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Adop­tion had al­ways been on the cards for Karabo and her hus­band, Bheki. “We al­ways thought we would have bi­o­log­i­cal kids and adopt an­other child. We got mar­ried in 2010 and af­ter a year of try­ing and not fall­ing preg­nant, we de­cided to in­ves­ti­gate adop­tion in­stead of fer­til­ity treat­ments. We felt that we couldn’t com­plain about the cri­sis in so­ci­ety if we didn’t step for­ward and change some­body’s life,” she says.

They be­gan the process of com­pil­ing their pro­file book, buy­ing baby items and pre­par­ing the room. Bheki and Karabo re­ally wanted a lit­tle girl. “Buy­ing her first out­fits was very spe­cial and ex­cit­ing,” re­calls Karabo, who used a pri­vate adop­tion agency to go through the process.

“We got our daugh­ter Dwala about four months af­ter ap­ply­ing, when she was four months old. When we held her for the first time, it was the most beau­ti­ful, peace­ful feel­ing. To know that you have waited this long to be a par­ent and then gaz­ing into those in­no­cent eyes just makes you want to be your bet­ter self im­me­di­ately.”

THE HIGHS AND LOWS

Be­sides the dif­fi­cult and ex­haust­ing tran­si­tion from sleep­ing a full night to wak­ing up for feeds ev­ery cou­ple of hours, Karabo says she was also plagued with doubts. “You are for­ever ask­ing your­self if you have bonded with your baby al­ready or are you just a care­giver for those early weeks?”

The cou­ple sub­se­quently tried to adopt an­other baby, but the bi­o­log­i­cal mother changed her mind at the last minute. “We were matched with a baby when she was six weeks old and I vis­ited her daily un­til day 60 when her birth mom changed her mind.” For this sec­ond adop­tion, Karabo had taken med­i­ca­tion to stim­u­late milk pro­duc­tion be­cause she felt this could as­sist with bond­ing, but it was not meant to be. “Breast­feed­ing’s not the only way of strength­en­ing the bond be­tween mother and child, and this process can con­sume and drain you be­fore the baby ar­rives as you have to stim­u­late your breasts ev­ery three hours,” she says.

So to es­tab­lish that moth­er­child bond, Karabo says car­ry­ing her lit­tle one around with her was a won­der­ful so­lu­tion, and she has con­tin­ued this even though Dwala is now four. “I car­ried her on my chest in­stead of us­ing a pram, we bath to­gether and try to have as much skin to skin con­tact as pos­si­ble.” An­other hur­dle that prospec­tive adop­tive par­ents may go through is in­form­ing your ex­tended fam­ily, warns Karabo. “As with most par­ents, ours got a bit of a shock. They asked if it was re­ally what we wanted and why we wanted to do it, but in the end they were very sup­port­ive and love our kids.” The cou­ple also at­tends the Pre­to­ria Adop­tion Sup­port Group, which of­fers them an ad­di­tional sup­port struc­ture to lean on and learn from.

GO­ING FOR IT AGAIN

The fam­ily re­cently wel­comed four-month-old Di­abo to the fam­ily, which has been a heal­ing ex­pe­ri­ence af­ter the loss of their sec­ond adop­tion. In Di­abo’s case, she was placed with the fam­ily when she was two months old.

“We re­alised we had to grieve our loss and ac­knowl­edge that there was a rea­son that child had to cross our paths. I even saw a trauma coun­sel­lor; we didn’t just brush it away. We ac­knowl­edge her as a child we had for a time in the same way women grieve a mis­car­riage.”

Di­abo has been more of a chal­lenge to in­te­grate than Dwala, as Karabo now has to jug­gle the de­mands of two chil­dren. “With each adop­tion the ex­pe­ri­ence is dif­fer­ent. The homes they come from are dif­fer­ent and their ex­pe­ri­ences are dif­fer­ent,” ex­plains Karabo, who flew to Cape Town to col­lect Dwala, giv­ing them only 10 days to pre­pare for the col­lec­tion. How­ever, in Di­abo’s case, she was col­lected from Pre­to­ria.

THE FU­TURE

The cou­ple feels it is im­por­tant to share their chil­dren’s sto­ries with them from early on. “Dwala knows where she’s from, that she has two mom­mies and that she stayed with an Afrikaans granny for the first four months of her life. And when she turned three we took her back to the home so she could see where she came from,” says Karabo.

She says she doesn’t want the word “adop­tion’ to be as­so­ci­ated with bad things, so they al­ways talk about it pos­i­tively. “Through this, my hus­band and I have learnt that we both have the same pas­sion for adop­tion, we are lov­ing par­ents and we both have dif­fer­ent parental skills. We love our ba­bies dearly, we’re happy that we were given this op­por­tu­nity to be their par­ents and to love them un­con­di­tion­ally. We have two beau­ti­ful, awe­some girls, and we feel com­plete.” YB

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