, aged 44, using a donor egg. 

When I suffered a miscarriage at six weeks, the pain was indescribable.

I was so devastated, I had a breakdown and had to be signed off work for a year.

After that, I believed my dream of becoming a mother was over, until a friend suggested adoption.

With rose-tinted glasses on, I thought I could give a little boy or girl a perfect new life.

Danny worried about taking on a child who wasn’t ours and who may come with problems.

But over time, he came around to the idea, and in October 2014 we applied through Barnardo’s.

The process took around 10 months and involved financial and medical checks, attending courses about adopting a neglected child and being formally approved.

Some people would have backed out at that point, but we truly believed we could change the trajectory of her life. 

Only then was it time to be “matched” with a child. It was at what’s called “a children’s roadshow” in 2015 – where local authorities set out their stalls of kids who are available for adoption – that I saw a photo of Becky.

She had blonde hair and bright-blue eyes, and I felt so strongly that she was meant to be our daughter.

Through Barnardo’s we learned what her early life had been like.

Her biological father was a drug dealer who beat her birth mother, and she’d spent much of her first three years strapped in a car seat, in a house filled with adults, several other children and two dogs who dirtied everywhere.

She was often left starving.

We were told that, due to neglect, Becky’s brain and senses hadn’t developed properly and she was behind developmentally.

Her speech was delayed, and we were told she’d lash out at other children at nursery.

Some people would have backed out at that point, but we truly believed we could change the trajectory of her life. 

I’ll never forget that day in January 2016, when we met Becky for the first time.

Driving to her foster house, I felt nervous and excited. “My new mummy and daddy are here!” were the first words she said to us, and I felt like my heart would burst with happiness.

Two weeks later, after we’d spent more time with Becky – when she was very sweet aside from a bit of sulking – she came home with us and, not long after that, legally she became our daughter.

Tucking her into bed that first night, with my teddy, Boris, from my own childhood, was a surreal and wonderful moment.

We were a family, finally.

It’s two against one, and I’m not in their club. 

I took over a year’s adoption leave from my job in recruitment, and that was the happiest time of my life.

Becky was my little shadow and we bonded in such a strong way.

She loved to go to my friend’s stables with me to stroke the horses, and when Danny was home from work we’d go for long walks in the park together. 

It was only when I returned to work in February 2017 that things began to change.

Because I was the bigger earner, we decided Danny would leave his job so he’d have more flexibility to look after Becky and do the school runs. 

Virtually overnight, Becky became constantly angry with me.

She’d ignore me, refusing to speak to me at dinner about her day, while she’d shower Danny with affection.

Then came the physical distancing. If I cuddled up next to her on the sofa, as soon as Danny walked into the room, she’d snap at me to get away from her, then jump into his arms for a hug.

In August, she stopped calling me “Mummy” all the time, insisting on calling me Pam as though to punish me. 

When I try to raise the issues with Danny, he just can’t see it – as far as he’s concerned, she can do no wrong.

If we squabble about something minor, like him not doing housework, Becky, now 11, will jump in, shouting at me in his defence.

It leaves me feeling outnumbered and ganged up on. It’s two against one, and I’m not in their club. 

Of course, she’ll be thinking we will send her away again at some stage, like her birth parents did.

Children like Becky have severe trust issues with adults.

Her father was the violent influence in her household, so it makes sense for her to try to “keep Dad happy.” I know all this, but it still hurts.

School is another source of problems. She lashes out at children, pinching and hitting them.

There’s a social stigma in saying you aren’t coping with an adopted child.

She has to be in control, because that’s what makes her feel safe.

She now has a diagnosis of sensory disorder and attachment disorder, but we’re on a long waiting list for treatment – Becky will need to have counselling, speech therapy and occupational therapy to help with her sensory disorder. 

As a family, we do still have good times together.

We’ve taken her to Greece and Dubai on holidays, and she loved playing on the beach.

We have family movie nights watching anything that has a horse or dog theme, which she absolutely loves.

We also love to go to Costa for hot chocolate and cake, just the two of us.

But I can never shake off my awareness that these happy moments could change in a heartbeat, and the kind, fun Becky could vanish in a stormy rage.

I worry constantly about her future – will her lack of social skills stop her from making friends, having a boyfriend and a career?

According to experts, her behaviours will worsen in puberty, so that is a big worry.

Usually, I’m a very open person, but I haven’t confided in friends about any of this.

There’s a social stigma in saying you aren’t coping with an adopted child.

People keep telling you you’ve done such a “noble” thing, and it makes you feel like you can’t say: “Actually, I’m really struggling.” 

As for my marriage, I think Danny and I will get through this.

I’ve suggested counselling for us, but he isn’t so keen. I just have to believe that our love will conquer it all. 

I love Becky with all my heart and I feel so sad about the awful life she lived before we adopted her, which has left her so damaged.

All I want for her is to know she is loved and wanted. 

I have never regretted adopting her – though I’ve asked myself many times if we were the right adoptive parents for her.

Perhaps another couple could have done a “better” job. 

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I just have to hope that with time, and more love and stability, we can be the happy family I always dreamed of having. 

Today is the last day of National Adoption Week 2022. For support and information, visit Barnados.org.uk.

*Names have been changed  Photography: Scott Heavey/Copper Five Ltd

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