I could write about the statistics and how 3.7 million South African children are experiencing the devastation of growing up without parents, but there is something incredibly affirming about focusing instead on the story of just one child whose life trajectory has been dramatically transformed – because of the love and nurture he is receiving.
Today I am delighted to reintroduce you to the little boy known to our community as “Baby Q” (or Baby No.2 if I was writing about stats). The second child to be safely placed in the Helderberg Baby Saver, this gorgeous, energetic (and energising) toddler returned recently with his mom and dad to spend time with us.
And even though so many months had lapsed since we first met in November 2017 when he was only hours-old, there was absolutely no mistaking those mesmerising, almond-shaped eyes.
It was also fitting that he had been brought back to the Helderberg Basin – and on a beautiful day, so similar to the one on which he had been found. I vividly remember that day, too, being full of colour: the knitted blanket in which he had been wrapped; the contrast of the green treetops piercing the azure sky outside the hospital.
And here he was, with the stunning array of mountains on display behind him, hugging Mom; rough-and-tumbling on the floor with Dad; climbing; exploring – and then dashing off again after the neon punctuation
of that big orange ball.
It had taken seven years of longing to be parents, including months of going through all the necessary checks
and balances, before being approved to adopt.
And in tandem over those last months, without them even knowing, the baby’s social work investigations and court processes were being finalised.
A little more waiting until he was fully adoptable, and then they were chosen as the family best able
to parent this little human.
One year after they met their son, his mom wrote about seeing him for the first time: “This baby is perfect in every single way. When I picked him up it felt like he melted into my body. I could feel his heart beating, his warm body just woken from a deep sleep, he was real, he was finally in my arms. He is my child. I am in love.”
And yet even amidst the joy his mom and dad shared, was the sadness of knowing what he had already gone through and how tough the choice must have been to relinquish him. “That day I promised him, heart to heart, that we will always be there for him, love him unconditionally, fight for him, care for him, make him feel safe and he will never feel like he was not wanted, he was always wanted, in our hearts, from the day we were born.”
Almost 18 months old and revelling in being adored, I am sure little Q knows he was always wanted in their hearts.
We smiled as we heard of his fascination with cars, his love of the sea and his special fondness for ice cream. Simple pleasures that he will continue enjoying along with the gift of childhood.
Thank you to our community: to Helderberg Baby Saver, the first responders, hospital staff, those who hugged and held “Q” over his first few days, and the Wandisa social workers who carried this little boy through the process, from finding a family to care for him temporarily and then finding him his forever family, where we have no doubt he will shine.
Instead of uncertainty, little “Q” now has the security of belonging.
And instead of being one in a sea of statistics, he is a prime number in a family of his own: First Born.
Debbie Wybrow is a local lawyer and the founder of Wandisa Specialist Adoption and Child Protection Agency.
She recently established The Bayakhanya Foundation to advocate for the rights of parentless children to receive the protection and permanency of family care – and is lobbying against government’s proposals that will torpedo the prospects of children like Q.
Helderberg Baby Saver is situated at Choices, Schapenberg Road, Somerset West. Parents in crisis who cannot care for their baby can choose to give their little one a second chance.