Ten years ago, after three failed attempts at IVF, we asked ourselves if we could love a child who wasn’t our own. We knew the climate for adoption had changed – it was no longer a case of newborn babies being relinquished by young mothers. Many of the children up for adoption are older, with troubled family histories. So we thought long and hard about it and, in the end, decided that we could.

For the next year we investigated adoption agencies and talked to social workers. We attended workshops in overheated rooms with name tags and flip charts, taking part in embarrassing role play between coffee and biscuits. We heard difficult, painful stories about how some children came into care. Undaunted, we signed on with a voluntary agency and spent the next six months being asked deeply personal questions by our social worker for the home study. I didn’t mind; in fact I quite enjoyed it. It made us realise how committed we were.

After we were approved by an adoption panel, we were thrown into limbo. It was a strange, occasionally distressing time. We were sent details of children whose life stories gave me a glimpse of a cruel, hellish world. Others just didn’t feel right and it felt awful turning them down. Friends around us began to have children and our vision of becoming parents seemed to be slipping away.

Then, finally, our social worker rang with details of a little boy. We’d found our son. We were sent a photograph – he was wearing pyjamas and a huge grin, his hands clenched in excitement. We’d say ‘Hello’ to his picture every morning.

After being approved by the matching panel, we spent an introductory week with him in the small coastal town where he’d lived with his foster carers since birth. It was a surreal experience. He was an early riser, so we’d be round there by 6am, barely awake. When we took him out for the day, I felt as if we’d kidnapped him: we were in charge of a child who wasn’t ours, and didn’t quite know what to do with him.

He was funny, bright and easy-going but by the end of the week I was gripped by fear. I felt as if I was about to do a parachute jump but couldn’t throw myself from a plane. In a tearful conversation with our social worker, I was reassured that it was a perfectly normal reaction and that I’d get through it. In many ways, adoption is like an arranged marriage. You don’t instantly love the child you’ve been matched with. You have to wait for love to come.

He came to live with us the week before his second birthday. The first few months were exhilarating and exhausting. My overriding feeling was one of inadequacy – I didn’t have a clue. I winged it, and hoped no one noticed. It didn’t help that for the first six weeks he called us both Garry (my husband’s name), which he’d call out loudly in swing parks.

But slowly we fell in love and now several years later he is at the heart of our life. There may be challenging times ahead – he’ll have to come to terms with his history and what has happened to him – but hopefully we’re giving him the confidence and understanding to deal with it. I can’t remember life before him and I can’t imagine life without him.