Ahhh so great to be back after the school holiday buzz and chaos, and what better way to start the month off than with a new interview on a gorgeous friend of mine! So introducing Vicky. Our hubbies grew up together as great mates and both ourselves and Vicky, along with her hubby Andrew, set off to live overseas and they are still enjoying their adventure in Malaysia. Vicky and Andrew have a beautiful story and were happy to share on the adoption of their two gorgeous boys. There are some details they can't share but her introduction into motherhood is both touching and inspiring, and her love for her boys is apparent throughout the interview.
Apart from being a mum, what do you do with all the free time that you don’t have?
Women with kids do things other than be a mum? That’s news to me! Just joking, but if does feel like that a lot of the time! I feel very inspired by those amazing mums out there who work, or study, or run a business as well as being a mum! I just don’t know how they do it! I guess I just haven’t got it all together just yet! Maybe one day!
I love reading when I get the chance. It helps me to switch off. I’m particularly interested in true crime and forensics – I find it fascinating. I would love to study criminology – one day!
I really enjoy motor sports, particularly Formula One, so am glued to the TV when races are on and I try to keep up with the ins and outs of the sport as well.
I love travelling and being immersed in other cultures. We currently live in Malaysia so are lucky enough to experience new and exciting (and crazy) things every day. I’m always plotting and planning our next exotic adventure. The boys have learnt so much from their travels – my oldest son has visited 11 different countries already, and he’s only 3!
Tell us about your story of how you guys came to adopt your boys.
My husband and I started trying to fall pregnant as soon as we were married. I was already 35 years old and was VERY ready to become a mum. After trying unsuccessfully for six months, we sought help and, after various tests, found that I had extremely low numbers of eggs. Even worse news was that my egg quality was very poor too. We started fertility treatment soon afterwards, but our results weren’t good and we were told that it was very unlikely to ever work for us.
As you can imagine, this was heart wrenching news. We continued with IVF, hoping for a miracle, but began exploring other options too. We talked about adoption and were both very open to it, and knew of others who had adopted in Malaysia, so started to look into it more seriously. The adoption process in Malaysia is very different to Australia. Here, there is a lengthy welfare system, which is often not successful for foreigners, or a private system whereby a birth mother chooses a couple to adopt her child to. I began calling and emailing orphanages, women’s shelters, hospitals and churches and tried to communicate what we were looking for; no easy feat in another language. Often I hung up from my call as neither me nor the person I was talking to could understand what the other was saying. Almost all of my emails went unanswered. It was very frustrating and disheartening.
I was introduced to an adoption support group in Malaysia by a colleague and met up with the group shortly afterwards. Talking to others who had adopted gave me hope and also made me feel more comfortable with adoption as an option for us.
I was back in Australia for a holiday early in 2012 when I received a message from a friend I have made through my IVF journey. She informed me of a baby boy who had been born and that his birth mother wanted to put him up for adoption. My husband was back in Malaysia working, so I called him and told him about the message I had received. We both made some phone calls and my husband arranged to go and meet the baby that evening. I spent the day researching the process of adopting in Malaysia and the legalities of eventually being able to bring a baby home to Australia.
That night, my husband met the most incredible, adorable baby boy ever. He was only one week old. He sent me photos saying how amazing he was and that he really felt a connection with him. I couldn’t wait to get on my plane back to Malaysia a few days later.
I was extremely nervous as we started on our journey to meet the baby that morning. It was such a bizarre situation. I had a million thoughts and questions running through my head, but the moment I saw him, I felt calm and at peace. He was sleeping and smiling at the same time and I fell in love with him instantly.
My husband and I spent time talking and dreaming that this incredible little guy could be ours. We did a lot of researching online and emailed welfare offices in Australia. We called lawyers in Australia and Malaysia and eventually felt confident that Australia would recognise the legal process of adoption from Malaysia, and after that was complete, we would be able to apply for Australian citizenship for our boy.
It was a week before we brought our baby boy home, and what a crazy week it was. We met with a lawyer several times to go through all the legalities of the adoption and took the baby to different hospital appointments to make sure he was healthy (a necessity to gain Australian citizenship). We also had to buy everything you need for a baby and choose a name for him. Most families have nine months to do what we did in a week. It was surreal.
The day we brought him home was the most incredible day of my life. 10 days prior we were a couple struggling with infertility and had little hope of ever being parents. We hadn’t read a single baby book and even though I had always wanted to become a mum, I had no idea how to look after a baby! We have no family in Malaysia so there were lots of phone calls back to family in Australia to ask simple questions, but our hearts were so filled with love that we managed, and our son thrived.
Once we had the necessary paperwork sorted (birth certificates, affidavits etc), our lawyer booked in a date for us to make an appearance in court before a judge. We were assigned a welfare officer who managed our case. He came to our home for a lengthy visit, asking all sorts of personal questions to use as information to write a report as to whether we were fit to be parents. It was all very nerve wracking. After his report was submitted (about three months later), we returned to court again to meet with the judge. About three months after that, the paperwork came through, meaning our son was legally ours – in Malaysia. We then had to start the Australian side of the process; copious amount of forms, more medical examinations and tests, proof of just about everything that my husband and I have ever done (or not done) and meetings at the high commission. It was almost a year after that before we gained Australian permanent residency for our son, and then another few months (and more paperwork) before he became an Australian citizen. The feeling of elation that day that our son was granted Australian citizenship was almost as good as the day we had brought him home. It had been such a long and stressful process, so the relief was incredible! He had been in our care for over a year before we could finally breathe easy knowing that no one could take him away from us.
Our second son also came to us through the adoption support group – I was contacted by another member of the group regarding a pregnant mother who had indicated she needed to put her baby up for adoption when it was born. She was only four months pregnant, and although she was sure at the time that she wouldn’t be able to keep the baby, we had an anxious five month wait before he was born. We didn’t tell many people that we were ‘expecting’ because we weren’t sure that it was going to work out for us, given that his birth mother could change her mind at any time. However, in March 2013, we a received message saying that the birth mum had gone into labour and that it wouldn’t be much longer. I will never forget the phone call to tell us that our second son had been born. It was such and emotional time - exciting and exhilarating but also stressful and scary as we still weren’t sure that he would be able to be ours. We spent the evening building a cot, washing clothes and linen, and hoping with all our hearts that our son was waiting for us. Amazingly enough, we were able to bring our gorgeous little boy home from the hospital less than 24 hours after he was born. He was fresh and new and we were so happy!
We went through the same laborious legal process with our second son as we had with our first, firstly gaining legal rights as parents in Malaysia, and then, nearly two years after he was born, Australian citizenship.
We still pinch ourselves daily that we have been entrusted and blessed with these two amazing little people. They are our world and we can’t imagine what life would have been like without them.
How did you see yourself as a mum before you became one?
I always knew I wanted to be a mum – I’ve always worked with children and couldn’t wait to have my own! I seem to connect well with kids and enjoy the interactions I have with them.
Until I became a mum, I really never understood the depth of how much you could love your child. As a teacher, I saw the passion that parents have for their kids, but I guess I was still disconnected from the how strong that love could be. I didn’t grasp the emotion of my heart being ripped apart when my kids were sick or hurt, or the feeling or emptiness when you drop them at nursery for the first time. The immense joy I feel when they are excited about something is incredible – it’s like I’m not in control of my own emotions anymore! Two little people can make me cry with pleasure or pain at the drop of a hat. My heart doesn't belong to me anymore!
Can you give us three rules you made pre-mum that you have now broken? Have you stuck to any?
I didn’t have much time to think about rules before becoming a mum – a week’s notice doesn’t give you much time to think!
I try not to be a ‘helicopter parent’ and instead let my boys be free to explore and create without me always guiding them. I guess I’m kind of old school and don’t want them to be wrapped in cotton wool – I want them to get dirty and climb trees and make mistakes (and hopefully learn from those mistakes!).
I also try to be flexible and go with the flow. Routine is important but I think incidental learning and experiences are valuable too. If something exciting or educational is happening, dinner or sleep can wait.
Being a parent is the most challenging and amazing thing I had ever been lucky enough to experience. It’ s not easy but I’m constantly learning and trying to be a better mum.
What does your day look like as a mum?
We are usually up pretty early – both boys go to nursery school for three hours in the morning, so it’s a rush, trying to get out the door by 8:30am. While the boys are at nursery, I usually do the grocery shopping and boring domestic type stuff. After nursery, we have lunch, my youngest still has a nap (thank goodness) and my big boy and I hang out. After the little guy wakes up, we sometimes play at home, or go to a friend’s house or go to an indoor playground – the heat and mosquitoes here aren’t conducive for a lot of outdoor play. We’re always very excited when Daddy comes home and the kids love playing trains with Daddy after dinner. Then it’s bath, bed and BREATHE!!!!!
What do you love most about being a mum?
Like all mums, I am at my happiest when my kids are happy. I love seeing their passion when they play with their trains, and their excitement when Daddy comes home. We recently went on a holiday to Scandinavia and the boys were so excited by all the different forms of public transport and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside! I never thought the sight of a crane or a double decker bus would bring me such joy!
I also love that my boys, although not biological brothers, have a genuine love for each other. Last week, a teacher at their nursery told me that whenever they see each other in the corridor or playground, they run to each other screaming and have a big hug (and wrestle). That makes me happy. J
What are some of your challenges as a mum?
I find it hard to make time for myself, and for my husband and I, even though I know it’s so important. With no family in Malaysia, we don’t have anyone to rely on regularly to look after the boys. I know that it will be easier when we move back to Australia though.
Keeping the house organised and tidy is something I find difficult. I used to be a neat freak (obviously had too much time on my hands!), but the boys make sure I have trouble keeping the house in order. I’m slowly coming to terms with the chaos!
Remembering that my boys are only 3 and 2 is a challenge. I’ve found that as their language develops, your expectations of them increase in leaps and bounds. But just because they can talk, doesn’t mean they understand logic or reason. They are still little people and are still going to have meltdowns when it all becomes too much. I love that they still need cuddles – I know it won’t be long before they are ‘too cool’ for cuddles!
I worry a lot about how my boys are going to understand and process the fact that they are adopted. We talk about different family types and people having different colour skin and coming from other places, but at this stage, they haven’t started to understand the concept. I also worry about how them always being ‘the adopted kids’ and having to answer personal questions about themselves that no one has the right to ask. I guess that we can try to teach them resilience and tolerance and hope they understand the depth of the love we have for them, and how much they were wanted.
Tell us a mum moment of yours (funniest, grossest, sweetest etc)
My boys make me laugh every day with the hilarious things they say. Recently, I was putting on moisturiser after a shower and my oldest son asked me why I put the cream on my face. I told him it was to make me ‘youthful’, and he replied, “Yes Mummy, you are useful!”
I had an interesting discussion with my two year old last week. Our cat walked past us and my son announced with glee, “Mummy, cats have eyes!” I replied that they did and asked him how many eyes Leo (the cat) has. My son looked at the cat and counted, “One, two three, four, five!” I giggled and said, “Let’s count again. Look - one, two. Leo has two eyes!” My son stood up and screamed “Nooooooooo! One, two, three, four, five! Leo has five eyes!” He then proceeded to throw himself on the floor and have a rather dramatic tantrum! I could only stand back and laugh! Maybe I should get his eyes tested!
What is your advice you can give to someone thinking about adoption. Where can they go for information?
Adopting in Australia is very different to adopting overseas and I’m not really sure where you would start in Australia. We were very, very lucky to be living in Malaysia when we realised that we weren’t going to be able to conceive a child ourselves, as the system seems easier (in some ways) and certainly quicker. Being able to foster our boys from such a young age was the best thing. Having said that, we know of several people here who have been looking to adopt but haven’t managed to be connected with a baby here. I guess the stars just aligned for us and it was all meant to be. J
Support groups are a great place to start. Talking to people who have adopted and been through the process gives you a greater understanding of what it’s all about and if it’s for you.
Adoption is an absolutely amazing blessing and a gift, but we are also reminded every day of an imperfect situation, where a birth mother has made a brave and selfless decision to find a family who can provide for her child what she could not. Jody Landers summed it up best when she said:
“A child born to another woman calls me ‘mum’. The depth of the tragedy and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me.”
Coming up this month are some articles I have written on How to be a Multitasker and Using Behaviour Management Methods that Suit Your Child's Personality.
If you haven't bought your copy of my new children's picture iBook Look At The Clouds, What Can You See? Click on the link in the My Picture Book tab in the menu bar to purchase for just $2.99 aud. It's a great little animated rhyming story about clouds turning into shapes and if you love it, please share it with your friends.