Sandra Bullock may be one of the world's most sought-after actors, but first and foremost being a mother is at the top of her priotity list. Her most recent role sees her playing a fraught mother, called Malorie, who is trying everything in her power to save the lives of her two children in post-apocalyptic psychological thriller Bird Box. And away from the big screen, the Oscar-winning actress is a doting mother to two young children, seven-year-old Laila and nine-year-old Louis.
In 2015, in an exclusive interview with HELLO!, Sandra introduced her daughter Laila (pronounced Lila), to the world. And she couldn't be happier since welcoming her into the home she shares with son Louis. The journey of her adopting Laila began in 2012, when Sandra – with some prompting from her son, whom she adopted in 2010 – began thinking about adding to her family. "I didn't want Louis to think for a second that I wanted or needed more than him, because I had everything I needed," explained the star, who kept the process secret to protect Laila before the adoption was finalised.
"When I look at Laila, there’s no doubt in my mind that she was supposed to be here," noted Sandra. "I can tell you absolutely, the exact right children came to me at the exact right time." Speaking about the obstacles of approaching the adoption process, she revealed: "The largest obstacles were privacy and the safety of the child; to make sure that when I brought Louis’s sibling into our home, I was able to make sure I could keep things quiet and the child protected for the time that the child was ‘placed’.
"When you’ve been selected with a placement, there’s a period of time when you’re being assessed to see if it’s a safe match and in the case of Laila, there was a bonding process that needed to happen because of her age – and given what children from foster care go through, making them feel safe and stable isn’t always easy. From the ruse I had to construct so that Louis didn’t have to lie to his friends at school, to the stories I constructed for friends and co-workers as to why I was absent all the time, the subterfuge was pretty elaborate. But there is always the chance that the bonding process wouldn’t happen or that the CPS [Child Protective Services] workers would feel I wasn’t a suitable match, so I had no problem lying and fabricating stories to keep things on lockdown."
Sandra said Louis "spearheaded this whole journey" and had a big input throughout the whole process. It was when the youngster described Laila, who had been in foster care, as his "sister" that Sandra was sure she had found the perfect match. “When Laila finally came to us and we were getting visits from CPS, there was an afternoon when we were outside and Louis saw their car pull up and he ran next to Laila and asked the CPS workers why they were there," she shared. "They replied they were there to see if Laila was okay. He replied, ‘You’re not going to take her away, are you?’ and at that moment, I knew I could stop worrying about whether I had found the right match. It was obvious I had.
"But he did ask if she was going to touch his toys and I told him there was no doubt in my mind that would happen. This gave him some cause to reconsider the whole process, but I let him know I’d be there to referee if things got messy. Towards the end of the process, I remember sitting Louis down – what I wanted to know was, ‘Is this the right match?’ He said, ‘I think so,’ and I asked why and he just said, ‘Because she’s my sister.’ And they went out and played and I was just sobbing." Sandra kept the process a secret in a bid to protect Laila and ensure the adoption could still go ahead – with the process completed at the end of November.
About Louis' first meeting with his sister, the actress shared: "He grabbed her hand and dragged her into his playroom the first moment he met her. He’s a wise old soul and often knows more than I give him credit for. I think he was ready for her before she even arrived and he knew exactly what to do as a big brother. He knew to be cautious and gentle. But now that time has passed and it’s like the WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment]."
When asked if her parenting style changed since going from one child to two, Sandra replied: "No, it’s just time management and being a referee now. The style of parenting is still the same – maybe more deep breaths here and there. The only thing I am very cautious about is making sure that Louis never feels like he is looked over because Laila needs extra love and care. I just had to put all the bumper guards back up on corners of tables again. Those had just been taken down a year ago, but smartly I kept them all, knowing they would be needed again."
About balancing her career with her family, the award-winning star said: "I don’t know how the balance will work out later on, to be honest. All I can do now is enjoy exactly where I am and things will happen as they are supposed to." She added: "The only time I’m stressed is when I have to leave the house for work. Pulling myself together before I leave the house I know now is an impossibility. I’m not at a place where I feel okay being gone. The most peaceful time of day is when I know for a fact that both of them are successfully asleep and I can leave their room knowing we have another day under our belt."
The family have since celebrated their first Thanksgiving together, and Sandra is now preparing to host the perfect Christmas for her two children, something she predicts will be a "magical" experience. Sandra explained: "The most magical part will be watching Louis show a little girl who may never have had Christmas before what it's all about."
When quizzed about expanding her family, Sandra said: "No, I think this is it. But everyone keeps saying, ‘Never say never,’ so I’ll say, ‘No, I think our family is complete,’ and I’ll be open to whatever comes our way." Of their future together, she added: "That they grow up happy and healthy and know how much I love them. I don’t want to miss a moment of my time with them and if I keep worrying about things that haven’t happened yet, then I’ve lost precious time with them. “But I want them to be educated to the reality that exists – not a conversation that a parent wants to have with their children, but millions of parents are having this conversation daily."
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