November 17th was court day.
We got to the home early and got to meet Tracy (the Newcastle social worker). Then the workers all said their goodbyes. One of them really teared up when she said goodbye to Ephraim, he’s been there since he came out of the hospital at 2 months old and you can tell he was special to her (and he liked her too), she gave us their email address and asked us to send lots of pictures (which you know there will be a lot of).
Then we were off! We went into the court building not knowing what to expect. We went through a metal detector and placed our bags on top of the scanner because of course it didn’t work, that’s so Africa. They took all our cameras except Robyn’s, she says they just seem to know when people are not from around there.
We sat in the waiting room for awhile waiting for the judge to show, when he did he took Robyn and Tracy to his office. They were there for about 20 minutes while we sat and waited. Finally at 9:25 they called the other couple we were with in. About 10 minutes later they returned with their son!
Then it was our turn, we went in and the judge asked us to read over a paper (with our personal information) and showed us where to sign on three copies, which we did. Then the judge signed, dated and wrote the time:
that’s when Ephraim became our son
The judge continued to sign a couple more papers and made sure everything was spelled correctly then he thanked Robyn and us for helping to give families to their children. And it was done.
We stopped to get some gas in the car and then back down to Durban we went.
The drive back was stunningly gorgeous, it was something I missed in the nervousness of Saturday morning, the Newcastle landscape is just breathtaking. As we got closer to Durban it was more grasslands and hills, it kind of reminded me of English country or even southern Alberta.
The kids were both great on the way back, Rae had a good nap and Ephraim had 2! It felt great driving back with both of our kids in the backseat.
this photo got a comment on my Facebook page about the carseat not being safe because it’s not a 5 point harness, for the record, we are in South Africa and this is the carseat we were given with our car rental, with as many kids as we’ve seen sitting in the front seat with no seat belts on I’m just impressed it’s as good as this! glad I got that out of my system 🙂
I won’t be sharing a post on every day that we are out here but I wanted to document the first couple of days while they were still fresh in my mind.
Sunday, November 16th was our second day visiting Ephraim at the home.
We had a little bit of one on one time with Ephraim before we went outside with 7 of the “older” kids (as in kids aged 18 months to just under 2 years).
If you sat down anywhere, outside or on the couch for more than three seconds you are bound to be bombarded by about 3 or 4 kids trying to sit on your lap, it was really sweet and heart breaking at the same time. I’ve got so many thoughts and feelings about this but I’ll save those for another time.
After playing outside for awhile we were able to give Ephraim a quick little bath, they have to be quick when there are 15 children to wash!
Around 11:00 am we were able to take Ephraim out of the home, and I’m so glad we were. We took him back to the place we were staying for the weekend and he was nervous to be in a new place and was holding on to me tightly. But after just a few minutes Jared and Raeca had him smiling and playing with balls and cars and after about half an hour Raeca had him smiling and we heard him giggle for the first time. He loves to hear Rae laugh. After awhile he was completely tuckered out and ended up sleeping on my lap in the living room. We had both lunch and supper with Ephraim at our B&B and then we took him back to the home around 5:30. He was a different kid when we walked through those doors, he became quiet and for the longest time just sat on either my lap or Jared’s, when they let the rest of the older kids come out he seemed to tense up around them and just wanted to stick with us.
Saying goodbye to Ephraim in the evening was so hard, Raeca kept crying, saying she didn’t want to leave him, it broke my heart.
We just told her this was the last sleep that had to leave Ephraim, tomorrow morning was court.
It’s crazy to think that it’s been over a week since we first met Ephraim, he has come out of his shell so much in the last week, he doesn’t seem like the same kid we first met.
Saturday morning came early for us since we were still tired from our journey over. But we woke up around 5:30 so we could grab the stuff we would need for the next couple of days and by 6:40 we were off on our 4 hour journey (on the left side of the road) north up to Newcastle where Ephraim was. Minus the GPS giving us a few odd directions we found our way quite easily and arrived at the home at 11:05.
The day before we had met with Robyn, our South African social worker, and she mentioned that because Ephraim is “older” when we arrive we should try sitting on the floor with a few toys and kind of wait for him to approach us. But when we got to the home we were told he was asleep and the next thing I knew they woke him up and thrust him into my arms. It was great to see him but it wasn’t the initial meeting I was expecting.
He was very quiet and sat very motionless, he didn’t even try to touch us, he was so still. We tried bringing out a few toys to show him and he would hold on to them but not play with them or interact with us at all. He hadn’t eaten lunch yet so one of the workers from the home gave us his food to feed him. She said the kids ate fast so you had to feed them quick but he seemed too overwhelmed to eat, he slowly ate a few bites but that was it.
We sat with Ephraim through most of the afternoon, we saw a few smiles here and there, mostly when the workers would tickle him.
Bedtime was 7:00 so at that point we said goodnight and handed him over to the workers for the night.
A few photos from our first day with him:
Wednesday, November 12th we sent off to leave cold and snowy Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to travel the 40 hours to warm and lush Durban, South Africa. Thankfully our journey was completely uneventful and Raeca had a decent amount of sleep on the planes, she’s always been a great little traveler.
Like I previously shared we went from Saskatoon to Calgary, about an hour flight with a few hours of a layover.
Then we flew the 9ish hours to Frankfurt where we had a 9 hour layover (which didn’t feel that long, Frankfurt is the worst laid out airport I’ve ever been to, aka we wandered around for awhile trying to figure out where we were supposed to be). Thankfully Rae slept about half of the flight over (and watched a few movies in the other half, the benefit to not letting your kid watch much TV is when the fly they have plenty of movies to watch that they’ve never seen).
We had to continue our Frankfurt airport tradition with a meal at McDonalds -a place we never frequent back at home but always seem to go to at least once when traveling.
We found a little kids play area where Rae played for about an hour, a good 45 minutes of that were spent playing with two little girls from South Korea, the only words the girls knew in English was numbers 1-20 and bye. But that didn’t stop them from having a blast together.
Then it was off to Johannesburg! Raeca once again slept about half of the 11 hour flight.
After Johannesburg we had a short layover and then took a quick one hour flight to Durban! I could see the beauty as we flew in, the green grass, the hills, the ocean! Such a gorgeous place!
When we arrived at the airport we had a wonderful driver, Tezz, waiting to bring us to our accommodations.
Well, nap time is pretty much over so I’ll stop there for today. More of South Africa to come soon!
Just quickly popping in to tell you that it’s official!
Ephraim is our son!
Lots more posts to come. 🙂
It’s airplane day (as Raeca would say)! This afternoon we start our 36 hour journey from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to Durban, South Africa. (Actually, if you count our travel to the airport and time spent waiting for our first flight it will be a 40 hour journey.)
We are set to arrive in Durban at 12:05pm (their local time) on Friday.
We are getting Budget to deliver a car to our B&B Friday afternoon and then Saturday morning Jared will drive us the 4 hours to Newcastle where we will get to meet Ephraim! Saturday and Sunday will be spent getting to know him. I’m not sure how much time we’ll have with him but I hope as much as possible.
Then, Monday morning we will be in court. I don’t have an exact time for that but I’m praying it’s early so we can get it over with!
A few things you could pray for in the next week:
* that we wouldn’t forget anything (this is really haunting me in my dreams)
* that we would make all our flights
* for good health while flying (and in country)
* safety as we drive to Newcastle (driving on the other side of the road while jet lagged has me a little concerned)
* our meeting and days spent with Ephraim, that he will like us and start to bond with us
* for court, that the judge will be in favor of the adoption
* for Ephraim as we take him from the only home he has ever known
* safety in the drive back down to Durban
* for all of us in the transition
* for good sleep, if we don’t sleep well I imagine the transition will be that much harder
Thank you for all your support and prayers!
We are so excited to finally be off to get our little guy!
It seems fitting to me that November is Adoption Awareness Month, it’s pretty much all that’s been on my mind lately anyway.
Today I just wanted to share some of my favorite online adoption resources and information.
TO READ IF SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS ADOPTING
Why You Cannot Hold My Daughter by Lauren at Mercy Ink – ** a great one for anyone we know to read, it’s the sort of post I’ve been meaning to write, and maybe I’ll get a chance in the near future, but in case I don’t, please read this
How to be The Village by Jen Hatmaker – love this article, only Jen can cover such a heavy topic with such humor, this is probably my favorite quote from the article, but it’s Jen, it’s so hard to pick just one (I can sooo relate to the hormones!).
Saying nothing is the opposite bad. I realize with blogs like this one, you can get skittish on how to talk to a crazed adopting Mama without getting under her paper-thin skin or inadvertently offending her. I get it. (We try hard not to act so hypersensitive. Just imagine that we are paper-pregnant with similar hormones surging through our bodies making us cry at Subaru commercials just like the 7-month preggo sitting next to us. And look at all this weight we’ve gained. See?) But acting like we’re not adopting or struggling or waiting or hoping or grieving is not helpful either. If I was pregnant with a baby in my belly, and no one ever asked how I was feeling or how much longer or is his nursery ready or can we plan a shower, I would have to audition new friend candidates immediately.
BEFORE STARTING THE PROCESS
10 Things to do Before Starting the International Adoption Process by Lindsy at Light Breaks Forth
TO READ IN THE PROCESS/AFTER YOU HAVE ADOPTED
Empowered to Connect
Recommended Reading for Parents with Kids From Hard Places once again by Lindsy at Light Breaks Forth
Best Book for Adoptive Parents by Rage Against the Minivan
BOOKS FOR KIDS
Books That Teach Acceptance and Empathy
25 Adoption Books for Children
Some of my favorites: My Adopted Child by Kevin Leman and Spork by Kyo Maclear (Spork is more about biracial families but the lessons are great for everyone)
I don’t have any specific links here but I can’t write a list of adoption resources and not comment on the power of the adoptive community. Both online and offline. I have made countless friends online over the last few years who have been sources of inspiration and encouragement. If you are on Instagram you need to check out the #knittogetherbyadoption community that my friend Shala has created. Shala started out as an Instagram friend until I realized she was local! (For the record, that never happens, hardly any people live out here in the sticks) Obviously we then met up! And then there is the local adoption community I have gotten to know, let me tell you: these people are fantastic. I’ve made so many great friends, and it’s hard to think that if we had never started this process I probably never would have met this amazing ladies.
Do you have some favorite adoption resources you’d like to share?
Every now and then people ask us why we are adopting, it’s not really the kind of question you can just answer with a sentence or two and every couple has a different story, today I’d like to share ours.
Actually, it started even before there was an “ours”, I remember wanting to adopt ever since I was a teenager. I believe God placed a spot in my heart for the orphans long ago, and some how I always knew it would be from one of the countries in Africa (because, newsflash: Africa is not a country. It always surprises me how many people do not know this).
Do you remember those World Vision commercials from long ago (do they still run them?), with the sad little child with flies swarming over their face? My heart broke every time.
I would watch every one of those hour long World Vision shows that would be on, the ones where some famous person would travel around a village meeting a family, visiting their small home, seeing where they had to walk to fetch their water and often pointing out how hungry they were and how the children’s bellies were often bloated from being malnourished.
Often the child they focused on was an orphan being looked after by a grandparent or relative and I just knew I wanted to do what I could to help and one day I would adopt.
I remember tell God, at the age of 15, that I would be okay with being infertile, that he could let someone else who wanted to have biological children have them, I was all for adopting.
A few years after that Jared entered the picture and I don’t remember a specific conversation but I do know that I told him that I wanted to adopt and it obviously wasn’t a problem because we did end up getting married. 🙂
Fast forward a few years and Raeca was 11 months old and recovered enough from her surgery for us to start talking about adding another kid to the mix. Originally the conversation was “let’s have another biologically and then try to adopt”, but after a few weeks of talking we realized that really, the newborn stage was our least favorite, so why try to have another biological child when there are older children available for adoption?
That’s when we seriously started to talk adoption as our next step.
Oh, and one thing you should know about us: when we decide something, we go for it full throttle. We applied with the government by the end of that month and thus began the journey.
I want so badly for that image above to be one of Ephraim (or one of Rae & him) but I have to wait until we pass court for that. But thankfully, that isn’t too far away!
Robyn, our social worker in South Africa got back last week and was able to set up our court date so it’s been a flurry of booking flights and hotels and connecting online with other couples throughout Canada (well, Saskatchewan and BC so far) that will be there at the same time.
The city our agency works out of is Durban, right on the south eastern coast of South Africa. I’m pretty sure it’s as far away from Saskatchewan that a person could get.
Most children in South Africa that are adopted out (through our agency) live in homes within the Durban area but Ephraim is a bit special 🙂 and lives 4 hours north of Durban. Normally what happens is the family flies into Durban and makes daily visits to the home to get to know their child over the course of a week and then they go to court. Since Ephraim is so far out of Durban we are actually arriving in Durban on a Friday, on Saturday morning we will drive up and meet him and spend that day and Sunday getting to know him, have court Monday morning where we will legally become his parents and then drive back down to Durban with him and spend some time there while we wait for paperwork (citizenship and passport).
Now, here’s where I’d love for all my prayer warrior friends to really jump up: this court and judge? Our social worker has never dealt with either. And international adoption isn’t always looked upon favorably by judges in South Africa.
We would love for your prayers to start already that this judge’s heart will be open to us adopting Ephraim and his ruling will reflect that.
We leave in a few short weeks and would be grateful for every single prayer. Part of me thinks “this journey has been so long already, surely we’ll pass court” and another part of me says “that would be too easy, the last three years have been one test after another, what makes you think this won’t just be another one?” It’s hard to bounce back and forth between the two, wanting to be optimistic but afraid of getting my hopes up. So I guess you can pray for me too.
Also, we are waiting on a few papers that seem to have either gotten lost in the mail or taking a really long time to get here, we’d love prayers for them to get here asap.
We’d also appreciate prayer for Ephraim. For the whole transition, that he won’t be too confused, that he will bond well with us, that he won’t be completely overwhelmed by his older sister (and her incessant talking), and also for his health, we’ve got a few things to look into/take care of when he gets home and I’m hoping doctor visits on top of everything else isn’t too much at once.
Thank you, sweet friends. Your prayers are always felt and appreciated.
Linking up for Faith & Fellowship
the Saskatoon-Regina drive is the most boring ever, there is one valley/hill the entire way and this is it
Last week Jared and I missed most of Raeca’s birthday to make a 6 hour round trip down to Regina to meet Robyn, the social worker from South Africa that matched us with our son. It was a real treat to meet her, especially knowing we will be going down there soon!
We were hoping to get a definite court date when we talked to Robyn but unfortunately that didn’t happen. However, she is still trying to get us a court date for mid-November, we should know after she gets back to South Africa in the middle of this month. If it all works out that means we will potentially be going down in just over a month!
Traditionally couples are in South Africa for about 5 weeks to complete the adoption, so if that is the case we would probably arrive home just a few days before Christmas. We’d be tired and jet lagged but what a great Christmas!
We aren’t able to share any photos of our son until we pass court but I can tell you his name!
Ephraim Isaiah Thato
Names are pretty important to us, I love looking for names with great meaning and are a bit unique for our area. The name Ephraim means fruitful which has such great spiritual meaning plus it’s been on our baby name list since before we knew that Raeca was a girl.
Even though we aren’t allowed to share his photo publicly yet if you see me in person I’ll happily show you his photo. 🙂
I’m curious, how important was/is/will be the meaning of a name when you did/will name your children?
linking up with Oak + Oats