– Adele Pereira
Ever since I was little, I wanted to have a daughter. Everywhere I looked, I saw mothers and daughters walking on the road together and my heart yearned to have that relationship with a little girl of my own. When we first got married, I was too young to be a mother (I was 19!), then we were too exhausted taking care of 5 elders in our family, one after the other (we’re still exhausted!) and when we were finally ‘ready’ to have a baby, we were in for the mightiest shock of our life- I had endometriosis and couldn’t conceive.
Trying to have a baby
Many people suggested many things to us- mainly falling in two categories- names of doctors and people who could pray over us. We’re really glad we spent much more of our energies on the latter than the former. We went to just one doctor, who was always compassionately straightforward about my case with us and many many loving people who prayed over us, discerning God’s will for us and encouraging us to keep praying and hoping.
We were clear with our doctor that we didn’t want to go in for IVF because we didn’t want to ‘create’ life but to receive it. He accepted our decision and never pressurised us to try any extraordinary means to conceive. Everything in our beings said that a child is a GIFT from God- someone sent and received in love, not something acheived by human effort or intelligence in pride.
We were clear with those who prayed over us that we really just wanted to know God’s plan for us, whether it was ‘yes or no’ and we would make our peace with His answer and get on with our lives.
One particularly significant time was when we went to Potta. With all our hearts, what we wanted to hear was whether God wanted us to have children or not. That was 11 months after I had my second surgery to remove the chocolate cysts on my ovaries and 1 month before I was due for my third surgery! We were desperate for God to speak to us and were devastated when he did. As we stood in one of the long lines to be prayed over, we were disappointed when we were put in the line for an old nun rather than a married Charismatic counsellor. Before we even finished our first sentence to her, she said ‘Why don’t you just adopt?’ I think that was the day I cried the most about being ill and infertile. I felt like I was so beyond hope that not just the doctors, but even the Church thought I was so far from being healed. We were too heartbroken to hear God through our pain- He wanted us to be parents, but adoptive parents.
One close praying friend explained it like this- In our mind, the biggest miracle possible is for you to conceive right now but maybe for God the biggest miracle would be for you to adopt a baby who needs a miracle like you two for parents. That would be a much larger miracle, touching many more lives than conceiving one life.
All throughout our ‘trying’ phase we really leaned heavily on God and that’s why we’re sure he protected us from spending years of pain, loads of money and emptying ourselves into the hands of men who could only try to help us conceive a child using anti-life techniques. We are especially grateful that even though we have experienced a lot of physical and emotional pain in our journey, we have never experienced the tragedy of losing a child in a miscarriage or the guilt of taking life through any anti-life fertility techniques.
Deciding to have a baby
But doubts still lingered what if God didn’t want us to have children at all, just take care of our elders? What if we were hijacking His plan for our lives by rushing into an adoption to douse our pain? What if, for some bizarre reason (like the world is gonna end soon) God just didn’t want us to have children? Yes, when your body is ill and your emotions are spent, your mind does do crazy things!
So we sought some surety from God through more counselling and prayers. One priest told us very clearly – adoption is such a life-giving, loving thing, so much in character with God’s heart, that there is no way He would not want you two to do this. Another counselor, who was an adoptive mum herself, reminded us how we ourselves have received a spirit of adoption (Romans 8:16) and that is the core of our Christian faith. If God adopted you, how can it be not good to adopt a baby?
So after months of asking questions about adoption, meeting a highly recommended adoption agency and parents who had adopted through them, speaking to parents who had adopted a long time ago and praying with friends, we decided to adopt a baby!
The very next week, our healthy, able 79 year old aunt who was living with us, fell down a flight of stairs and was in critical condition for 3 weeks. We just couldn’t even talk about adoption in those 3 weeks, and I just couldn’t stop crying for aunty and for us. The one who was the fittest of our 3 elders became the most bedbound. The next 6 months were excruciatingly tough- trying to rehabiliate her through physiotherapy and manage mum who was feeling very neglected. After mum had a stroke and became just as bedbound as aunty, the 3rd elder- another aunt- passed away peacefully. So in 6 months time, we went from having 1 fit and 2 unfit elders to having 2 completely bedbound elders. At this point, they needed the kind of care only trained nurses and ayahs could provide and there was really nothing physically we could do for them. So in the most unimaginable way, in the midst of so much more pain, God gave us the peace that it was the right time to adopt.
We first met the agency in October 2010 (which was the same month Esther’s birthmother would have discovered she was pregnant) and filed for adoption in May 2011, a month before Esther was born. No one can argue with God’s timing! (Though we really do try!)
Having a baby
Everyone including the adoption agency, told us adoption is a long complicated process. But compared to what we had already been through, it was actually a piece of cake!
For us the actual adoption process was very short- just 20 weeks- from the time we submitted all the adoption documents to the agency (Friday, the 13th of May!) and got Esther home on Oct 3rd, the same year. It helped that we made a very strong case for adoption being married and childless for 12 years then and having a fertility specialist describe the long course of treatment and surgeries that we had undergone before arriving at this decision. The adoption agency was extremely professional and personable at the same time. They ensured all legal procedures and government regulations were followed to the T with complete compassion for us, the people involved in the process and in the best interests of the child who they were entrusting us with.
My husband was excellent at managing all the financial, legal and ‘paperwork’ matters with ease and efficiency. I focussed more on getting us and our family and friends mentally and emotionally prepared. Telling our brothers and their wives and children was easy because they had shared our sorrow at not being able to conceive for so many years and joyfully received our decision with great acceptance and love. Telling our parents was harder because it was harder for them to accept that we were not pursuing having biological children anymore.
All four- both mums, a dad and an aunt- reacted differently, raising different valid questions and concerns. The fact that we had struggled with this for so long on our own, really gave us the confidence and peace to answer all their questions without getting ruffled. Next came telling extended family and friends. We created a suspense filled PPT to break the good news and emailed it to everyone at once. Congratulations poured in as if the baby was already in our arms. That’s when it finally became real- we were having a baby. I, a barren woman who couldn’t have a baby was having a baby. We, who had watched countless friends and family who got married after us have babies, were actually having our very own, very real BABY!
We decided to then tell all and sundry much before Esther came so that we could get used to the idea ourselves, give people in our building, neighbourhood and church community enough time to get used to the idea and ask us all their questions and make all their comments before Esther arrived. We were clear that when we first walked down the street with Esther, we wanted her to see reactions on the lines of ‘Oh, this is Esther baby! What a darling!’ rather than ‘Who’s baby is this? Your’s?! You’re joking! When did you have a baby?!’
We were really surprised with some reactions- overwhelming emotional support from our GP, accountant, neighbours; weird questions from some close friends and family. All reactions prepared to be even more open and outgoing with sharing our good news and answering every question they had about adoption. Another surprising reaction was older childless couples who came up to us, sharing how they regretted missing their chance to have a baby through adoption. We were just overwhelmed through the whole process – the love we received from God and our community was supernatural and certainly undeserved.
We had chosen not to choose the age, gender or colour of the child. We wouldn’t have had the choice if she were conceived in my womb, so why discriminate against her because she wasn’t?! We prayed every single day for God to reach out to our baby and bless her, her birth family especially her birthmother, her foster families and the adoption agency. We prayed that God would move the adoption agency to show us only one child- the one He had chosen for us and we would have no hesitations in knowing this was indeed our baby. We prayed for God to reveal the baby’s name to us and were much more confident about the girl’s name we settled on compared to the boy’s.
So when we were told that they had a little baby GIRL for us, born on June 11th BETWEEN BOTH OUR JUNE BIRTHDAYS, who had been operated on for a RIGHT OVARIAN CYST, we couldn’t be surer that God had not only answered our prayers but heard the secret desires of our hearts and given us the child He had surely created for us.
And the bumper news was – she was coming home in 10 days! Not months, as we had expected. So we had ten days to make space in cupboards, shop for baby clothes and things, wash, dry and put everything in place, and try to get some idea of what it meant to care for a 3 month 3 week old baby on a firsthand basis. Plus, we had to finish pending work loads with our jobs, and finish work for which the deadlines were much later, so we could just focus on the baby the first few weeks that we would need to settle into a routine. My husband was fortunate to be able to take a week off from work, things were stable with our nurses/ayahs and care for our elderly, so we could just jump right into parenting.
Having, holding and loving a baby
It’s an understatement to say that the 3rd of October, 2011 was the 2nd happiest day of our lives – after our wedding day. Every second, before we held her was dragging by and every second, since we held her, we were in an awesome daze. All our well meaning friends told us to get a lot of sleep in the days before she came and I know every expectant mother can’t sleep in the last month or so before the baby arrives. But if you had ten days to go from ‘We hope to have a baby’ to ‘Our baby is coming home’, I bet you, you wouldn’t be able to sleep at all. On the car ride home, Selby and Esther slept in the cool of the A/C and I just couldn’t close my eyes because I was seeing what I thought would never happen.
The first night, I had to scold myself ‘Adele, go to sleep! She’ll get up in a few hours for her feed.’ But the sight of a real live baby sleeping between me and my husband in a space that had been empty for 12 long years was just too wonderful to doze off on. And, of course, when I finally fell asleep, it seemed like just a moment later that she woke up and the whole building knew that Esther wanted her milk.
The best times of our parenthood, were when we took turns burping her in the dead of the night, just holding her close, patting her back and singing to her till she fell asleep. Those are the times when I felt most alive and I prayed deeply for us to never ever lose this overwhelming sense of gratitude, no matter what lay ahead of us.
The first 2 weeks were a wonderful blur of constant sleeplessness, constant newness, and many many visitors bringing many many gifts. In one week – with my husband, we figured out what she needed and the next week with him back at work, we figured out who would do what for her. Twenty days after she came home, she reached out and touched my face on her own and I knew my baby knew I was her mama.
Being an adoptive parent isn’t very different from being a biological parent in the everyday stuff (except for being the pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding). It’s just like diving straight into a marriage – you prepare for it the best you know how and then you just live everyday the best you can, hoping to get better everyday. Everything is new, everyone else knows better than you, and yet you just have to take charge and do your best because its your commitment to this new person in your life.
But in the larger scheme of things, being an adoptive parent is a whole lot different from being a biological parent. I remember long ago, before my third surgery, when our surgeon warned us that if my reproductive system looked very diseased once he opened me up, he may have to take Selby’s consent while I was knocked out cold and remove my ovaries. I cried, telling Selby- what if we never have a child that looks like you? And Selby said – then we’ll adopt one and pull his ears till they stick out like mine. I burst out laughing at Selby’s timely joke and the vision of a tiny baby with my husbands family legacy- big ears. Somewhere deep down in each of us, we want our child to look like us, act like us, be an extension of our best selves.
With adoption, you don’t get any credit for the wonderful way in which your child is turning out. When people say- ‘Oh, she’s got such wonderful curls’, you don’t get to beam and say- ‘Yeah, just like my Grandma’s’. When she loves roaming around the colony and greeting people, even strangers, you don’t get to feel good that she’s got your personality. Everything is a surprise- her hair, her personality, her teeth, her toes- everything. And everything is a gift. This is exactly what we prayed for all along- to receive someone sent in love, not strive to create something achieved by human effort or intelligence in pride.
Before receiving this precious gift, I used to feel sorry for myself, because we could not conceive by ‘planning’, ‘trying’, or using any great human discoveries of when and how is the best way to produce a baby. All our efforts were dust. After receiving this precious gift, I am so very thrilled that God took away any avenue to be proud of Esther and gave us a million reasons to be thankful for her.
Having had NO role in Esther’s conception, delivery or even early postnatal life has been such a blessing in disguise. We have been left devoid of any sense of power or control that comes from a ‘planned’ pregnancy. So we feel no loss of control when we are powerless to protect her from a common cold, no anxiety while we waited for her 1st tooth to come out long after she started walking and no sense of false pride and achievement about her looks and personality. We also have no fears about whether she has inherited a predisposition to diabetes from my husband’s side or a predisposition to being temperamentally angry from my side – because of course, she hasn’t inherited anything from us. Since we have no clue what unwanted genetic flaws or traits she has, we have no reason to be anxious. We just love her for who she is, teach her what we know is most important – loving God and others – and enjoy every single moment of her life and our lives together- without any thought of the past or the future.
We just feel totally and completely in awe of our perfect God whose perfectly hand created gift she is to us. We can sit back and daily unwrap this gift, expecting to be forever in awesome gratitude. We can be free of our own ambitions and dreams for her and enjoy the unfolding of the perfect plans He has for her as her stewards.
There was a brief phase, shortly after we settled in with her, that I constantly asked God – ‘She’s so wonderful, Lord. Why couldn’t you just place her in my womb so I could have more time with her and breastfeed her too?’ A friend answered my question in a way I knew was God’s answer. She said- So both you two and Esther could experience His supernatural grace and love in this situation which is not ‘natural’.
I knew God loved me long before Esther came into our lives, but when she did, I actually knew God loves me in a very personal way. Every time Esther touched me, I felt God reaching out to me. Everytime she smiled, I felt like singing out to Him. Only He knew we wanted a girl and yet didn’t ask the adoption agency for a girl. Only He knew I always longed for our baby to be born in June between our birthdays, so we could just make that our family celebration month. Only He knows why Esther had an ovarian cyst while she was in her mother’s womb and why I have one too. Only He knows all the mysteries of why I can’t conceive and why Esther’s birth mother lovingly and responsibly relinquished her to a reputed adoption agency.
Only He knows all the answers to all our whys and hows and whens. And that’s enough. His love, His grace in and through Esther is more than enough for us.
Adele wrote this article shortly after Esther’s 1st birthday. Now almost 3 year old Esther has a 10 month old brother Lucas in whose adoption process she was fully involved. Esther has devoted herself to being the best big sister ever- she is Adele’s right hand in caring for Lucas. Adele can’t remember what life was like before having kids or even before Lucas came home and has literally no hands or time free to write about Lucas’ adoption process…yet! 🙂