Happiness and Celebration

Our Boys’ Beginning

One night, a birth mother laid one of her twins, a baby boy, out in public and hid close by until someone found him. The next night she left the other. The twins were only two months old—and I like to think she named them Jabulani and Laredo. I’m sure she, like any loving mother, had faith they would find happiness and celebration somewhere. Even if it wasn’t with her.

Our Beginning

The Skeptics and Naysayers

Several months earlier, my husband and I were mourning our latest miscarriage. This one was especially difficult because tests had confirmed the pregnancy, and we had done so much to get pregnant. We already had three children, so it was incredible that conceiving number four would be so hard. Most people didn’t understand our anxiety.

“You have three kids. Why do you want more?” they would say.

We learned from our fertility assessment that my hormonal system was so out of whack that I was lucky to have conceived the children we had. That is why our three older children are spaced four years apart even though we didn’t practice any family management. On top of that, my family history made it unlikely that I’d carry any more to full term.

Members of the skeptics club included our parents and a good portion of our siblings. Thus, my husband and I kept the fertility treatments to ourselves and only told the family abou miscarriages. We jumped through the hoops and into the fertility fire. There were many assessments, pills, and mapped days.

The Next Level and More Disappointments

After a while, we moved to the next level of injections. I don’t know who had a harder time with this, my husband or me. Yes, I took it in the “cheek”, but Dan had to give the shots. I experienced dramatic side effects, but Dan had to deal with them. And we suffered two more miscarriages. The first was another early termination; the second happened a few weeks down the road. Both were emotional and disappointing.

Our Third Level: Adoption

It was really becoming unbearable. The injections were painful and costly. The pressure on Dan to “perform” on-demand was starting to cause tension. My husband and I had come to a crossroads. We had borrowed against the house to pursue these procedures, and the honey pot was getting low. The fertility specialist recommended we go to a third level of treatment: in vitro.

But Dan and I looked at our options. We had enough money to try the procedure only once. The procedure had a high failure rate, especially on the first attempt. We could just give up the idea of another child. Or, we could seek adding happiness to our family by adopting.

Seeking Happiness in Adoption

We didn’t want to go through the anxiety and discomfort of in vitro, only to come up empty-handed. So, my husband and I began looking into adoption. Then we began studying the process, guessing the costs, and looking for an agency. Surprisingly, the first agency we tried rejected us as candidates. They didn’t do adoptions for families with more than two children. Eventually, we found direction and support through a different agency. The orientation meeting was overwhelming. There was so much we needed to do and so many requirements we needed to fulfill.

A component we were not really expecting was the levels of involvement birth parents and adoptive family can have with each other. Open adoptions were meant to keep the birth parents actively engaged with the child throughout the child’s life. Closed adoptions were where the birth parents wish to stay out of the picture (which are rarer). And then there were semi-open adoptions. Which one did we want? Which one would we get?

We went through all the screenings and background checks, completed our home study, and created a family portfolio for expectant parents to read. All of this took about four months. Finally, we were put on a list for expectant parents to review. We understood it could be a long wait, but we didn’t realize we wouldn’t hear anything for six months. The waiting was insufferable.

Before We Found Our Boys

After someone found those twin boys in that field, those future sons of ours stayed in the hospital until someone found another place for them. In the hospital, Laredo got a terrible fever. As the doctors cared for him, they noticed differences between Laredo and Jabulani. Laredo wasn’t moving or smiling like Jabulani, or any other baby. After some tests, they found that Laredo’s brain was damaged. He had cerebral palsy. Laredo soon recovered from his illness, but the brain damage would never go away.

Laredo and Jabulani eventually moved to a children’s home outside of Johannesburg. The caretakers at the home renamed them David and John. It was a nice home—a real house with a kitchen, living room, bedrooms, and a big backyard. There were children of all ages cared for by very loving house parents. David’s condition meant he needed special care. He couldn’t crawl or sit, so he was carried in the traditional Afrikaan way: on his caregiver’s back. He was held by a tightly tied cloth, so all you could see was his head.

Waiting for Our Day of Happiness and Celebration

I am a very impatient person. I hate sitting on my hands waiting for others. The first placement agency we retained didn’t come up with anything, so I went hunting. I spent hours researching agencies and looking for an organization that would be more proactive. I read about babies from China, Russia, and Guatemala. We didn’t care where the baby came from (all of them would be perfect bundles of joy and happiness) but these programs meant three more years of waiting and even more paperwork! So I kept looking.

Finally we found a simple website for a children’s home in South Africa. My excitement grew as I read. Many of the children were orphans or abandoned. Many had no family to speak of. The best thing was that the process promised to take only one year. I showed my husband the website, and we decided to contact the agency.

Contacting a Children’s Home

The children’s home itself was owned by Americans from California, and the contact agent worked out of Montana. We had heard the scary stories of pseudo-agencies that took your money and ran. Even after we made sure this organization was accredited and bonded, we still had trepidations.

Our fears were eased some when, less than three months later, the agency told us about the twins. The agency had thought it would be hard to keep the brothers together. Not many people want to adopt two babies at one time, especially if one of them is handicapped. When Dan and I saw the pictures, we were in love. We really wanted John and David.

Happy to Finally Meet John and David

My husband and I were invited to South Africa to meet David and John. My mother came along. I saw David first. He was in a baby walker wrapped in towels to hold him up. He looked up with his big, dark eyes, and a wide smile came over his shiny face. I bent down and David grabbed my nose.

“Can I hold him?” I asked eagerly. I scooped David up and cuddled him to my chest. He smelled of homemade lotion made from petroleum jelly and herbs.

“We have to keep their skin from drying out,” explained the caregiver. “It gets very dry during the winter.” It was May, and I had forgotten that in South Africa it’s winter during June, July, and August.

John went immediately to my mother. He liked her from the beginning. In fact, John wouldn’t be held by anyone else. My husband, my mom, and I got to play with the boys for a while. Even before we became a forever family, John and David brought new happiness to our lives.

Finalizing the Adoption

It was so hard to say goodbye on the first day, but things needed to be done, and the boys couldn’t come home with us until we finished the court work. We stayed busy meeting with caregivers, adoption directors, doctors, lawyers, and judges.

Since the boys would be moving to the United States, we had to meet with special officials to get permission for the twins to come to America. There were a lot of forms and papers to fill out. At the time, the South African bureaucracy still did their records long-hand. It took most of day to get copies of their birth certificates. Then it took four tries to get David’s passport picture just right.

When their dossiers were completed, we were ready to go to the judge. The courtroom was hot and sticky, even though there was a chill outside. The judge, a middle-aged white woman, was direct and business-like. She entered the chamber, said a quick good morning, and began to write. She would ask a question and then write. The question, then write.

The Judge Was Courteous

After what seemed to be an endless list of standard procedural questions, the judge put her pencil down, folded her hands in front of her, and smiled at us. She was very cordial, and we talked easily. Our conversation with the judge was very deliberate on the judge’s part. The judge was really trying to ascertain if we were actually like the people who were described in the papers she had about us. She seemed more than satisfied and congratulated us on our new additions.

Only one more hurdle to jump—the American embassy.

The Embrassy Was Strained

The workers in the embassy were an overworked, highly-stressed crew. Two African embassies had recently suffered terrorist attacks, and the place was filled with anxiety. The wait to complete the adoption process was agonizing.

We left the twins with Mom at the hotel, but when we finally met the diplomat, he said he needed to see the boys. So, we picked them up and went to where we would wait some more. The diplomat was a cross between an over-zealous FBI agent and the office peon. He justified his existence by letting you know, in no uncertain terms, that your dream could die between his fingers.

We were shaken to our bones with fear when he asked for more proof that the boys were twins. All we could do was present him with the birth certificates and pray. He accepted the familial status of the boys, but not our paperwork. We returned to the hotel and made the required revisions. After another long day of scrutiny at the embassy, we finally got permission to bring the boys to the U.S. So, we got on a plane for the long trip.

Flying toward Forever Happiness

Twenty hours on a plane! I held David the whole time. My mother held John. We wouldn’t put the boys down, even as we slept. Each baby was carried in a sling so we wouldn’t drop them.

Finally, after several months of work and waiting, we carried David and John down the hallway toward the airport exit. John and David’s new family greeted us at the door with balloons, signs, and presents. As cameras flashed, John and David met Ben, Matt, and Rachel, their new brothers and sister. Then they saw their Grandpa and Grandma, their dad’s parents, for the first time. Aunt Jaci and Aunt Linda were there too. Everyone talked and laughed and kissed and hugged. The happiness and celebratory spirit was palpable.

Laredo means “Happiness” and Jabulani means “Celebration”. We literally added more happiness and celebration to our family.

Are you and your partner ready to start the adoption process? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to begin your adoption journey. We have 130+ years of adoption experience and would love to help you.