Sunday, July 19, 2009

Portrait Update: St. Louis Missouri

You published my story on Portraits of an Economy on Mother's Day. My husband and I were in the middle of what felt like a never ending adoption limbo, waiting to find out if we could keep our daughters and sacrificing everything we could to continue channeling money at our lawyers. We were waiting on consent from two of the three biological parents involved (while fighting the third) and honestly, even though we knew we were the best thing for those girls, we also knew the law doesn't really care when it comes to adoptions. The law cares more about whether or not you can prove the neglect that stipulates the disruption of parental rights.

Rereading my portrait, I can tell that I was angry. Or maybe just incredibly frustrated with the whole situation. I'm not entirely certain. I do know that the whole thing had worn me down to the point that I could actually see myself saying goodbye to my daughters. I would be folding laundry and wondering what we would send with them and what we would keep for those inevitable hours spent sobbing on the floor of my closet. I detached a little, not in any desire for freedom but more because I knew that this was going to hurt. I knew it was going to cut me to my soul and I would never recover from the loss of my children. Everyone told us to be patient, that obviously no judge would award an ex convict custody, that no judge would take them away from us. But some days it was really hard to believe those people. Most days it was impossible to see that this would ultimately be over, that we wouldn't live in limbo forever and we wouldn't always be letting go of everything else in pursuit of our family.

I had lost my ability to believe in miracles. I let go of a belief that I had always held close to my heart - that when things are meant to be, the Universe or God or fate or whatever would deliver the right conclusion and it would fit perfectly, even if it was a smidge uncomfortable at first.

Over the past several days, we have been gifted so many miracles I don't even know how to begin to describe the cloud of happy I am on. We received the consent papers from the two biological parents and they were filed without a hitch, meaning we are completely free to adopt one of our daughters. We finally, FINALLY, are paying off our lawyer in full tomorrow and should be finished paying him for good. But most importantly, the judge denied a request from the biological father who had been causing so many issues and requested that our lawyer and our children's lawyer (guardian ad litem) set up a court date so he could issue a final adoption decree. Remarkably enough, the court date is exactly 41 weeks from the day we recieved our daughters. I am shaking my head at the fact that we can't seem to make a pregnancy last longer that twelve weeks but we will 'birth' a family in a normal gestational period.

I don't know that this is in any way fitting with the theme of Portraits of an Economy and so I understand completely if you don't publish it, but I just...I have hope again. I have faith that everything will work out and that life will carry on. I'm not naive, I know that a whole host of things could happen between now and then and we might still walk out of the courtroom without being declared a family. But I can face it now with the knowledge that perhaps a pessimistic outlook is not going to carry us as well as being hopeful, blindingly hopeful, over the potential of our happily ever after. Mainly, I can hold my daughters and kiss them and love them and I'm not secretly wondering how many more times I'll get to do it. I get a lifetime of being their mom. I no longer fear the potential of waking up one morning and my house being empty because someone has taken my children away.

I know with the economy the way it is people are losing hope left and right. They are drowning in bills and facing unemployment and wondering how they are going to get everything handled and still feed their children. There is so much to be afraid of and worried about. But there is also still so much hope and potential for great change, for miracles, to surprise us. I am hoping for the best for all of us, hoping that everyone gets a chance to see a miracle happen in their life and feel unabashed joy again.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Portrait: Johannesburg, South Africa

I was laid off at the end of April. I am yet to find a job. I am married, I have a house and a child. Thank goodness my husband still has his job. I don't want to think about where we would be should he lose/have lost his job. My husband and I had good jobs, earning good salaries, with a lot of left over debt from our student and childless and plainly reckless days. I have been unemployed before, for 3 months about 4 years ago- but it was easier then. We lived off our credit cards, and were in the process of paying off that debt when I was laid off this time. I have no idea how we are surviving, but we were - except never in our lives have so many of bills not been paid. Thankfully we are still able to meet our commitments to the medical aid, bond (mortgage), and car repayments, even able to buy food. Everything else is maneuverable - dodging here, paying there occasionally. But I don't think we can last another month like this.

For the first time, I am really scared. There are hardly any positions in my field, and I have been to too many interviews where at the last minute the position is withdrawn.
Over 200 000 people have lost their jobs since 2008, in a country where unemployment is over 30% - this is terrifying. I know too many people who are unemployed, normal everyday people who have lost their jobs due to the recession. South Africa thought we were immune to the effects of the economic downturn. We had tighter banking laws, corporate laws - but the long fingers of the recession have finally grasped us - hard.

I am a positive, optimistic person. I always see the good side of things. I knew I would be working by June, and May could be looked upon as a holiday. I mean I got to spend time with my son on a daily basis. I got to sleep in (we're in the middle of winter here - so this should be a very big PLUS hehe), I've learnt to recognise the tricks supermarkets use to get us to buy what we don't need. I got to watch as much tv as possible - till we disconnected our satellite tv when it became quite clear that I would not be working by June. We have cut down on everything. Except we still have our son's nanny working for us. I cannot bare to think of her as a 'luxury'. She is a mother too, a single mother working her hardest for her family, she is a person not a luxury. If we 'let go of that luxury' - that means she can no longer put food on her table at home, she cannot send her child to school, how can I do that to another mother? So we scrape and scrimp to pay her salary too. And my positivity is dimming. When I didn't get a job in June, I was convinced I would be working by July. Well, I'm writing this to you on 1 July. I keep doing therapy on myself, reminding myself that worrying and stressing won't change anything except my health, repeating the positives, the silver lining. But there is a voice that is becoming increasingly loud, a voice that cannot be argued with as it speaks with pure logic.

I have applied for EVERY kind of job. But if by the middle of July, EVERY kind will really mean every. I've never worked in retail before - this could be my chance :) I'm good with people, I should make a good waitress. These are not jobs I look down on, not in the least. But I had a certain idea or image in my head. But like a lot of my perceptions, that has changed too. There is no longer an image other than that of survival.

So, to survival! And to never having debt again!

Johannesburg, South Africa