No parent ever forgets that first proud procession from the car to the parental home. Ali Sanders remembers every little detail of the day she took her twins home – the baby seats & took the entire back seat & she says.
She watched as her husband, Michael – fell in love in a hurry & # 39; – ran clumsily over the straps and buckles, like the excitedly starting father he was. Then, at the house, the other big family milestone came – meeting the & # 39; over-the-moon & # 39; new grandparents. & # 39; I remember Michael & # 39; s father who met them & # 39 ;, says Ali, 35. & # 39; He said: & # 39; Here's grandpa! & # 39; He was so happy. Everybody was. My parents were also very enthusiastic. & # 39;
Of course they were: this was the fairy-tale end of Ali and Michael & # 39; s struggle to start a family. They said they were infertile early in their marriage – with problems on both sides – the Staffordshire couple threw all their efforts into the adoption process.
School librarian Ali Sanders and her husband sent eight-month-old twins back to their foster parents after Ali discovered she was pregnant. They now have a three-year-old son named Jacob
Their prayers were answered shortly after Christmas in 2014. They were approved to adopt adorable, eight-month-old identical twin boys who even resembled Michael.
& # 39; They were thick and squid, with huge brown eyes & # 39 ;, Ali says. & # 39; Absolutely beautiful. & # 39;
The couple spent the next six weeks gradually getting to know & # 39; their & # 39; babies, visiting them in the foster home where they were placed, decorating their nursery and preparing for the big & # 39; take-home day & # 39 ;.
Life couldn't be more perfect – in theory. There was only something wrong with Ali. She doesn't understand, she says.
Instead of bathing in a maternal glow of excitement, Ali, a school librarian, felt numb and flat.
& # 39; It felt like I was playing – it wasn't real & # 39 ;, she says. & # 39; What made it even worse was that Michael had immediate contact with the baby & # 39; s. He already felt like daddy. & # 39;
She would see him change diapers and kirren during his visits. . . but felt nothing at all.
She remembers the boys for the first time in the park in the beautiful new double buggy that she & # 39; possessed for months & # 39; had.
A photo of Ali Sanders who lives in Staffordshire with her husband and son. She said that after the twins were brought home in December 2014, she felt flat and numb while her husband immediately treated them
Ali with her husband Michael (pictured) and young son Jacob. The couple met in college
& # 39; It sounds stupid now, but so much effort has been put into getting the perfect buggy. It was an iCandy double and cost more than £ 1,000. But even when I was sitting with my beautiful buggy with this beautiful baby, I just wanted the process to stop. I have never felt so lonely in my life. & # 39;
Motherhood often feels overwhelming and adoptive parents are not spared the waves of panic. There is even a condition that & # 39; post-adoptive depression & # 39; is called.
But this was something else.
& # 39; My predominant memory is that I was sitting there praying that the twins would not wake up, because when they did, I had to go back to pretend to be a mother again, & # 39; Ali remembers.
Seeing her obvious misery and panic, her husband begged her to go to the doctor just a day after they brought the twins home. He knew something was wrong. She had been & # 39; off for weeks for weeks & # 39; felt.
The doctor asked for a urine sample, left the room and came back with amazing news: Ali was pregnant. She was stunned.
& # 39; I said, "I just can't be it," and he said, "Why?" I said, "Because we are infertile and we have just adopted baby twins." & # 39;
A photo of their baby boy Jacob after he was born. Ali said that while she was having the twins, her predominant reminder was that she was praying there that the twins would not wake up, because when they did, I had to go back and pretend to be a mother again.
Of course they didn't have that by law. The adoption process takes months to complete through the court. But, as far as everyone concerned was concerned, they were already mom and dad.
The couple drove home in astonished silence and then Ali sent her husband away to do a new pregnancy test – the most expensive he could find, I was convinced the doctor was wrong. But he didn't.
Shocked, Ali and Michael called their social workers. And that was that. The adoption process was over by the end of the day.
& # 39; I told the social worker that I didn't think we could keep the twins, & # 39; Ali says sadly.
The babies & # 39; s went back to their foster parents that evening.
& # 39; It was the last time I saw them. I cried and cried. I hadn't expressed any emotion until then, but when they were taken out of my arms for the last time, something broke inside of me and I don't think it will ever be resolved again, & she says.
& # 39; I don't think the debt will ever disappear. I lowered this & # 39; s bag that had already been abandoned. & # 39;
Some will never be able to fathom how a woman could come back to the adoption process so far – & # 39; they will think, "How bad," & # 39; Ali admits. Others, however, will sympathize with a woman who, in impossible circumstances, has made a terribly difficult decision that she found best for everyone.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, Ali thinks the adoption was doomed from the moment she was pregnant, because her body simply refused to allow her to connect with babies who were not genetically hers.
& # 39; I think it was something physical. The way I could not connect with the twins was completely strange. I had always been a real mother and really wanted to have those babies.
Ali and Michael portray on their wedding day in 2012. They decided to adopt children after they were both told they were infertile
& # 39; I think it was my body that said: & # 39; Focus on your baby. & # 39; I am stopping my biological baby for the first time and will have to live with it for the rest of my life. & # 39;
Four years later, and that baby is now a three-year-old whirlwind named Jacob. And Ali expects again – another pregnancy that has defied the odds – her baby girl should be in October.
She and Michael couldn't have been happier. Yet neither of them has been able to forget the baby boys that were so close to them.
Ali gets up to remove two hanging toys from the sideboard. They are gingerbread men, bought Christmas decorations when they received the news that they were matched with the twins: & # 39; We put them on the Christmas tree that Christmas, thinking there would be a lifetime to decorate the tree. & # 39 ;
These are the only memories of the twins in this house. Once the adoption process was stopped, the couple were asked to erase all correspondence and photos of the twins who have since (luckily, apparently) been adopted by another couple.
However, memories are harder to erase. Ali has written a book about her difficult journey to motherhood – a life that has gone through not only a failed adoption, but also a major depression. At one point she says she even thought about suicide.
Very understandable, she is worried that she will be assessed. & # 39; I would hate people to think that I was like a child, to give back a toy if I didn't want it anymore. What we did broke my heart. & # 39;
Ali always wanted to be a mother. From a happy family itself, her earliest memories are of playing with dolls.
When she married her college love in 2012, Michael, they wanted to start a family.
After trying for a year without luck, they started testing. The results were dire.
The chance that they would naturally conceive was & # 39; impossible & # 39 ;, says Ali. & # 39; Tests revealed that I was not ovulating. Even when I went on Clomid (a medicine for fertility), the fertile phase of my cycle was not long enough to result in a pregnancy. & # 39;
Meanwhile, tests on Michael have revealed problems with the number and motility of the sperm.
These two ginger bread men's Christmas tree decorations are the only momentos of the twins in the house. The adoption agency asked them to destroy all the photos and information they had of the two young boys. They have now been adopted by another couple
Destroyed, the couple immediately ruled out invasive fertility treatments such as IVF and walked straight down the adoption route. & # 39; I had fruitlessly endured a fertility treatment for friends & # 39 ;, Ali says. & # 39; I was never hung up having a child who was organic from me. It didn't matter to me. If there were children there who needed a loving family, we could provide it. & # 39;
They underwent an extensive process of appraisal, including appraisals, interviews, and home inspections – friends and family were also interviewed.
While some couples wait for a baby for years, Ali and Michael received a phone call just a few weeks after their approval, saying they were adopting not one baby, but two.
They were given information about why the baby & # 39; s had entered care, which Ali cannot share. She admits that parts of the official report & # 39; made both of us cry & # 39 ;.
The twins were born prematurely and although there were no major health issues, there were developmental delays and would need more care than most babies of their age.
It is now clear that Ali was troubled by morning sickness during her very first meeting with the babies in the foster home.
& # 39; The first time I saw them, they were on the floor. Michael went straight to them. The room was cooling down and I didn't. I look back and think: "That was not me. The old self would no doubt have been on the ground. & # 39; & # 39;
That early introduction should be happy, but Ali felt a strange detachment, as if looking at someone else. Of course I held them. I could crouch over them and see how beautiful they were, but I couldn't feel it. & # 39;
She conveyed her discomfort in the feeling & # 39; by the foster carer and social workers & # 39; to be & # 39; watched & # 39 ;.
In the course of the following month there were regular visits, each longer than the last, with the highlight being the couple who took care of the twins for a whole day. Michael took the lead in implementing all feeds and changes. Ali says she chipped & # 39; & # 39; is, but had to force himself to participate.
& # 39; I felt so sick. I just wanted to lie down. & # 39;
Was Michael worried? & # 39; Yes. He knew I wasn't myself, & Ali says. & # 39; But he also thought it was just the stress of the situation. We both thought it would go down if we had them at home. & # 39;
The day before they would finally gather the twins, they had a fight.
& # 39; Michael could not understand. He said, "This is what you've always wanted – why aren't you excited anymore?" That made it worse, because I didn't know why. & # 39;
When Michael forced her to go to the doctor, she only admitted & # 39; so that I could get away from the baby & # 39; s for a while. Michael also went and burst into tears when the news about the pregnancy was broken. & # 39; Happy tears, & # 39; she clarifies. & # 39; But we were both cooling off. & # 39;
They drove home in silence and then told Ali & # 39; s mother and sister, who had passed on the twins.
& # 39; Everyone was stunned. No one knew what to say, & says Ali.
Finally Michael said: & # 39; We need to talk about this. Do you want to continue with the adoption or do we have to reconsider? & # 39;
You can imagine that such a momentous decision would be made about days if not weeks. But after Ali admitted that she didn't think she could handle a double adoption and a pregnancy, the die was cast. & # 39; We had no idea they would take the twins that night, but they said it was the best. & # 39;
The farewell was disturbing for all involved. Ali cried, just like everyone else in the room. & # 39; When the social workers took them from us, I knew that I loved them, but I also knew that this was the right one for them and for us, she says.
She couldn't stay in the house that night, so went to her mother, while Michael packed all the baby stuff.
& # 39; I couldn't look at it & # 39 ;, she says. & # 39; We passed everything on to the foster carers because it was only good that the twins had them. & # 39;
Ali has questioned her decision many times, perhaps wrongly. She says that the social workers themselves have told her that if she and Michael had not given up the twins, they might have been taken into care again. & # 39; They said they would never have been placed in a house with other children, because babies & # 39; s ready to adopt need specialist care. & # 39;
She still had to fight the emotional consequences. And her pregnancy with Jacob, who was born in October 2015, was far from easy. She suffered from depression and while there were moments of pure joy & # 39; were clearly difficult.
Even when Jacob arrived, the band she had hoped for was not immediate. & # 39; It took time & # 39 ;, she admits.
Ali is comforted by the fact that the twins have found a home forever, and she remains convinced that she has made the only decision possible. However, she and Michael do not discuss it much because it is too painful.
Now, she says, every time she sees twins of that era, she wonders: can they be that?
Her biggest wish is that one day the boys will knock on her door. She has drafted a letter that the adoption agency says they can be stored in their file. What does it say?
& # 39; That it was not their fault, that they did nothing wrong and that I am sorry to disappoint them. & # 39;
n When The Bough Breaks is published by Trigger for £ 9.99.
Some names have been changed.
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