Celebrating 5 Years of Being Family!

It is October in Pretoria – the most beautiful month in our beautiful city! I never get tired of seeing the streets of our city lined with the most vibrant green and of course purple trumpet flowers of the Jacaranda trees. We have also been in the grip of a heat wave, with temperatures soaring above 33 degrees for nearly two weeks now and it seems that spring was just a rumour. With the high temperatures we have had to make plans for the children to cool down as we do not have a swimming pool. Buckets, hoses, sprayers and even a big crate do the trick so that they spend hours entertaining themselves and cooling down.

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Watching my two kids play in the water, fills my heart with joy and gratefulness. They splash, laugh, tease each other and of course fight with each other like any other set of siblings do. And that is what makes me happy – they are just like any other siblings, regardless of the fact that they don’t look like each other or like us. We are family!

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So many days I am aware of how God created each child uniquely and specifically for our family. Nina is a strong willed girl, not really phased by other’s opinions with an imagination that may have her end up on stage. Siya on the other hand is a people-pleaser. Enjoying attention and wanting people to like him – and of course he succeeds in this wherever we go. These unique traits of them have already helped them in handling situations. Siya recently started school and having Nina as his big-sister has helped a lot. She protects him like a tiger and handles all the “Is he really your brother?” questions without blinking an eye. Of course we have to help her and teach her the correct words to say, but she isn’t offended by anyone trying to tell her he cannot be her brother.

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In the past few weeks we have celebrated both their birthdays. Siya turned two end of August and Nina turned 5 a few days ago. Birthdays especially are a time when I am reminded of this wonderful and precious blessing that we have experienced with the adoption of our two children. In the normal day to day life of being family we tend to forget how we became family. We are a normal family with the normal ups and downs of parenthood. Days are filled with instructing and disciplining our children, breaking up fights, nagging them to eat their food and clean up their rooms. Mornings filled with the rush to get everyone on time for work and school. Bedtime routines that can sometime go on much longer than hoped for.

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This week, 5 years after becoming parents for the first time, I have been thinking so much about this road that we have been on. I have been thinking about our struggle with infertility and what an incredible heavy burden it was at the time to carry, not really believing that there will be a time where I am completely at peace with the fact that I will never conceive. I have been thinking about how we wondered and prayed about how our family wlll handle adoption, and how we were blessed with a loving, open-armed family welcoming both our children. I have been thinking about the moments I first met each baby – Nina as a newborn giving her first cry and Siya when he was 7 weeks old. And then of course I have been thinking a lot about our childrens’s brave tummy mommies. Always grateful, always humbled beyond words for their selfless act of love and gift of life to us!

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I have also been wondering lately what our lives would have been like if we didn’t go through these trials and things happened the way we thought and hoped that it would. If I had a choice, what would it be? And then I can say with a certain heart – I will not choose a thing different than how it happened! The trial of infertility brought to me a new understanding of what it means to live with my eyes fixed on Jesus and hoping and longing for an Eternal Life with our Heavenly Father. Adoption taught me a deep gospel truth of how God adopted us into His family (Eph 1:3-10), and I truly believe that I would never have understood this completely if it weren’t for experiencing this personally.

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Looking back on our journey I can echo Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8:28

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

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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

 

 

 

Siya crawling and cuddling!

Today 8 months ago we brought Siya home! He is 10 months old and  crawling at long last! 🙂 He has developed quite a sense of humour over the past few weeks and rewards jokes with big toothless smiles and giggles!

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He has also turned into quite a shy baby, especially when faced with strangers. His naughty side has started to show, with him pulling hair and playing with all the stuff he is not supposed to play with… and so far he battles to understand the word “No!”.  😉 He is VERY ticklish, all over. He cannot resist being tickled in his neck and adores his head being scratched. In Afrikaans we say “Hy is ‘n regte Smulpaap” which Google Translate says means a “gourmand”.

We so much enjoy having him with us and love seeing how his personality is developing.

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With every day that go by we can truly say : God’s mercies are new every morning!

Siya is a Swanepoel!!

Adoption Order

Today we went to Pretoria Magistrates Court to finalise Siya’s adoption! Now it is official! It is just a piece of paper, but it means a lot and we are so grateful for this!  Siya is in such a good mood today, just laughing at everything – it is as if he knew that today is a special day. 🙂

Siya – 9 months old!

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I cannot believe how time has flown these past 7 months. Siya is now 9 months old already! He continues to be a BIG eater and loves his food. 🙂 Weighing around 11kg – my arms can testify to his healthy appetite! He has
started to explore his world by several interesting moves (everything except crawl!). Sliding and rolling seems to be the most effective at this stage! He also loves to stand up holding onto things and I’m starting worry that he’ll skip the crawling phase altogether…

He’s also starting to babble quite a bit, practising his “mamamamama” and “papapapapapapa“ to our delight!

We’ve settled into a good routine of being a family of 4, and Nina especially has really made it easy. She loves being the older sister, and showers him with kisses and talks with him like a real mommy.

Most days I even forget that Siya’s skin color is different than ours – only to be reminded by the stares from people in public places. Mostly people stare because it’s a strange sight for them I think, not because they don’t approve of it. We have not encountered anyone making a rude comment so far, although I know that day will come and I must be prepared for it. Siya actually sets us up for good conversations with people regarding adoption, the Gospel and the plight of orphans in our country. When people understand or get a better idea of why we did it, they normally react in a positive manner.

Parenting two children doesn’t always come easy for me. (And as I type this I cringe, because I know quite a few families with 3 or more children!) There are days that I want to plug my ears when Siya moans or cries a bit longer than normal. There are days that I long for a quiet afternoon. There are days that I long back to the days where I could get in bed at night and not wonder whether it will be a good or bad night. There are days that I get frustrated when I hear Nina or Siya starting to cough again. Like my dear husband said: “Parenting is relentless”. It never stops. But it brings joy! Seeing a huge smile on his chubby cheeks early morning after a night of not sleeping well. Being hugged and kissed by a 3 year old. Seeing my fairy dance around the house in her ballet outfit. Seeing Siya really try to crawl and move. Seeing how Nina starts to immitate me. Seeing how excited Siya gets for his food. Seeing how he stretches his arms out to us and knowing we are his parents. That is what makes it all worth it!

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Knowing that our Heavenly Father planned for these two special children to become part of our family, knowing that He will equip me to be the best mommy for them – that gives me comfort and peace when I feel downcast and frustrated.  Through these children – with the joys and frustration they bring, I know that God is building my character, changing me every day (baby steps at a time!) to more closely resemble Christ.

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On the 90th percentile and sleeping – Siya at 5 months

Last week Siya turned 5 months and today marks 3 months since he came home!

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We get asked frequently by people what it feels like to have Siya now. The answer? It just feels RIGHT. The other day I was browsing through old photos and I came across a picture of us with Nina and I immediately realised that this picture didn’t look complete. We are now a family of 4 and it is impossible to imagine life without Siya. I prepared myself that the transition to another child – but also a child of a different race would be very hard and tough. And though it definitely has had its challenges it really has been much easier than I anticipated.

Up until about 2 weeks ago our biggest challenge with Siya was his sleeping patterns and his love for a comfort milk bottle (or two!) during the night when we all so desperately want and need to sleep. This has had a snowball effect, he kept on waking up more and more frequently and also caused Nina to wake up with “not-so-ideal” effects. In the meantime he has been gaining weight rapidly. At 5 months he has nearly tripled his birth weight (which should only happen at around a year!), eating 3 meals a day. When he came home he was just on the 25th percentile of the growth chart, now he has jumped to the 90th!

With this in mind we realised we need to change things drastically or the problem would just escalate. I attended a Good Night Baby seminar 2 weeks ago and this gave me the right knowledge and tools to deal with this sleep problem. Safe to say we are all sleeping much better these past few days!

Every week that goes by with Siya we are filled with immense gratitude for this very friendly and happy baby! It is such a blessing to see his personality develop, the way he plays with his toys, his attachment to us, the look in his eyes when he sees De Wet entering the room and his fascination with his sister’s hair! He is easy going, and such a pleasure to have in our house!

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Above all we are reminded daily that God is good and gracious – always.

Siya 2 months later!

Today we mark 2 months since Siya came home! What a joy and journey it has been so far having this sweet, happy boy as part of the family!

Just over 4months old, Siya currently weighs over 7.5kg… That is 3kg more than he weighed when he came home in November! He is a calm and contented baby, crying only when he is hungry or tired. He is very interactive and really tries to communicate by making eye contact and mimicking sounds.

We’ve enjoyed experimenting with different hair cuts for him, as you’ll see below. 🙂Siya 4 months

We praise God for building our family in His perfect way!

Siya – 1 month later!

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1 month = 1.5kg weight increase, several formula changes, countless nappies, numerous hours of lost sleep and many precious lessons learnt – we are filled with a sense of peace and joy we could not have anticipated! Looking back over the past month we can only thank God our Father for the abundant blessing!

What has changed over this past month? The transformation that we have witnessed in this little baby in just  4 weeks has been astounding! When Siya came home he was a tiny, extremely quiet baby with his fists tightly clenched. We were actually worried after a few days that he might have a hearing loss because he was so quiet and unresponsive to sound! Thankfully we soon learned that there was nothing wrong with his hearing as well as his voice! 😉 It was special to see how a home and family melts the fears and insecurities of even the youngest of babies. Over these few weeks Siya has come to know us – feeling comfortable and secure around us. More than that he has become a happy chappy baby – when we are home he is such a friendly relaxed baby that chats away smiling and cooing at everything. He loves attention! At times, especially when surrounded with many strange faces, he still reverts back into to the very quiet baby with clenched fists.

Nina has also evolved into a very caring – if not a little over-enthusiastic – older sister. She really enjoys spending time with Siya, and caring for him in her own innovative and imaginative little ways!

What has changed for us as parents? We have gone through different emotional phases since bringing him home. Most of all we’ve had to deal with our own selfish, sinful natures. Giving up sleep, giving up me-time, giving up a lot of our precious early morning quiet time does not always come as easy as one would like! We have been reminded that children are definitely one of the most important ways God keeps us humble and through which he seeks to fashion His character into our lives.

We’ve felt blessed by the overwhelming positive reaction we received from so many people – family, friends, work colleagues and even strangers in the shops!

As I sit here typing this with a very inquisitive 14 week old boy on my lap – already enamoured by the glaring screens of technology – I am filled with an enormous amount of thankfulness and gratitude towards our Heavenly Father for blessing us with this little boy. A special daily reminder of the highest privilege afforded us through the Good News of Jesus– to be adopted as children of the Most High God.

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Siya – the first few days


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A snapshot diary of our first 3 days with Siya!

Thursday 10:30

Siya let loose into our care. A special thank you to New Beginningz Baby Haven for taking care of him for his first 9 weeks of life! This is a special place with special people taking care of special little people who have nowhere else to go. A big thank you also to our social worker, Letitia van den Berg, who facilitated the whole process so smoothly.

Thursday 16:00

Many welcome hello’s to Siya from family and friends!

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Friday 09:00

Nina is loving up little brother Siya! Family day at home. Getting settled with each other.

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Saturday 16:30

Van Zyl family day to welcome little Siya – thank you so much. It means more than words can say!

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Sunday 15:30

Swanepoel family day to welcome little Siya –  thank you so much. It really means more than words can say!

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It’s been 3 days since Siya came home and so far so good! He is a relaxed baby and is getting used to the new home and new routine. Nina is super-excited about having a baby brother to look after. We are grateful for the way she is handling her new sibling. God has been gracious to us!