I never fully realised what an impact one little girl could have on a community, just by being herself.
Adoption has always been on my heart. I can remember asking my parents, repeatedly, for years, for a baby sister for Christmas. Preferably adopted. It’s obviously something that I’m meant to be involved in. I got my baby sister when I was thirteen. And then a baby brother when I was nineteen. And there have been a string of safety placement babies through my parents house ever since.
So when Husband and I tied the knot, it was pretty inevitable that we were going to adopt, at some point. We planned very carefully though. I was to finish my four year degree in social work, and then we would have one biological child, and adopt our next one.
But you know what they say about the best laid plans…
I met our Babygirl in my honours year of my social work degree, at a Place of Safety home that I was assisting at. She had terribly bad skin – due to infant eczema and a host of secondary skin infections – and she came home with me for Easter weekend, so that the staff at the Home could have a weekend off. I had never looked after such a small baby over night before. I mean, three months is practically still a newborn, in my books. I had been told that she would need a bottle every three hours, so when she slept through the night I was standing next to her cot hyperventilating about the fact that she was going to dehydrate and die. She didn’t. In fact, she was such an easy baby that my husband and I offered to take her the next weekend.
By the third time I dealt with her, i knew she was destined to be ours.
Two weeks later, she was in our home.
Becoming a parent in such a short space of time, with almost no preparation is a total shock to the system. I was dealing with little sleep, a full time job (my practicals) at a child welfare organisation and still handing in a thesis. I’m not entirely sure how I survived those first five months of being a mommy. But I did – zombie style.
My Babygirl is almost two now. She has grown in leaps and bounds, and has gone for quiet and reserved to Miss Fiestypants. She is excessively friendly. And her ability to start a conversation with every.single.person she sees has lead to many an interesting encounter.
I have had people ask me about my fertility; about my husband’s skin colour (and then, upon finding out that he is white, asking if he accepts her); about her birth mother; about her hair.
I have been astounded by the generosity, kindness, compassion and sensitivity of complete strangers. And I have been grieved by people’s assumptions, ignorance and lack of grace.
I have had a young white man shout across a shop , “Excuse me! It looks like you took the wrong baby!”, and when I stuck my finger in his face and told him that he was rude and how dare he say that about my daughter, respond that he was “Just joking!”
I have had a young black man ask me if my daughter was mine, and when I smiled and said yes, he laughed in my face and then leaned over to Babygirl and said, “No she’s not.”
I have had old white women ask me if my six month old child speaks Xhosa. (To which I would respond, “Only Spanish and Russian at the moment.”)
I have had black women pull on my child’s hair.
I have had white women say to me that they would never adopt a black girl because their hair is such a mission.
But more often, I have had people smile at us. I have had people tell me that she is beautiful (she is), that she is strong (she is) and that she is going to change the world.
I have had people of every race say it warms their heart to see an interracial family.
And I have had people express an interest in opening their hearts and homes to children and people of all races, colours and creeds.
We love to talk to people, Babygirl and I. So if you see us around, come and say hi. Ask questions. Express an interest. But express it a way that is not insensitive or hurtful. Express it in a way that allows US to share as much of our story as we want, rather than you demanding it from us.
And, if you are an expert in hair care for little black girls, don’t tell me I’m doing it wrong. Rather ask if I’d like advice, or suggest a product that might help. I’ll probably kiss your feet and say, “HELL YES!”
[Each of these adoption stories i am sharing clearly gives us just the smallest glimpse into the life of adopted children and their parents. As with any parenting the process is complicated and different in each and every case. So if adoption interests you at all, please do the research from ALL perspectives (including that of adult adoptees and birth families) in order to best prepare yourself for the journey ahead. Take the time to look at these links to get a more complete picture of adoption http://www.thelostdaughters.com and http://lgamedia.com (not South African, but a good starting point!)]