Happy World Adoption Day!

So I thought on this special day, I would resurrect my blog and write our adoption story whilst keeping the intricate details of that story private as those details belong to my son and are his details to share later in life should he choose to do so.

Our adoption story is one of the happiest stories of my life, but it didn’t start out that way.

At the beginning of 2007, as a single person in my mid 30’s I decided to venture down the adoption route through Child Welfare. I was in the documentation process when I met the man who was to be my future husband. His request to me, despite my medical issues of fibroids, was that we try the conventional way first. In 2008 I underwent a myomectomy (removal of uterine fibroids) in order to facilitate falling pregnant. 2 months after the procedure, we ceremoniously ditched all contraceptives in the house. In 2009 we got married. After a timeframe of 2 years with no pregnancy, we consulted a fertility clinic and I quit my job that required extensive international travel. In 2010, just 2 months after I walked away from my executive life, I fell pregnant. We were elated! Sadly the rest did not go as planned. Five months into my first pregnancy, my uterus ruptured. This was as a result of bad scarring on my uterus from the surgery to remove the aggressively growing fibroids. Devastatingly we lost our unborn daughter and I lost my uterus that fateful day. My husband almost also lost me. After a period of recovery and grieving, my husband and I discussed our options, which was when we met Wilna our social worker. I was ready to go back to the adoption route, but he wasn’t. So a year of back to back IVF’s followed in an attempt to get viable embryos, after which I threw in the towel and elected for donor eggs. In 2012 our surrogate mother fell pregnant. Again we were elated. However life yet again had different plans for us. At the 13 week scan with our surrogate mother, it became evident that our unborn son had severe medical abnormalities and was rapidly fading. We were told it was only a matter of days before he would pass away and our surrogate mom would miscarry. It all seemed so unbelievable and unfair. We lost our son a few days later.

At this point, after all the heartbreak, my husband was ready to discuss the adoption process and we once again picked up the phone to Wilna our social worker. We set up our screening and completed all of the necessary paperwork. Then our wait began. Those 9 months seemed to creep along ever so slowly to the point where I started discussing the involvement of other social workers with Wilna. A few days later we got the call from Wilna. It was 17th September 2013. The best call of my life. To this day I remember where I was and how I felt during the call. A meeting took place on 19th September. The best and most nerve wracking meeting of my life. A meeting that almost didn’t happen due to crazy weather conditions at the time and severe flooding in the area. That meeting changed our lives in the best way possible. Our beautiful son was born on 20th September and we brought him home on 25th September. Our journey to a family wasn’t easy and was filled with terrible losses, however it was a journey that we needed to take and that led us to our son. He is the most incredibly loving little boy, who is the light of our lives and brings us so much joy.

We’re hoping to add to our family again very soon, once again through the miracle of adoption.

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Parenting Is All About Decisions

Christmas is a time for spending quality time with family and close friends. For that reason we always choose to spend Christmas at home. This may of course change in the years to come, but for now it works well for us. This year however we had some new challenges. What to do with the Christmas tree? And of course the Christmas presents? In the past, this was a no brainer, but this year, we had a very active little toddler to keep in mind. An active toddler who’s quite capable of climbing, scrambling and tugging. So I ended up not compromising on a tree, but ensuring everyone’s safety by buying the tree (and gifts surrounding it), it’s very own playpen! It turned out rather nicely – well I thought so anyway ROFL!

In all honesty though, who would have thought that parenting would involve SO MANY decisions!? Naturally we all want what is best for our babies and kids. These delightfully cute little sleep-stealing beings, who all but about consume our thoughts, often have us second guessing ourselves 24×7. To make matters worse, as soon as you join the “parenting club”, it almost seems as if everyone around you starts to scrutinise your every parenting move and pass judgement. So I know what I’m about to say will most likely evoke a combination of outrage / horror and I’m hoping also some support. After much deliberation and careful thought I decided to get Alec a safety harness for when we venture out. I’ve never been a big fan of kids in harnesses, but I’ve had to rethink my views.

For those who may not know, although I’m a full time mom, I also work in animal welfare on a voluntary basis. For those who do know, you may be thinking that I’ve completely lost the plot and I’m treating my son like a dog by putting him in a harness. Let me add here, that there are many people who have said they would want to come back as one of our dogs if they ever got reincarnated, as our dogs have a pretty darn good life in our home and as part of our family. However I digress somewhat … Much like all of our dogs, who wear harnesses when we go out in order to keep them safe from harm, I came to realise that I had to do something similar with Alec. He essentially started walking from the age of 9 months (holding onto 2 hands), by 10 months he was doing single hand walking and gaining speed, by 11 months (although still holding onto a finger) he was a proficient and strong walker (almost no wobbles). At 16 months our son is now changing direction in a blink, going up / down stairs and running full tilt within 1.5 seconds – I kid you not. He’s also incredibly active and wants to engage with the world, but too young to follow instructions like “stay close to mommy”. When we go out to run errands in shopping malls or supermarkets, this combination means he cannot be restrained in a push chair / trolley for very long and wants to be walking around. At his age he is easily distracted, doesn’t understand the consequences of his running into the next isle or out of the shop and is also too small to have his arm raised above his head holding my hand for too long, as it puts strain on his shoulder and of course only leaves me with 1 free hand. As I discovered, a certain little man is quite capable of gapping it out of a shop door in the time it takes me to sign a credit card slip, leaving me no choice but to abandon everything (handbag, wallet, credit cards etc …) to go after my high speed cherub, who by now was making his way through potential kidnappers and heading towards some escalators. The only solution was to get him a harness, where he has the relative freedom of movement and walking, without putting any strain on his arm/shoulder and can be kept safe and tethered to me all of the time with no risk of a shoulder dislocation or elbow dislocation, getting lost, falling down escalators or being kidnapped by some stranger. Yes, these paranoid thoughts do cross my mind now that I’m a mother!!

It’s been a great investment and a HUGE relief for me and great tool that I simply cannot live without now! Call me a lazy mom. Call me an incompetent mom, or call me a mom who’s only concern is that of the safety of her very active little boy. I even managed to find really cute harnesses which include an animal backpack – we went with the lion :-) .

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What An AMAZING Year It Has Been!

The year has flown by since the day we brought our beautiful son home. It’s been a year of elation, nerves, speed-learning (if there is such a thing!), exhaustion and most of all heaps and heaps of love.

We celebrated Alec’s 1st birthday last month and threw an “Alec The Aviator” party with his little friends from his various activities (swimming, workshop and mommy’s group). It was a day filled with a mix of emotions, especially when we sang Happy Birthday. I couldn’t believe this day had come, that we were actually celebrating our child’s first birthday. At the same time remembering our baby girl Stella who we met briefly, but who’s birthday we will never be able to celebrate. Remembering our little surrogate baby boy who also left us all too soon. Remembering how incredibly awesome our surrogate mom was to put herself forward as our surrogate and how amazingly strong and brave she was when we received the unbelievably bad news at the 13 week scan. Through all that we’d been through to create our family, here we were 6 years later since the start of our journey, celebrating our son Alec’s 1st birthday and surrounded by a group of amazing new friends and family.

Looking at the photos from Alec’s party, I really hope that the friends he has now will remain so through his life. Some of them are also adopted, which I’m hoping will ease his way into understanding, when the time is right, that families are made up / brought together in different ways. I want him to understand that although he may not have been born from Mommy’s tummy, he was born from Mommy and Daddy’s hearts and will always be a part of us.

So here we are a month into our second year with our gorgeous little boy and looking forward to more adventures together as a family!

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First Time Parenting … Not For The Faint Hearted!

Being a first time parent is hard. I can honestly say that being a hands-on parent to an alert and very ‘busy’ baby is harder than I ever imagined. For the first 2 months both LH and I had moments when we just wished there was an ‘OFF’ button that we could press for an hour a day. Those moments were typically in between 3 hourly feeds at the deadly hour of about 2am in the morning, when Alec would be in the throws of windy colic and no matter what we did, there was just no calming or soothing him. Any attempt to put him in his cot, would be met with flailing arms, arched back and screams of protest. The only way to lull him to sleep was by cradling him in our arms in the colic hold and taking turns to walk him for hours up and down … up and down … up and down our room …. until the sun would eventually be peaking over the horizon, at which point LH would shower and shoot off to the office and I would be left staring vacantly at a chirpy, well-rested, alert, bubbly bundle that was looking to be entertained all day and only take 3 half hour naps. Yes, that’s what I said … 3 naps of just 30 minutes each. The age old advice of ‘sleep when baby sleeps’ didn’t quite work so well for me! Everyone also kept telling us about the magic number – 12 weeks. That it would all magically get better after 12 weeks. Well, they lied and it didn’t get better after 12 weeks. After 8 weeks, we settled into the zombie-like routine, by 12 weeks we were used to it and into the swing of things – well, kind of anyway. Realistically though, you really only start stepping out of zombie land at around 7 months.

Then there’s the reflux, or in layman’s terms – vomit. Had there been a Reflux Olympics, I’m sure we would have had a wall full of gold medals by now. Who would have thought that such a tiny, cute little cherub could giggle one moment and without any warning, spontaneously projectile vomit what seems like at least half the contents of his bottle all the way across the room? Those books and guides that give you a list of how many vests, onesies, etc you need, don’t tell you about reflux babies. We ended up with double the number of just about everything, including socks – it was either that or spend what few hours were left of my nights washing and drying clothes, in between the 3 hourly feeds and colic bouts. Oh … did I mention that feeds would take over an hour? Feeding a reflux baby is somewhat different to feeding a non-reflux baby we quickly learnt. There’s lots of burping, cleaning and writhing in between actual feeding. Thankfully the reflux has abated considerably and we’re seeing less and less of it, which means Alec’s wardrobe can now start to resemble that of a non-pukey baby – although as an adventurous baby, we seem to have as many changes of clothes during the day as before, but for different reasons! The books also don’t tell you to pack spare changes of clothing for yourself. By the end of each day, what ever I was wearing for the day would have an array of multi-coloured patches and smell like what I would call … “You’re The Reflux” – a mixture of Issey Miyaki and sour milk!

On the subject of bodily fluids, I could write an entire book on the subject of poop. Green-poop, brown-poop, mustard-poop, granular-poop, runny-poop, buck-like-pellet-poop, streaky-poop, acidic-poop, explosive-poop, bulging-eyes-poop, 4-poops-a-day-poops, 1-poop-in-4-days-poop and what it all means. Decoding poops is a fine art and is often a topic of conversation among mothers over coffee.

It may sound like I’m having a good old moan, but I’m not. I’ve come to realise that the only thing that remains constant when it comes to parenting, is change. It’s really quite amazing, watching Alec’s daily progress and transformation! With each day our emotions grow stronger than we ever thought possible. The absolute joy we experience, the immeasurable pride we have, the intense love we feel for our beautiful son Alec has made every bit of our tough journey and crash course into parenting so incredibly worthwhile. And if you thought that the early days were enough to scare us off doing this again … We are a family of 3, hoping to become a family of 4 (or perhaps 5 if twins) through either surrogacy (we still have our 6 embryos from donor eggs on ice) or through adoption again. What the future holds for us – only time will reveal. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t want too big an age gap between Alec and his sibling(s). The reality however is that we don’t live in an ideal world and our situation leaves us much at the mercy and in the hands of others when it comes to growing our little family. As always however we live in hope and I don’t give up easily!

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First Time Parenting … Who Would Have Guessed?

If someone … anyone … had said in July last year … “This time next year you will be a changed woman … you will be witnessing your 9 month old son’s first words and start thinking about his first Birthday” … I would have said something along the lines of … “No way! Are you on drugs or something?? Have you read my blog?”

Well … I now know for a fact that dreams do come true. If you put your mind to it, you can actually make your dreams come true. The pieces might not fall into place quite the way you think they should or as planned, but somehow the universe has a way of saying … “OK, we’ve dished you up a whole heap of crappy heartache and enough tears to sink a battleship in the last 5 years, so now lets bring you some sunshine.”

And sunshine is what LH and I got. Our bundle of pure joy who turned our lives upside down overnight. Who showed me what it’s like to love someone with such intensity that my heart stops at just the thought of him not being in our lives. A little being who has totally consumed my thoughts – day and night. A beautiful baby boy, who is all too soon rapidly becoming a toddler with a twinkle in his eye.

Time to start putting the wheels in motion for number 2 … no easy task for us, but one I’m ready than ever to take on.

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First Time Parenting … Mother’s Day Eve

It feels kind of surreal knowing that tomorrow is Mother’s Day. For the first time since we lost our daughter Stella and I lost my uterus 4 years ago (after a very long struggle to conceive), I’m not dreading the day. This time last year … who would have known that within the year I would at long last become a mother. A mother to the most wonderful little boy. I’ll be celebrating tomorrow being mother to my gorgeous and most precious son Alec.

My message to all women who may be reading this and who’s desire for a family has not yet been fulfilled … Don’t give up on your hopes, your dreams, your yearning for a family of your own. I know that tomorrow is probably going to be a bit of a crappy one for you. Just know that things may not be working out the way you had initially planned, but with determination, inner strength and an open mind to stepping out of norm, you can make your dreams come true. I know this having walked a long and very painful journey … but I refused to give up. As I listen to the sound of my son’s breathing from his cot, I now know that anything is possible.

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First Time Parenting … At 40+

With all of our milestones (60 and 90 days) behind us, the bottle of Dom Perinon popped, and with our adoption papers submitted to the courts, I’m starting to really get into the flow of motherhood. Up until the lapse of the 90 days, my title of “mom” hung in the balance, as it could have been stripped from me at any moment … but no more. It’s now officially official … I’m a mother! Mother to the most beautiful and delicious little boy in the world … at the ripe age of 41 … going on 42 years old.

For someone who swore to never be an older mother and to have completed her family in her 30′s … I can safely say that starting a family later than most has it’s challenges and it’s benefits. The challenges are minor in that one tends to be set in one’s ways and perhaps a little selfish when reaching 40 with no little feet in tow. Enter newborn cherub … and your life is instantly turned on it’s head, but all in a magical and strangely wonderful way. I’ve found the benefits of being an ‘older’ mother to be enormous. Perhaps it’s my life experiences that have made me a calmer and more confident mother? As one of the ‘older’ mothers in a mommies group I’m part of, I notice a lot of anxiety and uncertainty with some of the younger moms, who are often second guessing themselves instead of following their instincts. Perhaps my hours and long nights of nursing sick and ailing rescued kittens and puppies over the years, non of whom could ‘speak’ for themselves, tapped into my inner voice which told me to listen to my instincts and given me better insight when ‘listening’ to my son’s needs? … Or perhaps I just don’t get it and have missed the plot completely! Maybe I’m the one who’s back is turned towards the erupting volcano and can’t quite understand what all the panic around me is about. LOL!! Who knows? What I do know is that I’m thoroughly enjoying being a mother and would do this all over again in a heartbeat given another chance or opportunity, despite the lack of sleep and it taking me 3 days to do something simple like paint my toenails! ROFL!!!

With Alec’s half year birthday coming up on 20th, it seems like just yesterday that he was a tiny little bundle. Time has flown by so incredibly quickly and he’s growing so fast. I’m glad I’ve documented and continue to document almost everything in photos. I’m a little paparazzi crazy … but then who could blame me?

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Chosen Ones … Part 4: The Numbers 60 and 90

Being chosen and having our beautiful son Alec at home with us is something I’m still pinching myself about. Is it all real? Can this be true? I often find myself staring into his gorgeous face, taking in every tiny detail … and if I’m not staring lovingly at him, I’m photographing him, or kissing him. Call me an obsessive mother :-) , but then again I think I’ve paid my dues, so I should be allowed my idiosyncrasies!
The reality is that close of business (courts) on 25th November was a HUGE milestone for us as it marked the end of the 60 day period during which time our baby’s Birth Mom (BM) could change her mind and claim our son Alec back. In terms of the South African law, we (LH and I) would have had to comply and hand him over.

How does one deal with that looming over you for a period of 60 days? A number of people commented on how it must interfere with the bonding process. The truth is it can … but only if you allow it to. We were given the option of waiting the 60 days, during which Alec would have been in foster care, or taking the plunge. LH and I decided to take the plunge as we didn’t want to miss out on 2 months of our son’s life. So when it came to the 60 days LH and I chose to (try) ignore it … not think about it. We chose to ‘bury our heads in sand’ when it came to those 60 days, whilst glancing at the calendar to see ‘if we were there yet’. Obsessing about it would have driven us insane with worry, which would have potentially stood in the way of us being able to wholeheartedly throw ourselves into parenthood and loving our son Alec unconditionally from the moment we knew about him. This was our only and best option, firstly for our son’s benefit and also for our own sanity. So my big girl broekies got a lot of wear and tear during those 60 days, all whilst our son received more love than he could ever imagine from both LH and I!!

Truth be told, I hadn’t realised how heavily those 60 days were weighing on me, until the evening of 25th November, when I confirmed with our social worker that we were indeed in the clear with our BM. The tears of joy, as that weight which I had been unknowingly carrying lifted from my shoulders and pushed away from my subconscious, flowed freely … It was one of my uglier cries, but in a good way :-) … an awesome way. LH’s face beamed with absolute joy, pride and love as he popped a bottle of bubbly in celebration, whilst our son slept on peacefully, completely and blissfully oblivious of the significance of that day.

… But we’re not out of the woods just yet. We’re saving the really big celebration (and extra special bottle of bubbly) for close of business (courts) on 10th January, as that marks the end of the 90 days from placement of the advertisement for the Birth Father (BF) to come forward. Despite his giving consent verbally over the phone, because he was a no show at all of the meetings, he didn’t get to sign any consent papers. In terms of the law, the BF is therefore considered ‘unknown’, but still needs to be given the opportunity to step forward. An advert was therefore placed in the newspaper by our social workers and he has 90 days from placement of that advert to step forward … which is up until 10th January.

So till then, we will continue to stick our heads in the sand and carry on with our lives as normal – planning ahead – with our gorgeous son Alec, who brings us so much joy each and every day with his dazzling smiles and delicious giggles.

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Chosen Ones … Part 3: Our Son Alec :-)

What an honour and a privilege it is to be a mother :-) … a chosen mother of a beautiful and amazing baby boy!! There is a reason I’ve been quiet. I’ve spent the last month bonding with my son Alec. My son who has the most amazingly brave Birth Mother (BM). My son who has a doting and completely love struck mother and father being LH and I. My son who is the most incredible little human being I’ve ever known. I’ve been totally and completely immersed in him since his arrival.

At the time of writing my last blog entry, little did I know that Alec had already been born. We met with our BM on 19th September. Later that very same day, in the evening, she went into labour. Our son Alec was born in the early hours of Friday 20th September. Over that weekend we gleefully went shopping for our son and sent text messages to our social worker asking if there was any news. No news was the feedback. Tuesday 24th, the public holiday and the day of our son’s expected birth date, we again sent messages whilst shopping for essential items and short-listing others, as only the best would do for our expected bundle, but we had so much to learn in such a short period of time! Wednesday 25th September, whilst I was waiting patiently for our dog Bruno who was at his weekly swimming and physio appointment for his gammy legs, I received a call from our social worker at 11:34. Was I sitting down? “Yes! … Is BM in labour?” … Even better … your son was born early hours of Friday 20th September, he’s healthy, he’s gorgeous, he’s been in ‘kangaroo care’ since then and you can hear him crying in the background … BM is ready to do the hand over as per her wishes … today at 1pm.

To say my heart skipped a beat and then started racing is an understatement. As my eyes welled up with tears of joy, I nervously said my excited goodbyes on the phone. With my hands shaking, I called LH to share the news. At the time my call came through, his office were in the process of throwing a baby shower for him. I raced home, running through the list of things we still had to get before fetching our son. A crib / cot was one of the essential items we had short listed but not purchased as yet. As I pulled into the driveway with an oblivious, but contented pooch in the back seat, LH pulled in behind me with a boot full of presents for our son we were going to meet in just less than an hour.

Meeting our son for the first time was the most incredible experience of my life. Receiving him from his BM was a deeply emotional moment for all of us. I held her hand and hugged her deeply, promising from the depths of my heart to love, adore, cherish and do my best for the little baby boy, a part of her, she was entrusting us with.

We drove home with crib and other essentials in the boot of the car and our son Alec in his car seat – our family … 5 years after our journey had begun.

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Chosen Ones … Part 2: Due Dates and Diaries

I’ve been glued to my phone since our meeting with our Birth Mom (BM).

Normally one has 9 months to plan for a baby’s arrival … we have just short of 2 weeks – LOL!! A challenge I’m tackling head on – with LOTS of shopping! All this time however I’m thinking about our son … his well-being … and our Birth Mom (BM). With our son’s birth imminent, what is her state of mind? How is she coping? How ready is she for the emotions she’s going to feel? For her transition back to her life?

Why should I care you may be asking? Because we mattered enough to her – she chose us. Because she is entrusting us with her baby. Because she’s giving us the best gift in life … that of a family of our own for which I cannot thank her enough … and then there is the dreaded 60 Days ahead of us.

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