Can You Love a Child?

Beautiful and well written!

 

Can you Love a Child?

We complete our evening ritual as usual; a family hug, prayers, a short story and a goodnight kiss. The bottle is handed over and the night light is switched on to illuminate theWonderland scene that my wife has painted on the nursery wall. We creep slowly out of the room and before we even reach the door we hear the contented sounds of a baby already deep in sleep.

This evening is no different to last evening except for one important detail. Last evening the little baby girl gurgling away peacefully was not officially our daughter. Tonight she is.

One year ago to the day, a tiny four-month-old arrived at our home for abandoned babies. She had legs like little pins and a smile that could put an end to wars. Her mum had done her very best, but in the end had been unable to cope.

The day she arrived I knew. My wife had been to collect our new arrival from the Durban Children’s Court and within minutes of having completed the paperwork, a picture of the baby was sent to my phone accompanied by the somewhat unsettling words: “This is the most beautiful child I have ever seen…” Oh boy! Our contented little family of two was soon to have its numbers swollen.

Over the next eight months we watched her little legs fill out and the energy begin to bubble within, as she started to develop and come out of her shell. And as she grew so did our love for her.

In the end the question is a simple one: Can you love a child?

This question often gets too complicated; can you love someone else’s child? Can you love this child as much as your biological child? Can you love a child with different coloured skin? These questions are all superseded by the one simple question: Can you love a child?

For those that have heard that adoption is an arduous process, our experience is that if you are eligible to adopt and you work through the correct channels, it should be fairly straightforward and even pleasant.

Our adoption – in fact our entire experience of running The Baby House – has introduced us to many exceptional people. In this case the social workers, auxiliary social workers and support staff at Durban Child Welfare deserve our highest praise. Their jobs are unimaginably hard, their case loads enormous and they do not receive the pay or recognition commensurate with the vital role they play in our society. Yet from the point of deciding to adopt, this team processed our case in just five months.

Adoption – one of the most powerful, yet underused institutions

I am aware that this is a very personal piece and I do not share it lightly. However, I believe that adoption is one of the most powerful yet underused institutions that we have at our disposal. Adoption takes a young life out of a rubbish bin, off a sidewalk, away from the grief of parents lost to crime or disease, out of the clutches of criminals or away from the evils of abuse, and gives that life a hope and a future.

Adoption creates happy families

At the same time, adoption creates happy families. Maybe I’m just a new dad blinded by love and delusional from too little sleep, but as things stand, our daughter gives us way more than we give her. She has given us hope and a future too.

Adoption must no longer be seen as ‘plan B’ for those who can’t have biological children. Like many others, we have decided to adopt before – or perhaps rather – than procreating ourselves. During the two years that we have been involved with The Baby House, we have handled adoptions to parents without kids, parents with one biological child who wish for a second, parents with two wishing for a third. Adoption is becoming an integral part of family planning.

Apart from the impact on the child and her new family, adoption is also part of the solution to many of our country’s most intractable problems. Adoption creates permanence and stability for uncared-for children. These factors are critical in terms of them growing up to be functional members of society.

Adoption radically alters the trajectory of the children’s lives, and is hence integral to our nation’s strategies to end poverty, unemployment, homelessness, disease, abuse and crime.
You may argue that it will make no difference to adopt one child when there are approximately 1,8 million South African children who would benefit from adoption. I beg to differ.

Recently deceased Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs was adopted. Former President Nelson Mandela was adopted. Jesus Christ was adopted. Writer Charles Dickens was adopted. The list is endless.

And the only question that their parents needed to answer was: Can you love a child? They said ‘Yes’ – and the world has never been the same since.

For more information on adoption visit http://www.adoption.org.za.

This article first appeared in The Mercury: 27 September 2012

Meet the Mama Guest Post

I recently did an interview about our adoption story with Jules from Heart Mama Blog. Loved the opportunity to share our story!

Meet the Mama {Marli Swanepoel}

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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.

*Read the rest of the post here.

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom 8/07/2015

“The quickest cure for racism would be to have everyone in the country adopt a child of another race. No matter what your beliefs, when you hold a four-day-old infant, love him, and care for him, you don’t see color, you see a little person that is very much in need of your love”

Robert Dale Morrison

New Beginningz Baby Haven

Currently the Childrens Act in South Africa states that when a child is put up for adoption he or she may only be placed with the adoptive family 60 days after the biological mother has signed the adoption papers. This is apparently to protect both the child and the adoptive mother from any emotional trauma in the event that the biological mother decides to keep the baby.

With our second adoption, Siya was placed in a baby home in Laudium. New Beginningz Haven is a wonderful place and I can only thank the Lord that Siya spent his first few weeks of life in this loving home.

This is a clip made by the Vodacom Foundation of New Beginningz. My favourite part is where Florence, the cook, says that the best part of her day is when she knows that the children’s tummies are full.

What an Adoptee Wants You to Know About Adoption

Very good read on thoughts around adoption out of an adoptees’s perspective.

What an Adoptee Wants You to Know About Adoption

Disclaimer: I am but one person with my own experience. Adoptees are human beings, so of course our feelings and experiences vary from black to white to every shade of gray. I cannot and do not speak for everyone, but will always stand up for everyone to have a chance to speak.

When I was a baby, I lived in a car for a time. My birthmother left me behind one day and did not return. I was adopted when I was a little over a year old. Adoption is how I came to be with my family. I know people in supermarkets and school registration lines always seem to have a lot of questions when they see a family that was obviously built through adoption, and I certainly get a lot about mine, so in case you were wondering and because I have shared it with people since I was very young, this is what I want you to know in response to years of questions.

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1. Foster kids are not like the foster kids you see in the movies. Yes, I was in foster care for a while, but I do not have red curly hair, a really furry dog or a gang of plucky girlfriends who can sing. Foster kids are kids. They are not damaged goods. They are children who have endured hardships that many of us cannot imagine; children who deserve safety, security and love. There are thousands of these sweet faces who “age out” of the system at age 18, still without a family to call their own. We ALL need a family. At 42, though she is with God now, I STILL need my mom. I still want somewhere to go for Thanksgiving. I want someone who cares if I have taken my vitamins or who always has a place for me. Don’t we all? The difference is that you and I HAVE that. It’s likely we take it for granted. These children still want and need a family.

2. Adoptees have different feelings about their own adoptions. I have never questioned why my birthmother left me behind that day. I am thankful, and in a time when many say adoptees should not be and don’t have to be thankful, that is the best word I have for it. Adoption is where my family came from. Where my love and my life truly began. Some adoptees will always feel the loss of their biological family or the life they might have known and choose not to be “thankful,” and that is their prerogative.

3. Adoption is not something that should be a secret or something that anyone should be ashamed of. I think that is why it has never been a big deal for me. I have ALWAYS known I was adopted. It’s never been anything more than the way I came to be with my family. If you always know, then it just IS — there is never a feeling that someone kept something from you. For me, it is as normal as having a belly button; it has always just been there. If you are a parent through adoption, tell your child FROM THE START. Be honest and always keep the lines of communication open. And remember, an adoptee’s story is theirs. If you are a parent through adoption, you have a great responsibility to let it be that way, and strangers and even friends must understand that they may not know every detail.

4. Adoption is NOT a second-best choice for family building; it is just another avenue. Not everyone who adopts suffers from infertility. I assure you, though I was adopted and my sister was not, I was never second best. My mother was no less a mother, nor I less of her child, because I was adopted. I was no less of a pain in the butt through my teens or no less sweet and loving as a toddler. She was no less present and would have taken a bullet for either of us. The time, the attention, the love — all the SAME. I am not #2!

5. Some adoptees say, “I was adopted,” and others say they “are”; either way, we are many other things, as well. I do not wear a badge that says, “HELLO MY NAME IS MADELEINE AND I AM AN ADOPTEE.” I want you to know that I WAS adopted. I am a million other things besides an adoptee, and I am not defined by it. It is just ONE part of my story, just as it should be for all children of adoption. Please never refer to a child who was adopted as “the adopted child.” He or she is a child. In their mind, today, they might be a cowboy or a ballerina. When they grow up, they might be a doctor, a parent, a friend, a dog lover and a basket weaver. Let them be the million other things as well.

6. While it is not right to judge or to quantify what type of adoption is best, it will happen; others seem to always have an opinion. Whether it is foster care, domestic infant adoption or international adoption, if it was done to provide a loving home for a child, it is a good thing, and that is all that matters. No doubt parents through adoption will continue to be asked if they adopted from the same agency as Madonna or how much their baby cost, but people are curious, sometimes ignorant and other times just without manners. There will ALWAYS be people who judge you, whether it is regarding your sexual preference, choice of hairstyle, your neighborhood or how you choose to decorate your lawn for Christmas. People will judge, and adoption is no different. Remember: No matter how you built your family, YOUR family comes first — ignore other people’s judgments.

7. Some adoptees really need to find their birthparents to find closure, or maybe a new beginning — but not all. I have never met my birthparents and never have truly considered looking for them. This is what everyone seems to want to know about when they hear I am adopted. I am not a living Lifetime movie. I have been curious, but have never had the aching need to search. I hope my own birthmother has peace and even a portion of the happiness I have known in my life. Other adoptees seek out their birthparents out of a sincere need to create a relationship. Adoptees are entitled to whatever feelings about their adoption they have. We cannot be put in a box; adoptees are individuals and all have our own thoughts and feelings.

8. Parents’ words and reactions are important. Some children become available because of a loving, thoughtful choice by their birthparent(s) at birth, others because their parents have failed them in some way. Whatever the reason, if your children came to you through adoption, do not ever badmouth their birth family. Your child may feel it is a judgment on who he or she is if you do. If my mom was ever asked offensive questions, I never knew. Be the grace. And for heaven’s sake, if you are a family member or friend or just chatting with someone, please stop and think before you say something inappropriate in front of a child.

9. Real is not defined by biology. My Mom IS my REAL mom. She dealt with tears over math homework and finding prom dresses, and came running when I fell off my bike and picked the gravel out of my knees. She listened as I poured out my heart over the stupidity of teen boys and loved me beyond my biology. Mommies through adoption ARE real moms. Daddies through adoption ARE real daddies. Real in every way. REAL is not defined by DNA, it is defined by L-O-V-E.

10. Adoption is often predicated on some kind of pain or loss. The pain of a birthparent and whatever led them to placing their child. The trauma of a child who has known things in their life that no child should. The poverty and loss of life in other countries. These wounds are not caused by adoption; adoption is often the best solution to very difficult issues.

11. Parents: there is no voice on or about adoption that is more important than YOUR ADOPTEE’S. I think people make a much bigger deal about adoption than they need to. When I was growing up, it just WAS. I had my adoption day celebration each year and that was that. I knew my mom was there if I had questions and that she would be honest with me. We did not have to make a huge “to do” about it, though I know my parents would have done whatever I needed if I had needed more. It was not pre-determined that I would automatically suffer from any number of issues relating to my adoption. I was just a normal kid and sometimes I think even some parents through adoption have a hard time accepting that. If you are a parent through adoption, listen to YOUR CHILD, because ultimately, with all the voices you will hear about adoption, theirs is the most important. Let your child be your guide.

So, when you hear that someone was adopted, or notice because they look different from the rest of their family, know that so many of the stereotypes about adoption are not true. That we did not just step out of a made-for-TV movie. We are individuals and don’t all feel the same way. We are REAL people with REAL families, and there is so much more to us than having been adopted. And parents, love your child and meet his or her needs, adoption-related or not, because that is what parents do.

* This post first appeared on Huffington Post.

Top 5 Tips for Hosting an Adoption Baby Shower

I was blessed to have experience both times a lovely Adoption Baby Shower before our children were placed with us. Especially for someone that have faced the trauma and emotional sadness of never experiencing pregnancy, having a baby shower is very special and in a way help to deal with the loss of never having biological children. This article give helpful pointers for the person arranging the baby shower.

 

Top 5 Tips for Hosting an Adoption Baby Shower

Having a baby shower is something many expectant moms look forward to.

But when a parent is expecting via adoption, it can be difficult to plan a baby shower because often times there’s no timeline, no specific age or gender and no guarantee that the adoption plan will be fulfilled.

Still, celebrating your friend or family member’s choice to become a parent through adoption is important, and there are ways to be creative in the process.

Here are a few tips for hosting an adoption baby shower.

1.       Be intentional with language

Be intentional with your party planning. Don’t reference pregnancy or childbirth. Instead, focus on welcoming a new child into the family.

2.       Specify the age of the child

If your loved one is adopting a baby or an older child, make sure you specify it in the invitation so guests can seek out age-appropriate gifts. By the way, some graphic designers offer discounted invitations and announcements for adoptive families.

3.       Consider a “Welcome Home” shower

Because adoptions can fail or timelines can change, it may be a better idea to wait until a child is home with his/her family before showering the new family with love and gifts. Before doing so, however, ask the new parents when they’re most comfortable introducing their child to a group of people. Make sure they have the time they need to start forming a healthy relationship with their child.

4.       Brainstorm a personalized theme for the family

Honor the heritage of the new child’s homeland and incorporate food and décor from his/her home state or country. Did the new family travel by air? By car? Are they thrilled to be done with paperwork? Consider personalized items (like these cookies from Purdy Cookies) to celebrate the uniqueness of their adoption journey.

5.       Be creative

Ask guests to bring a frozen meal for the new family or children’s books with an adoption story-line instead of cards. Consider hosting a gift card shower instead of a traditional baby shower, particularly with new parents of older children or new foster parents. Gift cards for local restaurants or movie theaters make for fun memories.

* This post was first published here.

A Year Gone By!

7 November was our one year anniversary of bringing Siya home to us! I simply cannot believe how fast the time has flown.

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This year has been so much easier and better than I ever dreamt it would be. From the day we told our family and friends we got the call from our social worker, we have been surrounded with love and support. Everyone was so excited for us and were counting down the days with us until his home-coming. We were in the very fortunate position of meeting Siya about 3 weeks before the placement date and that gave us more than enough time to fall in love with this sweet little baby.

It was still an adjustment going from a family of 3 to 4 and I think the biggest challenge was getting Siya to learn good sleeping habits. But the hard work paid off and now he is a toddler that LOVES to go to bed and gives us most nights uninterrupted sleep. I am very grateful for the way that we all settled in, and nowadays I am not even aware of the color difference between us.

Siya is very friendly, inquisitive and loves to make jokes. He is always looking for a new way to make us laugh. He is a big tease and just knows which “buttons to press” with Nina to really annoy her! He has a special love for a toilet, and a few weeks ago for the first but hopefully last time he dropped a cell phone in the toilet. Siya doesn’t sit still even for a few seconds and is forever busy exploring and climbing on any kind of  obstacle. He definitely has a natural instinct when it comes to music and dancing, it is so cute to see that little body start to move to the beat.

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We have also been really amazed by the ease and enthusiasm by which Nina welcomed Siya as her brother. Even now a year later, Nina loves it when Siya is with me when we pick her up from the school because she so enjoys showing off with him. She also likes to discipline him and we have to step in every so often when we can hear her reprimanding him. 😉

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It is also special to share this one year anniversary of Siya’s homecoming with National Adoption Month, and we have been reminded again about the big burden that there is in the world and especially in Africa concerning orphans. We also took our Adoption Selfie with the smiley faces.

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For us it is impossible not to also be reminded about our adoption into God’s family by the work of Jesus Christ. We praise His name and give Him thanks for the wonderful privilege to be called children of the Most High God!

For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will – to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One he loves.”

Eph 1:4-6