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.