Tell us a bit about your family
My husband Mike and I met in high school and have been married for 8 great years. We live in the Southern suburbs and are both teachers. We have two beautiful daughters; Rachel who is 3 and Emma who is 10 months old. We have a heart for all things family and have some crazy dance moves that only come out when we are in our kitchen.
Did you always know that you wanted to adopt?
Mike and I had discussed adoption even before getting married, knowing it was something we both believed in and were willing to pursue. It’s one thing to say you believe in adoption and another thing to do it though. We tried to fall pregnant for a year unsuccessfully. During this time God worked on our hearts, challenging us on what was important – pregnancy or the start of a family, and helping us through doubts and anxieties we had around the reality of adoption in our lives. Looking back now I’m surprised it took us so long, but also thankful for the journey because it led us to Rachel.
Did you use an agency or did you go through Child Welfare? What would you recommend?
We used an adoption agency called Wandisa. We would highly recommend them, as our adoption process was straightforward and we felt in the loop at all times. They are a private agency and so there were social worker fees that we had to pay. The process was quick and they were on the ball, we definitely felt understood by them and we trusted them to find the right baby for our family – which they did!
What was the hardest part of the process?
My own insecurities. I worried about the effect adoption would have on my family and friends. I doubted that they would connect us with the right baby for our family. I was concerned that race would be a big issue in our lives. I had to deal with a lot of my own hang ups before we finally got our girl.
What was your first night together as a family like?
Chaotic and beautiful. We fetched Rachel from Bloemfontein so we had a plane ride to navigate with a new child (daunting to say the least!) she was great on the flight but we sat on the plane for 45 minutes before we could disembark which was too much for her (and us). We drove home in the pouring rain and I was feeling quite overwhelmed by the responsibility of this little thing and trying to remember everything we were supposed to do. I gave Rachel her bottle and put her in her cot, then went to ask Mike if I should get her a dummy or something else to help her fall asleep? I mean, I didn’t know what she would need?! We went back in to find her fast asleep, at which point I knew we were all going to be ok.
What is your funniest adoption-related family story?
I was at a moms group with Rachel when another well meaning mom asked if we would tell Rachel that she is adopted one day. I looked at her beautiful brown skin and my pale freckled exterior and then back at the woman. “It’s quite obvious that she didn’t come from me” I responded. “I don’t think we could keep it from her for too long!”
Do you celebrate ‘adoption day’ with any traditions?
Every week we tell her her adoption story (which she calls her “Bloemfontein story”), but on her homecoming day we go to the spur for a rainbow milkshake (her favourite) and relive the day we got her and what we appreciate about her. The last two homecoming days she wasn’t interested in the talking, only the milkshake, but we are starting the way we want to continue when she is older and will appreciate it more.
Advice for the screening process?
Be honest. There’s no point pretending you’re something you’re not or saying you’re ok with something you are actually not ok with. If you are worried about race / sickness / the history of the biological parents etc, bring it up. The only way you can get over those things is by talking through it, and who better to help you deal with it than an adoption social worker?
How can friends and family best support those adopting?
Act like they are pregnant! The emotions are all the same, even if your belly is not getting bigger. You are excited, scared, hopeful and unprepared. You can’t wait to meet this new little person and you wonder what they will be like. But because there are no outward signs of expecting, life goes on as normal and you don’t get congratulations or people wanting to make your life easier before it gets that much harder. So if a friend is adopting make a big deal of them. Throw them a baby shower (they still need the baby clothes!), send messages of excitement and encouragement (they still need it), and spoil them with massages or gifts (what mom to be doesn’t deserve a little pampering?).
Top tip for doing life as a rainbow nation family?
Don’t let adoption / race be the white (or black) elephant in the room. Talk about your differences, let people ask questions so your kids learn that questions, and being different, is ok. And don’t blame everything on adoption. If your child is struggling with self-esteem issues (my hair isn’t easy, why am I different, I don’t belong) don’t automatically go to adoption as the cause. I felt all those things as an insecure teenager (let’s be honest, sometimes I still think those things!). Let your child process life because it’s life, and it’s not easy at the best of times. Adoption doesn’t need to be the scapegoat.
Lastly, celebrate the differences! They make your family and your interactions with others so much more interesting.