Now here’s a tricky subject that people don’t like to talk about. I’ve been back and forward a few times trying to decide if this is something I want to write about or not. It’s very personal, obviously, and not necessarily something I want to talk about lots, however it’s another one that has various myths surrounding it and certainly something I was seriously concerned about at the start of our adoption process so thought I’d give you a bit of honesty on the subject.
I have been overweight most of my life and at some points been considerably larger than others but have so far never had any health problems that relate to this. I was so terrified of the subject of my weight coming up that I decided to tackle it head on right at the start. So, in that first slightly awkward visit before any assessment had begun I asked what their policy on weight and adoption was. As soon as I asked, I saw a look of relief briefly cross the face of the social worker. It must be a terribly difficult subject for them to bring up and so I probably helped her by asking. I do however wonder if I shot myself in the foot a bit though. Once I’d brought it up she asked me to go for an early medical before we could proceed. This is when I start to get frustrated. There is a reason for weight being an issue and that is because it is important that adopters are healthy. Where possible, the system is set up to avoid disruption for children once they’ve been placed (for very good reasons) but this does seem to bring rules that lack common sense sometimes. I know of a few people that would have loved to adopt (and would make amazing adoptive parents) that have been refused because of a variety of reasons, past mental health issues, the taking of anti-depressants from previous PND, long term conditions to name a few. It is sad that there are sometimes blanket rules that don’t look at the individuals or for other ways forward, and so deny some children a forever home with great people.
The weight issue is one that frustrates me purely because it feels like discrimination which I can’t stand. If you smoke, drink heavily or do no exercise (known huge risk factors for early death) you should declare it, but I know some adopters choose not to and hide it well. With obesity you have no choice – you can’t hide it. I’ve never drunk much, not smoked since a bit of teenage dabbling and at the time was cycling 50 miles a week for work as well as regularly walking, jogging and attending exercise classes (those were the days!). I know of other people who were heavier than me that didn’t get asked to go on an early medical (interestingly men, but this may be coincidence) and I also know that they are not allowed to discriminate based on weight. If found to have any weight related illnesses then this would have been an issue.
Despite knowing all this I was still extremely worried about the medical. I had it with my GP and the paperwork was then sent to the social care paediatrician. It took our GP six months to send off the paperwork (with a lot of chasing) and then it took three months for feedback from the paediatrician. I was asked to get down to a certain BMI and told I would be re-weighed in a year. The irony was that in the nine months we’d been delayed I was already well below the BMI they’d requested as I’d been trying hard to lose weight for a while. We weren’t allowed to go to panel within that year so because of that early medical (remembering they’re not allowed to discriminate based on weight alone) we were going to be delayed for a minimum of 21 months. This was extremely difficult for us as we were desperate to get on and grow our family as soon as possible. We did however have a sense of peace through it all that delays would never change who the child/children we were to adopt were, as God knew what our family was to look like. This didn’t take away the frustration and anger at the disfunctional system but did help considerably whilst we were waiting.
When we went for our second medical just over a year later, we went together. It took almost an hour each and our GP found the whole thing hilarious. The reason why he had to measure Simon’s hips (having already done chest and waist) was a mystery to us all but had us all laughing nonetheless. No x-Rays were done and no bloods were taken and so our GP found the whole thing mystifying as he said there was very little that could be diagnosed or predicted from the kind of checks he was doing. Another issue, which we laugh about now, is that due to the impending medicals (and therefore access to our medical notes) we were both terrified of going to the Dr for anything that year just in case it reduced our adoption chances! Simon had a dodgy hamstring that gave him pain on and off for a year but didn’t get a physio referal until after we’d adopted. I held back on carpal tunnel surgery until recently which with the benefit of hindsight would have been significantly less complicated to have had a few years ago. This is another symptom of the powerlessness we felt whilst going through the assessment process.
Thankfully it turned out I wasn’t too fat to adopt, and despite the fact that I put on weight after our first child was placed with us (lack of time to exercise and major sleep deprivation being the main causes, but I’ll write about that another time), the second time we went through the process weight didn’t even come up as an issue (and I certainly wasn’t going to bring it up this time).