'So.....this is Al, he's an adoptive parent. If you could just tell us a little about your story and some of your experiences'
In the few seconds between the introduction and me starting to talk dozens of different statements dance across my mind. Years ago I the good MrsC and I were asked to speak at a prep course. It seemed so simple then, we'd only walked a little down this road and we spoke in warm glowing terms that would have convinced the hardest cynic. Times have changed and our journey has taken a few twists and turns.
So, what do I say to this group of prospective adopters?
I could tell of the unimaginable love and pride that I feel for my children. I'd paint a picture so sweet that it would make Annie seem like a gritty expose of adoption horror. Of course I could tell of the shadow of trauma, of vicarious trauma, police and social care visits and post adoption support services. A story so grim they'd run from the building weeping.
Since being asked I've thought of so many things that I should say, could say, wouldn't say. All of them right, all of them wrong but all of them reflecting the complexities and contradictions that are apparent in my life as an adoptive parent, a parent.
I believe that at my preparation group I only heard what I was able to hear. Speaking to many adopters this seems to be a universal truth. Our capacity to hear is limited for a myriad of reasons.
The Jesuit Priest Tony de Mello said ' The shortest distance between a human being and the truth is a story'.
So, I'll just tell my story and these families will hear what they can.
'Hello, my name is Al Coates and I'm a parent, my children came to me in a rather unusual manner'