A few weeks ago, I got an email from Cape Town mom of five Nicole Olivier, which made me cry before I had even clicked onto the YouTube music video she had sent too. In her email, Nicole wrote about her family,her miscarriage of twins at 12 weeks, her adopted son Noah, her husband Jeremy’s song, and their campaign with UNICEF called “Ending Violence Against Children and Women”.
I tried to meet with Nicole when I was in Cape Town recently, but unfortunately I couldn’t, so I only know her story through what she’s written, and via the questions I’ve asked her.
Grab a cup of coffee and a tissue for this post, and make sure you watch Jeremy’s song at the end (I cry each time I watch it).
Tell me a bit about yourself
We are a large family from Cape Town. My husband and I have five children – four biological – Jesse-Grace (almost 13), Bethany (11), Emma (9), Joel (8) – and one adopted son, Noah (5).
Noah was abandoned at birth, left under a tree in a field outside a nearby shanty town. He was found wrapped in his mother’s jacket and hidden inside a plastic trash bag. It was a miracle he survived! At around the same time, I was pregnant with twins. At 12 weeks, tragedy struck and I lost them through a very traumatic miscarriage which nearly took my life in the process.
As devastating as it was, this experience left us changed in a rather profound way. A few months later, we got a call from a friend about this little boy who had been abandoned. It stirred us so deeply that we had to go and find out more. Talk about love at first sight! When we met him, we just knew that it was meant to be. Three weeks later, we brought him home.
My husband, Jeremy, is a professional musician and singer-songwriter (you may have heard some of his songs on radio). We often write together, and about a year ago, we felt inspired to write about our story: how two tragic stories have be turned into something so beautiful.
People’s responses to this song have truly overwhelmed us. Jeremy has performed it on stages in Holland and Switzerland as well as here in our own country and it seems to always move people deeply. We have just finished making the music video which tells the story and we are now in the process of releasing the song in SA.
We will be working with UNICEF SA on a new campaign ‘Ending Violence Against Children and Women’ using this song and our story to raise awareness for the abandonment problem in South Africa. But more than that, we would really love to inspire hope in South Africans and motivate them to get involved in any way they can.
I am also a graphic designer by trade but stopped freelancing in 2012 to start ‘officially’ managing Jeremy. This involves everything from taking bookings to handling radio releases, song promotion, royalty collection. I am basically the one-stop shop behind Jeremy Olivier!
We write together too (I’m on the lyrics side), so whenever we have a gap or feel inspired, you’ll find us on the couch, Jeremy with guitar in hand, and me recording his inspiration and scribbling lyric ideas down on paper. We also homeschool our kids, so my mornings are mostly spent bending over desks explaining maths problems in between answering emails and hanging washing on the line. There’s never a dull moment.
What happened with your miscarriage?
At around eight weeks I noticed a bit of spotting, but it soon eased off so I didn’t take it too seriously. We then went for a scan at 10,5 weeks and things didn’t look right. You could clearly see the two sacs, but no heartbeats. My heart sank and I secretly hoped against the inevitable.
We decided to wait and let nature take its course and I soon started spotting again. Then one night, I woke up to go to the loo at around 3am and suddenly began contracting and bleeding heavily. Although it was a little scary, I expected it to run its course, trusting that my body knew what to do.
Jeremy wanted to call the ambulance but I kept saying no, that I was sure I would be fine. When the second bath turned to red within minutes, I realised that things were maybe a little more serious than I thought.
The ambulance came and they quickly put me on a drip and oxygen while we raced to the hospital. By the time we got there I had become hypothermic. They rushed me into theatre where they immediately began the blood transfusions and did a D&C to stop the bleeding. Two hours later, the doctor came out and said the most sobering words to my poor hubby: “We nearly lost her. We’ve managed to stop the bleeding but she’s not out of the woods yet”.
I woke up in ICU where I spent two days receiving what seemed like endless transfusions. The doctors kept saying how amazing it was that I had survived. It felt like they were exaggerating because, even in theatre, before going under, I remember laughing with the anesthetist about my rather unsavoury language when he had roughly shoved the needle in my hand!
I certainly don’t remember feeling close to death at any stage. The weeks to follow, however, were when I realised the severity of what had happened and I really felt the impact on my body. I have never felt so weak in all my life! It took six long weeks to feel normal again. In hindsight, I wish I had just gone for a D&C as soon as we saw the scan. I never thought a miscarriage could be so dangerous, and I never considered that something like that could happen to me.
Were you looking to adopt?
No, we weren’t looking to adopt. But something had definitely changed in our hearts after our loss. There was a deeper awareness of the fragility of life and we felt open and vulnerable – like the protective layer of indifference, that we as South Africans seem to have to adopt to survive, had been peeled off some how. It is hard to explain the sense of ‘knowing’ when we met him. It was like a warm invitation to be a part of something amazing and much bigger than ourselves, and it was so easy to say yes!
Describe your adoption experience
Our experience was amazing! We had the loveliest social workers, and the head of child welfare personally saw to his case. She talked us through every step and made sure everything went incredibly smoothly. I have since found out that this is not the norm, especially with the recent change in legislation, so we feel really lucky that ours was such an easy process.
How did your kids and everyone else react to Noah?
Our kids were unbelievable from the start! The day he came home, was the day they got a new brother. There has never been even one day when they have seen him or treated him as anything other than their baby brother. He is one very loved little boy!
I don’t think we’ve received any negative reactions from people. Our extended family on both sides have been wonderful and he is in high demand for play dates amongst his little friends!
We still get the occasional stares at the mall, usually accompanied by a smile, and I find myself thinking, ‘What are they looking at’? ‘Oh no! Is my shirt on inside out’? … Then I realise it’s Noah and smile back. It’s funny, we don’t even see the difference anymore.
What are you hoping to achieve from the song, and awareness raising? Do you want people to donate to UNICEF?
Initially, the song was just written as an expression of our own personal experience and we were amazed at how deeply it touched people every time Jeremy performed it. Then, once we had completed the music video, I happened to stumble across some stats about orphans and abandonment in South Africa. The numbers made me go cold.
When we adopted Noah there were an estimated 1,5 million orphans in SA. Now, five years later we are sitting on 3,7 million with that number expected to increase to 5,5 million by next year! This is when I got the idea to use ‘Beautiful’ for more than our own purposes and started sharing it with organisations like UNICEF.
If our story is able to help to raise awareness and maybe inspire other families to consider adopting, volunteering, or even just donating – we will be so happy! We are seriously facing an orphan crisis in South Africa, and we can all be part of the solution.
What have you achieved so far with the song?
We have been overwhelmed by the response so far! On one site in the USA our story received 18 000 views and 14 000 shares in just three days!
Locally we have had lots of interest from the media and many opportunities are opening up for Jeremy to perform the song live on tv and for us to share our story in various publications. It has been truly amazing. We even have an invitation for Jeremy to appear on a morning show for Fox News in the USA!
What message/sentiment do you want people to take away from your song and story, and what can people do physically to get involved?
To get involved in UNICEF’s campaign, you can go to this website: http://www.unicef.org/endviolence/
We are also supporting a wonderful organisation called NACSA (National Adoption Coalition of South Africa) who will be launching a new crisis pregnancy campaign soon. For more info you can go to: http://www.adoptioncoalitionsa.org/ or contact: 0800 864 658.
Our message is this: We would obviously really love to shine a light on the abandonment and orphan problem and to motivate people to get involved in whatever way they can – but more than that, we’d love to ignite hope in people who are experiencing their own form of brokenness.
We want to inspire people to be brave enough to reach out to help someone else in our own time of struggle – because we discovered that an amazing exchange takes place. In rescuing this beautiful little baby boy, we ourselves were rescued!.