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Home Affairs, you really are breaking my heart. I just want my family to have matching surnames. You have such a helpful call centre but consistently give me news that I’d rather not hear. Yesterday I heard that Ilan’s application for surname change on his birth certificate was never submitted to Head Office – it was spelt incorrectly when we went to collect it in September last year. There was no record of our request. Anywhere. No record. It was especially hard to locate my boy ‘on the system’ because his original ID number has been cancelled but he has not yet been issued a new one.
I also heard that the status of Kira’s name change is ‘being processed’. No one knows what that means, not even The Helpful Lady on the other end of the line. She suggested that I email (fax is preferable though) all six Home Affairs forms, plus the entire adoption order to her so that she can query the status on our behalf. She emphasized that each attachment should be sent through in a separate email which means that I’d need to send her a mere twenty emails in total. No biggy.
This is the next part of our forty minute conversation: ‘Oh, you don’t have copies of all the forms you submitted in September? Well, you can just pop to Home Affairs and collect the blank forms, fill them out again and then email them to me. Oh yes, you’re right, Home Affairs won’t let you leave with all those documents. Hmm, well you can ask them to email the forms to me directly. One at a time.’
Welcome to the world of adoption paperwork. It just never ends until one day when it does and we plan to celebrate that day with dances of joy and perhaps a glass of champagne. In the meantime, thank you for giving me so many opportunities to grow my patience muscles, Home Affairs Wynberg.
*This is a true story with no exaggerations. Although this is our story, your story may be different and you may not have to learn the same lesson of patience. This will be your loss, but you will more than likely have to learn a different sort of patience when your little one arrives. (This is a whole different level of patience.) We’ve found that it is important to find humour in the midst of adoption-related frustration, you see. This is how you will survive. The meme below helps us to laugh when things don’t seem funny. (This is the pc version of the meme. The original is even funnier.)
Hello my boy. We’re busy making preparations to come and visit you on Friday for a few days and then you’re coming home with us to Cape Town. You took us by surprise little one. One minute we were a family of four and a phone call and a week later it had been decided that we are going to be your Mom & Dad. It’s been so incredibly exciting. I’m not the biggest fan of surprises but you are the best kind of surprise.
Your big brother is Ilan and he’s turning four in June and your big (little) sister is Kira and you will all become the best of friends, I can just tell. Ilan’s favourite book at the moment is called Choco and it’s about a small round cheeked little yellow bird with stripy legs who sets off to find a mother who looks just like him. Choco soon realises that it doesn’t matter if his mommy doesn’t look him him but that she can give him hugs, and make him laugh and play with him. Mama Bear takes Choco home and introduces him to her family – Ilan has decided that he is Choco, Kira is Ally the aligator and that you are piggy. (Sorry about that, you better come home soon so that you can defend yourself!)
Judah, we saw a photo of you for the first time last week and you have no idea how much time I’ve spent looking at your photo since then. We just can’t wait to meet you and kiss and cuddle you. Dad had just left for work on the day that the official referral from your social worker popped into my inbox and he turned his car right around and fought the traffic back home so that we could open this life changing email together. Now you have a face and this is real and we are even more excited. Adoption is the gift of you and we don’t know what we did to deserve you, Judah.
We finally came up with a short list of names (It’s hard for Dad and I to agree on names and so this was quite a process) and when we saw your photo we just knew that you were ‘Judah’. Judah Hlehlo. ‘Praise’ for ‘God’s plan’. We praise God for you my boy. I know that it might be hard for you one day to understand how you ended up in our family but we pray that you know without a shadow of a doubt that you were planned and that God stitched this family together in His plan.
This is an extract from a beautiful article that has helped shape my thinking about adoption which might help you understand that our family is not Plan B, Judah. God only has a Plan A. It written by a Dad with five kids – three by adoption, two by birth:
“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139, NIV)
These are powerful words to anyone who reads them, especially to a child by adoption. It’s amazing to think that God has already ordained each detail of a child’s life before that child is born, whether that child be a child by adoption or a child by birth.
I understood this even more fully one day when I was thinking about what it was like to be present when my daughter was born. I remembered being up late at night in the dim hospital room and how incredible it was to cut her umbilical cord. It was truly a breathtaking experience to see this innocent little girl come into the world. For me, being there to actually cut the cord enabled me to connect with God’s will in placing this child into our hands.
I was not there to cut the umbilical cords for my children by adoption. I consider this a loss for all of us. But God revealed something even more powerful to me through Psalm 139-that our position as the parents to children by adoption had been sealed by God before time began.
God Himself actually cut the cord between our children by adoption and their biological parents, freeing them to be placed into our hands. When we became their mother and father, it was not through our efforts or by chance, but by God’s mighty hand in our lives and the lives of others. Every detail of our life now is evidence of God working to redeem the broken things of this world to fulfill His plans and not ours.
What a beautiful answer to the question, “Why was I not born in your tummy, Mama?” to be able to tell your children, “God did not forsake you. He never leaves you; God has a plan for your life and all of our lives and it was His plan to place you with us.” (You can read the full article here.)
Judah, we look forward to welcoming you home and thank God for choosing us to be your parents. We love you before we’ve met you.
And just like that, my little boy has grown up. Into a big little boy. ‘You can go back to your own bed now, Mommy’ he says. Yes, he will still call me for midnight cuddles when he is scared (he’s in his own big boy room now) but he will also let me know when he’s ‘done with hugs now, Mommy.’ Ah man. This window into his world via night time cuddles has officially closed.
Ilan wipes away my kisses (I don’t want your germs, Mommy’), gives me his cheek rather than his lips and reluctantly offers me half-hearted-limp-limbed squeezes these days. It’s all too much and it’s happening way too fast. This growing up thing just started without warning and I’ve been told that time only speeds up and you have to jump on that train or get left behind. Next thing I know, Ilan will be a sulky teen and walking ten steps behind me.
Be present, they say. Be present and let them be little. Before they aren’t little anymore.
I had my first, ‘there’s a monster in my room’ experience with Ilan last night. I woke up at 01h00 to hear a terrified cry coming from the kids’ room. I felt for Ilan in the dark and asked him what was wrong – it’s usually a ‘where’s my dummy’ or ‘I’m itchy’ kind of problem but this time he said, ‘I’m scared. I’m scared of the monster. Mommy, lie with me.’ What a mommy privilege it is to be able to climb into a teeny toddler bed and rescue your little one from a scary monster. I love being his safe place and having his little arms strangle me as he falls asleep mid-cuddle.
I’m surprised it took so long for the monster night terror to come along because every morning Ilan says he dreamt about monsters and dragons and dinosaurs and fire, but presumably these were not ‘scaredy’ dreams. We’ve had a bad dream incident with a ‘naughty cow’ before, but monster dreams are the next level.
Here’s hoping my mommy hug powers can last forever.