As a battle-hardened parent of two adopted children (my husband Rob and I adopted from UK social services in 2002) I watched the documentary on BBC 2 ‘Adopting Abroad: Saira’s Story’ with mixed feelings. I identified with Saira and her husband Steve’s yearning to complete their family. Yet I felt uneasy with her insistence on finding a baby amongst those left by poor mothers in the special cot in the entrance to the orphanage in Karachi, which was healthy. But then I remembered my husband Rob and I filling out the tick box part of the Form F (the form completed by a social worker when assessing a prospective adopter), having to decide upon the extent of a child’s difficulties we felt able to cope with. We littered the boxes with crosses, each one discounting hundreds of children needing adoption. Saira explained her insistence: not wanting to disrupt and burden her existing family (she has a two-year old birth son Zac) with hospital visits and medical treatments. It wouldn’t be fair on them. At one point she put her point uncomfortably to a couple who had adopted a baby from Pakistan with complex health problems. ‘Knowing what you know now, would you have adopted a sick child?’ she asked of them as the love for their daughter shone from their eyes. I cringed.
Saira’s near-obsession with the health of the child melted away as soon as she laid eyes upon her baby, which she named Amara in the taxi on the way to the hospital. She soon saw the baby as a vulnerable soul, born with nothing, who had no one else in the world to care for her. Amara’s state of health became immaterial. It was wonderful to watch the bonding process at work.
I have been reminded of how naive I was when we started the adoption process and of how much I have learnt along the way. Had I been followed by television cameras, I would surely have been captured saying some outrageously stupid and crass things, so who am I to judge Saira? Difficult though the approval and matching processes can be, the challenge and the learning only really start once a child or children are placed. Many of us then find ourselves trying to raise traumatised children with little or no help and with the constant whisper in the ear ‘they should be alright by now’ which comes from all around. I hope very much that the cameras will continue to follow Saira and Steve, for their journey has only just begun. And I wish them and their little family all the very best.