When you announce you’re pregnant, people usually react with excitement and want to know the details: When? Do you know the gender? What’s the name?
But when you tell them you’re going to adopt, the reaction can be quite different.
While the majority are thrilled – sometimes to the point of instant tears – there are some who react differently… with an awkward silence.
It has surprised me how many people are confused by adoption. They don’t understand why a seemingly healthy, fertile couple would choose it over biological children.
I’ve learnt not to be offended by their questions and recognise that some just need time to process the information. So I tell them our story.
In November 2013, my husband, David, and I adopted our son, Ted, from Ethiopia. He was then three month old.
It was the sensible, rational choice. We’re both 37. We had been trying for about a year and a half to have our second biological child.
Multiple miscarriages and abnormal pregnancies later, we were faced with two choices: in-vitro fertilisation or adoption.
I had enough of invasive and disappointing visits to the doctors. Even though I was never told I’d have difficulty getting pregnant a second time, I didn’t want to worry about what I ate and drank or what time of the month it was anymore.
So David and I agreed to have a break from attempting to conceive while we filled out our adoption paperwork. Then we would make a decision.
It took us around four months to be deemed “fit to adopt”. Through that process, we had to undergo 10 hours of online training, four hours of adoption seminars and three counselling sessions.
Hearing stories of the kinds of conditions that many orphaned kids have to endure – their physical suffering and the sheer volume of children who need homes – was enough to convince us that this was the right path.
For us, it was the best way to invest our time, money and emotional resources. And it was the ultimate way to make a lifelong commitment to elevating a life that would otherwise be helpless.
This is a common theme among almost all the other adoptive parents I’ve met.
“(Such parents) are often drawn by a strong desire to parent or have more children, but are unable to conceive,” says Wong Wei Lei, senior social worker at Touch Adoption Services, who has worked with families for almost 10 years.
But while most stories start with an infertility story, they end up being about so much more than adoption as a last resort.
“Some choose to adopt with the objective of providing a loving family to a child who needs one,” she agrees.