Single-minded approach to a happy family

FROM one end of a tall period home in the heart of Suffolk, a young and smiling schoolgirl lets out her best attempt at a loud holler."Mummy," she yells.

By Debbie Watson

FROM one end of a tall period home in the heart of Suffolk, a young and smiling schoolgirl lets out her best attempt at a loud holler.

"Mummy," she yells. "It's for you, mummy."

The announcement of my arrival is such that it cannot help but induce a sense of warmth and of typical child-centred homeliness. But for 41-year-old Maggie who hears the demanding call, it's that five-letter word that means so much.

Mummy. She is mummy.

A professional woman, without a husband or partner, and in all honesty without the burning lifelong knowledge that she would one day have a child, Maggie is now a real and thoroughly contented Mummy.

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She is, as she tells me in the course of our lengthy chat, now part of a truly successful and happy 'Forever Family'.

"Katie has been through various foster families throughout her life and was also part of an unsuccessful adoption. She knows that this is her Forever Family and that we'll always be a part of each other's lives."

Maggie is something of a rarity. Not only is she one of the few (sadly there is always a shortage of willing candidates) adults who chooses to adopt, but in her particular situation, she has done so absolutely 100 per cent alone.

"As far as I'm aware there are very few women in Suffolk who have chosen to adopt on their own," she said.

"I know it still tends to raise a few eyebrows among certain people – particularly among older generations – but I think that's merely because there hasn't been enough open discussion about who is actually eligible to adopt.

"I never thought it would be a possibility when I looked into having my own child and it was purely by chance that I found myself following this path.

"I consider myself very lucky to have found that it was possible. Katie and I are brilliant for each other and I wouldn't want my life any other way."

Never a particularly broody female, Maggie admits that she had not given much thought to having a family –

partly because she was notoriously unlucky in relationships and did not see that changing – until one day her world suddenly sent her into unprecedented emotional turmoil.

"I remember picking up my newborn goddaughter and everything changing," she said in a hushed tone. "I'd never held a baby or even thought about them particularly.

"But when I saw this bundle of flesh in my arms I just burst into tears. I knew then that it was something I very much wanted and that I'd been managing to hide behind my work and behind the fact that I knew I didn't have a partner with whom to have a child."

Almost immediately, Maggie began investigating.

She looked long and hard into the pros and cons of artificial insemination, even to the point that she was contemplating asking some of her homosexual friends for help.

"I'd got to the point of feeling cheated that I hadn't been able to experience parenthood naturally," she admitted. "I was pushing 40 and felt I'd lost the chance.

"It wasn't the fact of wanting a child as a status symbol and I would stress that with conviction. It went deeper than that. A child is not a status symbol. In my case I knew I had something to offer, and that was my motivation."

Maggie had resigned herself to the fact that she would remain childless when a chance opportunity came her way. In 1998 she saw a poster looking for adoptive and foster parents.

"It never occurred to me that single people could adopt, so I was amazed to read that people like me were wanted in Suffolk," she said.

"I followed it up straight away and registered my interest with a social worker who was giving an awareness session in my local library. A while later I went to a training programme and after that there were regular meetings just to make sure that I was suitable."

Maggie was finally accepted as an adoptive parent 18 months later. She remembers her first meeting with Katie vividly.

"We were both looking each other up and down and I knew she was desperately 'checking me out'.

"I'd been driving to the foster home to meet her with butterflies in my stomach and all sorts of things going through my head.

"It's all so strange because it's like an arranged marriage in a way. For a long time this little person has been a piece of paper and now she's coming into your life. Thank God we hit it off from the start."

In the spring of 2000 Katie finally took up residence for a 12-month pre-adoption period living as a 'Forever Family' with Maggie.

From the outset the pair got on famously.

"I will never forget the day we were going home together from the foster place and we stopped at the


"Katie picked up this huge box of teabags labelled 'Family teabags'. She said we better have these because we're a Forever Family now."

Maggie is evidently a huge advocate of the process of adoption – and particularly for adoption as a single woman. She has had nothing but great support from her family and friends throughout the process and says the only problem remains a need for more understanding about eligible adoption applicants.

"Katie has transformed me and turned me into this person who is far more fun-loving and happy than I ever imagined I could be," she said.

"One day when I picked her up from a school activity I remember finding a toad and the two of us walking hand in hand to place it in the river nearby. She turned to me that day and said: 'Mummy, you're lovely. You rescued me and you rescue the little animals too.'

"It was really touching, but the truth of the matter is – as much as I rescued her, she rescued me too.

"Together we have a wonderful family and it's something I feel utterly privileged to be a part of."