“How David Cameron prepared me for parenthood”

Posted by for Life

After Stylist sent Bea Gehr-Swain to grill the then-PM about adoption, she won her 10-year battle to become a mum.

I’d tried to be a mum for 10 years, through heartbreaking infertility, IVF and the unbelievably complicated adoption process.

So when Stylist invited me to interview David Cameron, prime minister at the time, for the Made By You 100th issue in 2011, I felt determined to get answers. In 2010, only 3,050 children were adopted from care, down 20% in five years. “It is something we are failing at in this country,” Cameron agreed.

“I want to sort that out.” He was frank in his criticism of the lengthy bureaucratic and invasive adoption process, and helped widen my understanding of the complex issues that affect vulnerable children. Most of all, the experience made me and my husband Andy determined to adopt. Six months later, we brought our one-year-old daughter Emma* home, and after another nine months we legally became her parents.

She bought home her daughter six months after their life-changing meeting.

After peaking at 5,360 adoptions in 2015, figures have decreased by 12%, so the system needs our attention again. If you’re considering adoption, here’s what I’ve learnt…

Pause. I wanted to jump in straight after IVF failed but we needed time to mourn. It was almost a year before we were ready to start the adoption process. Look after yourself. The emotional exhaustion is intense, especially during ‘introductions’, when you spend a week getting to know your child at their foster home. I wish I’d eaten better and made more effort to relax between visits.

Tell your child about their birth parents in an age-appropriate way. Our daughter started asking questions aged seven. Get support. As your child grows they might need help understanding and dealing with the emotional impact of being adopted.

The charity Adoption UK and local authority agencies offer valuable advice and community. Use them. Know that you are a real family. Families come in all shapes and sizes. After 10 years of hospital waiting lists, uncertainty and heartbreak, adoption finally made us parents. We tell Emma regularly that she gave us the greatest gift – she made us a family. 

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