Tonight Emma and I had some ‘us’ time. Mark had popped out for a little while and it was just the two of us. We had a nice long bath together. I use the term ‘nice’ lightly. Emma almost drowned me trying to ‘wash’ my hair. She kept telling me to ‘move please mommy’ so she could sit exactly where I was. We then read a story together and she played her ‘close your eyes’ game. It’s quite simple really. She tells me to close my eyes and then she goes off to find a ‘secret’ something to put on my lap. A toy, a book, a blankie. But the fun part is for me to peep and then she yells ‘close your eyes Mommy…close them’ and then we giggle away. Trouble is she sometimes forget that she’s instructed me to close my eyes and I sit there for 20 minutes or so, darkness (with an occasional peep) as my companion.
I put her to bed, with a big cuddle and our usual ‘love you to the moon and back’, ‘love you more than the stars in the sky’ and Emma’s new one ‘love you bigger than an elephant’s bum’. And then I sat and sipped on a cup of tea. I sat and thought about where I am now and where I was a few years back.
Two and a half years ago this was not my life. Mark would have gone out. I would have met up with friends for a drink or jumped in bed with a book. I can’t remember my life before Emma and I certainly don’t want to imagine a life without her. I got to thinking about the path that led us to Emma and it feels just like the other day we became her very proud parents, and in the same breath it seems like a life time ago.
We had stopped fertility treatment and had half-heartedly visited social workers to find out a little more about adoption, the process, what would be involved, how long we would have to wait, etc. After two visits I was feeling despondent and instead of been excited about the future I was sad that it had come to this. A friend of mine called me one afternoon to let me know she had been to the Lighthouse Baby Shelter (http://www.thelighthousebabyshelter.co.za/) in Sundowner and she suggested I go and see it. She spoke about the two women who ran the home, she spoke about how well looked after the children were, and she thought it would be a good idea to chat to them about possibly adopting a baby from there. I duly called and asked if they had babies available for adoption. The response was no. It was a place of safety for children and babies who had been removed from situations and there were no babies available to adopt.
A month later I called again. It was a Saturday morning. Again I asked whether there were any babies available for adoption…and this time the response was “what exactly are you looking for?” It was an odd conversation, I felt as though I was shopping online. “Ideally a little girl, new born up to 6 months.” I had decided that if I was going to do this, I was going to do it from the very beginning. “Well'” said the voice, “We have a little girl here, she’s six weeks and she’s available to adopt.” I remember it perfectly. I arranged to go that same afternoon with Mark and then called him to make sure he would be able to go with me. When I told him there was a little girl at the shelter he didn’t quite sound as excited as I had hoped and by the time I had gotten home, he had changed his mind and told me in no uncertain terms that we wouldn’t be going to meet Ruth (the name the shelter had given her). I was disappointed but knew I could work on him and bring him round to my way of thinking.
Sunday came and went. Monday came and went. And on Tuesday we arranged to meet Ruth after work. We walked into the shelter and there she was, waiting for us at the door. They had dressed her up beautifully and as soon as I walked in I asked if I could hold her. For someone who didn’t wouldn’t couldn’t hold teeny tiny babies, this felt so right. Ruth, Mark and I sat on the couch and we asked all the questions we could think of. She slept through our entire visit and when it was time for us to leave, I felt as though I was leaving a little piece of me behind. Excitedly I called a family member, but the enthusiasm wasn’t shared. I was told that our own baby would be first prize, an adopted baby, er, not so much. News spread of the baby via Facebook and everyone had something to say. We were sent articles on surrogacy, carefully cut out of the You Magazine, because of course, that publication is an opinion leader on such issues. We were offered money by other family members for me to have IVF. These weren’t the responses I had hoped for. Why didn’t people see that this was my baby.
The worst part was Mark’s uncertainty. Unlike me, Mark hadn’t bonded with Emma immediately and he looked at things from a practical and realistic point of view. Work-wise things weren’t going well for him and he was worried as to whether we could look after her financially. I think, though he didn’t say it, there was a certain amount of fear about ‘sharing’ me with someone else, and of course, he was concerned as to whether he would be able to love someone else’s baby, and a black baby at that. I’ve also realized that the nine month pregnancy thing is actually for the men to get their heads around the adjustment. Of course women enjoy the time too, because they can decorate the nursery, get all the necessary goodies and finish off work. But an instant baby. That would scare the bejeeezuz out of most people. And it scared Mark shitless.
He dug his heels in and said NO WAY. According to him there would always be a baby available to adopt and he wasn’t ready. The next few days felt like a life-time. We didn’t talk. We argued. We didn’t laugh and joke. I cried and he avoided me. I needless to say, visited Ruth every chance I could get. I would leave work early and sneak off to go spend time with her. Weekends were spent under the pretence of helping out at the shelter. And still Mark said no. The timing wasn’t right. There wasn’t space in the house. We weren’t ready. What about our overseas holidays and the lock-u-and-go lifestyle we enjoyed. None of that meant anything to me. Ruth was my baby and I was losing precious time with her while she was there and I was so far away.
While Mark was adamant this wasn’t going to happen, Ruth and I grew closer and closer. Eventually E & W suggested that I change my visiting schedule. Ruth would get niggly before I got there and she’d take a while to settle down once I had left. The bond between us was strong and I wasn’t helping with this routine of mine. So I cut my visits from six days a week to four :). And still Mark said no. I was worried that someone else would take her and I was even more stressed that I seemed to have lost my manipulation mojo with Mark. Nothing was swaying him to my way of thinking. Not the tears. Not the tantrums. Not the silent treatment. Not the sulks. Nothing.
And then the mist appeared (http://melindasmemoirsmumbled.blogspot.com/2011/07/and-then-there-was-fog.html). I went home and told Mark about it. He looked at me a little sceptically but called his best friend to ask about this mist / fog thing I had mentioned. E had told me while I was at the shelter that the mist is a regular visitor and she believed it was the Holy Spirit, keeping the children safe. Mark relayed the experience back to him and he confirmed that the spirit can appear in a lot of forms, one being a mist. That seemed to be what Mark needed to hear, and me telling him that I would adopt Ruth with him or without him. It wasn’t a threat. If that’s what needed to be done to have Emma home with me, then that’s what would be done.
One day, out of the blue, Mark asked me whether I was sure this was what I wanted and I had replied softly “with all my heart” he simply said “Okay then’ let’s do this. Let’s go fetch our baby.” We had another meeting with E & W from the shelter. They wanted to be sure that Mark was doing it for the right reasons, his reasons, and not mine. As much as they knew Ruth needed a home they didn’t want a relationship to end because we weren’t on the same page as a couple. The paperwork began, changing Ruth’s place of safety from the shelter’s address to ours. And then we had to wait to hear when we could bring her home. Friends threw a baby shower for us, which left me speechless, in tears and filled with gratitude. They showed me at the shelter how to bath her, change a nappy, make a bottle, gave me a list of what I needed and then we got the phone call. It was a Wednesday and we could collect her on the Friday.
Ruth was ours. She was home. When it came to names we decided we would keep Ruth. But we also had always loved the name Emma. When I found out that it means ‘God is with us’ that confirmed it for me. She was Emma Ruth Connor. We have also given her the name Tshegofatso, should she ever want to use it . It also means ‘blessing’, which Emma is. A million times over. Emma is a gift from God and I’m thankful to Jeanette, Eleanor and Wanita, my angels who led Emma to me. One of the gifts I received at my baby shower was an angel, and on a note a friend had written, “The angels work is done. Your angel’s home. As it should be.”
Maybe fools do rush in, but even a wise man would have done what I did…