The journey to motherhood

(L-R) Rachael, Alex and Tindi Munyawarara (supplied).

On Sunday, families around Australia gathered to celebrate Mother’s Day and the influence of mothers in society. For some mothers, the road to parenthood has been challenging and unconventional, as Zoe Moffatt finds out.

When Macedon Ranges resident Rachael Munyawarara dreamed of motherhood, she pictured obstetrician appointments, maternity clothes and birthing suites.

Meeting her partner, Tindi Munyawarara more than a decade ago, Rachael said they would spend their time dreaming about a big family, but like so many women around the country, Rachael’s dream was dampened with ongoing fertility issues.

“I’ve always wanted to carry a child in my womb … I wanted the birth and I wanted to experience those nine months,” she said.

“That was really hard for me, I’ve had to grieve the loss of that.”

When Rachael and Tindi decided to pivot their journey and venture down the path of foster care it was 2016. They had married in 2011 and were excited to start the difficult journey to grow their family.

“We were so happy to begin a family as soon as we could and realised pretty soon into our relationship that we may not be able to do that … this is when we started our foster care journey,” Rachael said.

“We initially began the infant adoption process in about 2016 … but soon realised it was near impossible due to such low numbers of infants being offered up for adoption in Australia.

“I remember the eligibility criteria back then was that you had to be average BMI which … if my husband [had] an average BMI, he would have needed to go back to what he [weighed] when he was about 13 years old.”

Due to this requirement, Rachel and Tindi decided to enter into foster care for children, and in October, 2019, their now adopted son Alex moved in with them.

“[Alex] was three and he’d had numerous foster carers … the biggest trauma for him [was] the amount of moves.”

While the journey to adopt Alex was filled with support from his biological parents, Rachel said it was filled with stretched timelines and “red tape”.

In November, 2022, Rachel and Tindi were able to finalise the adoption process through a virtual meeting in court.

“I just remember when it was all done … and we closed the laptop lid, my son turned to us and said, ‘so does this mean that no one can drive up my driveway and take me away?’

“That was his question, his very first question, it’s just horrific.”

Despite feeling heartbroken, Rachel said she also felt overjoyed they could answer that question – Alex was not going to be taken away.

Fast forward about 18 months, Rachel has just celebrated her second Mother’s Day with Alex as her adopted son.

“I just remember feeling like oh my gosh, this is motherhood. I didn’t know until I was in the role that I could truly feel like a mother without, like, birthing that child myself.

“I could not feel any more like a mother to [Alex] because I am mothering [him] every single day of my life. I feel truly like a mother, which has made Mother’s Day.”

When asked to describe what motherhood means to her, Rachel is thoughtful and considered in her answer, undoubtedly shaped by her more than decade journey to this moment.

“For me, it’s being in the trenches with a child every single day. Being right there with them being there for both the joy and the challenges.”