MAJOR Andy Wilson and his partner Stacey adopted two children through SSAFA, the armed forces charity, which has a registered adoption agency as part of its services to forces families.
Talking about the adoption process, Andy said: “You always just assume that you’ll be able to conceive children naturally, but that wasn’t the case for me and my partner, Stacey. In 2009, I was diagnosed with Azoospermia, which means I cannot produce sperm and it meant that we would never be able to conceive children naturally.”
Stacey and Andy were based in Germany when they found out the devastating news. “I was adopted so this was an option that had crossed our minds but adopting can be more difficult when you’re in the forces,” explained Andy. “A lot of local adoption agencies can see the regular moves as an unstable environment and often don’t understand the military lifestyle. In fact, military families are built on love and resilience, and if anything, the moving around makes you more stable as a family unit.”
Finding the right support
Normally the couple would have gone to their local authority to talk about adoption but because they were based in Germany, that wasn’t an option.
Andy explained: “It was our doctor that told us to get in touch with SSAFA. We were introduced to an amazing SSAFA social worker who talked us through the options. At the time we were so desperate to have children, we felt like we had to go through the process as quickly as possible but the best advice we got from SSAFA was to slow down and give ourselves a year to decide.
“Slowing down gave us a chance to recover from the IVF treatments and grieve the fact that we would never be able to have our own biological children. That year also gave us time to research and make sure adoption was the right decision for us – it’s not something that can be taken lightly.”
“Funnily enough, the moment we realised adoption was for us was all down to an episode of Friends. We were watching the episode when Monica and Chandler find out that can’t have children and were going to have a sperm donor. Monica says to Chandler that she only wanted to carry his baby. Stacey and I looked at each other and thought, yeah that’s right.”
Andy described the adoption process as an emotional rollercoaster. “You have to have a lot of resilience and be brutally honest about what you’re prepared to go through as an individual, a couple and later, as a family unit. You have to be open and honest throughout the whole process and that can feel strange at first,” he said.
“Talking about what situations you may not feel comfortable dealing with is hard because you feel like you’re saying ‘no’ to lots of children that might need a home. Eventually you see that it’s okay and that there are some children that wouldn’t work in your family unit. Not every child is going to be a match.”
Andy explained that once all the forms were filled in and the interviews and courses had been attended, it was a waiting game.
“It’s the most difficult part of the whole process and it’s incredibly hard to be patient when you’re also desperate to be a parent. There was a point when we’d been approved by the adoption panel, but we still had to wait to be matched with our child. It was a strange state to be in as you’re totally over the moon about being approved but you still don’t have your son or daughter,” he said.
Going through the adoption process with SSAFA has made all the difference for Andy and Stacey. “They supported us emotionally and financially through the whole process. They were brilliant. Anything we were worried about we knew we could pick up the phone and someone from SSAFA would speak to us,” said Andy.
“They acted as an advocate for us and understood what military life is like – we knew they had our back and were talking to all the local authorities and telling them to consider us as a good option.”
SSAFA was so supportive during the process that after adopting their first child, Aaron, the couple went on to adopt Ruby.
“No matter how difficult our journey has been, it’s all worth it now we have two beautiful children. It’s easy to take for granted but I’ll never forget what we, and our children have been through to get to this point. The joy of waking up and going into their bedroom to give them a kiss is incredible. Being able to create our own journey with our children to explore with them has made life exciting again – it’s a feeling that just can’t be described,” Andy said.
Like every family there are ups and downs, but for Andy and Stacey, having SSAFA on the other end of the phone has been such a support.
“SSAFA has helped us work with the children’s schools to make sure the teachers understand the nuances of caring for an adopted child and make sure they feel comfortable and happy in their schools.”
Find out more
Andy recommends talking to as many people as possible about the process. “Research as much as you can – but don’t be daunted. Whatever you’re going through may seem scary now, but in a couple of years – you could be with your own family and feel as lucky as we do.”
If you are considering adoption and you’re currently serving, visit ssafa.org.uk/get-help/military-families/adoption/