Amidst all the heartache and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many benefits of this drastic pause for Prince Charlie and me. Since we were forced to hit the pause button (which we did with great relief) we have been blessed with ample time to just be together. This opened up space and time for us to evaluate our lives and goals for the future. There was no rushing to the next appointment, party or concert, so we could just sit and enjoy each other while reflecting on the gifts we have in our lives and the dreams we have for what we want our future to look like.
As many of you know, we have been trying to grow our family for over five years. After our last fertility treatments in 2019, we knew we were done with medical intervention. We would not be returning to injections and operating theatres to try and have a baby. We made some lifestyle changes and tried to become healthier – physically, emotionally and spiritually. This journey has been accelerated by lockdown, as we could not blame any distractions for our lack of introspection, and the quiet exposed what we have been avoiding or what we have been afraid of.
When we made it to the one year mark after our one and only (short) pregnancy ended, we knew we were at a fork in the road: are we going to make peace with a childless lifestyle or are we going to try one more option? We wrestled and prayed, diving into scripture and asking God for guidance. He answered over and over again.
Through various books, scripture readings, sermons, articles and podcasts we were continuously directed towards the orphan crises in the world, especially South Africa, and our Heavenly Father’s heart for adoption.
It is estimated that 17.8 million children worldwide are orphaned while conservative estimates say that between 3 and 5 million children have been orphaned in South Africa alone. Approximately 100,000 of South Africa’s children are struggling to survive in child-headed households. Each year, at least 3,500 babies are found abandoned. For every 3 babies that are abandoned, only one is found in time. Sixty percent of South African children are considered to live in poverty.
In this article, Robyn Vorster discusses the horrendous state of child welfare in South Africa. It is a very enlightening but depressing read which will help you understand why adoption is not the easy option. You don’t “just adopt”. There is so much bureaucracy and stigma in many African cultures regarding adoption, that it is an uphill battle for both birth parents and adoptive parents alike.
During the lockdown, there has been a drastic increase in infant abandonment, with 70 cases reported in the media, of which 42 babies did not survive. These are the cases we know about. Due to the stigma surrounding adoption, many babies do not survive the first 28 days of life because their mothers cannot take care of them, or mothers undergo late-term abortions in desperation. All this is happening while the powers that be are trying to change the laws of our country to make it even harder to adopt! I can go on for pages about the state of affairs in our poor, orphaned country, but let me get to our story…
Our journey actually started during Adoption Awareness Month 2019, when I came across a post encouraging members of a private group to comment if they had any questions about adoption. At that stage, I was just curious and terrified by the prospect of the process. One lady (who we’ll call Viola) commented on the thread that she recently adopted a baby with her husband, and she invited anyone to contact her for more information. I did the thing I never do: I sent her a DM. Viola promptly responded, and the next day she phoned me to have a long conversation about the ins and outs of adoption. I took copious notes but was even more daunted by the idea than before the conversation.
The year quickly drew to a close and I was so relieved to shut the chapter of 2019. Thinking back to my state of mind, body and soul during that season I remember feeling overwhelmed and downtrodden, but so glad to celebrate the New Year, 2020.
Little did we know what would hit the world in 2020?
A few months later, Viola phoned me again to check up and see if we had started the process of adoption. I told her we hadn’t done anything about it yet because we were trying to get a few of our other affairs in order. She encouraged me to start with an appointment with the social worker since the Department of Social Development is desperately trying to make it illegal for any social worker, lawyer or agency to charge any adoption fees, forcing the process to go through government channels. I thanked her for her call and put down the phone with great trepidation.
A few weeks later, South Africa went into lockdown. At first, I was just trying to survive the lockdown and working out what the “new normal” would look like in our home. Fortunately, as introverts, this new arrangement suited our little family quite well and, once we realized we probably will survive this catastrophe, we settled into a new rhythm – much slower and reflective than before.
I started reading a library of books that I never get time to do, ranging from escapism fiction to serious topics I have wanted to explore for ages. One book would forever change my life: Adopted for Life by Russell Moore. I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone who wants to know more about how our Heavenly Father feels about adoption – both our spiritual adoption, as well as the caring of orphans. This book finally set me on the course to discuss adoption with my Father in Heaven, and ask him to show us his will for our lives.
Here are a few Bible verses about adoption that touched me deeply on this journey of adoption:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he lovesEphesians 1:3-6
For a full discussion on Ephesians 1 and our election and adoption as the children of God, refer to this post.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.Romans 8:14-17
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.James 1:27
As I mentioned above, our Heavenly Father sent us many verses and personal words of encouragement for this process. Thus, we finally made our first appointment with our highly recommended social worker in June. She took us through the details of the adoption process, very similar to what Viola discussed with me, and also explained the harsh realities with us. We decided to dive in wholeheartedly to try and grow our family through this new path we were only just embarking on.
In South Africa, there are various ways to pursue adoption, but we chose to work through a social worker in private practice. This is therefore the procedure I am familiar with. Through this process, we had to submit forests full of documents including police clearance certificates, our budget, many testimonials from people close to us and more certified copies of important documents I care to count. The testimonials were so touching for me, as I realized how much we were blessed with deep connections with others who wanted the best for us and our future family – soul-connections who truly believed we could be good parents.
After two months of intense counselling, and few aggravating queues, we were approved as adoptive parents!
That was the easy part.
Even if an adoption plan is made before birth, the law allows the birth parents to change their minds up to 90 days past the birth of the baby. This makes the planning and public sharing of such stories very sensitive and risky. Many adoptive parents do not share any information until all the legal mumbo jumbo has been finalized. This is our plan, as well.
Now we wait for our baby.
It is hard to say how short or long this wait will be, but we trust that the Lord has a beautiful blessing in store for our family.
In the meantime, we are preparing our home and hearts for a new life while appreciating every quiet moment relaxing on the couch or impromptu date night.
I believe our Heavenly Father already knows our child (or children) and has planned for them to join His family through our family (Jeremiah 29:11) long ago.
I also firmly believe that he/she/they are being knit together in the (birth) mother’s womb, fearfully and wonderfully made to be used as instruments in God’s hands (Psalm 139:14).
Please keep our family in your prayers that the Lord will send us the right child (or children) at the right time.
Today’s song – One Less by Matthew West – was one of the signs from my Father that adoption was the way we should go.