As an approved adopter for a sibling group in the UK, the prospect of adopting from abroad was but a dream. I had researched inter-country adoption, but me as a single, British Pakistani; female travelling alone to Pakistan seemed unrealistic. In 2015, I visited Islamabad for a work-related trip. Witnessing the number of children begging in the streets of Pakistan changed my outlook on life and by extension my view on adopting from abroad.
When I arrived back in the UK, I began the daunting process of reading around inter-country adoption. My anxieties were through the roof, but it wasn’t going to stop me this time. I contacted the Edhi centre based in Karachi, which was the organisation I hoped to adopt from. From there the process began. After 10 months, I was in Karachi with my backbone, my remarkable mother. After five long weeks of visiting the Edhi centre every other day and waiting for some news, I received a phone call that they have my baby. The feeling was like no other; exhilarating, scary and exciting all at the same time. I was handed a beautiful baby boy, Adam (not his real name) on 3rd October 2017. At that moment he became my world. We rushed to Agha Khan Hospital for the medical examination, which was terrifying. The next day we went for a follow-up and Adam was admitted. My mother and I did not leave his side. After a gruelling and emotionally exhausting few days coupled with invasive medical examinations on my beautiful boy, we were given the worst news possible. Adam had severe brain damage alongside numerous other health issues. During my training sessions in the UK I was informed that although rare, this could be a possibility. Edhi were very supportive and he was returned back to the centre. I ensured training was provided to meet his complex needs. The pain, anguish and guilt that I felt were like no other; how could I be a mother if it was not to him? No amount of training could have prepared me for the torment I experienced.
On 11th October 2017 I received a call from the Edhi foundation. They had a baby for me. My heart sank, and my brain went into overdrive; did I have the strength to do this? My mother gave me the courage I needed, and we retraced our steps back to the Edhi centre that we did the week before. We rushed to Agha Khan Hospital once again. No words can do justice to the overwhelming feeling that I felt in that moment. The realities of adopting an abandoned baby with no birth history dawned on me once again. He was premature and required hospital admission. After four days in hospital, he was given the all clear and discharged home. After much thought, I decided to name him Adam in honour of my first baby.
Being a single parent in Pakistan comes with its difficulties. Holding my first baby and being given the worst news any mother can ever hear, I was told by many, ‘it wouldn’t be that bad if you had a companion’, ‘you need a life partner,’ ‘your life must be hard’, ‘why are you adopting on your own’, ‘you should get married’. Perseverance, thick skin and resilience kept me going. Intentionally trying not to internalise people’s comments, and instead, focusing on the bigger picture of why I was in Pakistan, gave me strength. Keeping my cards close and not disclosing to everyone who asked about my marital status and decision to adopt averted judgments from people who need not know about my life choices. My mother has been my rock, best friend and biggest support. As a single adopter, processes such as applying for the birth certificate have resulted in hostility. The prospect of a birth certificate with no father’s name was not understood. Applying for the birth certificate after the guardianship order would have somewhat averted this. The process can feel very lonely at times, but when looking at the bigger picture, every second is worth it. ‘Verily after hardship comes ease’ (Quran). I am testament to this.
Some people left a mark that trivialised all the negative remarks. Adam’s named consultant Dr Ali Shabbir Hussain who went above and beyond for both of my babies. When you find a good doctor a wise person never let’s go. The Neurologist Dr Farida, who held my hand with puffy red eyes, whilst I sobbed uncontrollably about the devastating news. The nurse, Tehsin who cried behind the curtains and the nurse in charge, Afshan who took time out from her very busy schedule to sit with me and offer me comfort. When a mother grieves, nothing goes unnoticed. Throughout this journey, I have met some astounding people who have shown me just how good, people truly can be.
Receiving guardianship from the courts means I am Adam’s legal mother. I look at him every day and cannot believe that he is mine. Edhi foundation have given me the most wonderful joy. The feeling of being a mother is so special. What seemed like a dream is now my reality that I live every day. My adoption journey so far has been a rollercoaster experience with extreme highs and extreme lows. Albeit extremely difficult at times, it has been the most amazing experience of my life. For those who are contemplating adopting, but are unsure because they are single; just remember God is Great. The process is difficult, but the rewards and blessings of remaining patient and keeping steadfast on this journey are like no other. I, Shabnam (not her real name), a single adopter from the UK now have the love of my life, my pride and joy, baby Adam .
Has being a single adopter put me of? No way. Would I do it again? Within a heart- beat.