I am a mother of three beautiful children.

But I am not a birth mum.

I never experienced my body change due to pregnancy, I never carried life within me, I skipped the nausea, the swollen feet, the many doctor’s appointments and the midnight cravings.

I became a mother through adoption.

As with birth stories, every adoption story is unique. We adopted your first child 7 years ago. This is her ‘birth’ story.

It all started with a period of mourning. I had to acknowledge the loss of never going to have biological children. I mourned this loss, good and hard! I did the work and then when I was done, I was free to move on. Step two was to find an adoption agency and set the ball rolling. Sadly in South Africa the adoption process is often marred with tons of red tape, over worked, unprofessional or misinformed social workers and a fair amount of prejudice within the system, which can leave potential adoptive parents feeling discouraged, powerless and unsupported.

So although our adoption process was long, laborious and invasive we still consider ourselves as some of the lucky ones in that our adoption didn’t drag

on for years and was not hindered by bureaucracy and grave incompetance. It was however filled with many hours of probing questions into every inch of our pasts and present and not to mention the long list of paper work we had to get done.

Although the thought of our own little bundle thrilled us there were times when the process nearly got the better of me. One of our sessions with our social worker consisted of the following questions: ‘ Would you be open to adopting a child with physical disabillities? An abandoned baby? Would you consider a baby who’s birth mom was raped? The baby of a drug addict? How about adopting a baby who has a history of mental illness in her family?” As adoptive parents you come face to face with some of the really hash realities of the world we live in, long before you ever get to hold your baby.

And then, eventually after 7 months our application was done and the waiting process started.

It really took a fair amount of faith to wait for this unknown baby. To choose a name for this unknown baby. Prepare a room for her. To pray for her. An unknown baby from a stranger who we would never know, but to whom we would be forever connected. There are so many unknowns when adopting, so many “ifs”, so many questions, doubts and fears. An overwhelming degree of the adoption process is out of your control and you just have to trust.

The time of waiting for an adopted baby is often compared to a pregnancy by social workers. But there was obviously no external signs that we were preparing to receive a baby. No bump. As a result people didn’t speak to me about our ‘coming’ baby as often as when a growing bump is present. It was quiet a long and lonely ‘pregnancy’.

In order to keep myself sane while waiting, I took a part time job and prepared a baby room. Just as a pregnant woman gathers information about her pregnancy, an adoptive mother gathers information about the adoption process, and about her child’s upcoming transition into the family. When adopting you usually don’t know when your baby will come home or how old your baby will be and so shopping for clothes or nappies and even toys is just not practical. You just have to wait.

Then one Friday morning the phone rang. Our social worker, sounding as formal as always, informed me that she has matched us with a baby. The wait was finally over. Now I knew that our little girl was nearly 7 months old and we could finalise the shopping list and announce the long expected and wonderful news! It is a mad rush to get everything ready, a wonderfully sweet rush!

The following week, we flew to Durban to meet our precious little one. As she is placed in my arms the long wait becomes a distant memory. It is done. Our daughter. At last. The next morning we make a quick court visit and then we bring our prefect little girl home….forever.

The wonder of adoption is truly that this little person I have never met before is instantly connected to me. It is really difficult to put into words, but it is as if your heart just opens and receives this precious gift, no questions asked. I 100% accept and embrace her as my daughter. I suspect this is pretty much the same with a birth mom and baby.

Having said that, bonding with your adopted baby does take time. My children were respectively 7 , 4 and 6½ months old when they came home. For those birth moms out there, you know that by the time your baby is 4, 6, or 7 months old you are already very well acquainted with their cry, expressions and gestures. You have seen their first smile and heard their little giggles. You would know your baby’s body well and baby would be familiar with your touch. When an adopted baby comes home all is new and the journey from ‘strangers’ to mom and baby that unfolds, is beautiful, often scary and in many ways so sacred to me.

All relationships take work and attachments take time to form. A baby spends nine months getting to know the sound, scent, and rhythms of its birth mum. An adopted baby needs the same kind of close bonding time to feel safe and comfortable. When we adopted our third baby my 5 year old son asked me:” Mommy how will the baby know you are his mommy?” I loved the honesty of his question. I told him the the baby would learn to know that I am his mommy as I care for and love him.

We don’t all become mothers in the same way. Our birth stories are unique. Our journeys different. But at the end we all receive these amazing gifts, who change our lives forever! Its both wonderful and hard!

[For another story about Abi and Babygirl on Transracial Adoption, click here]