IVF was unsuccessful for Martin and Sue, and they decided to adopt.
The couple adopted an eight-year-old girl, Louise, five years ago, and according to Martin, it’s a very fulfilling experience.
At the age of 22, Martin was involved in an accident which immediately paralysed him from his shoulders down.
He had already been with Sue for five years, and they wanted children. IVF was unsuccessful, and they decided to adopt.
Because Martin is in a wheelchair, they knew that, for practical reasons, they should adopt an older child, and they were delighted when their ‘brilliant social worker’ told them, about the girl who would become their daughter: “This child is spot on for you.”
Sue and Martin attended a ten-month induction course then, although they had already been matched with their daughter, they had to wait while it went through the court. In spite of the time this took, they say it was a positive experience.
Adopting an older child
“In the past”, Martin says, “babies would be given up for adoption because of the way times were. But they’ve changed and this rarely happens now; children are taken away from their parents by the authorities because of neglect or abuse. This means that the child may already be a few years old and, inevitably, damaged in some way.
“Our daughter had bald patches, her teeth were poor because of her diet, and she hadn’t been toilet-trained. She was a lovely girl, though; we saw that straight away.
“She already had her own personality, which we may not have seen if she were still a baby, and this was really something we could build on.
“Our social worker introduced us to some brilliant techniques. We were told that, initially, we should let her eat what she wanted and as much as she wanted, and this would take the stress out of mealtimes and eating. It certainly did, and now we have no food problems.
“We were also told to recognise which of the building blocks of her development were missing. So, for instance, if she had never been hugged or had never had a bottle or a training cup, we should fill in those blocks for her, regardless of her age.”
Home is a welcoming environment, full of personality. Martin and Sue’s daughter’s room has soft toys wall to wall, and the garden is like something out of a fairy tale. Because of Martin’s wheelchair, the house is on one level and he guides himself around, steering with his chin.
Thanks to technology and Martin’s aptitude for it, he can control his living environment using remote controls, uses a computer, and is currently writing his second book.
With the support of personal assistants taking care of his needs, he is able to look after his daughter while his wife is at work.
“We go to the park and race each other. She runs, and I’m in my wheelchair going at top speed. The horn’s a bit pathetic though.
“I’ve always wanted to be a dad,” he says, “And although it’s quite challenging looking after her when Sue’s not there, it’s relatively easy because she listens to me, so it’s very rewarding. I’m very lucky.”
Fortunately for Martin and Sue, they have been able to extend those who are involved with their daughter’s life. Living close by are grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, as well as many pets; so their little girl joined a large ready-made family who embraced her unhesitatingly.
Contact with their daughter’s birth family takes place once a year, and there is the opportunity for them to keep in touch by letter. Martin and Sue also keep a life story book for her, which is a record of significant events and people in her life so that she will always have a sense of identity.
“She’s a joy”, Martin says. “We wouldn’t be without her. Because of her early life experiences of harrowing neglect, we try not to come down on her too hard, ever. So we are very even-handed and hope that, with our help, she can move on from those experiences.
“People might think, “How did a guy in a wheelchair get to adopt a child?” I am proof that anyone can adopt, and I believe that my attitude and my desire to have our own child are bigger than my disability.