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  • Nicole

Adoption is making me have to revisit a lot of how I anticipated my parenthood would be. Not only in how the children actually come to be with me but in how I will be with them. Things I had just assumed or taken for granted. One of these is linked to my language. This is something I've not seen talked about in any of the adoption information available.


I was born in the UK but my mum didn’t speak very good English at that stage, having only recently moved over and spoke to us in French at home. It was also really important to her that we be able to speak to our family in Switzerland. This became a bit of a chore as my sister and I started school and spoke English all day with friends, and at home with each other and with our dad. English just became easier. My mum would insist “speak French” and although it was a battle for her, we always did speak French with her. I’m so glad she persisted and fought us on a daily basis, because of her, we were fluent. We would have fun conversations switching from one language to the other in one sentence between us, but always French to my mum.


My mum also spoke Swiss German but was told when we were babies that learning two languages would delay our language skills and reduce our vocabulary. As if you only have a set amount of words you can learn and if you learn a certain amount in one language, you can only learn a certain amount in another. Obviously now we know this isn’t true and actually the reverse, learning a second language can boost your vocabulary and language skills, but at the time, that was the advice. Since my family lived in the French Speaking part of Switzerland, she decided to stick to French.



I don’t know my English family, so for me, family = French. I always thought I’d do the same for my children, so they too would be able to speak to my family in Switzerland.


When I was pregnant, I spoke to my babies in French. It was our thing ❤


Now we are adopting. We will have young children, possibly not yet able to talk but certainly aware of words and intonations around them which sound familiar. They will come and live with us. Complete strangers. They will need to learn to trust us. Trust we are constant. Trust we are safe. Trust we have their best interests at heart. Part of this trust is to recognise the language we use. Who am I to then try to bring in something unfamiliar? Something not part of who they are, but part of who I am.


I want my children to feel part of my family. I want to bring them to Switzerland to meet the people who mean the world to me. The people who shaped me and will help shape them. I want them to feel that connection to the family which will become theirs.


Language is a huge part of identity. I think I have a different energy when I’m speaking in French. Its my mother tongue. It’s the first language I was able to communicate in. It’s the language I spoke to my mum in, still speak to my mum in. It feels like home. French is my connection to my childhood, my safety, my past. It reminds me of summer holidays visiting the extended family. I miss hearing it. I will sometimes seek out a French film or radio just to hear it. Its not just that it sounds different, but that it sings a different tune to my soul. I feel almost like a different part of me is awakened when I hear French. This is actually a known phenomenon and research has shown some people may have entirely different personalities when they speak a different language.



I so want to share this special connection, this different part of me with my children but at what point are they ‘settled’ enough for me to bring in a whole new language which they’ve not heard before? Will that make them feel unsafe? Will they feel a change in my energy and feel I’ve somehow betrayed them? That I’ve not been honest and congruent in who I am? In which case I need to introduce that part of me to them straight away, so it doesn’t then become a hidden part of who I am which they won’t recognise.


Languages are also so much easier to learn before you realise you’re learning them. When you are just immersed in it. So the younger the better.


There is so much emphasis in adoption on supporting your child to understand their heritage, which I absolutely will. My heritage may not be part of theirs, my DNA may not be theirs, but they will be my children. They will be members of my family. A family I want them to be fully involved with. A family who are waiting impatiently to welcome them.


This makes me sad. That I even need to question at what stage I will be able to speak my language to my children. Part of me is also scared that if I don’t do it straight away, then I won’t. Its needs to become a habit quickly because introducing it would be harder. Much like when I was at school and continuing speaking the same language was just easier. I speak English to my boyfriend. I speak English to my friends. I speak English at work. I speak English if I go to a shop or the dentists or the hairdressers. Its easy. Sometimes if I’ve not spoken French for a few months its rusty. For the first half a day I struggle to find the words because my brain is in English mode.


My children’s wellbeing has to come first, but I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules. I think I’ll know when its right when I’ve met them. Perhaps it will be fine straight away to bring in a few words, maybe a story at bedtime. Or maybe it will be a slow introduction after some time with us. I suspect their French may not be as fluent as mine and that is something I need to make my peace with. I have not carried them, they won’t have heard French from within the womb. The first time I speak to them will be in English. They will need to grow accustomed to the sound of it, but also to me speaking it. It is also down to me and how much I’ll have the energy to push and argue for them to speak a language which won’t come naturally, not even to me anymore.

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  • Nicole

Unlike Carrie Bradshaw, there was nothing sexy or cool about my time as a single 30-something in a roaring metropolis. I did not lead a glamourous lifestyle and did not spend more time in coffee shops and fancy bars than at work. I didn’t have as many gorgeous shoes either.


I wanted my blogs to cover all aspects of my story, for anyone who may find themselves at any junction of it and feel alone. This includes one of the elements which at the time I felt most ashamed of. Nine years of being single in London. A huge city full of busy bars, hundreds of eligible and single men. How did I manage to not find a single one which suited? I guess with a population of close to 9 million, along with all the commuters, it was like a needle in a haystack, so maybe I was the naïve one to think anything different. But, at the time, I felt the amount of people should have provided an advantage and the fact that it didn’t must have been a reflection on me. No one else seemed to have the same difficulty.


My first brush with infertility was with social infertility. A term which I think has yet to be adopted by the Oxford English Dictionary. A term which potentially some people do not understand or relate to, but I do. I wanted children. Desperately. My singleness was a blocker to having my family and one which I fought tooth and nail to rectify, whilst unwilling to compromise on finding true love. I’d had the dream, like so many others. Meeting the love of your life, dates, holidays, the wonderful wedding with your family and friends, followed by a baby. I thought that was the journey I had been on and found letting go of the promise of this really hard. But whilst I felt an urgency to begin my motherhood, I was not willing to settle or to compromise on true love. It was always really important to me to be with someone because of who they were, not just because they happened to bring sperm to the table.


Being single was a very lonely experience for me. I know that seems obvious, but it wasn’t necessarily why you would think. I don’t mind my own company and actually quite enjoyed living alone and having my own little flat. My little inner-feminist was overjoyed at me, born in a sleepy little market-town me, living in the biggest city in the UK, in my very own flat, with no one who loved me close by. No one. Who loved me. Lived close by. I was truly alone in the big city.


I spent a long time heartbroken over the loss of my first soulmate. It had been an entirely unexpected split on my behalf, I hadn’t seen or felt it coming. One day we were a little family, a team, soulmates. The next we were strangers and all that had been and would have become was just erased. The grief I felt for a loss with no bereavement, was all-consuming. It did mean I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about filling the boyfriend gap with a poor substitute. I dated all the same and became quite disillusioned about what the ‘market’ looked like.


I wasn’t the only single in the city, but I seemed to be the only enduring one. I was surrounded by people who were either paired up or generally finding dating a breeze, remaining single at most a few months. I went on many first dates, but rarely a second. My childlessness grew ever more evident as all around me families blossomed and the pain of my social infertility became increasingly overwhelming.


Many seemed to feel that somehow I was doing dating wrong. Including me. I was told I was being fussy, I was expecting too much, I was told to settle to have my family. I was told to change me, be more this…..; be less this……I was absorbing all this helpful advice as additional evidence that I was the problem. Whilst trying desperately to convince myself that I couldn’t be THAT bad? I felt invisible.


I read all the books doing the rounds at that time, to be better at relationships, things like ‘Men are from Mars’ and ‘He’s just not that into you’. I read every magazine article I could find about ‘How to keep a man’, a long list of things I needed to change. Make sure on a first date you say this and do that. As a girlfriend you should do this in the kitchen and that in the bedroom, wear this, look like that..... I should also avoid various subjects of conversation, never frown, never mention wanting a family. Feminism may have begun years before but had a LONG way to go, to reach Women’s magazines in the late 2000’s. With my esteem at rock bottom I couldn’t help but feel that all these were directed specifically at me. I was clearly doing everything wrong.


One date springs to mind, a gentleman who talked about his ex-wife the entire evening. He clearly was not ready to date and I had just been his counsellor for the evening. He wanted to meet again. Nice friendly ear, to talk through his divorce, of course he did. I declined. And yet somehow I felt that I had done something wrong. I felt that I was the one who needed help in how to date. All I wanted were sparks or at least a flicker of something which could lead to sparks. I never felt that was asking too much.


I was however, never able to be anything other than me. Even with useful advice I received, like: “don’t laugh so loud”; “don’t always be the first/last on the dancefloor”; “don’t be so opinionated”; “don’t be so independent”; “don’t appear too clever”; “don’t be too sarcastic”. I couldn’t help it. I could not put on a more ‘dateable’ me. All the while these comments only served to confirm that the issue with my singleness was me.


A couple of years after I became single, I came up with my 5-year plan, which was my fall-back, my plan B. In the unlikely event I didn’t find someone suitable, I would do Solo-IVF. Most of the 5-year plan was taken up saving. Saving to move up from my one-bed flat to a two-bed, with a garden. Also, since my local authority did not support IVF for single women, I had to save up for that too. I optimistically felt sure that I wouldn’t need to go through with this. I would find someone. Everyone does.


When four of the five years had passed, I realised I needed to make a decision. It was a decision I found really difficult to make. When to accept that love was no longer on the cards for me? How can you chose between love or a baby? I kept thinking another 6 months won’t hurt, whilst painfully aware my fertility was ebbing away. I decided that there was no time limit on love, but there was on motherhood. So began my journey to solo-IVF, which is a blog for another day.


Being single in a world of couples is tough. I had a few relationships which lasted a few months, but nothing of consequence. I attended weddings; baby showers; christenings; first birthdays; Christmases; BBQ’s surrounded by couples and families, feeling more and more disjointed with my peers and as the years went on, with younger and younger friends and contacts. I saw happiness everywhere. Life was continuing all around me whilst mine felt on hold. Stuck in a loop.


I put a huge amount of pressure on myself to find someone, because I wanted a family, but I also just wanted love. I had had a wonderful relationship where I felt entirely seen and understood. I had been part of a team. I struggled meeting strangers who didn’t know me. I wanted to pick up where I’d left off, but there was no familiarity. I was hurt, I was ashamed of my long-lasting singleness and felt certain it was proof of my unlovability.


Now I look back, most of the dates I went on wanted to meet again. I was the one saying no. A lot of them did seem quite socially awkward and entirely unsuited to me, but maybe that’s all I was attracting. So keen was I, to prove I wasn’t being picky, that I accepted any date offered, which in hindsight anyone could have seen from the outset wouldn’t work. I felt it was a numbers game, the more I met the more likely I’d be to meet The One. What I was doing was exhausting myself trying to make conversation with the wrong people. I was also tainting my view of ‘the market’ and became very jaded. I wasn’t unloveable, I was not able to love. For a long time also, I was probably not in the right frame of mind to love.


I don’t know exactly what changed but I met my boyfriend just after I lost my first baby, following solo-IVF and as I was starting round 2. I broke all the rules, we talked family early on, we had to, I was likely to get pregnant using donor-sperm. I laughed too loud, I talked too much. I was opinionated and sarcastic. I was me. To the right person, all the things you do ‘wrong’ are right. There was an instant connection, in the time we had been chatting to when we had our first date, we already had some in-jokes, we already felt familiar. This felt like a continuation, to my story. Being mid IVF, the timing couldn’t have been worse. But, it just felt right. We fell in love.

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  • Nicole

I’m an over-thinker. Always have been. As a teenager I would over-think Every. Single. Thing. Who I was, how I was, why I came to be who and how I was? To the point where I asked my mum if it was possible to self-psychoanalyse, since that is what I felt I was doing. I’ve always spent a lot of time in my own head. I’m not sure if its normal or if it a particular trait of only some. Since I only know what it’s like to be me, I cannot say. It certainly plays havoc in terms of my peace of mind. In fact, it drives me mad, but in difficult moments its where I retreat to and I don’t find it easy to break through the fog it seems to shroud me in.


I wonder if this trait of mine hasn’t made things worse for me over the years. Not only do I need to process things, but in my brain, it seems one round of processing my thoughts isn’t enough. I need to process and process and process until finally I can move on and over-think something else.


The same is true for my infertility. I’ve been trying to come to terms with it, whilst at the same time still fighting my childlessness. It feels counterintuitive. Surely, I’m still fighting infertility. I want to adopt, we are approved to adopt, we will start the New Year hoping to be matched to our little family. How to separate the two, infertility and childlessness, when they have been part of the same pain for so long? How do I learn to accept one whilst finally saying goodbye to the other? I’m finding it really difficult to get my head around the fact my childlessness will end, but my infertility will not. It feels like a contradiction. In the same way that although I will have children, I will also have lost my babies.


The last few days I’ve spent a lot of time in my head. I thought about having been pregnant over Christmas, twice with a single baby, once with twins. The expectation I had that I would have my family by the following Christmas, as is the case with most pregnancies only led to heartache. Everything seemed to trigger me this year. I still struggle with the unfairness of it. I struggle with the thought there was nothing wrong with my babies, they died because my body was trying to protect me from a foreign invader. My miscarriages are still very much seen as an unfortunate medical anomaly by most, not as a child of mine which died. It is still something I want to scream at everyone, that I lost my babies. Real babies. Just as their living breathing children are theirs, my pregnancies were my babies. There was no time during their pregnancy when their babies became more real than mine were. Mine just died.


As part of my over-thinking I also play devil’s advocate for myself, which really only extends the over-thinking rather than being in anyway helpful to me. This Christmas, I started asking myself if having children is still what I really want? I’m so used to being childless. I’m in my 40’s now. I’ve watched whilst everyone else got the dream and I felt the pain would kill me with every loss. But I’m still here. Maybe I should spend my money and time doing what I want, when I want? My whole working life I’ve saved, in order to provide a stable home and life for my family and then also for its creation with IVF. I’ve never been able to travel much but always so wanted to. Should I take this chance now? Waiting for retirement to travel is dangerous game, no one can guarantee how you will age. I’ve thought it, but I don’t want that for me. I’ve fought too long and hard for a family of my own.


I’ve also wondered whether maybe I’m too old and set in my ways now for motherhood? Maybe I don’t have the stamina for the relentlessness of babies anymore? I can’t even have 2 small glasses of wine anymore without regretting it in the morning, or sometimes even already on the night. 10 years ago, I could still polish off 2 bottles to myself and still go to work the next day. This is something which goes round and round in my head a lot, torturing myself as I go. Maybe the fight has taken too long. The happy ending isn’t for me anymore. It’s a young persons’ game.


Heartbreak and loss have a way of altering time. Time slows down when you are in pain almost to the point of standing still. Whilst on the outside, others’ lives seem to continue as normal. Maybe its directly linked to how much time you spend in your head? When I’m in a dark place, I spend more time in my head and feel less able to find a way out. I’ve spent such a long time waiting for motherhood, I’ve spent so many years waiting and wishing and then losing my babies, losing my chance of ever carrying a child. I feel like it’s been my whole life, sometimes I cannot remember a time before pain. What if I don’t know how to not be heartbroken? What if my mind won’t let me?


There is another thought that goes round and round. This fight has dictated my life for so long, what am I without it? How do I become me again? I don’t think that’s even possible. On this quest for motherhood, I’ve lost love. I’ve carried life. I’ve carried death. I’ve felt my soul be ripped from my body. I lost my identity.


This Christmas has been hard. Much harder than I thought it would be. I took myself off social media completely for a couple of days but was still made privy to some of the now everywhere, matching pyjama pictures (why has that become a thing?). I was still heartbroken at seeing images of people with their uncomplicated families. I came back to the community where I find solace, where I feel heard and understood. I read others’ story of hope, joy but also pain and felt a little bit less alone.


I want to start the New Year in a positive frame of mind. I want to leave the battle weary broken me behind, quite aptly in this weird, twilight year of 2020. I want to dive into my motherhood head-first. But I’ve been let down so many times by hope, I’m scared to trust it. What if we don’t get matched?


I want to finish on a positive note, but also want to remain honest and real. I still feel like I’m in a fog just now. I’ve been fighting for motherhood so long. I’ve been wading through heartache searching for a way to soothe my soul since so far back. I wonder sometimes if I’ve lost sight of why. I certainly feel like I’ve lost sight of who I was before heartache, but I will find her. Just as I’ve been learning to forgive myself for my infertility, I will learn how to embrace motherhood, albeit late-onset. I will learn to be the contented mum I’ve dreamt of being.


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