Monday 5th May, 2014
I have two children – N, who is my biological daughter, and A, my son whom we adopted from Morocco. Both of them are toddlers and are only a month apart.
My husband and I have always wanted to adopt. People adopt for many reasons – I cannot explain mine except that I genuinely love children. On my first date with my husband, we talked about how many children each of us wanted and I told him that I wanted to adopt. It sounds strange talking about children on our first date but it was love at first sight – which you will soon find is a recurring theme in my life.
We were engaged 11 months later, married a year after, and became pregnant the year after that. My biological daughter N was a premie and – I kid you not – while still in hospital we decided we would adopt our next child. So when N was 9 months old, we started our Home Study Report and embarked on our adoption journey.
Unlike giving birth, going through the adoption process means everyone and every detail in your life will be examined. We were asked to think about things no one asked when we were pregnant – practical questions like “how many fire alarms do you have in your home?” to bigger questions like “what do you think of God?” My helpers, my mother, and my brother were interviewed and we were asked to provide reference letters.
Seven months later, we finally obtained the Home Study Report and planned a trip to Morocco so we could visit an orphanage we had identified. We initially planned a five-day stay so we could travel and help out at the orphanage. We turned up in the morning where the Director told us we would need to wait a year for an infant. We knew this already of course; we just wanted to hand in our Home Study Report personally so she could match us a child with our little family in mind.
But then – and this was a major turning point – she told us about a 16 month old toddler she had in the babies’ room upstairs. I remember her saying, “he’s a little serious. He has a head full of hair, he looks like you, and I think his Mummy (referring to me) just arrived.” She also told us about his medical condition, but wasn’t fully aware of the situation because his medical records were in the care of the hospital that the orphanage was affiliated with.
I remember being seated opposite the director with my husband behind me. I turned around to look at Miles and we had an unspoken understanding that we should meet this boy. So I asked if it was okay to meet him, and in a few minutes, Laela (the head nurse of the orphanage) was holding this gorgeous little boy in front of us.
I looked at his hair, the dimple on his chin, and his amazingly long lashes. Again I was hit by love at first sight – and so was my husband. Laela handed this boy to Miles and the little boy had such a look of awe on his face. The children in the orphanage are looked after by female caregivers so I think that was the first time he had been held by a man.
After spending some time with this boy, we requested for his medical records so we could understand his condition. We also met his orthopaedic surgeon who explained that he has a missing fibular amongst other things in his right leg. We sought the advice of my brother-in-law and a friend’s husband, as well as a second opinion from N’s paediatrician and a surgeon in Florida. After a couple of sleepless nights and heartfelt discussions later, we returned to the orphanage to tell them he’s our son. Smiles, tears, and praises to Allah later, we met with the social worker to get the adoption petition in Morocco started. This process would take 2.5 months to formalise as Morocco does not allow for adoption according to Muslim law but formalises Kafala (legal guardianship).
Our little family made plans to stay in Morocco for 3 months – once you know someone is your son, there is no way you can leave. We walked to the orphanage every morning and after a few weeks, he started to cry when we left him after his lunch for naptime. It was torture for me to leave when we had to leave for the UK for a few days during those 3 months. I remember walking out of the baby room crying and the other parents visiting from Spain saying (what I assumed they had said in Spanish), “imagine us having to wait almost a year.” Moroccan law at the time required a child to be be ‘abandoned’ for 6 months before the orphanage was allowed to apply for an abandonment order; only after the courts pass the order can a child be adopted.
We met so many children at the orphanage. We were there every day, helping to feed other babies and playing with other children. We were resolved in spirit to advocate adoption. The Kafala order was finalised on 8 August 2012 and from that day on, he became ours for the rest of his life.
We often think of the children we left behind and my heart aches for them. We remain in contact with the orphanage and our friends in Tangier but it’s not the same. I advocate adoption because every time I think of the children’s faces, I feel it’ll be selfish for me to get pregnant as there are many children who would love a forever family – a sister, a mummy, and a daddy. We hope to adopt again but Moroccan adoptions are now closed and we’re still researching.
We chose not to use an agent as being personally involved in the process was important to us. It was also important that N was part of it – she made friends and fell in love with her brother. I am third generation adopted while Miles was adopted by his stepfather, and I hope our children will continue this tradition.