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Story of an adoptive parent

My Journey to Motherhood 

- Mrs.Yasmin Shaikh,Mumbai

 ‘LIFE’ a valley with its own ups and downs, its own share of joys and sorrows, its own colours of good and bad times, sometimes sweet, sometimes sour. No description by any poet or a philosopher can ever draw a complete picture of how many expressions and feelings the ALMIGHTY has brought together to create this one ultimate expression. And MOTHERHOOD remains the most supreme of all these expressions. The journey of a Woman to MOTHERHOOD begins as soon as she gets married. The next best thing to be called after getting the respect as a better half of her husband, is the respect of being called a MOTHER.

But for me, the journey to being a mother began much before I got married. No, the intention behind the thought was not to be pregnant before tying a wedlock or renting my womb as a surrogate mother to some childless couple. I always had liking for kids. I used to take all my little cousins to fun places for children and to watch animated movies whenever I got time out of my busy work schedule. Its fun to be surrounded with these little wonders. To fulfill their demands for chocolates, burgers and pastries, to hold their little hands while crossing a road, to wipe the pastry and ice-cream top creams off their little pink nose, to feel their little soft palms on your face, to feel their wet lips on your dry skin when they give you a thanks kiss, and to see them smile when they are happy playing and enjoying the treat; all these moments as ‘bliss’ perfectly blend with the other colours of life.

With this kind of love for these little angels, the seed of motherhood was already sown in the woman in me. And this was further strengthened by the thought of accepting an abandoned child by adoption. I would always feel, that deep within me somewhere there was lying naked, like a new born baby, my wish for becoming a MOTHER, waiting for some loving hands to shelter it and give it life. The thought of adoption did not just come out of a mere fantasy, it was an incidence which made me think in this direction. --- I was once traveling home from office. My rickshaw halted at a signal when I saw this young lady, in her late twenties, moving between the vehicles. Her clothes torn in pieces, her face bruised, her hair distorted, one of her palm missing. She seemed to be in a mentally imbalanced state, and when she came near my rickshaw stretching out her palm to beg. I noticed that she was pregnant. About eight months old pregnant stomach peeping out from her tarnished clothes. I placed a few coins on her palm, and she went away laughing loud madly. After I saw that beggar, I was not able to get the thought of her off my mind. I could not guess why, but suddenly the next day when I saw another lady begging with her few months old baby, I realized that what was holding me was the thought of the child in the womb of that beggar I had seen last night. Was she aware of the fact that she was to give birth to a life ? Was she ready to bring a life in this world and to take care of it ? But she was mentally unhealthy, how would she take care of the child born to her ? maybe the child after birth is left to live a life of an orphan ! And who knows, the child may probably not live !

I was left aghast when I visualized that beggar giving birth to a little life and maybe leaving it alone to fight with its destiny. I closed my eyes and made a small prayer, “YaAllah, can I protect that little life ? And if not that particular baby, can I protect a child who has no one to take care of ? Can I be a mother without having to give birth to a life from my own flesh and blood ? The little naked thought within me at this moment had started turning itself as infants turn after a few months. I could hear the infant thought cry from within me and stretch out its hands towards me to accept it. At this moment, my eyelids formed themselves into a pair of two loving arms and embraced the little naked thought like a mother would to her infant child. When I opened my eyes, I could feel that the little thought had taken the form of a tear behind my eyelids, and I tried not to let it flow away, because it was a part of me, it was formed from my own flesh and blood. The moment I thought this, I decided to take step forward in the course of adopting a child. I  KNEW ,  THE  MOMENT  I CONCEIVED  THE  THOUGHT  OF ADOPTION, I HAD CONCEIVED MY BABY, NOT  IN MY WOMB, BUT  IN MY THOUGHTS, IN MY HEART. AND THIS CONCEPTION HAD COME NOT OF MAKING LOVE TO A MAN, BUT OUT OF MAKING LOVE TO THE THOUGHT OF BEING A MOTHER.

After that there was no looking back, I started collecting all the possible details from all the possible sources about adoption. My heart used to cry to listen and read of stories of children being abandoned. At a point I even started thinking of adopting the child as a single parent. But by the grace of Allah I got married to a person who had the same wavelength of thoughts as mine about adoption. When it seemed to be difficult to conceive, I was a little disheartened, but was always consoled by the fact that the path of adoption was always open for us. With all the running around for the treatment, medicines, sonographies, physical examination, every month’s wait for whether I would conceive this month or not, was quite humiliating, but what was keeping me going was my husband’s encouragement that we always had a choice parenting through adoption.

In between my treatments I met a few adoption agencies in Pune including SOFOSH at Sasoon Hospital. And I was told that as I was 33 years of age I would not get a child of less than 1 year age as I desired, but of 5 years. It would have been difficult to make a 5 year child get adapted to my home environment. Other agency named ‘Preet Mandir’ also chalked out a long procedure, and a long time period for the adoption process. After running around to many such agencies, I even got suggestions like visiting a brothel to find out whether any sex worker would be willing to part with her unwanted newborn. I was so frustrated running around for both, adoption as well as my medical treatments, that at a point of time I started thinking of going in for the suggestion, but I was not sure what legal procedure would make this kind of adoption safe. What if the biological mother of that child turned back on me after few years to take the baby back. I had the courage to visit a brothel for picking up a destitute baby, but did not have the courage to lose the child after giving her all my love. I again started chasing adoption agencies for my purpose. My cousin knew a social worker who worked for the remand home at Shivaji Nagar. After having put a word to him, we were suggested to visit an adoption agency in Latur. I immediately spoke to my husband and we took the decision to visit the place.

My first visit to the adoption agency at Latur was a very heart moving experience. This orphanage housed around 200 children from different age groups. When we met the main trustee, we were asked various questions about our background, and asked for various documents. We were also given a form to be filled about our personal and financial background. As we were willing to adopt a girl child of less than one year, we were showed three girls in that age group. Out of the three girls, we liked one girl whom the orphanage had named Durga as her features were more like that of mine when I was of her age. She was 7 months old. I could feel the bond between the child and me as soon as I picked her. I was sure my search for my baby has ended here. After having given the approval for adopting Durga, we returned to home to complete all the paperwork required to be presented in the court for legal adoption. As per my investigations with advocates, I discovered that no legal adoption law provided for adoption by Muslims. There is The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, which applies to Hindus only; and The Guardianship and Ward Act, 1890, which applies to non-Hindus i.e. Christians, Muslims and Parsis. Preparing the set of papers was another uphill daunting task. Looking at me toiling so hard to get the paperwork done people in the neighborhood started tossing words like ‘why do you want to go for adoption now with such lot of mess involved  in the process’ With talks like these going around, I was again faced with lot of dilemmas. Would I be able to ever complete the mission I had undertaken ? But the seed of my motherhood were not sown by the thought of having a biological child, it was more for taking care of a little life that is left alone to live as an orphan.

I then came across a Hadith of the Prophet (Sallal Lahu Alaihi Wa Sallam)  in a book titled ‘GUIDELINES  FOR  THE  FAITHFUL’, compiled by Taufique Ashfaque Abdul Karim. The Hadith and the narration are as mentioned below :

It is narrated by Sahal bin Sa’ad (R) that the Prophet (Sallal Lahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) stated – “I and the person who provides maintenance for an Orphan will enter the Paradise like this,” while saying this the Prophet made a sign with his first and the middle fingers held together. (Bukhari – Kitabul Adab)

An Orphan is one whose father dies in childhood. Such children are weak and are generally in need of maintenance. To take care of them is to take care of the weakest section of the society, therefore, its reward is also very big. Quran has very strongly stressed the need to pay the dues of the orphans and has exhorted to help them in a very effective way. And the Holy Prophet (Sallal Lahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) is called ‘the guardian of the orphans and the Master of the slaves’. In this hadith, the Prophet has given the glad tidings that the person who looks after the orphans will go to paradise in so close company of the Prophet as the first finger and the middle finger are close together.

It may be noted that these glad tiding is only for those who are believers and perform righteous acts. The infidels and disobedient persons cannot claim to deserve Paradise merely on the ground of providing maintenance to the orphans. This fact is clear from the teaching of the holy Quran and Sunnah, therefore, they have not been repeated at every place. In an effective speech, ifs and buts are not mentioned as they are generally understood, and everybody knows it, provided common sense is used.

Same is the case when because of your efforts someone gets closer to Allah, you inherit all the nekis that he and his generation and through him if the deen spreads.

This Hadith indeed cleared the dilemmas of my wavering mind. When Islam supports Kafala of an Orphan so strongly, then why should I leave behind the thought of adoption ? With a new zeal I once again started the quest for completing my task. Almost all the paperwork was complete. Only one character clearance letter was required to be taken from the Police authorities. Acquiring this letter was another big problem. As we were staying in our residence for less than five years it took lot of convincing to the police authorities to issue the letter. For about two weeks we were just running around the officials of the Commissioner office and local police station explaining them the reason behind our requirement for the character clearance letter. For hours together from morning till late evening we sat outside the police station skipping our meals, just to get the task done. At last after a fortnight we got to meet the PSI at our local police station who took a considerate view of our request and issued the character clearance letter. With this letter all my paperwork was complete and I was eagerly awaiting for a call from Latur. But to my uttermost disappointment I got a call from the Latur Orphanage saying that Durga was not legally free for adoption. I could sense that the orphanage had probably found another takers for the girl who were ready to pay more donation. I visited Latur once again to meet and convince the trustee. But even after many requests, my application was turned down. All my dreams came crashing down. I felt sad for the fact that there are so many orphans under that roof whom I have seen half naked, crying out with hunger, sleeping on the bed with all the dirt they have passed out around them, some lying on naked floor without anyone to pay attention. I saw children there running madly behind a lady who had come to distribute sweets in the orphanage, children eating food as if they have not been fed for days together. And last but not the least two small three days old babies lying in incubator. When enquired with the caretaker, she said that their mothers had left them in the hospital soon after giving birth and the hospital had sent them to the orphanage; and one had died just a day before we visited. With all this going around, I was just not clear why I was being denied the custody of one child. I was being given petty excuses by the trustee that we could not adopt because we were just married for two years. When I confronted this point with the facts that no law as per my knowledge puts condition for the period of marriage of adoptive parents, and the fact that even single parents were eligible for adoption; my words just went on deaf ears of the trustees there. The orphanage seemed not to be taking care of orphans, but treating them as assets on their balance sheet which would be sold out to wealthy adoptive parents. With little knowledge and support about any legal proceedings to be followed in this case where the orphanage itself was unwilling to give child for adoption, I returned home with very less hope of ever adopting a child.

But soon after that, the social worker who had directed us to the trust in Latur, told us about another orphanage in Bhosari named ‘Bal Anand’. Without wasting any time, we visited that orphanage, and had to undergo the same old procedure of answering questions and form filling and what not. As we had requested for a girl child below the age of one year, we were told that presently there was no child with the orphanage as per our preference, and we will have to wait till such a child arrives in the orphanage.

After constant follow-up with the Bhosari orphanage, another social worker working with that trust told us that we can adopt from another trust named ‘Snehalay’ at Ahmednagar. I accepted the suggestion halfheartedly under the impression that things might not turn out positivethere also. But my husband always as a guiding beacon encouraged me to go ahead and see what happens of this opportunity. We then visited ‘Snehalay’ and as we had most of the papers ready, we were asked to submit those papers to their office. As per our earlier experience of demands of money by various persons at every junction of our task, we even tried to offer some incentive to Mr. Ajay Wable at Snehalaya, to get the work done faster. But to our great surprise and satisfaction, this man steadfastly denied taking any money and assured us that at Snehayala things are done without taking any such kind of bribes in the spirit of keeping up the moral values of the noble task of this institution. Soon we were taken to their orphanage and shown a 4 ½  months baby named Susmita. In her red little top and pants Susmita seemed to be a very quite child. We were given to hold the child for atleast an hour, and to our utmost satisfaction, we found the baby to be fit and quite in nature. We then gave our consent for adopting her. However, to our surprise and joy, after about three weeks of our visit, we had a Social worker from Snehalay visiting our residence for investigating our background and after about ten days we were asked to visit Ahmednagar again for getting the medical tests of Susmita. And a week after that the court gave its date for handing us over the baby.

It was 5th October 2007, a day of my life I can never forget. With all the preparations of new dress, feeding bottle for the baby and the donation for the trust (for the upbringing of the child when it was under their custody), we left for Ahmednagar early morning. I could see my husband’s face lit up with the expression of “We have made it to our goal !!!” and so could he read the same expression on my face. By about 2.00 p.m. in the afternoon, we completed the court procedures and the baby was handed over to us. No dictionary in the world holds the words to express feeling we experienced while taking the custody of our baby girl. She was just a week less than 6 months. With her round eyes resembling two black jewels with star like twinkle, Sasmita looked at us with an innocent ‘mama I am your daughter’ kind of expression. With her two little fingers in her mouth which she kept sucking, the sight of this little angel made a cute treat for the longing souls of parent in us. My naked infant thought had taken the form of our little adopted child whom we named ‘Binish’.

Binish turned out to be a lovely baby. In just few days she started responding to my love as my own biological child. She is so lovable and liked by everyone who sees her. On many occasions even strangers walking on the road or standing in a queue by our side pull her cheek out of affection.

As Allah has made all human beings from a single pair of Adam Alaihisalaam and Hawwa Alaihisalaam, there are no arguments on the fact that Binish is not born from my own flesh and blood. I and Binish are from the same flesh and blood of the pair that Allah created every human being from.

Once there were two women who never knew each other

One you do not remember, the other you call mother

Two different lives shaped to make yours one

One became your guiding star the other became your sun

The first gave you life the second taught you to live it

The first gave you need for love the second was there to give it

One gave you nationality the other gave you name

One gave you the seed of talent the other gave you aim

One gave you emotion the other calmed your fears

One saw your first sweet smile the other dried your tears

One gave you up --- it was all she could do

The other prayed for a child and God led her straight to you

And more you ask me through your tears,

The age old question through the years

Hereditary or Environment, which are you a product of ?

Neither my darling – neither. Just two different kinds of love

(from the book ‘Ours by Choice’ by Nilima Mehta)

 Here is the cutting of an article I read in Times of India recently :

Was suicide only way left for that childless couple ? There are many couples who have the financial ability to undergo all the expensive infertility treatments, and there are some those who cant afford it. Why cant those who cant afford it, think of adopting a child instead of taking childlessness as a curse upon them. Why not this deemed to be curse, be changed into a blessing for a child who has no one to take care of. There are many couples who are childless and there are many children who are parentless. Wish all the childless couples in this world take the welcome decision of adopting a child. Probably then there will not be a need to set up homes for the destitute children. Probably many orphans who so often fall prey to child abuse and child labour at some cruel hands, will have loving arms to keep them safe. And not only those who are childless, but also those who have atleast one child can make up their mind to adopt another.

As Nilima Mehta says in her book “Ours by Choice” :

Joy and pain are two sides of the same coin. In this world, there exists beautiful things alongside human tragedy. Among the most heart-breaking tragedies are those that involve vulnerable children. There are thousands of destitute children who need the love and security of a family, and many couples who have love in their hearts to share and crave to be parents.

Adoption brings them together

Life is beautiful. There is no point in just existing. Each one of us have been sent here to LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST ! The true joy of Life is to use it for a purpose. Life is not a brief candle. It is a sort of a splendid torch which we have got to hold up for the moment and make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to the future generations.

From all my experience of adopting and parenting an adopted child I realize that we only need the WILL to make our LIFE worth living, and the WAYS are always available. Once you focus on your GOALS, SITUATIONS work around you. Our great men have written words of wisdom to be used when hardship must be faced. Life obliges us with hardship so the words of wisdom shouldn’t go to waste.

Every woman at a point of time in her life has to travel to the land of  Motherhood, but my journey to this land was through the path less traveled.