(I’m feeling sorry for myself right now. I want to be mothered. I really do. I have oozing when I shouldn’t. I need to see my surgeon because there are things going on that not even the nurse has seen… I feel like I’m splitting open and I’ve taken as much painkiller as I’m allowed to. Did I mention that I have not slept since surgery? Stupid thick binder stops all that. It’s like a long thick hard corset and it’s got four Velcro straps that reach down to my hips. It’s painful, it folds when I’m sleeping-or standing or sitting-and it makes me so hot. Even with sleeping pills, which the surgeon kindly gave me, I’m struggling. And we all know that six children don’t lend themselves to daytime naps much. I wish I had a mommy to just say, “There, there.” Or feed me chicken soup . Vegan chicken soup.😉Did I mention I’m not even able to sleep on a bed but I’m on a recliner? I keep involuntarily groaning from the pain and my oblivious husband working away at his laptop keeps asking, “What?” (I’m in pain! That’s what! I need a mommy! Or a sister! So no, I did NOT go take any walks with any children today.)
So, we were ready! April 14, 2015, we’d meet the foster parents and the biological parents. Both of them. Do you know how rare it is for the father to stay in the picture and be that involved?? They told us not to speak to them in isiXhosa, which again made me wonder about how much they’d remove from our letters to each other. The biological parents are both Xhosa people. I just received a perfectly fine voice note from the birth mom just a few minutes ago but in it she’s apologizing for her bad English. Why would you stop two sets of parents from conversing in their own language? (Not that my husband is Xhosa. Not that I can say MUCH in isiXhosa! But that’s besides the point. I know when I do suddenly speak it, people are like, “Whoa! You speak it rather well! I thought you were worse than that!” Haha.)!So yes, I was not impressed with Baddie for telling me what language I could use with my child’s parents! I’d rather speak broken isiXhosa if it meant my children s parents could speak their truths in as clear a manner as possible.
We took our children along with us. We arrived in “the pregnant girl and women’s home” and waited and waited. The biological parents were running a bit late. Our baby was there but in another room and our children went to go meet their baby sister! I was so jealous! And frustrated when they came back and when I asked what they thought, all they said was, “She’s ok.” By the time my children went, the biological parents had also gone in to meet their baby for the second and last time. I asked my son how THAT was. He said the birth mom said, “Hello baby,” and rubbed her hand. I wonder how she FELT.
This was just so wrong to me. What we were about to do. We were adopting . We were gaining a child. And in that moment, to me it felt as if they were losing a child. How could I be fully happy and excited when my joy was because of their heartache? I felt loads of guilt.
Until the bio parents walked in and we and they social workers began talking. Birth mom spoke very candidly and openly about the choices she’d made before baby was born. About how when she realised the baby was not going anywhere without being delivered alive, she didn’t know what to do. She already had another child being raised by her aunt. They were both unable to raise a child and they had no family able to… One of the lines that stuck out to me given how many abandoned babies are found on the sides of the streets, in bins, on staircases, in fields, in sewers (We don’t have safe haven laws here. We don’t let them leave their babies at fire stations. And nurses are generally cruel if they ask about placing their baby for adoption 😭) was when she said, “I loved her too much to just dump her in the gutter. But I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want my problem to burden someone else. I didn’t have anyone else who could even take her…”
Then while trying to think of what to do with the tiny human she’d given birth to, she recalled adoption from having seen it in movies. She later told me that she was shocked that Black people were adopting her child. She was under the impression that Black people are unable to love unless it’s biologically their own. But meeting us changed her perceptions for ever. She had been doubtful. But when she met us, she knew her baby was going to be loved. (And no, she didn’t tell me this through the Better and Baddie. That’s another story!)
There are many Gianna Jessens who we will never know about. My girl is one of them. As her birth mom said, “But God said no.”
As for names! One of the Sotho names we’d considered was Oarona, which means “ours.” I wanted her to grow to know that she was ours-all sets of parents loved her. But we weren’t sure if we wanted to use it. Until her birth mom said they called Owethu. Which is a Xhosa name meaning “ours.” She said they wanted her to know that she would always be in their hearts, she’d always be their little girl, even though she’d never be so physically.
So.. that was that. When the social worker told them we’d considered Oarona, birth mom immediately said, “Well! That’s the exact same name!” (Being Black, we know more than just our own Black languages❤️) And that’s how one of our girl’s names became Oarona.
As she spoke, as she answered our questions, I felt like I’d found my soul sister. She later told me she had the same feeling. We weren’t strangers, it’s as if we were just chatting and had known each other for years. We felt at home with each other.
There was a funny moment, where the father had been silent all along, and the social workers asked him what he thought about us being his child’s parents. Sitting in the chair, as reclined as possible, he said, “I don’t mind them. They look ok.”😂😂😂
The moment finally came. Foster mom-who had acted and looked rather sour (I think it was grief because later on via WhatsApp she was VERY nice), brought the baby into the room. She gave birth mom the baby. Birth mom gave the baby to me, telling her as she put her in my arms, “Here’s your Mommy.”
I got shivers and forever will when I think of that moment.
The strength it takes to tell your child that she’s no longer yours!!
We took photos. Photos with all of us together, and of me and my now THREE children…
And while I was hugging birth mom, I asked in isiXhosa what the birth dad’s HIV status was. She immediately answered. I needed to know. Yes, people do live long with it. But that’s also helped by healthy diets and strong immune systems. I wanted to know what the chances were my girl seeing her parents when she turned 18. (Legally, they can each search for each other when the child turns 18.) I know that many things kill-car accidents, suicide, cancer… But this was a part of my child’s parental health history. I felt I should know so that one day she would know.
We then went to Children’s Court to begin the formal adoption process. This would take a long 9 months before the official adoption order would arrive, changing our status from temporary parents to forever parents.
Below is the first and only letter we received from birth parents via Baddie and Better after we’d sent one to them, with photos and updates. As you read this letter, you can see why it didn’t sit right with us that communication would end so abruptly. Did reality finally hit, and she decided to forget we shared a child? But I wanted to know how they were! And my daughter deserved to know too. Why did they stop writing after only one letter?
I just didn’t know how sinister things actually were. I didn’t know that the answer would make me agree with Department of Social Development that private social workers need much more oversight. And lower salaries.
Yet to come… How our semi-open adoption became closed. (Yes, I did mention a voice note above. I found out how it became closed when I opened it by force.)