Tell us a bit about your family
My husband Dom and I grew up in Fish Hoek, Cape Town. We met in 2005 and got married in 2008. We now live in Blauwberg and enjoy our West Coast lifestyle. Dom manages a workshop for a luxury/classic car company (he’s a trained Auto Mechanic) and although I studied and used to work as an Occupational Therapist, I now work as part of the ministry team at our church. We became parents to our gorgeous Izabella in May 2014.
Did you always know that you wanted to adopt?
Anything related to orphans and adoption has always tugged at my heart. I was exposed to various foster and adoptive families over the years, and during my studies my parents fostered a newborn baby who had been abandoned. During my studies I was also exposed to the ongoing poverty and injustice in our country, and continued to be moved by the orphan crisis we face due to HIV. I think I have always known deep in my heart that I was meant to be a mother to a child not biologically mine, and that if one day I married someone who felt the same, we would definitely adopt. I believe God places passions in our heart so that He can direct our steps in the way He wants us to go, and we should therefore listen to what our passions tell us. Dom knew that I have this passion and was never closed to the idea. Over the years the idea grew on him, and his eyes were also opened to the dire situation our country faces. When the time came for us to plan to start a family, we talked and prayed alot about what that would look like. We believed and agreed that we’d like to start our family through adoption and we were prompted to start the screening process.
Did you use an agency or did you go through Child Welfare? What would you recommend?
We used an agency called Procare. We were very happy with the experience and would recommend them to anyone wanting to explore adoption. I can’t speak for the various other avenues that can be taken, as I haven’t experienced them. I have heard that the process can take a lot longer with Child Welfare, but not necessarily so. Our Procare Social Workers made us feel safe and cared for throughout the journey, and we were confident that they would match us to the child we were meant to welcome into our family.
What was the hardest part of the process?
The waiting is hard. You feel so excited because you know your child is on the way, but you don’t have a time frame to look towards or tell people. I used to imagine that our child was already growing inside her biological mother’s womb, and I used to feel so strongly that I just wanted to meet her and hold her and love her, but that I would need to wait and not even be aware of who she was until the legal waiting period was over. The other thing that was hard is that there wasn’t a visible pregnancy, so if I didn’t blurt out to everyone that we were expecting, no one would know. Some people’s initial reactions were hurtful at times, but those that matter most were amazingly supportive and excited for us, making us feel as an expectant couple should feel.
What was your first night together as a family like?
It did not involve sleep! For Dom and I anyway. Izabella was in our room and we just kept staring at her, checking if she was okay, whispering to each other that there was a baby in our room, and that she was ours, forever! She also woke many times as she was unfamiliar with her surroundings and needed comfort. She would snuggle into my arms and soothe very quickly when I held her that first night.
What is your funniest adoption-related story?
Just recently I was out for a walk in my community, Izabella tucked into the pram under the sunshade, our dog Riley tagging along. We passed many people, as we always do, greeting each other, letting our dogs play together, then continuing on. Then one older lady stopped to chat. Our dogs got acquainted while we exchanged pleasantries. She asked if she could take a look in my pram, peered around the sunshade and got a visible fright! She gasped and said “Oh! That’s not yours!” Then realised how rude that sounded and asked “Why did you adopt?” I didn’t really know what to say other than, “she is very much mine.” Afterwards, I had a good laugh at the whole situation. I am now rehearsed in my witty replies and ready for the next situation like this!
Do you celebrate ‘adoption day’ with any traditions?
We haven’t yet reached the first Adoption Day, but I think it will always be a special day in our family. We will definitely develop a tradition and make Izabella feel like the most special child in the world. However, we don’t plan to let it overshadow her birthday, as this will be the most wonderful celebration of her life, as it should be with every child!
Advice for the screening process?
The screening can be gruelling, and there is a lot of time to pass between each step. Set yourself a timeline, with milestones and activities you will do as you reach each step in the journey. For example, we planned a professional “We’re expecting” shoot once we knew that our Social Worker had confidence in us as parents. We planned the theme for the baby room and discussed all things baby with our closest friends and family, made a special announcement to our parents, and tried to fill the time with other baby-related stuff. You have to create your own “expecting” experience as others tend to forget about it without the obvious bump. It was a special time for us and those closest to us.
How can friends and family best support those adopting?
They can pretend you are pregnant, for example buying baby stuff, and gushing with excitement every time they see you. Throw awesome baby showers as ours did (and we are so grateful for this), pray for your family, pray for the biological mother/parents, pray for the child’s safe delivery and foster period. Understand that a mom who is expecting a baby, even an adoptive baby, goes through the same emotional preparation and needs the same support. Please don’t tell her that she has got it easy because she isn’t experiencing pregnancy or breast-feeding, assure her that she is ready to be a mom and that her anxieties are normal. Support her and understand her experience as a first-time mommy. Celebrate the milestones in the screening process with the expecting parents- the first interview is like the first scan, passing the psychological assessment is like hearing you have a healthy and flourishing pregnancy! And hearing that they have matched you to a baby, is like going into labour, though quite a bit longer!
Top tip for doing life as a rainbow nation family?
Hmmm… Its been such a short time, I don’t know if I have any wisdom to offer here. Ignore the stares wherever you go, or be proud of the stares because you’re proud of your family. Don’t feel obligated to answer every question that people ask, find a polite way to tell them its an inappropriate question, or change the subject- they’ll get the hint. Don’t share your child’s story- its theirs to tell one day, and other people shouldn’t know it before your child even does. Celebrate the colourful diversity that is South Africa- embrace it and love it with all your heart, make it a part of your family!