Leonie Pitts and her husband, both from the UK, adopted Beatrix from Ethiopia just over a year ago
"I was very naive and really honestly expected to get pregnant on our honeymoon. I was young, I was healthy, it was the right time, why not? In the end, our path to parenthood took more than five painfully uncertain years.
"I spent every month swaying dramatically between optimistically planning our future as a family and despairing that it might never happen. Which is why I'm a big advocate for people speaking openly about infertility and being aware that starting a family doesn't always come easily.
" I would also say, however, that once well-meaning family and friends know you are struggling, be prepared for a barrage of questions and advice. But when you're in that place mentally, if someone told you your chances of conceiving would be higher if you juggled coconuts while wearing an Easter bunny outfit, you'd do it!
"We spent years having tests, then trying IVF, before realising we were meant to adopt. Part of me wishes we hadn't wasted so much time trying to force a biological child to materialise, but we grew together as a couple and learned so much along the way and, had anything happened differently, we wouldn't now have Bea.
"Whether it's waiting on a document, waiting to be matched with a child, or waiting for a court date, the waiting is most definitely the hardest part of adoption - and indeed of the whole journey we've been on. Every minute feels like a month, no matter how busy you try to be. And timings are so uncertain... so it's difficult to make plans. You constantly feel like a love-struck teenager, forever checking your phone for news.
"The loneliness is also hard. The Adoption Support Group in Dubai is brilliantly informative and supportive, but every adoption is very different and your process might be totally different to another person's.
"On the bright side, it does bring you even closer to your partner. At least, that's what we found. You're in it together and totally understand what the other is going through. We have also made a lot of new friends within the adoption community here, which is so lovely.
Love at first sight
"To be honest, everything about adoption is hard, except the love. That bit was easy. It was love at first sight as soon as we saw her photo. Lucas was at work when I got the snap via WhatsApp. I remember it so clearly - when I saw her I sobbed for a full 20 minutes.
"Later, I was making dinner as Lucas got home, and said 'There's someone I'd like you to meet...' He just said 'Really?' all teary-eyed. I showed him, we hugged and cried knowing our dreams were finally coming true while Lionel Richie's song My Destiny played on my iPod... one of many memorable magical moments! I've always been a fan of cheesy chick flicks and, at that moment, I really felt like I was in a movie!
"There's a quote I love, I forget who said it, but it goes 'There are times when the adoption process is painful and exhausting and makes you want to scream. But I am told, so does childbirth'!
"We have many special moments to cherish... The day we finalised our adoption dossier. Our first visit to Addis Ababa with our papers. The day we were matched with Bea. The day we first saw her photo. The day we first met her. Every visit we made to see her at the orphanage - we couldn't stay away! The day she became ours. The day she got her passport. The day she came back to Dubai. Now we eagerly await the day she can visit family in the UK. The paperwork does sometimes feel never-ending but she is totally worth it.
Becoming a mother
"I have found that being a mother teaches you about strengths you didn't know you had, while also dealing with fears you never knew existed. I can't describe how lucky and privileged I feel to be Beatrix's mother. My favourite moments are when we celebrate her small achievements together and seeing the delight in her face when she claps herself after learning something new, or knowing she's done something well. I love watching her personality and her ability grow every day. She's already her own little person and so assertive. I'm in awe of her!
"I think that some balance is key to keeping going through the tough bits of parenting - and an understanding partner really helps. I find that making time to still be me, not just Mummy, keeps me happy as well as sane. A pedi, a workout, a girls' night out... I spent so many months wishing Bea wasn't so far away while we awaited the final papers. So I try to enjoy every moment with her - but toddlers aren't always easy!
"Fitness is essential for me to counter all the chocolate I eat, but the endorphins also give me a much more positive outlook on everything, which helps me tackle the tougher times. Sometimes Bea is patient and enjoys the entertainment of watching my face redden as I workout, but often she likes to be a part of it too, so I end up having to hold her, which makes it all the more productive in terms of pain levels.
Dream come true
"I still pinch myself that I'm a Mummy! Last year I spent all day wondering if it might be the day we received news - I thought that every day really, but I'm also a bit of a romantic like that! We actually had another few weeks to wait before Beatrix came into our lives.
"I'm so grateful to Bea's birth mother for giving her the gift of life and, in turn, life giving us the gift of her. Rarely a day goes by when I don't think of her and hope that she knows that Bea is happy and well. We know very little about her.
"To other mothers on a similar journey, I would say don't give up hope. Don't keep your feelings bottled up. Explore every option. Keep the faith, and keep going.
"Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won and all the fears you have overcome. I'm actually extremely grateful that some things didn't work out the way I once wanted them to, as otherwise they wouldn't have ended up like this, with our family the way it is.
"I know now that timing is everything. Timing brought us Beatrix and she is perfect."
Read more from Baby & Child: 'UAE mums confess the things they never thought they'd do before being a parent'
Photos by Aiza Castillo-Domingo