August 8, 2008

the story of our kids

My husband of 13 years and I are living in a tiny cottage on a strawberry farm in South Africa. We don’t have a phone, TV, AC, or microwave, and until March we didn’t even have a stove, but we are loving life. My husband is getting his PhD in ancient languages and I am writing, writing, writing. We have children on the way. Two little citizens of the world are coming to us from strange and unexpected places. Raising them in a foreign culture (for a time) with hardly two hands to rub together will be an exciting challenge. It will also be the experience of a life-time for all of us (including our adopted dogs, should they prove to have longterm memories).

After never having been outside the United States before, my husband and I decided to pack our dogs and move to South Africa. It was a terrifying and spectacular journey. We sold all we owned and headed towards an unknown world. My husband is now getting his PhD in ancient languages and I am sitting in a tiny shack on a strawberry farm, loving on the dogs and working on a new novel.

But this is the story of our kids and it really begins in the airport in DC. There was a family waiting to board the plane with us. A white middle-aged couple (the man clad in his safari best) stood with their six kids, all dressed in soft, pastel cottons. The oldest three were African girls with stunning skin, hair and smiles. They were wide-eyed with the wonder of traveling across the world, perhaps for the first time in memory. There were two six year old boys, one black and one white. They held hands throughout the airport, looking sharp in their matching plaid shirts and flip-flops. The youngest was a white girl, perhaps four years old. They were all so well behaved, despite their excitement. One of the girls leaned on her father’s elbow. He put his arm around her shoulder and kissed the top of her head.

I wanted to look away but I couldn’t. What a brilliant family this was! By the time we got on the plane, I was in love. I told my husband, “I want a polka-dotted family just like that one.” After 13 years of marriage and no success in the offspring-creating department, we didn’t know how we would get the white polka-dot, but we had long since decided to pursue the black one. The need for adoptive parents in South Africa is frightening. But like any official process in Africa, adoption is slow to happen.

Now, as we wait for our baby Xhosa son, I find myself pregnant for the first time at 34. More than ever before, I am excited about the opportunity/challenge of raising an African child. We are blessed to live in this country, to experience such an intense culture, and to be able to share it with both of our kids, no matter their color. What a gift for both of them to be born with the promise of a wider world view. In the months to come my husband and I will feel the full weight of this responsibility. How will the locals accept a white couple with a black child? How can we nurture a permanent sense of ethnic identity in both our children? Will they share a cultural affinity even though they are different colors? We know we cannot be ready for many things, including the obstacles we will face, but we enter this time with a sense of duty and gratitude and joy.

Comments

  1. eBirdie says:

    What a journey you’re embarking on…lots to wonder about, lots to look forward to! Can’t wait to hear more along the way!

  2. craiford says:

    What a wonderful story. I got tears in my eyes as I read it. It is beautiful. Congratulations on the amazing way God is blessing your family.

  3. aquick says:

    Great and brave story! I wonder how more American couples can get involved in adopting South African children.

  4. Tamama says:

    Congrats on your pregnancy and adoption! This is an unbelievable time for you and your husband–I am excited for you!

  5. Teri P says:

    this story is just a reminder of the different ‘shapes and sizes’ families come in. — as well as colors! I would be intrigued to hear about how raising two little ones on the other side of the world who are from such different wombs but the same home is for you! I’ve always been drawn to diverse families as if to some beautiful mystery – wondering how their day to day is. Having two girls of my own who are very close in age I often wonder — what would life be like with sons? with children of vast age differences? with foster children in my home as well? (something I would love to do).
    Heather, I wish you the best of luck as you embark on this new journey of motherhood!

  6. Melinda says:

    Your story is very inspiring. What an exciting blessing it will be to have these 2 little ones!

  7. DeniseEoh says:

    How exciting for you both to be on such an adventure! Cannot wait to hear more about your polka dot family!

  8. Kelli says:

    Tell me more about your incredible adventure on the other side of this GREAT world we live in.

  9. cathy says:

    What a priviledge to be able to experience adoption and pregnancy. I can’t wait to hear about this journey and to see your polka dotted family.

    God’s blessing your family,
    Cathy

  10. Amanda says:

    Based on the beautiful picture that accompanies your story, I suspect children warm to you quickly. I imagine your children, biological and adoptive, will respond to you and your husband with a warmth and love that dwarfs all you’ve known in life thus far. Circumstances are a powerful backdrop on which we stage our lives; it is the decisions and actions of love you and your husband live out that will truly tell your children who they are, who you are, and what life is meant to be. Enjoy the journey…and write about it, as my interest is certainly piqued.