Category: Meet the Mama

Meet the Mama – Donna Msiska, a Heart Mama Crushing the Stereotype that Black Moms Don’t Adopt

Yay! It’s time for another Meet the Mama interview and today I’m chatting to Donna, a Heart Mama who I met through this blog. I am so excited to share her story because it crushes the stereotype that black families don’t adopt. Because they do! Donna has started her family via the formal adoption process but there are many other black moms who have informally adopted their relatives through kinship adoption. Donna, thank you for sharing the story of how little Tapola became your son.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.

My name is Donna, sister and friend to 6 siblings, aunt to 6 nieces and nephews and my most recent and (in my mind) important role – single mother to my gorgeous son, Tapola Sibusiso. I met my son when he was about 10 minutes old and I took him home when he was 7 weeks old. I always describe our coming together as being God sent. Tapo’s birth (first) mom had specifically requested that a black female adopt her child. It may seem that this request would be common in SA but by making this request, Tapo’s birth (first) mom shrank her pool of available potential adoptive parents significantly. She also wanted to meet the potential adoptive parent in person instead of reading a profile book. At the time I was struggling to put together a profile book so I jumped at the opportunity to meet her – it just felt right. When we met, I knew without a doubt that our lives would be forever intertwined so I when I got home I packed away the baby girl clothes I had bought and started buying clothes for a baby boy.

I still have limited contact with my son’s first mom and send her updates and photos via our Social Worker. Due to the circumstances surrounding the adoption of Tapola, I had full access to him from the day he was born and it was agreed that it was a safe bet to bring him home before the 90 day period had expired.

I am a “not so boring” accountant and am based in Johannesburg. I love sports, so on weekends you will often find me camped on the couch, remote in hand and in sports heaven. I am hoping that I can get Tapo to support Manchester United so I am guilty of attempting to persuade him in that direction early.  I also enjoy reading and running.

Did you always know that you wanted to adopt?

I knew I wanted to adopt from the age of 16. I cannot remember what inspired me, if anything did, but I knew then that part (if not all) of my motherhood journey would include adoption. Over the years, studies and work took over so I did not pursue adoption earlier. I am glad I did not pursue it earlier though as my attitude towards adoption has changed quite a bit over the years. At 16, I wanted to “save” a child but as I got older and read more about adoption, even seeking the negative views, I started to appreciate how complex adoption is. I realised that it is about the birth mom (first mom), the child and me and all the diverse emotions that exist in this Triad. I often find myself conflicted because with the very real joy there is some sadness in knowing that my child’s first mom will not experience the daily pride and happiness I have in watching him grow. I also acknowledge that one day our child will get to a point in his life where he questions everything about how he came to be adopted and I worry that I will not be able to provide him with the answers and support that he needs.

Did you use an agency or did you adopt through Child Welfare? What would you recommend?

I started the process through an agency but had to change early in the process because the agency did not have capacity. I then went through a private social worker. I think it is important that you “click” with the social worker you select because the social worker is going to be part of one of the most important journeys of your life.

What was the hardest part of the process?

Waiting. Fortunately, I did not have to wait long from the time that I met the social worker to getting ‘the call”. However, waiting for conclusion of the legal aspects is frustrating as it affects applications for schools etc. and restricts my ability to travel with him.

Another hard part for me was the resistance I faced from my parents in regards to the adoption once I made the decision to go ahead with it. From the time I was 16 I would talk about adoption but I was not taken seriously. Sitting them down and having the conversation with them about how serious I was about it was extremely difficult. The lesson I learnt is that sometimes resistance is about a lack of education and it became my responsibility to educate them about adoption before they could let go of their fears.

Tell us about your first night together as a family?

Tapo and I had spent every weekend together from the time he was born to the time that I eventually took him home so I was used to his patterns of sleep and he was used to me. However, I could not sleep the first night I took him home. I kept on waking up to see if he was still breathing. He slept peacefully only waking up for his bottle.

What is your funniest adoption-related family story?

Not sure if this is funny but I was determined to adopt a girl. I was petrified of adopting a boy because I had no idea how I would manage with a boy child. When my closest friends heard that I had made a decision to adopt a boy, they all said they were never sure why I had wanted a girl in the first place because they felt I would make a wonderful mother to a boy child.

Do you celebrate ‘adoption day’ with any traditions?

It is still so new so we have not had to cross this bridge yet however, as Tapo gets older, I will allow him to dictate how he wants to commemorate the day he came home with me.

Advice for the screening process?

Be your authentic self. Be open and honest with yourself, your partner (if applicable) and the social worker and don’t make decisions you are not comfortable with. Children who are available for adoption are not looking for saviours, they need to be loved unconditionally as if born to you. If there are any doubts about this, then stop and reassess what you want out of the process.

If there is resistance from those whom you consider your support system, don’t just ignore their concerns, educate them about adoption (use your social worker and other platforms to educate them if necessary). Have those difficult conversations.

I would also say trust your instincts and hold firm to your faith during this time.

How can friends and family best support those adopting?

I would say that one of the things is family (particularly) must not make their dreams for your life a factor in your decision to adopt.

The same level of support that is given to parents (a parent) having a biological child, should be given to those who are adopting during the process and after.

Respect the fact that my baby’s story is his story and not one that I can share.

Are there any special considerations adopting a child of the same race as you?

Same race adoption, so I am not often asked if he is adopted. I do often get comments about “I did not know you were pregnant” which I often ignore because those who matter to me know how my family was formed.

 

Meet the Mama – Stacy Saggers, Heart Mama of Faith Aviwe

Stacy is a very special Heart Mama – not only are we friends and (almost) neighbours but little Faith is betrothed to our Judah. It’s true, my boy will go to battle to win her heart! We met the Saggers when they visited our small group and we soon discovered that God was at work in the timing of our meeting because unknown to us, adoption was already on their hearts, and unknown to them, they were about to join a small group with two adoptive families – us and the Hamptons! (You can read the Hamptons story here). Thank you for sharing your story, Stacy!

Tell us a bit about yourself and your family

My name is Stacy, I’m wife to my wonderful husband Graeme and mom to my beautiful daughter Faith Aviwe. I’m pretty disorganised (the only form of grocery shopping that I know is panic shopping on the way home and the only ingredients that I always remember are milk, wine, oats, wraps, cheese and peanut butter (dinner is not fancy in the Saggers home), I work at a research company based in town (great coffee), my parents and one of my sisters (who, together with my other sister in Grahamstown, will soon be sending out a Facebook request for you to LIKE “FAITH’s BIGGEST FAN CLUB – daily pictures, updates and video’s straight to your mobile phone) live just around the corner, effectively setting us up with on-call babysitters and a never ending supply of love and support. My husband and my daughter are everything to me; every day that I wake up and I see them is a wonder to me; how did we ever find each other in this world?

Did you always know that you wanted to adopt?

Yes, my husband and I discussed adoption even before we were married. For sure we had a few challenges along the way which led us to question God’s plan for us but ultimately, we’ve always known we would adopt.

Did you use an agency or did you adopt through Child Welfare? What would you recommend?

We used an agency called Procare. They were absolutely wonderful – they held our hands the whole way through the process and they continue to offer us support post the adoption. We highly recommend them.

What was the hardest part of the process?

The wait! After we had submitted all the forms and done all the interviews and were finally declared “fit for adoption”, we just waited. To be fair, we only waited 3 and a half months but to us it was three and a half years. The day we got THE call that our little girl was ready to come home (well at the time, home affairs had her pegged as a boy but that’s another story)…. Well I can’t describe the feeling of amazement and wonder and the joy that filled our hearts.

What was your first night together as a family like?

Well our little girl went right to sleep when she got home so Graeme and I sort of looked at each other with a kind of “now what” shrug. So we ordered pizza, poured some wine and put a series on. And just before the first pizza slice was eaten, our little girl let us know that she was ready for a nappy change and some night time partying. And so brought to a close uninterrupted evenings of pizza, wine and series. So yes, best night ever.

What is your funniest adoption-related family story?

I don’t know that it’s terribly funny or even that its adoption related but we laugh about it a lot. On Saturdays, we take Faith with us for the Rondebosch Park Run. Graeme pushes her in the pram (and is always neck and neck with another father competing for the prestigious ‘first in the pram category’). Well Faith puts her feet up on the bar of the pram, crosses one leg over the other, sucks on her Squish baby food and waves her hand at the runners as we pass. Like the queen of England. But in a pram.

Do you celebrate ‘adoption day’ with any traditions?

I don’t know, do we? Our first anniversary is yet to arrive…

Advice for the screening process?

Accept it as part of the process that will bring your child home. While the process does feel tedious and at times terribly intrusive, it has so many advantages. For one, it forces you and your husband to discuss areas of parenting that you may not have considered if it had not been explicitly asked of you and for another, the workshops are so insightful in that they guide parents through the business of raising a well-adjusted child rather than simply focussing on the basics of keeping a baby alive.

How can friends and family best support those adopting?

The best support that friends and family can give is to treat families born by adoption like any other family. Something that tends to hurt me a little is when people ask me why I chose to adopt. Why does anyone need to know that? It is a special family secret that I share with my husband and daughter that is of no consequence to anyone else. Other information related to the adoption is just as sacred to us – it is all a part of our daughter’s life story which we will share with her and allow her to share with the world if and when she is comfortable to do so. So the best support you could offer those adopting would be exactly what we have received; lots of love and support. And offers to babysit.

Top tip for doing life as a rainbow nation family?

Know that people can’t help but have love in their hearts when they look at children, regardless of race. More often than not, when I catch people looking at Faith it’s because they are so taken with her gorgeous smile, not because she is adopted.


Meet the Mama – Sandi Gilmour, a South African Heart Mama living in Singapore

Today we meet Sandi Gilmour, a Cape Town mom of two who is living in Singapore with her husband Mike. Although I have never met Sandi in person, we have some mutual friends (including her husband Mike) and have been online friends right from the start of her adoption journey. Sandi shares her story with us here today, but also on her blog madisongracegilmour. Thank you, Sandi!

Tell us a bit about yourself and your family

My husband, Mike, and I live in Singapore and have two children. Madison has just turned two years old and Jack is 12 weeks old. We are originally from Cape Town and have been living in Singapore for just over 5 years. Mike and I are both teachers – Mike is the Deputy Head Master at GEMS World Academy in Singapore and I have recently stopped teaching to be at home with our two children. Both Jack and Maddi are Singaporean Chinese and they were really young when they joined our family – Maddi was two weeks old and Jack was one day old.

Did you always know that you wanted to adopt?

To be honest, adoption was always something that we thought very highly of but was perhaps something that we would look to do once we had biological children first. However, when the “plan” to have biological children didn’t happen due to multiple miscarriages, adoption became a very real option to us. It was definitely something that we had many fears and questions about but looking back we can’t believe we even had all those fears. We feared being able to love a child who wasn’t biologically ours and who I didn’t give birth to. But as soon as our babies were put in our arms, the love we felt was indescribable.

Maddi was ten days old when we got the call from the agency (after only being on their waiting list for four days), and a few days later we met at the lawyers office and brought her home. That was a really incredible experience – having nothing and then in a few days being a family of three with a newborn!

We were matched with Jack’s birth mom when she was 31 weeks pregnant, so we had a little more time to prepare physically, emotionally and mentally. She gave birth to Jack at 39 weeks and we brought him home the very next day. We have closed adoptions for both Jack and Maddi, meaning that we have no contact with their birth parents and haven’t met them.

(Here in Singpapore, the majority of adoptions are closed and that is the option that we felt most comfortable with. However, we do have the birth parents details and pictures for a time when / if Jack and Maddi would want to pursue meeting them. We have said that we are willing to send pictures or updates to the birth parents via the agency but that is not wanted by the birth parents so we respect that. I think there are mant situations where an open adoption works well, but it is very much dependent on the people involved and the circumstances surrounding the adoption.

Did you use an agency or did you adopt through Child Welfare? What would you recommend?

In Singapore it works slightly differently to South Africa. The perception that many people have is that it’s near impossible to adopt from Singapore as the birth rate is actually decreasing. There are no orphanages in Singapore. There are foster families who foster children while their family unit is being rehabilitated and the majority of the time those children are reunited with their families. On the rare occasion where these children are not able to be placed back with their families, then they become the care of the Ministry of Social and Family services and can be adopted. This process tends to be a long process and there are not too many children in this position.

With all that being said, there are private adoption agencies in Singapore that walk alongside mothers who are wanting to place their child for adoption and we chose this route. These agencies will place a child / baby with a family, take them through all the legal steps and assist in getting the child’s new birth certificate. The one drawback is that the private agencies are incredibly expensive.

What was the hardest part of the process?

The hardest part of the process for us was the waiting period for the adoption to be finalised. In Singapore the birth mom can legally change her mind and decide to parent the child right up until the final adoption order is granted. As time goes on, it does become more difficult for her to request the child back but she is well within her rights to do so. Maddi’s adoption took just under ten months to become finalised and so we are expecting a similar time frame with Jack. Once the adoption order is granted it only takes about two weeks to get the new birth certificate which is really efficient.

How was your first night together as a family?

The first night with Maddi, we were both just on such an adrenaline rush. We just wanted to stare at her. We were just in awe that she was ours and just so perfect! I do remember waking up in a sleepy state to a baby crying and then remembered that we had a baby in the house who needed a bottle.

Jack’s first night at home made me remember how tough it was getting up numerous times during the night to feed a newborn. Life is also a lot busier with two children than just one so I feel a lot more exhausted with the two children than I did with just Maddi.

What is your funniest adoption-related family story?

There are so many that come to mind. Having children who do not look the same as us definitely gets a lot of attention here and many strange comments (mostly from strangers). I had a lady at the check out counter at the grocery store ask me if I “bought from China?” I thought she was referring to my Fuji apples but no she was referring to my daughter. Other questions we have had is “How much you pay for them” and “you must have paid a lot more for the boy than the girl”. In Chinese culture, boys are seen as more “valuable” than girls.

Once Maddi was having a meltdown in the shopping aisle, so I just ignored her and carried on getting items of the shelf, until a lady came around the corner, bent down to Maddi and said “Oh dear, have you lost your mommy?” She was rather puzzled and I said that I am her mother and she is fine!

All these comments used to really bother me when we had just got Maddi but now I think I am more equipped to know when to ignore, how to answer, or what to answer.

Do you celebrate ‘adoption day’ with any traditions?

Maddi and Jack are still rather young and don’t have an understanding of their ‘Adoption days’ just yet, but we make it our ‘Family Day’. It’s a day to spend together as a family, doing fun things together and just reflecting on what absolute treasures our children are and how we love being a family with them. When they are older, we would love for them to chose the fun activities for us all to do together on their special Adoption Day.

Is there anything that you do to celebrate your childrens’ heritage?

We want to celebrate their Singaporean Chinese heritage as much as we can, and also introduce them to certain South African traditions that we have too. There are certain festivals celebrated here in Singapore that are really big such as Chinese New Year. Each year we have bought Maddi (and now will for Jack too) the traditional Chinese clothing and we enjoy watching the Lion Dance that is done throughout the Chinese New Year period.

We have also given our children a chinese name. And incredibly, before we had met them we gave them their chinese names and when we saw their original birth certificates, we saw that their names were the exact chinese names that their birth parents gave them. In Chinese culture there is usually a link to names passed down to family members. Maddi’s chinese name is Xuan En (meaning: to proclaim, declare Grace) and Jack’s is Jian En (meaning: to establish Grace).

If we are still living in Singapore when Maddi and Jack go to school, the International schools offer Mandarin as a foreign language so they will have the opportunity to learn to speak the local language. On the South African side, Maddi loves biltong and boerewors. Thanks to friends and family back home, we have a great selection of African story books, the South African Alphabet book and traditioanl African clothes. Maddi loves watching rugby (and Im sure Jack will too) and when it’s a big game on, then they wear their Springbok rugby jerseys and shout “Bokke”.

Advice for the screening process?

My advice would be to just take things one step at a time. It can seem very overwhelming when you look at the whole picture. I really had to break the whole process down into manageable steps and make lists. The ‘screening process’ is a little different here in Singapore. The government does not require a Home Study Report if you are adopting a Singaporean child. However, after the first court date, the child falls under the guardianship of the Ministry of Social and Family Services (MSF) and then a Social Worker is assigned to you and does all the necessary checks and home visits etc. The MSF then submits their report to the courts, who will then grant the final adoption order in your favour if all requirements are met.

How can friends and family best support those adopting?

The support of friends and family is just so important. We are very lucky to have family and friends who have always supported our decision to adopt right from the beginning. To have our children loved and accepted by everyone is incredible. Parents who are wanting to adopt have the normal pressures of raising children but also with the added strand of adoption. In the back of my mind, I am very aware of the questions that my children will have for me in the years to come, how will they will process their adoption story. So to have friends and family who are walking alongside us is just so incredibly valuable.

Top tip for doing life as a rainbow nation family?

As a cross cultural family, I was very aware of our ‘differences’ in appearance when we first got Maddi. It made me feel very insecure and uncomfortable. To us, they are our children. We don’t see them as ‘Chinese’ – they are first and foremost our children.

I am proud of who they are and where they have come from. So my top tip would be to go out and be proud of your family. Yes, there may be stares and comments. Some of those are out of curiosity and/or ignorance but it’s important to hold your head up high and be proud of this little family unit that is unique and has been woven together in a special way.


Meet the Mama – Nancy Barber, a Heart Mama who pursued adoption as a first choice

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This story is an extra special one for me. My hope for this blog has been to design a space to pop adoption onto prospective parents’ radars and to create a platform for adoptive parents to share their stories. Sometimes all it takes to encourage those who may already have adoption at the back (or front) of their minds to take that next step, is share with them that there is a wide community of like minded people out there!

Today we meet Nancy and her husband Dean, who adopted little Daniel when he was 4 months old. I met Nancy on Instagram and love the pics that she shares of her little one – yay social media! The Barber family story is a beautiful illustation of how God is always in charge and how He cares about the smallest details of our stories.

Tell us a bit about your family

My husband, Dean, and I have been married for 7 years. Dean is a Primary School teacher. I am a speech-language therapist with a passion for working with adults with neurogenic disorders. Dean is from Natal and I am from Johannesburg. We currently live in Jhb. We have a beautiful, happy baby boy, Daniel, who is now 11 months old. He joined our family in May 2016 when he was 4 and a half months old. We enjoy road running and have already indoctrinated Daniel into the world of running by letting him watch the winner of Comrades cross the finish line. He has also watched the Soweto Marathon with Granny and Pops while we ran it.

Did you always know that you wanted to adopt?

I had desires in my teenage years to adopt and in Dean’s early twenties he also had desires to adopt. Dean and I started discussing adoption from when we were engaged. Over the years of our marriage, the discussion of adoption has occurred numerous times. In 2015 we started talking a lot more seriously about having biological children but also our desire to adopt. We were trying to decide if we needed to have a biological child first or if we should adopt first. In our researching we came across the HeartMama blog and when I read Jules and her husband’s story, it was like an instant awakening in my heart that adoption can be a first choice. I was so excited that I shared this with Dean and through prayerful consideration, we knew that this is what God wanted for our family- adoption as a first choice. It was so liberating to not feel the pressure of trying to justify and decide between a biological or an adopted child and that adoption can be a first choice for growing a family. We have chosen not to pursue biological children because of the love and conviction God has put in our hearts for adoption.

After making the decision, Dean and I were unsure as to the next step to actually adopt as there were so many different agencies when we googled. At a friend’s birthday in September 2015, we were introduced to an amazing couple who were going through the adoption process and were about to do the preparation course. They were instrumental is helping us decide on the agency we went through. They were also so supportive in explaining the process and sharing their heart for adoption with us. We then started the process in November 2015 with the orientation session and it was cemented in our hearts that adoption was the first choice for our family. It was amazing how God put the right people in our path to help us on our journey of adopting. What was also so special is that we always wanted to name our son Daniel and we had not told anyone this (not even family members) so when our social worker phoned us with THE call and told us our little boy’s name was Daniel, it was just another huge confirmation from God that He wanted our little boy to be a part of our family. The way God has been in the details of the adoption has been amazing!

Did you use an agency or did you go through Child Welfare? What would you recommend?

We went through an agency. They are a very ethical agency so we felt we could trust them in the process and believed they had the best interest of the baby/child at heart. Going through the agency and working with the social worker was like having a pregnancy and each interview and discussion time was like having an ultrasound and gave us a lot of food for thought. It grew our marriage and our hearts for the arrival of our precious boy.

What was the hardest part of the process?

Waiting for all the government documentation was frustrating at times but we have found the hardest part of the process was the first few months of having Daniel as part of our family. What has been challenging is trying to convey to society in general that we are not saviours who need a “well done” as well as the subtle racism that can be directed towards a transracial family. It has been eye opening and has challenged us as well.

What was your first night together as a family like?

Daniel is and has been such an easy, happy, content baby so our first night was peaceful and it felt normal for him to be part of our family. Waking up the next morning and realizing that this little human was our son was so exciting.

Do you celebrate ‘adoption day’ with any traditions?

We are going to give Daniel the choice as he gets older if and how he would like to celebrate the day that he joined our family.

Advice for the screening process?

Just be yourself and be very open with your social worker. Also acknowledge that the government aspects of the process are going to take time and require you or your spouse to make numerous phone calls and visits to government departments. Accepting this made following up on documents etc feel a bit “easier”.

How can friends and family best support those adopting?

Treat it like a pregnancy- ask how the sessions are going, be interested in the process just like one would for the process of pregnancy, do a baby shower, offer meals for after the baby arrives. All those things make a huge difference for the family adopting. Only don’t ask frequently if you have the government forms you require 😉 haha.

Top tip for doing life as a rainbow nation family?

Embrace it and allow you and your spouse and your family the space to discuss the hard topics and have your own world views and prejudices challenged and changed. Also accept that every time you leave the house your family is on show (many people stare, comment, want to touch or hold him) and be proud of your beautiful family!

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Meet the Mama – Naomi Botha, a Heart Mama surprised with twins!

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Naomi is a local-living, British-born Heart Mama who started the adoption process soon after gaining permanent residency in South Africa and was surprised with twins – double joy! We met online in the Passionate about Adoption Facebook group and have a couple of mutual friends but this is the first time I’ve heard her adoption story. Thanks for sharing it with us, Naomi!

Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.

My husband, Troskie, and I have been married for 9 ½ years. I’m from the UK and he’s South African. We met in England in 2006 and moved to Cape Town in 2012, where I immediately felt ‘at home’.

In August 2015, after 9 months of waiting… we found out we were to receive a double blessing; not just the one baby we were expecting and were all set up for, but we got ‘the call’ and discovered we had been matched with TWINS! To our even greater surprise we were asked if we could pick them up in two days?! So, we went from being ‘just the two of us’ to a ‘family of four’ virtually overnight. We celebrated Esther & Josiah’s Homecoming, a year ago, on 19 August 2015; undoubtedly the happiest day of our lives! The twins were almost six months old when they came home to us and their Homecoming Day was exactly 1 month before my 40th Birthday!

We had wanted to adopt two children and loved the idea of having a boy and a girl, so these two precious munchkins have completed our family perfectly and have turned our world upside down. We find it quite incredible how well matched we are to our children, as Esther’s character and personality are so much like her mama and Josiah is just like his dada in so many ways! We know without a doubt that God has chosen us to be their parents and them to be our children.

Did you always know that you wanted to adopt?      

Adoption has always been on my heart. Ever since I was a young girl and was personally adopted into God’s family, I knew that I would one day adopt and that adoption was part of God’s plan for me. Interestingly, a couple of years later my parents adopted my older brother. This was not without its challenges, as I was the eldest of three daughters and was nine when my parents adopted my brother who was eleven. Although it is now not recommended to adopt out of birth order (and I completely agree that it has significant implications for both existing children and adoptees), I do believe God chose my brother to join our family.

When I met my husband, we talked about adopting one day and although he had not really considered adoption before, he was in complete agreement with the idea and shared my heart to open our home and family to children who were in need of a loving home. When we got married, we both decided we wanted to have children by birth and adoption and always said, “Whatever happens first!” Unfortunately, we soon discovered that I had a severe gynae condition which was not only physically debilitating but which prevented us from conceiving. So, when we moved to South Africa and I gained my permanent residency, we decided to start the process of adoption.

As adoption was a relatively new concept for my husband, I wanted to be sure that we were on the same page and that he was 100% certain about adopting before we proceeded with the process. We attended the Arise Conference in 2012, soon after we arrived in Cape Town, where Troskie found he gained all the information he needed to know and understand, as well as the space to process the questions he had about it all. It was a very valuable time for us both.

Did you use an agency or did you adopt through Child Welfare? What would you recommend?

I always like to gather as much information as possible so we can make informed decisions, so we attended the Arise Conference and I contacted a number of different adoption agencies and Child Welfare here in Cape Town. I also joined a couple of adoption groups on Facebook and spoke to friends who have adopted. Having all the information and approached a few different social workers, we both felt at peace that Abba Adoptions were the right people for us to pursue our adoption journey with. They are wonderful people and their adoption administration fees are extremely affordable, as they are government subsidised and offer a sliding scale depending on income. We were really happy with the service, love and support we received by Abba Adoptions on our adoption journey and the care they took in matching us to our precious children.

We highly recommend Abba but I would recommend anyone who is interested in adoption to contact a few different options and find who you feel most comfortable with. Also, if you can, do attend the annual Arise Conference (happening in November 2016 in Cape Town and PE) as it’s incredibly informative and answers so many of the questions you are burning to ask and even those you didn’t know you had.

What was the hardest part of the process?

The waiting and uncertainty of when to expect our baby was most definitely the hardest part for us. Especially the months of waiting to be matched, after we had completed the interview stages and been approved as adoptive parents. We had waited so long to start our family over the years and had dealt with much pain and heartache together, and this final stage of waiting during the months after being approved seemed to go on forever! In actual fact it was only 5 months and incredibly it took 9 months altogether, since we first handed in our adoption application.

It was amazing that as soon as we heard the news that we had been matched and all the waiting was finally over – all the frustrations and anxieties we had felt about ‘when will it happen?’ melted away – we were suddenly going to become a family of four and our lives would never be the same again! When you hold your precious baby (or in our case babies) in your arms, all the waiting and angst pales into insignificance and you know it has all most definitely been worth the wait!

What was your first night together as a family like?

Bringing our babies home was so incredible, if a little surreal! Was this REALLY happening?!

The minute I saw Esther & Josiah in the baby home, I knew that they were my son and daughter. My daughter’s little face lit up with the most beautiful smile when she saw me smiling at her; it was such a precious moment! And my son clung to me so tightly, smiled happily as I cuddled him and let me feed him… Driving home with them strapped into their car seats on the back seat of our car, it suddenly dawned on us that they were actually coming home with us and that this was forever! I think we both felt a huge weight of responsibility and fear in that moment! Hoping we could be all that they needed us to be as their parents.

Just before we met the twins, we had been given a whole lot of information at our meeting with the social workers and baby home staff so it was all a little overwhelming, but I was immensely thankful that the babies had been so well cared for and had a great routine in place, so we could just continue to go with the routine when we got home and this certainly helped them settle very quickly. I was amazed that they were not at all distressed or anxious when we got to our home. It was almost as if they knew they were ‘home’!

We bathed them, fed them their bottle and put them to bed (following their usual routine) and they went off to sleep really well… Then, our first night of very little sleep began, as Esther woke up 7 times, needing to be fed and comforted!  A year on, she still wakes 2-4 times a night! Thankfully her brother is a much better sleeper. Yet, for me, even the wake ups were such a joy; as I went in and held my baby girl, I was filled with so much love and adoration for this precious soul who had been entrusted to me, it frequently made me cry!

What is your funniest adoption-related family story?

Not sure if this counts but probably the funniest thing that regularly happens for us is people’s reaction to realising they are twins! We often go for walks and have an inline stroller for two kids. So, people walking towards us will see the first baby (whoever gets the front seat that day) and will smile and think how cute they are but then, as they pass us, they spot the foot or hand of the second baby sticking out from the seat behind, and they look so surprised, and often exclaim, “Wow, are they twins?!” It’s become quite funny for us to see people’s reactions.

Do you celebrate ‘adoption day’ with any traditions?

We celebrate their Homecoming Day: 19 August. We read their adoption story book together and look at the photos and also give them a small gift to open. Their Xhosa names (which we have kept as their middle names) mean ‘gift’; we explain to them that they were not only a gift from God but that their birth mom chose their Xhosa names and also chose us to be their parents and for us to be a forever family and so they are a precious ‘gift’ to us from her.

Our final adoption order was received in June this year! It is a day we acknowledge but don’t really celebrate as we became a ‘family’ the day they came home!

Advice for the screening process?

As I said before, I think it is wise to gather as much information about adoption and the process as possible before you choose a social worker and start the screening process. Joining a group like the ‘Passionate about Adoption’ Facebook group and reading blogs like this one, to hear stories from other people who have gone through the process, can be really helpful in order to ask questions and process your thoughts and fears.

It is essential that you and your partner (if you have one) are both on the same page and in agreement with adopting before you start the process. You want to be sure you are informed about what to expect before your start the screening process, but just know that you also learn so much on the adoption journey and your feelings and preferences can change during the process… Finding the right social worker to walk that journey with you, who hears your hearts and understands you, is really key. Don’t rush that part. Take your time and know that it will all come together at the right time!

How can friends and family best support those adopting?

Although we live far from both sides of our immediate family (my family all live in the UK, and Troskie’s are in Johannesburg, Mpumalanga and Kwa-Zulu Natal), we knew that my parents and all our siblings were supportive of our decision to adopt. It was something we have talked openly about for some time and so it was not really a surprise to them all. We also openly shared the information and advice we had been given by our agency to prepare our family and friends for the imminent arrival of our babies. Because this was a transracial adoption, it was important to talk openly about issues of race as well as how we would not be sharing their personal story as that is their story and not ours to share.

Being far away from immediate family, we are hugely thankful for our loving community of friends around us and their support of us as a family. Some of the best supportive things were:

  • Organising a meal rota for our first month of being a family (as we do for families expecting a baby by birth). This was incredibly helpful as you just don’t have the mental energy to consider what you are going to eat!!
  • Arranging a baby shower to celebrate our new arrivals.
  • Showing interest and asking questions about the adoption process and being emotionally involved in the process with us.
  • Accepting and reading the information we shared about the realities and complexities of adoption, especially transracial adoption, and being willing to listen and learn and consider the words and language they use when discussing adoption.
  • Being excited with us and supporting our decisions.

Top tip for doing life as a rainbow nation family?

  • Get to know other families who have adopted and share your adoption journeys and life.
  • Be intentional about living in diverse areas and growing your friendship circles to include people of your children’s race and culture.
  • Be intentional about learning your child’s birth language and encourage them to learn the language, as well as understanding and connecting with their birth culture.
  • Be intentional about learning to care for their beautiful natural hair and celebrate their differences (I have found a fabulous Facebook group who have been inspirational in learning how to nurture and care for both my children’s hair and learn protective styles for my daughter’s hair: Chocolate Hair Care).
  • Be intentional about finding similarities in your child’s character, physical qualities, personalities and interests, to you and your family that will really connect them to you and their forever family and help with bonding.
  • Be prepared to attract attention!

One thing we really were not prepared for was the ‘lime-light’ of being a transracial family! I used to enjoy going for a walk and being anonymous, that is no longer possible as you attract so much attention wherever you go. Babies will generally attract attention anyway, I know (as people enjoy coming to coo over and admire your little one). Having twins also increases the attraction (with frequent questions like “Are they twins?!” and “Are they identical?!”) and the fact that we have twins who are clearly of a different race obviously adds yet another level of fascination (“Are they your children?!”)

Most of the attention we receive has been very positive and encouraging, as people seem genuinely intrigued by our family and we have been greeted with many smiles which is great. Occasionally you meet someone who insists on asking quite intimate questions. It is good to be prepared for this and have an answer. For the question, “Are they your children?” I simple answer, “Yes!” My standard answer to questions about their birth mom or their adoption is, “I’m afraid we are not sharing that information, as it is not my story to tell.” For questions about fertility (and you’ll be shocked just how many strangers will ask, “Can’t you have your own children?”) I simply say “That’s personal information [and really want to say “That’s really none of your business!”]

Most people are simply intrigued and I want to be a positive advocate for adoption so I do take the time to answer any questions that I can answer and help educate the world around us… I am conscious that as our babies grow up and hear these questions from others, how I respond is really important in how they will ultimately see themselves and understand their adoption. So my answers need to be carefully considered in this light…

So, do be prepared that you will lose your ability to just quietly ‘pop to the shops’ or ‘go for a walk’ without having a conversation with someone, somewhere! But I have chosen to see this in a positive light and as an opportunity to help open people’s eyes and minds to accepting and embracing difference.

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Homecoming day 2015
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Homecoming day 2016

Meet the Mama – Marileze Feldmann, single Mom who adopted in her 40s

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Let’s hear from Marileze, a Heart Mama who became a Mom in her 40s by welcoming little 8 month old Nina Katlego into her family. Thank you for sharing your story, Marileze!

Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.

I’m a single white female from Springs, Johannesburg, who adopted a child in my 40s. I’m a qualified bookkeeper, working as a credit controller at a French freight company and currently studying further toward a Project Management Diploma. I have Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and have never been able to fill my heart’s desire to become a Mom naturally. I decided in 2014 to take a chance and try adopting a family. It worked and 8 months later I had my daughter! (more…)

Meet the Mama – Debbie, single working Mom of three under five (!)

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I met Debbie at the Arise Adoption Conference last year and heard some of her story then, but today she shares it all in this interview. Hats off to this Heart Mama of three young ones! Thanks for sharing your story, Debbie.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.

I am a single working Mom, to the three most gorgeous kids in the world! I’m a doctor in a government clinic, so life is pretty busy most of the time. My daughter is 5 and my twins are 3. They all came home to me in the space of three months almost three years ago. Two totally spoilt dogs make the complete picture! (more…)

Meet the Mama: Karabo Lenkoe-Magagula, a Pretoria Heart Mama who adopted a child of the same race

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Karabo is a working Heart Mama who became a Mom through adoption. After a four month screening and placement process, four month old Dwala joined their family. Dwala is now almost four and may be a big sister soon! Thank you for sharing your unique story with us, Karabo.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.

My name is Karabo and I’m married to Bheki. We have been married for six years but we’ve known each other for more than 10 years. We have a soon-to-be four year old daughter, Dwala. We are a family of three, who have recently suffered the loss of a second adoption. (more…)

Meet the Mama – Karen Apsey: an adopted Heart Mama who grew her family through adoption

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Karen’s story is particularly special because she has experienced adoption in a way that most Heart Mamas have not – she was adopted into her own family as a child and has also chosen to grow her family through adoption. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Karen.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.

Justin and I have been together since we were 19. We love the outdoors and the beach. We are in the process of moving to Nairobi for Justin’s work on a three year secondment.  I am a school teacher but full time mom for now.  We have two biological children, Jess and Matt and have adopted our third child, Ben. (more…)

Meet the Mama – Catherine Crawford, single Heart Mama to gorgeous little Charlotte

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I met Catherine online in one of my favourite local adoption groups on Facebook called Passionate about adoption – if you’re looking into adoption or have already adopted, then make sure you join this group! Catherine is the lucky Heart Mama to little Charlotte and manages to juggle motherhood as well as her job as Director of Pay it Forward, a foundation which aims to uplift a child’s life through education. Thanks for sharing your story, Catherine.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.

I am a single mother to Charlotte and I have two siblings. One brother who is 5 yrs older and a twin sister, both of whom are a great support to me.

Did you always know that you wanted to adopt?  

I often thought as a child that I would love to adopt, however this idea faded and when I was married as I thought I might have biological children. (more…)