This is a very sensitive subject matter, considering we are not a society known for our open acceptance of adoption. We can understand when a relative comes to live with us. There is an understanding that we are merely helping them, and not for them to become a permanent part of our family, or expect to share in our legacy, and all the legal rights that come with adopting a child.
This is even more so, when you add to the mix, a couple dealing with infertility. For most of these couples, adoption is not the first thing that comes to mind. All effort is focused on having a child of their own which is quite understandable. It just does not feel the same way to adopt a child.
Honestly, there is an ambiguous feeling people have towards adoption while struggling with infertility. Most people who are dealing with infertility have gone through a lot, with the hope of getting a baby. They have gone through medical procedures that are protracted, expensive, and humiliating, all in a bid to have a baby, or babies. It doesnât matter how long they have been trying. They just canât give up hope that one day they will have a child of their own. So adoption is not on their radar.
Besides, some couples have gone through literally all the treatments medical science has to offer, IUI to IVF and everything in between, and are completely exhausted. But even to these, the subject of adoption is not to be considered.
There is also the real, but unspoken, fear that they might not be able to love an adopted child the same way they would their biological child. For a lot of people, connection with a child starts right from the womb, but they don’t realise it is also possible to develop a strong connection with a baby, or even a grown child, with no blood ties with you.
I know of a namesake of mine, who is practically the first child of a couple, although not their biological daughter. She started living with them when they just got married; in fact, her parents gave her to the bride as a child to accompany her to her new home.
Now, everyone automatically thinks she is their first born. She was there before the other children came. She went to the best schools they could afford, private schools from nursery right through university. She is included in all family portraits, so there is really no way you would think she was not family, unless she tells you.
But still she has not been legally adopted by them. The bond between them is on another level altogether and being the only girl amongst the children makes her even more special. Although this couple did not make a conscious effort to adopt her, they have come to see her as the daughter they never had. She was witness to the tears of the woman, when the couple waited to have a baby for three years, before their first son came along in the fourth year of their marriage.
On the other hand, a couple still dealing with infertility narrated how it dawned on them, while at the consultation room of a fertility clinic, that what they wanted most was to be parents and it didn’t necessarily have to be to their own biological child.
They wanted to have the sound of the laughter of a child echo in their home, and to go through the stress of running after them, and protecting them. For this couple, this simple realisation helped put their fertility issue in perspective.
While they are still trying for a baby, they have now adopted a child, as an infant, and are going through all the rigours of parenting. An experience they truly craved.
For another couple, they waited for seven years but when it did not look like a baby was coming, they opted for adoption. Although not an easy choice, the man felt that his wife would benefit from having a child to shower love on. She did not agree at the time, but later came round to the idea.
Before the child was a year old, they had gotten pregnant with their own biological baby. In less than two years, there is another baby on the way. Their friends say they are making up for lost time, given the rate at which they were breeding. But it is all joy!
In Nigeria, adoption is a legal process, instituted in a civil court and one that most people avoid because of the rigours involved; like the detailed investigation of the applicant for history of child abuse, criminal activities, medical records, social lifestyle and financial status. It is until this is done before the adoption process can be started.
Although it varies from state to state, there is a fostering period, before the adoption becomes final, or not. And the adoptive parents are expected to meet and fulfil the basic rights and duties of the adopted child. In disbursing of wills and settlements, the adopted child must be treated as a lawful child of the adoptive parents and the same way as the biological child and not as a stranger. It looks simple here but asks someone who has been through it and you will know it takes grace and a tenacious spirit.
A medical practitioner, who counsels infertile couples to see adoption as a way for them to enjoy parenthood, described the medical treatments for infertility as a treadmill that couples get on for one goal – to have a child…but find hard to get off, because it would seem as though they are giving up on their dream, and medical science also changes terrain, coming up with more ways to tackle their problem, so they really canât get off, not when they see light at the end of the tunnel.
However, for those who could get off it like the couple I mentioned earlier, the joys of parenthood more than make up for it.
Food for thought!