I have a huge amount of respect and love for anyone who decides to adopt, for whatever reason. I also have a huge amount of love and respect for the birth mothers who make such a selfless decision. I saw a billboard just the other day which read “Imagine being love…consider adoption” and for me it sums it the act beautifully. Adopting a baby is a conscious decision and as much as the cynics and comedians out there think that adopted babies are just a cool got-to-have accessory, believe me they’re high maintenance. If I wanted a cool accessory I would have gotten a kinkajou or a chihuahua. Of course they’re referring to the the white moms and dads with their affirmative accessories.
There are books all over on what to expect when expecting. There are books that cover the first year, the second year and teenage years. There are books that tell you how to eat while pregnant and what exercise will benefit you and your bump. But there’s not too much literature on adopting. There’s not much on what to expect in the face of adversity and people’s rudeness. And there’s definitely no Adopting For Dummies out there.
There were certain things Mark and I expected as parents to a black baby. And we were ready for them. However there were a few things that came out of nowhere and still take us by surprise.
Like when Emma’s nanny asks if she can take home Emma home for the weekend. Now I’m not sure how many of you out there have had this question asked of you…I’m thinking not too many. The line between white mom and black helper blurs occasionally and we have to remind Ester in an very subtle way that Emma is actually ours. Something else that many of you don’t have to contend with is car-guards lifting your baby out of the sitty bit of the trolley, holding them, cuddling them and kissing them. Yip, I kid you not. Many a time I’ve been waiting patiently for the car-guard to help unload parcels, only to see Emma in their arms, lapping up the love and attention.
Emma at two years and three months is a fairly ‘big’ girl. People will ask her age and then immediately follow it with “my goodness are you feeding her pap?” Emma doesn’t eat pap. Emma eats far too much pasta, cheese and bread. She also loves pizza. That’s why she’s a little bit plump. Not because of pap.
Black moms (well intentioned I’m sure) always tell me what I should do with her hair. These aren’t friends. They’re strangers. They’re strange and yet they’re giving me hair care tips. I also get asked why her ears aren’t pierced. And if she’s slightly snotty and we’re out I get asked in inverted commas (because that makes it far less obtrusive) whether Emma is “healthy” (see, the inverted commas make it polite).
Always entertaining are the black mommies with their brood, chatting away in English until we get in the lift. Suddenly they’ll speak to Emma in Sotho, Zulu or Xhosa. And then look at me judgingly because Emma has no idea what they’re saying. Of course while they’re giving me the side eye for robbing her of her culture I notice aforementioned brood looking confused and wondering why this woman is suddenly speaking in such a strange tongue. As they leave the lift their little one asks in perfect English “Mom what did you say?”
We also get black and white people greeting Emma with a rather uncouth ‘Sharp’. Emma does not know what ‘sharp’ means unless we’re talking about a knife, scissors or my wit. She knows ‘hi’, ‘hello’, she knows ‘ciao’, she knows ‘TTFN’ and she knows ‘later alligator’. She can high five and goggo five but ‘Sharp’? Uh-uh. As for ”Le Kae’? We were at Woolies in the queue and a lady said to Emma and I “Le Kae?” Emma looked at me for a minute, percy piglet in mouth and said “leg iron Mamma? Pirates wear leg irons!”
PS – I’ve just discovered a blog of another mommy who’s adopted a little girl Bella – http://tolovebella.wordpress.com/ – and it’s beautiful. Bella is their baba and she is gorgeous.