Nicki and her family live over the road from us and she is truly one fantastic Heart Mama to Sam and Sarah. Not only is she a great sounding board for me about adoption related topics, but she is also part of a special group of Heart Mamas that I get to hang out with every month. Thanks for sharing your story, Nicki!
Tell us a bit about your family
My amazing husband and incredible father to our children, Clive, and I have been married for 8 years. We became parents in May 2013 to our handsome, joy-filled, affectionate, strong, funny, and bright son, Sam who at the time was nearly 4 months and is now 21 months old. In October 2014, we welcomed our beautiful, smiley, charming, “talkative”, full-of-life daughter, Sarah into our family, who at the time was just over 3 months and is now 4 months old! So that makes us one very happy (and at times, crazy!) family of four!
Our journey to parenthood was not easy or smooth and was filled with much deep pain, longing, and loneliness but WOW…did God have bigger and better plans for our family. We have been blessed exceedingly and abundantly, more than we could ever have asked or fathomed.
Did you always know that you wanted to adopt?
No, we did not always know we wanted to adopt. We did however know without a shadow of doubt that we wanted to be parents. When it started to become apparent that biological children was not likely to be the way we would come to being called Dada and Mama…we started opening our hearts and minds to the idea of adoption and we are so incredibly grateful that God chose adoption as a way of building our family. If we had know when we started trying to fall pregnant what we know now, we could have saved ourselves so much heartache…but we needed to go through what we did for God to prepare us to be the Dad, Mom and family he destined us to be.
Did you use an agency or did you go through Child Welfare? What would you recommend?
We used a private agency called Procare for both our adoptions and can highly recommend them. Procare stepped us through the administrative hurdle very professionally and made us feel secure that everything was being done legally and by the book. We felt they really tried to get to know us, had our best interests at heart and truly cared about getting the right match of parents/family and child. For someone with my personality, who likes to have a formal process where each step is laid out clearly upfront so that time frame expectations can be managed, I would definitely recommend a private adoption agency such as Procare.
What was the hardest part of the process?
The hardest part of the process was starting the process. By that I mean making the decision to formally and intentionally pursue the adoption route after much honest discussion with each other and friends and family, lots of prayer, debate, meeting others who had been down this road before, attending an adoption conference and lots more discussion! Then there is of course the dreaded paperwork you always hear about…getting supporting documentation for approval such as police clearance, medicals etc was a pain but to be honest we have now done it twice and it is really not that bad and is TOTALLY worth every frustration. Waiting for the phone call is also “hard” in that it certainly tests your ability to be patient and handle uncertainty but it’s also such an amazing part of the journey and really adds to the anticipation and excitement, much like I imagine waiting to go into labour would.
What was your first night together as a family like?
Our first night as a family of three (and a family of four) I can best describe as being incredibly healing (we were finally a Dada and Mama), heart filling (to bursting) and peaceful. I cannot describe the joy in our hearts as we tucked each of them into their cots and watched them sleep…pinching ourselves and so incredibly grateful that God had chosen us to be their Daddy and Mommy! What a privilege! The first night as a family of four was a little more ‘disturbed’ as Sam and Sarah got used to each other’s ‘noises’…amazingly and thankfully this seemed to literally take only one night!
What is your funniest adoption-related family story?
We have had quite a few funny comments made about our family, probably the funniest was when I was asked if I was Sam’s nanny. We have been asked by a young girl whether he was ours (this we get asked often) and my hubby said, “yes, he came out like this”…I had to quickly explain that he was adopted as her jaw dropped and she was most confused and concerned! We try to see the humour rather than being offended and realise many comments or reactions stem from ignorance, rather than ill intent.
Do you celebrate ‘adoption day’ with any traditions?
We definitely intend on celebrating our ‘Forever family’ days as they are very significant to all of us. We haven’t yet had much time (only having had one such day before) for traditions but no doubt these will come, especially as our children get older and are able to understand the significance of the day! For now our thinking is that we will do something special as a family, chosen by the child whose ‘forever day’ we are celebrating. We also see it as a day to acknowledge their unique story so we would like it to also be the day we respectfully and gratefully remember their birth Mother in an appropriate and special way, which we anticipate might change with age.
Advice for the screening process?
Our biggest advice for the whole adoption process is to seek other people who have adopted (as many as you can to get different perspectives) and talk to them honestly about your fears and concerns as chances are, they have felt or thought the same or very similar things before! Our experience is that people are very willing to share and to share honestly and this was beyond helpful!
Include family and friends in the process and encourage open discussion where they can ask questions as many of their fears/concerns come from lack of information. We found it really helpful to invite family to attend an adoption conference with us so they could hear everything we heard first hand and felt included. Those that came with us all said it was so worthwhile, informative, enlightening and ‘challenging of their views’ and they appreciated being a part of this momentous journey with us.
Lastly, try to enjoy each step of the screening process and see it as part of a significant journey, rather than seeing it as a hindrance or frustration. Choose to see it as equivalent to the 9 months a pregnant woman who uses the time to prepare mentally for parenthood. While it might be shorter or longer than 9 months, it is an important time of mental and practical preparation, expectation and anticipation. It definitely helps going through an agency that lays out the steps clearly at the beginning as you then feel empowered and can cope with what’s to come as you can see the end. If you are required to put a portfolio together, enjoy being creative and appreciate the opportunity it gives you to reflect on what’s important to you, who you are, where you’ve come from, who you want to become as a parent/family.
How can friends and family best support those adopting?
Showing an interest in our process at each step, asking how we were finding it, celebrating with us when we got through each step especially when we got approved (it was like announcing we were pregnant!), offering to be a reference and above all praying for us, were what we most appreciated. While you might have fears/concerns and doubts about the decision someone is making to adopt, trust that they have given it much more thought than you have and have likely discussed the very fears you have (and more) but have now very thoughtfully made their decision.
It can seem very overwhelming and foreign for those close to the people/person adopting so by all means ask questions and be interested but try not to process your negative reactions (if you have any) ‘out loud’ with the people/person adopting or bring your insecurities to the table and expect them to process your feelings along with theirs. Our adoptive children’s stories are personal and theirs to tell so avoid asking questions about the biological parents or their background. Treat the anticipation and ‘waiting’ as one would for a biological child and throw them a baby shower and offer to set up a meal roster for them after their baby has arrived…what utter joy and immense blessing these things have bought us!
Top tip for doing life as a rainbow nation family?
The decision to adopt has been one of the best decisions we have ever made! We are so thankful for the privilege and opportunity to love and care for our children. We will make mistakes in parenting, I’m sure, but we are so grateful for a wonderful support network who we can muddle our way through parenthood with and a loving and gracious God.
It is still early days so can’t say we have huge amounts of wisdom to share but we would highly recommend to multiracial families to seek other like families for support but also to have your children see that they are not alone having parents who are a different colour to them. Make ‘difference’ not just about skin colour but point out that we are all different in so many ways and celebrate these differences as unique and God-given. Find physical or personality traits in your children that are similar to yourselves and other people in your family to help them feel that they belong. Remember colour is only ONE difference of many and there are likely many similarities too, treat this difference sensitively but don’t let it become a huge elephant!
A final note, if you have a kangaroo family involved in your adoption, remember to acknowledge their amazing work and the role they have played in your child’s life. They self sacrificially loved, cared for and prepared your child for you. I would encourage adoptive families to keep in touch with their kangaroo families from time to time with a pic and word on how they doing. Remember that while your heart is overflowing with joy when you finally have your son/daughter at home with you, their hearts are breaking as they say goodbye to a baby they grew to love deeply.