Adoption Stories: Elke and Reima

Another great story from one of our friends, Elke Dunaiski. Not only will her thoughts keep your eyes glued to the screen, her  Bright Owl has a really neat range of hand-illustrated goodies.

WHERE DID YOUR STORY START?

It all started with a dream (Really, it literally did.)

But God laid a lot of groundwork in the years before that. From 2006 to 2010 I lived in the UK, where I worked for a child development charity. For the first time, I realised just how immensely privileged I was – with a stable, loving family, an opportunity to go to university and the freedom to live and work overseas.

I kept asking God why I had so much when others had nothing, until one day I felt Him tell me that I was asking the wrong question. When I asked what the right question was, His answer was unexpected, but something I’ll always carry with me – Ask Me instead what you should do with what you have.

Fast forward to June 2012 I was back in South Africa and one night I had the dream – I was holding a little girl who’d fallen and hurt herself. I held her in my arms and when I tried to put her down she clung on tightly. (I’d had similar dreams occasionally over the past six years, but had forgotten about them until I later found notes in my journals.)

The dream stayed with me and I couldn’t shake the thought that God was trying to tell me something, so I Googled adoption in South Africa. It felt crazy and out-there! I was in my mid-thirties, single and only just starting to figure out work and life in South Africa after my dad’s death a few months earlier.

I eventually spoke to my pastors, thinking they’d tell me that I’d lost the plot and that would be that. Instead, God had already told them that I wanted to start preparing to adopt. And He continued to confirm it

So in July 2014 I started my screening process through Wandisa and by April 2015 my name was on RACAP, South Africa’s Register on Adoptable Children and Prospective Adoptive Parents. Just seven weeks later I received the phone call to say that I’d been matched with a three and a half month old baby girl.

elke and reima 3

TELL OF THE FIRST TIME YOU MET REIMA.

Our social workers had told us that it was possible that we’d be matched with children from other parts of the country, so I was incredibly grateful that Reima was from the Western Cape and that my mum, sisters, niece and my friend and photographer, Lizelle Lötter, could come with to bring her home.

Of course we were early! (Apparently the adoptive parents always are.) So it was a nerve-wracking wait until the social worker and her foster mother arrived. (Luckily my nine-month-old niece kept us entertained with her antics.)

My heart pounded so hard when I saw her foster mum carrying the car seat I got to hold her almost straight away and in between getting to know her foster mother and filling in the forms, I also got to feed her for the first time. (I’m deeply grateful that Lizelle was there to capture the day because it was overwhelming and emotional.)

HOW HAS YOUR LIFE CHANGED SINCE THEN AND WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED.

Everything has changed. And yet not that much. Her needs take precedence, but she’s an extremely easy going (and outgoing) kiddo who’s happiest when she’s around the people she loves. (I think I’d been so busy preparing for the ‘adoption’ part of the process that the amount of fun we have together initially took me by surprise!)

I’m faced daily with the fact that I can never, ever again be complacent about injustice in our country, that within our family of two, us and them has become us. I know that I’m going to face difficult questions from my daughter, and others, for the rest of my life.

I’ve learnt that people will criticise and stare and nudge each other when we walk by – anonymity is a thing of the past. Some days I barely notice it and I always try to assume that people stare simply because they’re curious, but at times the questions and comments can be very personal and invasive.

I’ve cried a lot. I’ve doubted myself and my ability to raise her well. I’ve been afraid. I’ve wondered how I will pay for her education. I work from home, so there are the usual attempts at work/life balance, but the privilege of being able to spend my days with her is one I’m incredibly thankful for.

elke and reima

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM THIS PROCESS.

Wow, where do I start?!?!

On a practical level the screening process was amazing! (I wish everyone who’s planning on becoming a parent had the opportunity to go through the thought processes and learning experiences we had.)

But by far the biggest lesson from our adoption journey has been learning to trust God as my (and her) Father. I worry a lot about providing for her and raising her well, teaching her the right ways, but He keeps reminding me that He’s our Father.

WHAT WOULD YOU TELL OTHER PROSPECTIVE FAMILIES WHO ARE CONSIDERING ADOPTION?

If God has spoken to you about adopting, start! Whether you begin reading more about it, get to know adoptive families or find an agency – start, and see how God walks this journey with you!

HOW HAS YOUR COMMUNITY (FRIENDS/CHURCH/CELL GROUP) BEEN INVOLVED IN YOUR LIVES BEFORE AND AFTER THE ADOPTION?

My family has been incredible! My one sister, whom we share the house with, is the most amazing aunt and I love the fact that my daughter and my niece (my other sister’s daughter) get to grow up together. They’re just five months apart and are starting to truly enjoy each other’s company. We didn’t grow up with extended family nearby, so the fact that my mum is so close by and so involved in her grandchildren’s lives isn’t something I’ll ever take for granted.

Our church small group is multicultural and crazy funny (important when you’re a slightly tearful, transracial, adoptive mum). They sat with me (many times) as I doubted myself during the screening process and they celebrated with us when she came home. (Just last week they sat listened as I talked and cried about the challenges of raising a daughter on my own. And they buy nappies. And they spend time with her. They love her and me so well)

And I’ve also discovered an incredible community of adoptive and foster families. When I first started the process I knew of one adoptive family. Now, when our adoptive group gets together, we’re easily ten families and growing continuously. It’s a community that finds each other and I don’t know how I’d do this without them

*and thanks Lizelle Lötter for the beautiful pics

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