Caren is a Joburg Mom of four – three busy boys and and a beautiful daughter through adoption. Nina joined the Mac Kaiser family when she was seven months old and turns three early next year. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Caren!
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.
Mark and I have been married for 15 years and have four children. Three biological children (Nathan is 13, Matthew is 11 and Clayton is 9) and one through adoption (Nina turns 3 in February). We got the call to tell us that we had been matched in October 2013. I cried from relief and fear. We were thrilled to be getting our daughter but wondered how it would be, would she cope, would we cope, was she a sweetie, would she cry a lot, would I be able to love her like I loved my biological children? Now I can tell you that there is no difference in the love I feel for her and the boys. She is my daughter!
Did you always know that you wanted to adopt?
We didn’t always know we wanted to adopt. It really grew in our hearts and minds. When Clayton was three we thought about adopting but I was more keen than Mark was and knowing that we both had to be 100% on board, I stopped pushing the matter. I prayed that if this was God’s plan for us, that we would both be ready.
A friend in our church qualified as a Social Worker and began working at an agency. Other friends of ours adopted and we fell in love with their little girl. At the same time our Pastor preached a message on Sanctity of Life Sunday using James 1:27 “Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction…” Mark came home from the service and said that God was working in his heart and that it was time to adopt. I was quite shocked, Clayton was six by then and I had really given up on the idea. It was quite something getting my mind around having another child in the family, I had become quite resistant to the idea of introducing a baby into our family as our lives were becoming easier because the children were older. Anyway, we read Adopted for Life by Russell Moore, went to a conference called Together for Adoption in Pretoria, spoke to our Social Worker friend and then made an appointment with the agency!
Did you use an agency or did you adopt through Child Welfare? What would you recommend?
We went through an agency because that was the only open door for us at that time. We had tried to call our local Child Welfare but they wanted us to foster and both Mark and I felt that we could not cope with the possibility of losing a child if the adoption did not work out (which would be difficult for the boys too). We included the boys in all the discussions and kept them updated all along the way. They were very excited and involved. At our home visit our Social Worker also had a chat to them to make sure they were fine with us adopting. Financially it is more expensive to go through an agency and so I really think there is a place for adopting through Child Welfare and I wish I had the ‘guts’ to take in a foster child. This might be something we choose to do in the future.
What was the hardest part of the process?
I think the paperwork was horrific – medicals, psychometric testing, interviews etc. but the worst part was definitely the wait. We were approved for adoption in May 2013 and were only matched in October 2013. I know that is only five months but it felt like an eternity. I like to be prepared and although we had asked for a girl (I wonder why) I did not know how old she would be, what size nappies she wore, what milk she drank, would we get her in winter or summer? We could not buy anything!
Our church family were amazing and passed on a car chair, camp cot, cot and a pram. When we fetched our daughter they organised a baby shower and that helped so much with getting started. God provided amazingly! Adding another child in this economy is scary but it has been so wonderful to see God providing everything we need.
What was your first night together as a family like?
Surreal, amazing, scary, wonderful, terrifying – all in one. She was a real cutie and slept well, she only woke up once. We lay awake that first night and watched her sleep. We realised that love is a choice and that this was our baby, maybe not flesh of our flesh but deeply embedded in our hearts forever. The boys could not wait for her to wake up the next morning.
What is your funniest adoption-related family story?
No really funny stories but people often look at her calling me Mommy and ask if she is mine with a very confused look on their faces.
Do you celebrate ‘adoption day’ with any traditions?
We plan to have a special dinner together every year.
Advice for the screening process?
It is worth it, keep slogging through it and in the end you will have your child in your arms. Mark and I have quite chilled personalities and I think that definitely helped. Go with the flow because stressing and calling your social worker 10 times a week will not make the process go any faster (and you will get on her nerves).
How can friends and family best support those adopting?
It helped to know that friends were praying for our child before we knew who she was. They prayed for her health and safety wherever she may have been. The baby shower was a huge blessing too since we had no ‘girl things’. Our family were quite supportive (although a bit apprehensive, worried that I would cope with already having three busy boys).
Top tip for doing life as a rainbow nation family?
Take the strange questions as an opportunity for ‘adoption education’ and become a promoter of every child deserving a family. Don’t be offended but rather share the blessing that adoption is. Most people respond favourably to our family but we do get a few people who say that we have taken her out of her birth culture. That is the truth and in a perfect world every child would be with their birth mother, in their culture. In the broken world we live in this is not always possible and a home where a child is loved and cared for and their needs are met is the next best thing.
A friend of mine shared these wise words when I asked him how he felt about us adopting an African baby and taking her out of her birth culture. He said “There is no culture in an orphanage, only a culture of hopelessness.”