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Reflections on Adopting a Baby

One of our Cape Town based Babies in Mind practitioners, Wynette Vels – who offers adoption counseling – sent me this beautiful prose. It’s written especially for adoptive parents but it’s worth reading, no matter who you are. We can’t find the source, so for now, the author is ‘anonymous’. If you know who wrote this, please tell us so that we can acknowledge her.

Dear Mom of an Adopted Child,

I met you in adoption education class. I met you at the agency. I met you

at my son’s school. I met you online. I met you on purpose. I met you by


It doesn’t matter. The thing is, I knew you right away. I recognize the

fierce determination. The grit. The fight. Because everything about what

you have was a decision, and nothing about what you have was easy. You are

the kind of woman who Makes.Things.Happen. After all, you made this

happen, this family you have.

Maybe you prayed for it. Maybe you had to convince a partner it was the

right thing. Maybe you did it alone. Maybe people told you to just be

happy with what you had before. Maybe someone told you it simply wasn’t in

God’s plans for you to have a child, this child whose hair you now brush

lightly from his face. Maybe someone warned you about what happened to

their cousin’s neighbour’s friend. Maybe you ignored them.

Maybe you planned for it for years. Maybe an opportunity dropped into your

lap. Maybe you depleted your life-savings for it. Maybe it was not your

first choice. But maybe it was.

Regardless, I know you. And I see how you hold on so tight. Sometimes too

tight. Because that’s what we do, isn’t it?

I know about all those books you read back then. The ones everyone reads

about sleep patterns and cloth versus disposable, yes, but the extra ones,

too. About dealing with attachment disorders, breast milk banks, babies

born addicted to alcohol, cocaine, meth. About cognitive delays, language

deficiencies. About counselling support services, tax and insurance

issues, open adoption pros and cons, legal rights.

I know about the fingerprinting, the background checks, the credit

reports, the interviews, the references. I know about the classes, so many

classes. I know the frustration of the never-ending paperwork. The hours

of going over finances, of having garage sales and bake sales and

whatever-it-takes sales to raise money to afford it all.

I know how you never lost sight of what you wanted.

I know about the match call, the soaring of everything inside you to

cloud-height, even higher. And then the tucking of that away because,

well, these things fall through, you know.

Maybe you told your mother, a few close friends. Maybe you shouted it to

the world. Maybe you allowed yourself to decorate a baby’s room, buy a car

seat. Maybe you bought a soft blanket, just that one blanket, and held it

to your cheek every night.

I know about your home visits. I know about your knuckles, cracked and

bleeding, from cleaning every square inch of your home the night before. I

know about you burning the coffee cake and trying to fix your mascara

before the social worker rang the doorbell.

And I know about the follow-up visits, when you hadn’t slept in three weeks

because the baby had colic. I know how you wanted so badly to show that

you had it all together, even though you were back to working

more-than-full-time, maybe without maternity leave, without the family and

casseroles and welcome-home balloons and plants.

And I’ve seen you in foreign countries, strange lands, staying in dirty

hotels, taking weeks away from work, struggling to understand what’s being

promised and what’s not. Struggling to offer your love to a little one who

is unsettled and afraid. Waiting, wishing, greeting, loving, flying,

nesting, coming home.

I’ve seen you down the street at the hospital when a baby was born, trying

to figure out where you belong in the scene that’s emerging. I’ve seen

your face as you hear a nurse whisper to the birthmother that she doesn’t

have to go through with this. I’ve seen you trying so hard to give this

birthmother all of your respect and patience and compassion in those

moments-while you bite your lip and close your eyes, not knowing if she

will change her mind, if this has all been a dream coming to an abrupt end

in a sterile environment. Not knowing if this is your time. Not knowing so


I’ve seen you look down into a newborn infant’s eyes, wondering if he’s

really yours, wondering if you can quiet your mind and good sense long

enough to give yourself over completely.


And then, to have the child in your arms, at home, that first night. His

little fingers curled around yours. His warm heart beating against yours.

I know that bliss. The perfect, guarded, hopeful bliss.

I also know about you on adoption day. The nerves that morning, the judge,

the formality, the relief, the joy. The letting out of a breath maybe you

didn’t even know you were holding for months. Months.

I’ve seen you meet your child’s birthparents and grandparents weeks or

years down the road. I’ve seen you share your child with strangers who

have his nose, his smile . people who love him because he’s one of them.

I’ve seen you hold him in the evenings after those visits, when he’s

shaken and confused and really just wants a stuffed animal and to rest his

head on your shoulder.

I’ve seen you worry when your child brings home a family tree project from

school. Or a request to bring in photos of him and his dad, so that the

class can compare traits that are passed down, like blue eyes or square

chins. I know you worry, because you can protect your child from a lot of

things – but you can’t protect him from being different in a world so

intent on celebrating sameness.

I’ve seen you at the doctor’s office, filling out medical histories,

leaving blanks, question marks, hoping the little blanks don’t turn into

big problems later on.

I’ve seen you answer all of the tough questions, the questions that have

to do with why, and love, and how much, and where, and who, and how come,

mama? How come?

I’ve seen you wonder how you’ll react the first time you hear the dreaded,

“You’re not my real mom.” And I’ve seen you smile softly in the face of

that question, remaining calm and loving, until you lock yourself in the

bathroom and muffle your soft cries with the sound of the shower.

I’ve seen you cringe just a little when someone says your child is lucky

to have you. Because you know with all your being it is the other way


But most of all, I want you to know that I’ve seen you look into your

child’s eyes. And while you will never see a reflection of your own eyes

there, you see something that’s just as powerful: A reflection of your

complete and unstoppable love for this person who grew in the midst of

your tears and laughter, and who, if torn from you, would be like losing



For guidance and support through the process of adoption or fostering a child, please contact us at Babies in Mind.

  1. Coletta Canale

    Thank you so much for posting this Jen. What a wonderful feeling it is to be known, to be understood and affirmed, which is just what this acknowledgement to adoptive parents does. It’s really beautiful – made my day!

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