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by Terri Lailvaux

It’s really something that never occurs to the average girl or woman.  We are so certain that one day we will grow up and have babies (those of us that want them).  It’s nature and it’s a calling.  I remember as a little girl saying things like “when I am big, I am going to have 2 children”.  And later when I was a teenager, I would say things like “when I become a parent, I will never be strict like my parents are”.  Then as a young lady in my twenties, “I will only have children after I turn 30.”   Note the common thread…..When I…..Not if I have children.  We all assume and we never consider the thought that it will not be possible.  So like everyone else, after a few years of marriage, my hubby and I decided it was time to expand the family.  I went off the pill and we got down to practising! 

5 Years of waiting, worrying and fertility treatments followed.

I have a friend who brought up the topic of adoption.  She has a different race adopted son ans she suggested that we look into the possibility.

My husband & I had actually discussed adoption a year or so earlier and when we looked into it, briefly, we were disappointed.  There seemed to be very little information available on the internet about adoption in South Africa.  We were a bit naive and assumed that adopting within our own race was firstly possible and secondly, the obvious choice to make.  We were turned away at every enquiry.  We were told that in South Africa, there are no white babies available for adoption.  Some agencies told us that there was a 10 year waiting list while others told us that their waiting list was so long that they were not accepting any more applications.  We gave up and continued with fertility treatments. 

A year later, the same friend approached me.  She said “You need to choose:  A life without children or a life with children who are a different colour to you”.  That’s what it boiled down to.  Her son is a different colour to her and we knew them well and knew that in fact kids are just kids and they grow up in whichever culture you raise them.  They have no preconceived ideas as to where they should fit in.  My husband & I discussed it at length.  We had all the usual worries.  What will people say?  What will we tell our child about his or her culture, language, heritage etc.  We felt so unqualified to raise a person about whose heritage we knew very little.  We called some family members.  We got mixed reactions.  Mostly we got overwhelmingly supportive reactions.  We were really encouraged.  We were ready to do it.  A life without children was not an option.  We would adopt cross racially.  My friend gave me the number of the adoption agency she had used and I phoned the next day.
The social worker immediately asked me whether I was prepared to adopt cross racially.  I said yes and suddenly all the doors opened.  She made an appointment for us to see her within a few days.  I was really excited and really terrified.  It suddenly seemed possible, even probable that we would be parents.  We arrived at her office full of questions.  She put us at ease straight away and told us about the agency and how they work.  There were 5 phases to the process of being approved to get onto the adoption list.

1) The initial meeting with the social worker which is a very informal Q & A session.
2) Take home a very fat folder of forms and complete them in your own time.
3) Return that folder together with a portfolio to the adoption agency.
4) Meet with all the social workers so they know who you are.
5) Receive a home visit from a social worker.

(Nowadays you also need a police clearance certificate)

After that, you go onto the waiting list and wait!  Seemed simple enough!!

We drove through to the adoption agency full of anticipation and tingles. We were met by a social worker who deals with adoptive parents. We sat down in a little lounge and the social worker told us all about the process & the costs.  We took around 2 months to complete all the forms and have our home visit and then……. we were officially “on the list”. Our application stated that we wanted a coloured, new-born girl and did not mind either open or closed adoption. We were told that we would probably wait anywhere between 3 and 9 months. We started telling our friends and family that we were “expecting” a baby. It suddenly felt like it was just around the corner. We were really, really excited.
3 Weeks we flew to Scotland for my sister’s wedding  and managed to push the imminent arrival of our baby into the back of our minds.
I called our social worker just before we left to let her know that we would be away for 10 days. She sounded a little concerned and asked me a few times for my exact date of return. She also queried the request for a coloured girl and asked me if we would be ok with a boy or a white baby. I said that of course we would be happy. We really didn’t mind by now – we just wanted a healthy baby SOON! Off we flew to Scotland!
I arrived back from Scotland on Fri 22 October. The next day, my very good friend, invited me over for tea and an update on the holiday. When I arrived at her house, it turned out that she had arranged a surprise baby shower for me! There were people there that I hadn’t seen for years. It was absolutely awesome to feel part of the “baby world”. Everyone made such a fuss of the fact that I was going to be a mom soon. I was really, really spoilt. I got completely kitted out with everything (and more) that a baby could possibly need.
First thing on Monday morning, I called the social worker to let her know I was back and VERY ready. I told her about the baby shower on Saturday and how the room was ready.    She sounded a little odd and said she’d call me back later. I didn’t take much notice as I was so excited and wrapped up in my new baby goodies! I went to work with a spring in my step.
At 4pm, the secretary at work said my husband was on the phone and it was urgent. I grabbed the phone and our conversation went like this:

•  Steve: “The agency called. Our son has been born”
•  Terri: “But we ordered a girl!”
•  Steve: “er yes er and he’s white”
•  Terri: “But we ordered a coloured baby”
•  Steve: “er yes er and he’s very premature and sick so we don’t have to take him”
•  Terri: “What? Of course we’re taking him!! When? Where? How? He’s mine!!”

It was the most bizarre conversation ever! He told me that the social worker had explained to him that the biological mum had chosen us from our profile. She’d wanted an open adoption and had requested to meet us well in advance so that we could get to know each other and so that we could be in the delivery room with her in December. Unfortunately, she became very ill and the baby boy had to be delivered 2 months early by emergency C Section.

We arrived at the hospital 2 hours later and were met in the reception by both social workers. They explained that the baby was in ICU and very weak. He weighed 1.4kg, he was on a ventilator and the doctor had picked up a few problems. It was really too early to say what the outcome would be.    We could still change our minds. Did we have a good medical aid as this was a private hospital? Did we want to proceed? Yes!! Yes!! Yes!!
 
We called our broker and got her working on the medical aid and off we went upstairs to meet the maternal biological family.   
It’s so hard to explain the next two hours. It was certainly the most emotional day ever. We hugged, we cried, we spoke, we hugged again. We clicked. We really liked them. After an hour or so, the ICU sister told us we could come in and meet him. As we approached the door to the ICU, the alarm on the incubator went off and we were hurried back to our meeting room. That was the worst 5 minutes of my life!!! I really thought he might die before we’d even met him. I loved him so much and I couldn’t bear to lose him now. It turned out that he had pulled the ventilator tube out and they just reinserted it. We were finally allowed in to see the tiniest, scariest, most beautiful little person. We were petrified of him! He looked like he could break in half………all ribs & tubes & machines. We stayed late that night, just looking at him…….in silence. The ICU staff answered our few questions but mostly we just sat.
What followed was a month of highs and lows in the ICU. He had great days and awful days. Premature babies take 2 steps forward, 3 steps back, 2 steps forward, 1 step back. Every hour, every gram put on or lost, every 10 ml of milk consumed, it is all counted and it all determines how the baby is doing.  After exactly 1 month in ICU, we were allowed to bring our 1.9kg baby home with us.  His name is Alex.

Once we came home from the hospital, it all started to sink in. People would phone and say “how is your son doing?” or “is your son keeping you up at night?” or “how are you coping with parenthood?” Each time someone asked those questions, it felt so amazingly good. I thought I would burst with pride. It’s really hard to explain the feelings of euphoria that go with being a new parent!
Our little one was very well-routined after a month in hospital and fed every 4 hours and slept the rest of the time. It was all amazingly easy! (The hard part was only to come months later when the teething began!)

When he was 18 months old, I published a children’s story book called The Greatest Gift.  It is aimed at 2 – 7 year olds and it explains to kids why adoption takes place. 

Later on I started a business called Adoptmom.  This business provides counselling, support, workshops, public speaking and advice on crisis pregnancy, infertility and adoption.

My son is 6 years old now and he is a perfect, amazing child.  I firmly believe that he was meant to be our son and I don’t regret one minute of any part of my journey.  I am so blessed.

For more info, I can be contacted at:

Web:     www.adoptmom.co.za
Twitter: @adoptmom
Email:    This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 
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