Cathy is a Durban-based Heart Mama to four year old Lolly and has a heart for seeing children matched with forever families. I just love her story and identify with the desire to be a Mom outweighing any desire to be pregnant. Thank you for sharing your story, Cathy.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.
Justin & I met while working in London and after about 2 years we both decided it was time to come home. Almost immediately after returning home Justin started a campaign activating citizens to play a role in creating a safer South Africa. Ten years later, that campaign has grown and we now have our own NGO which runs a Baby House & Mentorship Programme. (You can read more about what The Peace Agency is all about here)
We have been married now for 6 years and have a four year old daughter, Lolly. Running our own NGO means we both get to work from home, so Lolly has to put up with us being around all day!
Did you always know that you wanted to adopt?
When I was about 14, I watched a program on the increased abandonment of girl children. I was deeply affected by it and made a decision then to seriously consider adoption when the time came to start a family. As I got older, I never had the desire to be pregnant, although I still believed I would be a Mom.
When our Baby House was on our property, Justin & I had often talked about adoption being our Plan A but we made no real decisions regarding starting a family.
Then one day we got a call asking us to take in a little 5 month old baby girl. We were full and she was older than the age of babies we usually took in – so we said no. God had a plan for our family that day, because even after saying no to the Police a number of times, I found myself going to the court to collect her. The moment I met her I loved her!
We prayed & debated for about 6 months before we finally made the decision to adopt Lolly. She officially became our daughter about a week before her 1st birthday.
Did you use an agency or did you adopt through Child Welfare? What would you recommend?
We are registered crisis parents with Durban Child Welfare so it was all done through them. We have facilitated many adoptions through Child Welfare and I think they are great. We have heard some horror stories about both private & Welfare social workers, so I would recommend you go with someone with whom you feel you connected.
What was the hardest part of the process?
For us, the hardest part was making the decision! We hadn’t been planning to start a family when Lolly came into our lives. We did one of those ‘Right God, if this is what you really want us to do, then you will have to make it ridiculously easy’ negotiations. We have been amazed at how easy it has all been for us! Right down to name changes and new birth certificates. I only realised I was being interviewed and having a home inspection after our social worker had left! I thought she had popped into see how the other babies were doing and have a cup of tea!
What was your first night together as a family like?
Because Lolly was in our Baby House and I had such a bond with her, I was always finding reasons for her to be with us. We even took her on holiday with us one weekend! So I can’t really remember our first night – it just feels like she was always there.
What is your funniest adoption-related family story?
I have heard this one before, and even seen a book about it as well- as soon we told Lolly she was adopted she thought we had said she was ‘a Doctor’. For a few years after that she kept telling people she was a Doctor!
Do you celebrate ‘adoption day’ with any traditions?
We don’t – and that may just be because I am terrible at remembering dates! I barely remember our wedding anniversary! Lolly has her treasure box which has a photo of her birth mom, photos of the hospital she was born in and of the day she arrived with us etc and we often bring it out & talk through the treasures with her.
Advice for the screening process?
Use it to make sure you & your family are ready for the journey ahead. Take the support, advice, counselling and anything else on offer with both hands!
How can friends and family best support those adopting?
The biggest challenge I have faced so far has come from other mothers who do not feel I am really a Mom. When you adopt a baby, it is the same as preparing for a biological baby to be born into the family. I know the ages may differ, but there are still the same challenges and worries all new parents face. Treat perspective adoptive families the same as you would pregnant families! We also love a good baby shower and a ‘Congratulations, it’s a girl’ card!
Top tip for doing life as a rainbow nation family?
Celebrate your differences – and acknowledge them. I want my daughter to grow up proud to be Black. And don’t believe every look you get is a negative stare. We have never had anything negative said to us, and have in fact noticed we attract positive questions & comments.