The adoption option.
Subject: Adoptive parents (Beliefs, opinions and attitudes)
Children, Adopted (Appreciation)
Author: Baumgarten, Robin
Pub Date: 12/01/2009
Publication: Name: Sister Namibia Publisher: Sister Namibia Audience: Academic; General Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Sister Namibia ISSN: 1026-9126
Issue: Date: Dec, 2009 Source Volume: 21 Source Issue: 4-5
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Namibia Geographic Code: 6NAMI Namibia
Accession Number: 222399164
Full Text: On average, Namibian courts approve roughly eighty adoptions each year. When executed properly, with the best interest of the child at heart, adoption offers a chance for a loving family and the support one needs to grow up healthy and secure. For the adoptive parents, adoption gives a new opportunity to love.

A difficult choice

For Martha and Peter*, the decision to adopt was not one they took lightly. "I wanted to have a child," says Martha. "But nature did not allow." The couple had been struggling to conceive for some time when they opted to adopt. For Peter, adoption had always been an option he was willing to consider. "I believe that every child is everybody's child. In Namibia, ten percent of the population are orphans or vulnerable children. We have the means to do so, so it is a choice I wanted to make--to take on the responsibility, to support and care for one of the two hundred thousand children who otherwise would be left vulnerable," he says.

Martha's journey to the decision was not as easy as Peter's. Martha lost her parents at a young age and was 'adopted' by family members who took her in and raised her. "I did not have a positive experience," she recalls. "Whether or not it was in my mind or it was really the case, I never felt that I was treated with respect. I didn't feel that 1 was appreciated." Martha worried that if she and Peter were to adopt, perhaps the child would feel the same way.

Aside from those misgivings, there were cultural challenges as well. In Martha's Ovambo background, giving birth is seen as an important part of womanhood and having one's 'own child' is preferable to adopting. Having grown up with these notions, the difficulties Martha experienced in trying to have a child weighed heavily on her. "People would constantly ask, 'When are you having a child?' 1 know they don't mean to offend, but I just wish people would realise that is a very private question. They don't know what kind of emotions they are bringing up when they ask."

Peter, too, was offended by what he perceived as a lack of respect for the couple's privacy. "In Africa, it seems that the public feels it has a right to be involved in the uterus of your wife," he fumes. "Not just in Africa," adds Martha, "I've experienced those questions in Europe, too."

Opting to adopt

In time, Martha reconciled herself to the fact that having a child of her own was not an option for her, but that she truly wanted to have a child. "Coming from a large family and then being just the two of us, it was too small," says Martha. She and Peter decided that they would adopt, and chose a closed adoption where the identities of the birth mother and the adoptive parents would not be disclosed. Peter describes the process as an emotional rollercoaster, but says he is glad they used the services of a social worker to take care of all the details. "It makes the process so much easier. It frees you up to focus on your partner and the baby," he says.

The baby

Martha and Peter met their baby the moment he was born and have since been surprised by the amount of joy, learning and fun that has come into their lives. "When he walks up to you, with his arms stretched out, clumsily stumbling along, you can't help but fall in love," says Peter. Their schedules have changed; everything they do now revolves around their baby, but they couldn't be happier. "You simply cannot be in a bad mood when he is around," says Martha.

Though they never met the woman who gave birth to their child, they did write a thank you card expressing their appreciation for the wonderful gift she had given them.

"We will tell him bit by bit as he grows up," says Martha, "in a way that he can understand." "As the social worker told us, he will always realise that we are his parents," continues Peter. "And looking around at what could have been, hopefully, he will appreciate the life he has." Would they adopt again? "We are talking about it," says Martha. "It is not nice to grow up alone."

*Names have been changed.
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.