1. What were the biggest obstacles when you first considered adoption and how did you overcome them?
The first thing I needed to figure out for myself was whether adoption is allowed in Islam. I had a sheikh explain the differences between fostering and adoption. Then I learned the advantages of breastfeeding. This combined knowledge gave me the confidence needed when faced with naysayers.
My other worry was about how my family would handle it. I am from South Africa, where the majority of babies are from poor families – here poor families are black/colored. Older generations still have their prejudices, especially with hair texture. My kids got scrutinized with even their nails getting checked to see if they would “darken.” Heads were rubbed to feel the texture. My daughter ended up with a head of beautiful curls and my son has tight pepper corn curls which grow into an afro when long.
2. Did you feel there was a social stigma from the Muslim community against adoption? Why do you think that is/isn’t?
Yes, it varies. Like I stated above we have an issue with image that is prevalent in the Indian community. Also, people are hesitant because they don’t understand the legal ruling (as stated earlier), and/or they don’t understand the benefits of breastfeeding. People also ignorantly think the kids must not know and must have no interaction with their biological families (as per Islam). I however go against that “norm” and have explained to my kids that they are adopted and inshaAllah they will meet their families one day.
3. How old was the child when you adopted him/her and how old are they now?
My daughter was 17 days old and is now 8. My son was 21 days (he was premature and had to gain weight first) and is almost 5 years old now.
4. What kind of support did you find available to you during/after the process?
My husband was my strongest support in every respect: helping with baby, cleaning the house, making food etc. La Leche League was my second strongest support. They assisted me in breastfeeding. I also had a very loving sister at the clinic I took the kids to.
5. How long did it take you to finally decide that you wanted to adopt?
I’m terribly impatient and when I was struggling to become pregnant I considered it almost immediately. My husband and I had a vague conversation about it, but nothing formal.
I tend to make decisions based on a strong gut feeling. We are very spontaneous and once we decided, I went right ahead to get whatever we needed to make it happen. So from the day we decided until the baby’s arrival was a mere 6 weeks!
6. How did you decide where to adopt from?
There are 2 options locally: child welfare (which apparently takes years, but is free) and private (which costs a lot, but the wait is shorter). We were following a lead that led to the private agency.
7. What types of websites/agencies/resources did you contact for help or information in the planning phase?
We spoke to our local sheikh to get the Islamic view on adoption. La Leche League – breastfeeding specialists and general searches on adoption also helped. Ultimately, the social workers at the private agency gave us most of the information we required.
An explanation of the process:
After meeting with social workers, they run a background/police check on the couple.
We had to get family, friends and third parties to submit references about us as individuals and as a couple. We had to create a scrapbook/storybook of our lives to be presented to prospective mothers. We also had to complete a form with our preferences for age of baby, color, eyes, features, etc., as well as health condition (AIDS, alcohol fetal syndrome, premature, potentially as a result of a rape, etc.).
The birth mother has the option to meet with the family (we met our son’s mother). Here, the money that the couple pays isn’t for the baby, but is instead used to cover the fees of counseling the birth mother. Generally the adoptive family is given a couple of days notice before baby arrives – making it all very exciting.
8. How did you mentally and emotional prepare yourself and your family for adoption?
Alhamdulillah neither of us needed much preparation as we had agreed on the decision together. Our extended family did make comments like: you should have tried more to conceive, you should have fostered, etc. We defended some of our decisions, and others we just left. Ultimately I believed that the child would soften their hearts, which eventually happened alhamdullilah. Who can’t love a child?
9. What type of role, if any, do the birth parents play in your child’s life?
These are considered closed adoptions. We know the birth mother’s names, but we do not know where she lives or works. She does not know our names, where we live, etc. Each year for the first 5 years we have to submit a report about the child, so that if at any point the birth parent enquires, they have some information. When the child is 18, they may inquire about the parent, but may only meet if the parent wants to.
Islamically, it is important to us that they find their families. I have read various stories on that aspect and that is why I want them to have love and respect for both sets of parents. I have a stepmother and I try to show them how I love and respect her, and how it doesn’t affect what I feel for my birth mother.
10. What was the transition like with the new addition to your family?
We have two adopted children. With our first child, I had stopped working when I was unsuccessfully trying to conceive, so our lives had already slowed down and adjusted.
The biggest adjustment was to night feedings and lack of sleep. Since I hadn’t given birth, I wasn’t bleeding so still had to get up and make fajr salaah. My second child came to us quickly and we (including my first child) did not have much time to adjust or prepare.
11. What advice would you give a family that is considering adoption?
Based on my location/culture, I would remind parents that the child does not come from you, so you can’t expect him/her to look like you. The social workers have told us many couples come with a list or things the child must have. They even had a couple return the baby after it “changed” color and the hair texture became coarser!
12. What do you wish you had known in retrospect?
I think I am still on that journey. I definitely feel like a pioneer, perhaps since I am one of few people talking about it. I don’t know if what I am doing is helping or harming my children. To clarify this better, they know they have a “tummy mommy” (we seldom talk about the daddy as I know very little about him). They have heard their adoption stories and love to hear them again and again. Now and then we make dua for their birth parents, asking Allah to forgive them and to guide them, etc. My daughter once asked where her tummy mummy was, but I said I didn’t know (and I don’t). I know many emphasize to their children that they are special because they are adopted, but I don’t want them to have that as a life-long label. It mustn’t define them. I don’t know what awaits them when they truly want to know more. I just hope I have prepared them well enough for it.