THE FIRST STEP
Updated: Aug 27
Ok, so, here I am, I have made this momentous decision to be a single mother, as if that isn´t tough already, but I want to be a single mother through adoption. What happens now? Where do I start? January 1, 2015, I was out at Haartebeespoort Dam with friends, some are hungover from New Year’s eve celebrations, we’re enjoying left over braai meat, just chilling and I am on my phone googling adoption agencies and this time it went one step further, I actually filled in the enquiry forms.
New year, new goals, renewed gym memberships, we all go through it, but for me it was a conscious decision to have my year and the rest of my life flipped over and turned upside down. I started preparing myself for what this all meant. Although I had been wanting to adopt for a few years, and slowly preparing my mind, this was a different kind of preparation. Alot of the literature I read was American, it was useful but also frustrating because our systems are not exactly the same. I prepared myself spiritually through prayer and fasting, submitting my desire to be a mother, my disappointments, and my road ahead to God. I WAS READY FOR THIS!
What are the first things that came to my mind? “What will my family and friends say?”. I could just hear the off-the-cuff comments and questions in my head, “izobangubani isduko sakhe? (what will her clan name be?)”, because as black people, a lot of our identity is tied to our ancestors, it gives us a sense of belonging and history. What if she becomes a "problem child"? WHAT IF I AM MAKING A MISTAKE?. All these questions, and more were swimming in my head with no answers, and I felt like I had nowhere to go to get the answers. Adoption can be an incredibly lonely process.
One thing I have took solace in as I read and gleaned wisdom from those that had travelled this road before is that the same anxieties that keep you up at night as an adoptive parent, are no different to the anxieties that would keep you up as a biological parent. Parenthood is a mystery only discovered and navigated once you are in it, and even then, the answers to that mystery are discovered daily, bit by bit. It is not a guarantee that because I birth my child naturally, I will be a good parent. Parents do the best that they can with the resources and knowledge that they have at the time, and that goes for both birth and adoptive parents.
After sending through my enquiry email, I received the first forms for basic information from the adoption agency, I filled them in, sent them back, and I remember how concrete that moment felt! While driving home in the evening I thought about it and started feeling nauseous, maybe it was the hunger, I don’t know. It was now it black and white with my signature that I wanted to do this, I felt overwhelmed, was it the right decision? I read that doubt will be a frequent visitor during this time, just to keep you in check, you know…nje, just for control. I started longing for the freedom of my childfree days and my baby hadn’t even arrived yet! The doubt, the anxiety, it was all too much and I had barely even started the process, I wondered how I would cope when it got REAL!
In my silent moments with God, the noise quietens, and I am brought to the centre of it all. Off course I will be anxious, of course I will have doubts…I am going to have a child for crying out loud! Lack of anxiety and doubt would be reason to worry, not the presence of them. My baby made me to want to be a better person, she was only a thought in my mind and heart, but I wanted to give her the best me that I have. I knew I needed support, support that my immediate circle couldn´t provide. I joined a Facebook group for adoptive parents based in Pretoria. I also sought out a psychologist who specialises in adoptions and attended a few sessions with her. I wanted to make sure I was adequately prepared emotionally, psychologically and spiritually for the arrival of my precious baby (although NO-ONE can ever be fully prepare for parenthood).
The first place to start is AddOption. This website is especially curated to help prospective parents navigate their way through the adoption process, also listing all the accredited adoption agencies and adoption social workers in the country that you can make enquiries with. I didn´t know anyone who had adopted so I couldn´t choose an agency based on recommendation, I read online reviews by parents who had used the agencies, read any articles about them and eventually chose to go with Abba Adoptions, which is based in my city of residence, Pretoria, but also has offices in other provinces.
As I was making enquiries with various organisations, I came across Oasis Haven , a children´s home based in Randburg, Johannesburg. Back in 2015, Oasis Haven regularly ran information sessions about adoption. The ´Journey to Adoption´ was a weekend course that was attended by people interested in adoption, going through intensive training looking at various topics like motives for wanting to adopt, the legal aspects, bonding and attachment, discipline, transracial adoptions and many more. I really hope they still do this. I found this workshop extremely useful and informative, and a guide to help me through the rest of the process. I attended the workshop even before I started the process with the adoption agency. Abba Adoptions also runs their own workshops for their prospective adoptive parents which you attend as you go through the screening process.
INFORMATION IS KEY, you can never have too much information and you can never ask too many questions. It is being armed with the right kind of information that will enable you to quell the voices of anxiety. Take full advantage of the workshops, it is also where you may connect with other parents and build your own support system with people going through the same thing as you.