83 Ba­bies of the heart: The per­fect fit

I’ve met many adop­tive fam­i­lies and I am con­stantly amazed by how well they ‘fit’. It’s a fit that tran­scends race. It cuts to the heart and man­i­fests in many ways, writes Karen Read

Your Baby & Toddler - - News -

WHEN YOU HEAR An­ton and Melita Po­plett’s story, you get the sense that they were pre­des­tined to adopt. And when you meet Cayla, their charm­ing four-year-old, she is 100 per­cent theirs; gre­gar­i­ous and sharp like her dad, and cu­ri­ous and kind like her mom.

To this day, the Cape Town cou­ple, who’ve been mar­ried seven years, don’t know of any bi­o­log­i­cal rea­son for their ap­par­ent in­abil­ity to con­ceive after about two years of try­ing. But they know Cayla was always meant to be theirs.

Melita says that, in ret­ro­spect, en­dur­ing months of fer­til­ity treat­ment was far more emo­tion­ally tax­ing than the adoption process. An­ton gets emo­tional: “I re­call the feel­ing of help­less­ness dur­ing Melita’s last treat­ment, which was in­va­sive, and from that point on, I took adoption more se­ri­ously be­cause I didn’t want to see my wife go through that again.”

Hav­ing met women who had tried IVF and were suf­fer­ing the af­ter­ef­fects more than a decade later, the cou­ple agreed they wouldn’t go that route.

They had dis­cussed adoption dur­ing a course they did in prepa­ra­tion for mar­riage, and were on the same page, An­ton says.

“Cayla was my third adopted ‘child’,” he jokes, point­ing to Mikey, their Golden Re­triever, and Bergie, their beloved pavement spe­cial. “I res­cued Bergie from a drunk in a bot­tle store. It was a long and tricky ne­go­ti­a­tion,” he says.

Melita jumps in: “In all Cayla’s baby pho­tos, Bergie’s there – photo bomb­ing.” Jokes aside, she says that if you have pets be­fore you have chil­dren, you must be mind­ful of the fact that it was their home first. She says Mikey and Bergie took to Cayla well as both dogs have easy per­son­al­i­ties.

THE PROCESS The process of adopt­ing Cayla took about one year, and when they got the call in early De­cem­ber 2013, they were more than ready.

Melita was even lac­tat­ing. Hav­ing tried in vain to get her lac­tat­ing friends to do­nate sur­plus breastmilk to her and hav­ing un­suc­cess­fully tried to source some from the non-profit Milk Mat­ters (which sup­plies do­nated breastmilk to pre­ma­ture ba­bies), Melita de­cided to lit­er­ally take mat­ters into her own hands. “Milk Mat­ters gives only to ba­bies who weigh less than one kilo, and they never have a sur­plus. But they sug­gested I con­sult a lac­ta­tion spe­cial­ist. That’s how I dis­cov­ered the New­man-gold­farb pro­to­col, which is a method en­abling adop­tive moms to breast­feed. Ba­si­cally, you take the con­tra­cep­tive pill to trick your body into be­liev­ing it’s preg­nant. You do that for three months to al­low the ducts to grow. And then when you get ‘the call’ from your so­cial worker, you start tak­ing a drug that mim­ics pro­ges­terone, which trig­gers lac­ta­tion.” You usu­ally have at least a few weeks, from the time of re­ceiv­ing the call from your so­cial worker to tell you that they have a baby for you, to your ac­tual place­ment date.

Melita re­mem­bers lock­ing her­self in the con­fer­ence room at work to ex­press. “The first week, all I got was drops, but even­tu­ally the milk be­gan to flow. Al­though Cayla never took to be­ing breast­fed by me, she got my breastmilk for seven months.” Ex­press­ing was time-con­sum­ing and a labour of love, she says, in the same way that breast­feed­ing is for a bi­o­log­i­cal mom. For Melita, it was more about the nour­ish­ment than the bond­ing. And there is clearly a beau­ti­ful bond be­tween mom and daugh­ter. KAN­GA­ROO PAR­ENTS Melita is mod­est and heaps praise on Cayla’s kan­ga­roo par­ents: “I know Cayla was deeply loved even be­fore she came to us, be­cause she is liv­ing what she has learnt.”

Like most adop­tive par­ents, the Po­pletts are in awe of their child’s kan­ga­roo par­ents. “Cayla’s kan­ga­roo par­ents had been do­ing it for 13 years, and they were well into their 50s. Cayla was their 103rd child and she came with a scrap­book, made by them. It is the most awe­some book of love.

“I’ll never for­get hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with the kan­ga­roo dad while he was chang­ing a nappy. The whole time he main­tained eye con­tact with me,” An­ton mar­velled.

I go over to my adopted son, who is play­ing rather qui­etly with Cayla near us. I smother him in kisses and tell him how much I love him. And Cayla quips: “My daddy loves me very much; my daddy will say that to me.”

In­deed, Cayla knows love. She gets it in a mul­ti­tude of ways.

An­ton says the best ad­vice he could give to a new fa­ther is, do all that you can to look after your wife so that she can look after baby. There’s no use you both be­ing awake (and sleep-de­prived) at the same time. YB

The per­fect fit… Melita and An­ton Po­plett, with their daugh­ter Cayla

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