Samira and Yusuf's personal journey
We are sitting here watching “Room on the Broom”. And it’s just lovely. Not just the movie, but the experience of sitting here with our daughter, whilst our tiny 9 month old is down for his snooze. Runny nose, newly cut teeth, cheeks the size of melons and still in his pjs (at midday), he’s gorgeous snot and all. And this is an unimaginable dream. Correction, this is in fact better than a dream, as dreams just fade when you wake and carry little significance. But these two, are the most significant little creatures in our lives. And only those who have children really know what it means to be in love with children that are your own. Of course, I love my nieces and nephews but this is another world. And no one should miss out on this chapter of life. And there is no reason to. Fertility is just one path to have children. It wasn’t for us. We chose the path of adoption. And if we could, we would repeat it time and time again. It’s amazing there are no labour pains, no stitches, no pelvic pains, no massive weight gain and no complications of labour. Yes, these are just some of the delights of adoption. But the love, the swelling in the heart, the sheer joy never experienced before with these beautiful little beings is unrivalled!
How did it all begin for us? Well like most couples, we tried to get pregnant. After a year of trying we realised that something wasn’t working. It was quite frightening actually, as there was that unknown element of “who is at fault”. And even though it wouldn’t have mattered it did worry us. The burden would be on your shoulders. Did I have a “deficiency”, am I depriving my partner of parenthood? Luckily we had a tight relationship and were able to reassure each other that it didn’t matter, if there was a problem on the male or female side. It was what it was and no one could change that. It didn’t matter, we were together. We did want children, so how were we going to go about it. What was our path to parenthood going to look like? It wasn’t going to be a giant bulge that was for sure! And hence our thoughts on adoption grew. But we still took those necessary footsteps down the IVF route. It turned out that there was no “problem” with either of us. This was “unexplained fertility”, a fairly common condition afflicting many couples. I guess it goes to show we haven’t really unravelled the mysteries of the formation of the human life. So we tried a 3 times. We spent £30 000, not to mention the psychological cost. I have to commend my partner on his strength. He didn’t show high expectations and anxieties, for he was concerned how this might impact me. In all honesty the road of IVF wasn’t as tumultuous as I had expected it to be. Like most things we took it in our stride. Plus, we hadn’t told a single soul what we were doing, so there wasn’t a barrage of questions which I think made it easier. We didn’t have to face the pity and the sorrow of others endeavouring to be sympathetic. We were thankful to the doctor who finally allowed us to draw a line under the IVF pathway, telling us our chances were no better with IVF than with naturally trying. It was then we were able to shut the door to that road and move to the next, more fruitful journey. The one of adoption.
For new comers like us, it seemed an awful tangle, how do you even get the foot in the door. Being of an ethnic minority background, our chances of being matched with a baby in this country were calculated by most authorities to be low, so we looked to international adoption, Pakistan, more specifically. And it really was the best leap we ever made. Admittedly it wasn’t easy. We started by applying to an agency that specialised in adoption abroad. We attended three training days. And they were brilliant. The insight into adopting was amazing, and indeed even parenting. These courses should be available to all parents, or rather all parents to be should go on these! They got us understanding a child’s psychology and made us realise the child centric nature of parenting.
The next stage was the home study. This made us a little nervous. A stranger was going to come to our house regularly and ask all sorts of questions about our life, our views on parenting, the parenting we had received, our prejudices etc. Thankfully for us we had a great social worker, she was very experienced in her field, had a friendly and unassuming approach. The key is to have a great social worker, one with whom you are able to strike a good rapport. Then telling them personal things doesn’t seem so bad. Although I say I was nervous, we worked through the 2 hour sessions every other week really well. It was a good chance to explore our own ideas and work out what issues could arise. This gave us a chance to prepare ourselves for what the future would hold. All this however was very much a paper pushing exercise. No sign of a baby. This was the bit that felt unreal, almost like nothing really was going to happen. And then every now and then my heart would skip a beat when the vision of a baby in our arms hit me.
During the course of the home study we would be assigned small pieces of homework. Perhaps a small report about our own childhood, qualities that we possessed or views on parenting etc. It wasn’t challenging at all, almost cathartic writing about ourselves. Perhaps a little narcissistic even!
The home study was then compiled into a report numbering 32 pages. This was presented to panel. An eclectic group of panellists included social workers, adopters, adoptees, council representatives and more. At first it was quite daunting to enter a room spread with 14 pairs of eyes watching you, but the opening words of the panel interview were very encouraging and relaxed us. They weren’t there to deny us of this opportunity. I must say I have been impressed by the thoroughness of the process. In some circumstances these adopted children are very vulnerable indeed.
After the department for education received the approval papers from panel, we were notified of the issuing of the certificate of eligibility. Meanwhile we applied to the adoption agency in Pakistan. There are a number of agencies but the longest running one is called the Edhi foundation. This is named after a couple who set up probably most of the welfare services in Pakistan. More specifically Mrs Edhi runs the children’s centres and takes in orphans and abandoned children. The unfortunate socioeconomic situation in Pakistan means that many children are relinquished at birth. With this in mind, Mr and Mrs Edhi have placed cradles throughout Pakistan given women the chance to leave the child so it may be found and safe rather than left in a ditch or the road side.
The application is simple, one page in fact, but Mrs Edhi does require supporting documents which are easily put together. Having spoken to friends who had adopted from Edhi foundation we kept close contact by telephone with Mrs Edhi’s right hand woman. The response from the foundation was far from encouraging, but we know this was their filtering mechanism, so we swallowed our pride and kept our eye on the ball.
Now we had started to buy baby stuff. And it was getting really exciting. Because now we had real things to hold, real things to do with a baby. And it was lovely. Tiny baby grows, changing mats, a baby bath, nappies even. I wanted to be super prepared, as my vision of Pakistan had been to expect nothing was going to be easy, even getting baby’s nappies.
On touch down we were greeted by a melting inferno of heat, as August was the peak of summer. My husband was fasting, as it was Ramadan, so no fun really. Thankfully we had arranged to stay with relatives, which took the financial and psychological burden of relocating away a bit. The part of Karachi we stayed out, at a glance looked like Malibu. It seemed slightly misplaced, as you leave the gated residency and see the rampant poverty all around. A sight hard to get used to, and a memory that doesn’t fade. We did the ‘meet and greet’ with the relatives and the first opportunity we got we contacted the Edhi office to notify them of our arrival. They set up a meeting with us and Mrs Edhi. This was interesting to say the least.
The Edhi offices were no less than cemented boxes with rudimentary office equipment, no computers and a desk in the heart of old Karachi, not really a tourist attraction. A few of what I can only assume were residence of the Edhi foundation were on hand as assistance. When the secretary found our file she called for Mrs Edhi. She had recently had cataract surgery, so her ray bans (I can only think were a gift) looked misplaced compared to the simplicity of the rest of her attire. She was rather surprised at the entourage we had brought with us. She was direct and firm. Much of the conversation was an attempt to dissuade us, to make us feel uneasy at our chances. We didn’t say much. And thankfully Mrs Edhi operates wholly on altruistic basis, which takes out ethical questions that money exchanges might raise. After what seemed like a gruelling 30 minutes we were asked to leave and keep in touch. The post mortem of the conversation on the way home concluded that this was a positive outcome. We hadn’t been booted out of the office and indeed she had asked us to keep in touch. We were full of hope, but at the same time flogging ourselves in case we had said anything wrong. I suspect this was the pain of the first stage of labour!
The next day we got that all important phone call. Amazing. And so soon! The voice said “would you like to come and collect your baby doll?” is a translation of the Urdu. “You have two hours”. OMG. We set off, baby bag ready and hearts in our throats at bursting point. This was really happening. We were both somewhat dizzy. This was the second stage of labour. We had to arrive on time, what would happen if we were late? And a name, OMG, we had left our short list at home! We scrambled our brains and remembered only one name at the top of the list. It was perfect. She was our little piece of heaven and that was what it was going to be.
The Edhi assistant lead us up to the back office. As we entered the stairwell there was a cradle. It shook me a little. Babies really were left in cradles, all this really does happen. What of the babies that don’t make it to the cradle?
We were seated on a bench and within minutes a beautiful angel swaddled in blankets was brought to our arms. The delivery was complete. No more pain. Just tears of joy. She was beautiful. Our hearts swelled immediately from love, she was ours, finally ours. She was so peaceful. So comfortable and so serene. The chaos of Karachi was obliterated by her sheer serenity. A little glimpse of heaven.
After that, the process required a medical examination at the hospital, collecting documents, from birth certificates, to court orders of guardianship to the passport to the visa. But more importantly the baby was in our arms and ours. And nothing rivals that. The stay in Pakistan was 4 months, a record compared to the usual 6. But despite the load shedding (i.e. no electricity in the blistering Karachi heat for hours on end) the lack of mod cons we were used to and the restricted movements (owing to security) didn’t matter. We were now complete.
On returning to the UK we had to have a social worker visit us intermittently until our court order was complete…and then we were ready for our second!