Thursday, 27 November 2014

Adoption Day - 27th November 2007

Finally here we were at Tuesday 27th November, the day Mrs Rouw, the new magistrate, was going to hold the adoption hearing for Leroy. We were due at court at 2pm, so we could have a fairly leisurely breakfast and then drive up to Grabouw in time for lunch at the orphanage.

Leroy had been staying with me since Thursday 22nd and on Saturday we had moved from Lavender Cottage to stay with my lovely friend Bryony, as Judy had family staying and she needed Lavender Cottage for them. Bryony headed off to work early, wishing us a smooth adoption process. After the roller coaster we had been on for the last couple of weeks, not to mention the previous three and a half years, I laughed and said I hoped so too! But inside I was constantly praying that nothing would prevent Leroy becoming my son this day. He'd been my son in my heart for too long for it not to be legalised NOW!

I fed Leroy his breakfast - a very messy affair, as his oral skills were not great, and I would usually end up pebbledashed with weetabix as he coughed frequently while he was eating. I idly wondered how quickly he'd end up with a feeding tube once we made it home to the UK and the good old NHS. 

My mobile phone started to ring, bringing me sharply back to the present. It was Debbie, my lawyer. The news wasn't great. Apparently the social worker was still insisting that the Magistrate needed to be in possession of a "Letter of No Objection" from the official adoption department before the adoption could go ahead, although this was not true. But for a Magistrate who had never done an international adoption before, this could be enough to stop us going ahead. Debbie had done her best to reassure Mrs Rouw that it was fine, but was unsure which way it was going to go. As Debbie talked I could feel the panic rising up inside me again. Please God, don't let this stop the adoption happening, I quietly prayed. Leroy started to get unsettled and Debbie assured me she was praying too, and hung up. Just another battle, just another hurdle to get over. Please let us be over this one, and this be the last one before the adoption is finalised. 

I calmed myself down and got Leroy washed, changed and dressed. I let him play with his new toy while I got things together for his lunch and made mine, packed the changing bag, and made sure I had all the paperwork I was likely to need. And then we headed outside to the car, Leroy showing his usual excitement at the prospect of a car journey, whether it be long or short. It would take almost an hour to drive to Grabouw from Bryony's house. It was another warm clear day, showing off the Cape Peninsula's beauty to best advantage. I really enjoyed driving that route, passing the back of Table Mountain with the buildings of UCT clinging to it, and then out towards the airport, past Khayelitsha and on towards Leroy's mountains. 

I turned the sound up on the car CD player, much to Leroy's enjoyment, and sang along to the worship cd. I knew I needed to keep my eyes on Jesus today - looking at the storm raging around me would have me sinking within seconds - with my eyes on Him, I could walk on water.  In spite of my singing, Leroy fell asleep as we drove, only stirring as we turned off the main road and drove down towards Grabouw, and fully waking up as we made our way along the bumpy unmade road up to the orphanage. 

The children and the house mothers were all pleased to see Leroy and me. The house mothers were quietly excited about what was, hopefully, due to take place that afternoon, but I sensed their sadness too. I knew they were going to miss my little sunshine boy. Lizzie, who on paper was Leroy's foster mother, was less quiet, and scooped Leroy out of his chair and gave him a cuddle. She was due to come to the court with us, in her official foster mother role. 

After lunch, I cleaned and changed Leroy again, and tried to spruce myself up too. Then, as I'd received no further messages from Debbie, it was time to get back in the car, this time with Lizzie too, and drive down to the court house in the centre of Grabouw. We arrived a little early, and found a parking space in a little bit of shade. It was quite hot by now, and I knew the car would heat up quickly if parked in full sun. The car park was busy with people milling around, mostly waiting in the shade provided by the small court house building. These were the petty criminals of Grabouw with their families and friends. All waiting for their day in court. 

I left Lizzie and Leroy in the car and went to the administration office to say that we had arrived. I was greeted by long faces (I'd got to know the administrators a little as I had been a frequent visitor at their office over the last couple of weeks). My heart sank - had the social worker won, and the adoption hearing postponed? No! Phew! But the court session was running very late - there was a backlog of cases as there had been a gap with no magistrate in Grabouw. The administrators suggested I go back to the car to wait and they would let us know when Mrs Rouw was free. 

Hmmm! Disabled almost four year old in a hot car was not a good plan! We opened the doors to let more air in, and I handed Leroy his favourite toy to play with. With no table on his car seat, I needed to hold it for him. When I got tired, Lizzie took over. The minutes ticked by, and Lizzie and I chatted. She told me about the first time she met Leroy - a story she'd told several times before, but I listened intently as I needed to know all the details about what happened before I met Leroy. He was just about four months old, and the results of his MRI had confirmed that he had serious brain damage. This meant that it would be impossible to find anyone to adopt him in South Africa. He had been cared for by a foster mother near the hospital where he was born, but the state now wanted him cared for in an orphanage. He was therefore brought to the huge court building in Bellville. Lizzie described how she was led through a maze of corridors and into a room where a woman (the foster mother) stood, in floods of tears, next to a Moses Basket, with a tiny baby inside. She was told to pick him up, and then to say goodbye and leave the room with him. That poor baby! That poor woman! It wrenches my heart every time I think about it. 

Leroy was getting a bit frustrated, so we got him out of the car and walked round the car park, avoiding eye contact with those others waiting. I looked at my watch - 3pm. Ugh! How much longer did we need to wait? I found a fence in the shade where we could lean up against it. It was cooler here than in the car, but I was worried they wouldn't spot us here if they came to look for us. After 10 minutes by the fence we wandered back to the car, and finally at 3.30pm I saw a figure emerge from the office entrance and walk towards our car. It was Mrs Roux! At last! 

She laughed as she saw I was wearing the same skirt as she was - it broke the ice. After apologising for the delay she ushered us into her office - she thought the office would be less intimidating than the court room for Leroy. And finally we were into the business of the afternoon, completing forms, giving consent to the adoption. And then it was done! The adoption order made! Mrs Roux congratulated me, and told Leroy what a lucky boy he was. Lizzie hugged me, and we left the building. Finally I was Leroy's Ma! Finally the law had caught up with my heart! I hugged my son closer to me, knowing we had taken a huge step closer to getting Leroy home to where he belonged, even though I knew we had a mountain of red tape to wade through yet. 

Back at the orphanage we were the subject of many more hugs. G and A came over to see how we had got on, and offered their congratulations too.  It was getting late by now and I knew I had an hour's drive ahead of me, and Leroy's evening meal to sort, so I bid them goodbye. A reached out her arms, as if to take Leroy off me. I pulled him tighter to me, and she quizzically asked if I was taking him with me!! Somewhat surprised, I stated that of course I was taking my son with me! Very strange that they would think I could give him up again, having finally got him as my son!

As I drove up the road from Grabouw towards the main road with Leroy next to me, it properly dawned on me that I would now never have to drive that road leaving him back at the orphanage. My eyes flooded with tears and I sobbed as I pulled in to the side of the road, which thankfully was clear of traffic! I really was Leroy's Mummy at long last!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Leroy's Jam

Leroy has two big passions in his life - music and movement. 

Leroy has loved music for as long as I have known him. When I first met him, he would look up at me with wide eyes as I would sing to him. If he was crying, he would stop as soon as I started to sing. 
The house mothers would often have the radio on in the kitchen at the orphanage, so I guess it was the soundtrack to his day. 

When he started to come to Cape Town with me for the weekend, he loved the radio in the car. In my little studio flat he would wait expectantly for me to plug my iPod in to the speakers, smiling when the music started. He quickly learnt the introduction to his particular favourites, chuckling at about the third note. 

About 14 months after I met him, just before his second birthday, I took him with some friends to a concert at Kirstenbosch Botannical Gardens. The Soweto Sting Quartet were playing. From the moment they started playing, you could see that Leroy was gripped by the music, listening intently. I bought one of the CDs they were selling, and the next morning, over breakfast, I slipped it into my laptop. As the first tune started, Leroy started laughing. He clearly recognised the music from the night before; there was no doubt in my mind. 

My friends Trevor and Ruth acquired a piano around about the same time. Leroy was intrigued when Trevor started playing it, when we were round at their house one day. Trevor started playing scales, with Leroy looking on. Whether through lack of practice, or on purpose, I'm still not sure, but Trevor played some wrong notes within the scale. Each wrong note drew a chuckle from Leroy. Although he'd never been up close to a piano before nor learnt scales (what two year old has learnt scales?  Let alone, one severely physically disabled with cerebral palsy, who lives in an orphanage in a poor township!)

Quickly, I learnt that Leroy was a boy who needed music. He tuned in to music at restaurants, clearly recognising familiar songs, prompting me if the music stopped. The minute we got in the car, he asked for music (he still does), the minute we got "home" (wherever home was) he asked for music (he still does). 

Once we were properly home, I had the opportunity to take him to more concerts; his whole body quivering with excitement as he heard the orchestra tuning up. 

For his 8th birthday, his dreams came true when I gave him a keyboard.  He was ecstatic and it rapidly became his activity of choice when at home. 

I was keen to find a piano teacher for him, but struggled to find anyone. However, around the time of his ninth birthday, our social worker asked if she could contact the Connect Music project, which was running at The Sage, Gateshead. She thought they might have a piano teacher who would be happy to teach Leroy, and she wondered if Leroy would benefit from Music Therapy. 

In January 2013, Leroy began one to one piano lessons with Laura, and Music Therapy with Louisa. These two sessions, both at The Sage, more or less immediately, became the highlight of Leroy's week. He started tentatively, but gradually grew in confidence, and I still remember feeling astonished when Louisa reported that Leroy had begun singing in their sessions. Leroy would leave these sessions on a high, clearly feeling a more confident boy as a result of his music making. Laura reported that although Leroy was her most physically disabled student, he was definitely the most determined to get the notes right. 

Over the last twenty months Leroy's confidence in his Sage sessions has grown and spilled over into life in general, and now he wants to use his passion for music to help his passion for movement...

Leroy loves moving - in the car, a train, a lift- if it moves he loves it and doesn't want it to stop! He particularly loves moving when it involves water - sailing with his beloved Granddad and swimming. To Leroy, swimming represents the ultimate freedom - it is the only time he is able to move himself in space without anyone else helping him to move. 

However, there is another way he could move - if he had a powerchair that he could drive. That is Leroy's biggest dream: to be able move himself on land; to go where he wants to go, under his own control. 

And so Leroy and his friends are fundraising towards a custom built powerchair (a Dragon) that will be honed so that Leroy can manage to drive it, even with his limited hand and arm movement, and that will be able to go down low, so he can be on his little sister's level, or up high, so he can be on the same eye-level as his non-disabled peers. It's not cheap, but it will provide Leroy with a level of independence he's never experienced before.

On Wednesday 3rd December, Leroy, supported by his Music Therapist and his piano teacher, will be jamming at The Sage, Gateshead, to raise money towards his powerchair. 
Please support him, if you can!