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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 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