Finding family is a beautiful thing whether you are adopting, using fertility treatments to conceive or fostering a child.
Parent24 recently shared the thoughts of local families who considered adoption due to infertility, in a series on infertility in South Africa.
In response, Lance and Jennifer shared their experience of adoption due to infertility with us, and how their journey shaped their family.
Read: Adoption as a solution to infertility is 'viewed with suspicion' in some families
In their own words, this is their story:
As a newly married couple, we hopped on a plane to England. The plan was to go for a couple of years and to travel for a while. But, as things happen, life happens, and we grew roots and opened our own preschool business.
Fifteen adventurous years later, in 2016, we independently felt the Lord speaking to us about coming home. The Lord was calling us home to adopt and, in our way, to make a difference in the lives of young children. We both felt this big tug to move back to South Africa.
We prayed about it, sold the business we loved and headed home. We settled back in Johannesburg in 2017, a first for my husband, as we had lived in Cape Town previously.
It took us a while to get used to living in South Africa again, with strangers smiling at us, load shedding frustrations, government department slowness, friendly neighbours and the sun smiling down on us so much more than we were used to.
We were home.
There are government social workers and various agencies, and private social workers who process adoptions in South Africa.
We started the adoption process with a recommended personal social worker, who was knowledgeable, and had a genuine love for children and nuclear families.
We will never forget the first time we met our beloved sons. It was a sunny day. A Wednesday. These two beautiful little children that were a mere one year's old at the time toddled into the welcoming room.
Looking up at us, two smiling strangers with big, enquiring eyes, the four of us proceeded through the heavy wooden door of the baby home into the garden to spend some time together and get to know one another.
One little boy curled his hand in mine, and the other little boy allowed my husband to take his hand gently. We had brought along some balls, a picnic blanket and books to read.
We walked together slowly around the tree and flower-filled pretty garden. We looked at tiny insects picking up leaves, smelling flowers, enjoying quality time and a little chat with the boys.
They were nonverbal at this stage but communicated so much with their noises, expressions, beautiful soul-searching brown eyes, and body language. They felt at ease. They were holding our hands tightly.
We knew that these boys were sent from the Lord to be our sons from that first hour of meeting them. Our bond was instantaneous.
From that day forward, it didn't take very long for the adoption process to start, and within a short while, our boys came to live with us permanently.
This was a day of much rejoicing in our household. The six of us were a tight family unit from the start. The other two family members being our basset hounds, Benji and Toby. Our extended family enveloped our young sons in their loving arms too.
It's interesting because one of our sons recently recounted the first time they met us in peculiar detail. He remembered us walking into the garden and even said, "Mommy, you took my hand., Daddy, you took my brother's hand. And then we were talking in the garden, and walking in the garden and looking at flowers".
He remembered this detail. It took us aback. We can never underestimate what a child will remember and comprehend. And this is why it is so important to remember that the first 1,000 days of a child's life, from conception, are the most important days of a child's life.
Also read: Astonished mom makes unbelievable discovery on her son's wedding day
Starting a nursery school in SA
We have our own small ECD Centre/Nursery School. A few of our nursery children are adopted or in the process of being adopted, and that is wonderful to witness. It is a small and personal nursery school, where our children feel loved, valued, and home.
We extensively emphasise recycling and the outdoors and learning through creative and messy play in our educational approach. It is a Christian based school, and our children learn about Jesus every day. About God and His creation, who He is to us, and us to Him.
We feel it is essential that they have this solid grounding from a young age. They are typical boys in that they make a lot of mess and they get nice and dirty. They learn to make their beds, feed the dogs, and enjoy helping with the laundry and garden. They're learning about responsibility.
They are learning about life.
We are immensely proud of our young sons. They have incredible appetites and are already eating more than us!
We joke that we best start putting money aside to have their fridge when they're teenagers because we're not sure we can keep up with this demand for food with only one fridge.
It is such a blessing to have children who are not fussy eaters and enjoy food so much, including vegetables! They often need one of us to be with them, but there are big chunks of time now when they play independently.
They have a solid bond, being brothers and twins. They love doing things together, whether singing Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, making delectable mud cakes outside or playing an imaginary Fireman Sam game.
This we can only see developing and flourishing as they grow up. Our sons are our joy. They ask lots of questions, have curious minds, and are thoughtful, burgeoning critical thinkers.
They have such leading questions. And we are careful in how we answer them, with wisdom, clarity and discernment. As they grow older, the conversations will become even more layered, and, as their parents, we have to be open and honest with them about life, our country and the world.
Adoption is not a particularly easy journey, but it is an incredibly worthwhile one. We've had tears of frustration and tears of joy. We've had to have immense patience, especially with dealing with erratic and slow government departments.
The day they became ours legally in the Magistrate's Court was a day we will never forget. They had been our sons in our heart and home for many months already, but having it made official by a court of law was an incredible sense of achievement and relief for us all.
Must read: Gabisile Tshabalala opens up about being an adoptive mom and giving birth during lockdown
Adoption has meant so many things to us.
It has meant having the opportunity to grow our family and to have the privilege of bringing two precious little human beings into our lives. It has also meant having the chance to make a difference in a child's life, where their birth parent is sadly unable to care for them themselves.
In our case, we have been blessed in duplicate with twins. Double the troublesome might jest. No, it has been a double delight!
Becoming a parent through adoption has a similar meaning to parenthood in general. We have found this helpful to ponder on.
Some advice for couples thinking of adoption
Be aware that certain times will be challenging, especially when an adopted child starts asking questions about their adoption story. If you tell them their adoption story from a young age, this will be less of an issue when they are older.
Children need to know they are adopted at a young age. Within this, though, you need to reassure them that this doesn't mean anything different to you, that you love them as much as you would a biological child. They were not born in your tummy but in your heart. These age-appropriate conversations need to be had.
Learn to appreciate every moment, the good and the bad. Children grow up and develop so quickly. Live in the moment. Enjoy rediscovering the world with them through their eyes.
Accept the chance to shape a child's life and teach them about the world by inviting them into yours. However, ensure that you know as much as possible about their biological ethnicity and culture. Incorporate this into yours in a meaningful way.
It's a good idea, and personally enriching, to not only get involved in your residential community but also a neighbouring community that might take you out of that comfort zone.
There is much need in our land, and volunteering skills and time is very much appreciated. Being out of your comfort zone in this way can also help you prepare for adoption because you will undoubtedly be out of your comfort zone when you adopt.
Adoption certainly comes with its challenges, but it's rare for a parent who chooses to adopt to regret their decision. We will cherish what adoption means to us for the rest of our lives.
Birth parents, especially birth mothers, are often given a bad rap for 'giving' their child to someone else to raise, but this might very possibly be the most selfless action she has ever taken. Putting her desire for her child to have their needs met, at the cost of her not raising her very own child.
There are so many reasons for this happening, being in an abusive relationship, being poverty-stricken, being physically abused, being an addict, and more. In a country like South Africa, all these reasons are very valid for many women these days.
This is why it is mostly the birth mother that needs to make this life-changing decision to allow her child to be adopted. For a child to be brought up in an unhealthy environment or in a home where essential needs cannot be met is a harsh and unbending life.
Allowing another person to raise your child safely and with immense love and dedication is a gift like no other. This gift brings with it grief—a grieving chasm.
As adoptive parents, we are ever aware of this incredible gift the birth mother of our sons has given us. She is often in our thoughts and our prayers.
Share with us how your adoption was and the lessons you took from this journey.
Share your stories and questions with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous contributions are welcome.
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