Marli is a Heart Mama from Pretoria who juggles a being a Mom to her two kids with a part time medical career. She chats to us here about the life-changing journey of parenting through adoption and you can also follow her personal blog here for some more adoption posts. Thank you for sharing your story, Marli.
Tell us a bit about your family
We are the Swanepoels, so far made up of 4 unique individuals bonded together as family not by genes but by the adopting grace of Jesus. De Wet and I have been married for nearly 11 years now, and we have two children by adoption. Nina turns 5 in October and Siya turns 2 in a month’s time.
Did you always know that you wanted to adopt?
When we did our pre-marital counselling, we talked extensively about our future family. We decided then already that we wanted to adopt, but after having biological children. After a few years of pursuing pregnancy and undergoing treatments we decided that we would rather focus our efforts on adoption. At this time we read a book that changed our perception on adoption forever – Adopted for Life by Dr Russell Moore. We realised then that adoption for us was not Plan B, but Plan A!
Did you use an agency or did you go through Child Welfare?
With both adoptions we worked through Social Workers in Private Practice. Both adoptions were seamless and made as easy as possible! With Nina, we actually met her very brave “tummy mommy” when she was about 6 months pregnant. We went with her to the gynae visits and I was in theatre when our precious baby girl was born! On the morning of Nina’s birth we exchanged gifts, and Nina’s biological mom made her a quilt with her date of birth. I know that this is something that Nina will treasure forever. We met Siya when he was 6 weeks old and visited him as often as we wanted to until the day that we could take him home with us – when he turned 10 weeks. It made the bonding with him so much easier. We were also able to meet his special biological mother the day before placement and she also gave us a letter that we are keeping for Siya until he’s a little older.
What was the hardest part of the process?
Definitely preparing ourselves for a transracial adoption. With Nina’s adoption we could just carry on as a ‘normal family’ , but we knew that once we adopted transracially we would never be able to ‘blend in’. We knew that was what we wanted to do, but we were faced with some uncertainty and had to deal with a range of emotions and perhaps even some of our own issues with race. It also took some time for our families to accept that we were going to grow our family outside of the convention of race. But once again we were truly blessed to have both our families opening their hearts to little Siya the moment they met him!
Tell us about your first night together as a family
Can’t really remember! With Nina I was admitted in the labour ward with her, so I was surrounded by baby books and a newborn demanding milk. With Siya we had a lot of sleepless nights as we had to settle into our own routine. Despite being sleep deprived both our experiences with the placements were wonderful and special!
What is your funniest adoption-related family story?
When Siya was still a small baby I took him with me to our local grocer one day. One of the cashiers looked at him, looked at me, looked back at Siya and just said: “He doesn’t really look like you, his father must be very dark .” It took some effort from my part to explain to this man that Siya was adopted and that is why we don’t have the same skin color.
Do you celebrate ‘adoption day’ with any traditions?
No, we celebrate their birthdays but certainly celebrate adoption openly as their special story into our family. Some babies join families through normal birth, some through cesaerian section and others through adoption.
Advice for the screening process?
Don’t let all the paperwork and assessments get you down, take your time and don’t try and rush everything. The profile, although time consuming to make, is a special memory for one day.
How can friends and family best support those adopting?
Be excited for the adoptive family! Ask them about the process and progress. I had baby showers before each placement and even knowing that there was still a chance that the adoption may fail, I treasure those special occasions to have been able to celebrate our adoptions with the people close to us. Also make the same effort to visit the adoptive family after placement as you would visit someone after they gave birth. And please don’t tell people that faced infertility before adoption that they will fall pregnant now that they have a baby!
Top tip for doing life as a rainbow nation family?
Don’t be too sensitive to people staring or asking questions, it is a great way of educating people about transracial adoption. As Christians it gives us opportunity to share our faith and to understand how our own story is about being adopted into God’s eternal family through his only-begotten Son, Jesus. Also make an effort to form friendships across races, so that your children are surrounded by people of other races and cultures.