There is an African saying, “When the breast dies, the baby dies.”
This was not to be the fate of the African twins, Leo and Grace, even though their mother had died in childbirth. Their father had given them to a woman who walked them to medical aide and they then ended up in an orphanage.
Stefan and Kayt Mahon, who in response to their Christian faith “had it on their hearts to adopt,” feel they were led by the Lord to find the toddlers there.
The adoption process proved to be a long and arduous journey for the Mahons, one that tested them emotionally, spiritually and financially.
Business owners, living in Canmore Alberta at the time, with two young daughters of their own, the Mahons felt they had room in their lives for another child.
Both being passionate about the orphan crisis, the couple decided to go to an international adoption course.
While still doing research and deciding on a country they could agree on, from which to adopt, a series of synchronistic events took place.
In July of 2013, Kayt was invited to accompany a friend to Sierra Leone. While there they visited an orphanage and Kayt met the 17-month-old twins.
“When I met Grace, she was covered in urine and caked in clay. She was an absolute mess,” explained Kayt. “It was not love at first sight, but there was a deep realization of this little girl not having parents and my ability to do something about that.”
The Mahons began inquiring about adopting the twins.
Several months later, they returned to the orphanage together. They spent time with the twins and felt their parental responses kicking in.
In January of 2014, they went to Sierra Leone again, to legally finalize the adoption. Three weeks later, after several changed court dates, the Mahons were named the twins legal parents. It was one day before Grace and Leo’s second birthday.
At this point the Mahons could still not bring their children home. Even though they had gone through the “grueling interview process” with the provincial government before adopting the children, they now had to go through the federal government immigration process, as a final step.
“The system is archaic and broken,” said Kayt. “It was a two-year, ugly, hard immigration battle. We were tossed buckets and buckets of red tape.”
“It was further complicated by the Ebola outbreak,” explained Stefan.
On May 14 of this year, the Mahons finally brought their four year old twins home to Summerland, where they now lived.
The Mahons are so grateful to the people of Summerland for the way they have accepted the children.
“It’s just been open arms, which has been really encouraging, because it’s definitely a fear when you’re bringing in obvious diversity to your community,” said Kayt. “People have encouraged us and given us love.”
There have been many ups and downs for the whole Mahon family these last few months.
Kayt explained that the twins, having been raised in an orphanage, only have survival skills, which are the exact opposite of skills needed to be in a family. She said that there is nothing in their behaviours that doesn’t have to be “tweaked.”
Stefan said that since the twins have had so many caregivers during their four years of life, that they have difficulty trusting and believing they now have a “forever home.”
The Mahon’s biological daughters were affected too.
“Here were these two loud little strangers, shouting “mommy” and “daddy.” I would see our daughters flinch. It was like their parents had been hi-jacked,” explained Kayt. “Now to see them meld together, we’re starting to see this sibling love grow.”
“Attachment happens through play,” Stefan said. “It’s been wonderful to see.
Even though the Mahons are tired and wish they had been able to bring their children home two years earlier, they remain strong advocates for adoption.
“It’s like unwrapping a gift and we still haven’t even got close to who they really are,” said Kayt. “There have been moments when they are such a gift to us and then there are moments when we say this is the hardest thing we’ve ever done.”