Adopting Abroad: Saira’s Story

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.

7 thoughts on “Adopting Abroad: Saira’s Story”

  1. Aren’t we all naive? I remember making so many assumptions about what life would be like when I started a family. I was lucky enough to be to bear my own children which proved more emotional than I ever imagined. I remember watching EastEnders with wonder at Dot Cotton’s never ending troubles with her son Nick, and her relentless ability to forgive him and allow him more chances. It seemed so simple to me then – ‘Kick him out!’. Now as a mother, I understand.
    There is so much for us to learn about adoption and the long lasting damage that is done during neglect in those early years, months, even weeks. I look forward to being educated.

  2. This interests me – I particularly like the way the author mixes “story” with hard facts. I feel that it would be a “reader friendly” way of communicating the trials of parenthood, whether adoptive or natural parents.
    I look forward to seeing the rest of the story……

  3. I felt uneasy at her yearning to ‘complete’ her family. I have one son. After struggling for many years to have another, I realised that I was blessed to have a child at all. People’s ignorance and insensitivity still catches me unawares – the detail they like to impart about their pregnancies and labour, assumptions about ‘only children’ and the choices that people may or may not have been in a position to make. And the off-the-cuff ‘you can always adopt’ as the quick-fix solution, which devalues those who take that journey in an instant. There seems to be no time – or an unwillingness – to think about things a little more deeply. If we all did, then perhaps the world would be a better place.

    1. It interests me that something which is so devastating to the lives of many just doesn’t get much air time. When you are suffering as a consequence of infertility, as I have done, in whatever form that takes, it has the feel of something shameful, like a dark secret. On top of that and you are absolutely right, the unthinking amongst us are capable of saying the most hurtful things, which only increases the feelings of isolation. In some ways the silence enables the unthinking to carry along their merry way, because they are not gently corrected and helped in their understanding. It is difficult to stand up to hurtful comments when you are feeling lonely and angry (without sounding crazed and I speak from some experience on that one!). But now that I have moved on and adopted children and am happy I feel able to speak out a bit and write about my experiences. People don’t often mean to be cruel, but that doesn’t mean they should be let off-the-hook. And if they continue to be cruel then maybe they are just not nice enough to be our friends!
      Thank you for adding to the debate Victoria. I’m going to add something to the website today which you might be interested in, on the subject of heritage and genes.

  4. I have only had the chance of seeing part 1 and part 2 !!! then it stopped right before she got to see her baby 🙁 does anyone know how or were i can see the rest of the story? i live in edmonton alberta canada and have searched my local listings and nothing !!! BBC only showed the 2 parts and that was it !! 🙁

    1. Here in the UK the documentary was screened in two parts and ended with Saira bringing her baby home from Pakistan. I have searched iplayer and the programmes are no longer listed so I’m not sure how you can get hold of it now, other than looking out for a repeat. How frustrating!!
      Greetings to you in Edmonton and thanks for your comment.

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