Would You Pretend Your Wife Was Pregnant?

Or, if you’re a wife, would you pretend you were pregnant? Would you disappear for two whole months from your city, having pretended for the previous few that you were pregnant? How far would you go to ensure that nobody knew your child was adopted? Would you therefore by extension, lie to your adopted child, pretending they were boiologically yours?

The social workers asked us if we had any preference regarding skin tone, hair texture, body size… Of course we didn’t. All we wanted was to become parents to children who needed parents. Matching with us, looking like us didn’t matter. But you see, amongst some of us, it’s not only about matching. It’s about ensuring your adopted child is loved.

Love.

I have heard it said that adoption is not welcome in the Black Southern African community. A Black fellow Adventist mom I met via adoption told me of how her husband was asked by elders at church, “Did your wife force you to adopt this child? Did she threaten to leave you if you didn’t?” (ie. It was unfathomable to them that a man would willingly want to parent someone else’s child.) I know of a couple who were asked by the psychologist if their parents were excited about them adding to their family via adoption. Let’s call them WonderWoman and Husband. The child’s name will also be changed. Both WonderWoman and Husband (Black) had not told their parents that they were adopting. The reason? “They hate everything we do. We know they’ll hate this too and just mess up our excitement and joy.”

They were right. The Sunday after their first adoptee arrived, Husband was talking to his mother. He told his mother about their adopting. His mother didn’t say much, but then she sent a whatsapp message to WonderWoman. From the get go, it was clear where this Black grandmother stood as she began with something along the lines of, ‘Congratulations on taking in a child into your home.’ WonderWoman wanted to respond with, “Miss, we gained a daughter. This isn’t charity, this is forming a family out of love.” But she didn’t bother. Husband’s mother then went on with, “What’s her name?” WonderWoman told her the child’s name was Alyssa. Her mother-in-law then responded with, “Oh. Did you know about a girl called Alyssa at our church in London? Her father was arrested. He’s a child abuser.”

WHAT!!???

Seriously? Then she went on to say to WonderWoman, “But don’t you think you made a mistake taking this child? Now you will take even longer to get back into working.” To which WonderWoman responded, “I am currently homeschooling my two eldest children who aren’t even 12 years old yet. I have a long time to go before I’m done educating THEM!

Furthermore, our plan is to be a Titus 2 family. I will take care of my children myself, raising them all, and be a homemaker. When the children are all educated, our plan is for me to be missionary. If not a fulltime missionary, I will use my Psychology degrees to help impoverished women who can’t afford to pay. I will offer my counselling services for free. So…I do not intend on joining the workforce anyway, God willing. So, the question is moot.”

Her mother-in-law did not respond. (WonderWoman googled the pedophile story, feeling profound heartache for a young child whose father’s evil actions were being smeared up on her. Her name wasn’t even Alyssa, it was Lisa.) WonderWoman’s mother-in-laws’ actions showed her thoughts. Slowly, her messages to her daughter-in-law died down. Rumours started floating in the family that she was angry that WonderWoman and Husband had adopted. She stopped sending gifts to all children, even the ones who were biologically WonderWoman’s children lost touch with their grandmother. It was like suddenly, they had no paternal grandmother. WonderWoman felt bad for the children. But she had always known her mother-in-law was..interesting. It just never occurred to her that this church deaconess could ever hate that an innocent baby found loving parents.

But it wasn’t only WonderWoman’s mother-in-law who was anti-adoption. The moment WonderWoman stepped into her parents’ home to show them their new grandchild, her mother asked, “Where’s her mother?” WonderWoman retorted, “I AM her mother.” Then WonderWoman’s mother asked, “Where’s her home?” WonderWoman told her, “Wherever my home is, is her home.” She knew what her mother meant. But to ask that as the FIRST thing, and to ask it in that manner when being introduced, said a LOT. Thank God, WonderWoman’s dad was the opposite. He even asked for her photo of his new granddaughter so he could put it up with those of this other grandchildren. Later, much later, WonderWoman heard that her mother used a disgusting slur to refer to her second adoptee who has obvious special needs. Shouldn’t have been surprising. When they got the second child and it was very clear the child had special needs, WonderWoman’s mother kept asking, “Don’t you want to send him back to foster care? Don’t you want to swop him for a normal child?” like he’s a piece of broken equipment, not her child.

I was part of an infertility group. I had two biological children, and two adopted. Many women (Black) wished to adopt, but their husbands were not into it. One said that her husband’s reason was that he knows “how the community views adopted children”, and he didn’t want any child of his to be hated that way. That was sad, because she was willing to brave the community, or even move elsewhere and pretend she’d given birth to the child. But they couldn’t hide it from relatives….

I have a relative who is single. and in her late 30’s. She told her mother (who knows we have adopted) that she wants to adopt a child. Her mother told her to rather have a child herself, then think about adoption. To me, that’s saying “Go out there and make a child, rather than give us some child who I will not claim as a grandchild. Interesting thinking for an Adventist Christian woman.

I don’t get it. How do you begrudge an innocent child a family? We were sitting in a church one afternoon, and the visiting presenter (Mostly Black members and he too was Black) started talking about love and how we Adventists are fake. His point was that we don’t really love. His following question, “Think about it. How many of you here would say..adopt an abandoned child? A child not related to you at all? And take that child and love him as your own? Put your hands up if you truly would… Come on.”

I looked around. No hands were up. I was pregnant with the twins at the time, so this would be children number five and six. (CRAZY!) I looked around some more… These people knew we had adopted. Well, some knew..the ones we attended Bible study with. I thought, “Oh no. If I don’t raise my hand, he’s going to think we are ALL unloving..” Just as I was wondering if I should raise my hand or if it would seem boastful or proud or ‘look at me’, he says, “See? That’s what I mean. We are fake Christians.” At that point, I couldn’t just maintain a lie, so myy hand shot up. “Well, we would… Actually, we HAVE…”

Then I realised how much deeper his question was. Because he turned, looked at us and his face softened up. He said he had never met people like us before, that he was touched to the bottom of his heart. He spoke as if he wanted to weep. He said it was making him emotional. It makes me wonder today, ‘Was he asking himself that question too?” I wish I could describe his response. It was like when a doctor I took my eldest daughter to asked about our family and after hearing we were homeschooling, that they didn’t have phones, that they do get to be outside exercising, she topped off all her exclamations of amazement with an awe-filled, “Ok, now you’re wearing a halo.” (For my non first language-English speaking friends, who complain that my English requires them to keep a dictionary nearby, in some beliefs, angels wear halos. She was saying that adopting was just .. incredible and rare and only something good people do. I have a whole other post about bad people who adopt but that will be soon, not in this one. And also, looking at our pathetic adoption numbers, adoption IS rare.)

One reason given by non-Christian Blacks for not accepting adoption is that the ancestors will not recognise that child as they do not share the same blood, origins, totems etc. So some have made up ‘introduction’ ceremonies where they introduce the adopted baby to their ancestors. Others can take in a child, raise it, but can’t ever fathom the idea of referring to that child as their own. Ever. To them, it’s an act of charity, not a way to form a family.

WonderWoman’s mother-in-law (MIL) has a brother. He has a child. WonderWoman and the child’s daughter are extremely close. So basically, her cousin-in-law is like a sister to her. They’ve been there for each other through thick and thin. Cousin married a White man, which in itself caused a lot of consternation amongst certain relatives. But WonderWoman and Husband always supported White in-law and Black Cousin. One day after false accusations made by WonderWoman’s mother-in-law about Cousin, she sent voice notes to Cousin. The most hate-filled voice notes WonderWoman had ever hear, and that confirmed her own decision to never speak to her mother-in-law ever again after she made it clear that she only celebrated the biological grandchildren, as evidenced by the way after virtually disowning WonderWoman after adopting, she suddenly loved her to bits when WonderWoman was carrying a biological grandchild thereafter. Gifts suddenly returned. Anyway, I digress.

Contained in the voice notes was a sudden paternity question addressed to poor Cousin who had been raised in the family by her father, WonderWoman’s MIL’s brother. She shrieked, “You are not a biological child of the family. My brother is not your father. You were just dumped on my mother who took you in and he never denied you. But you are not a biological child. You are not part of this family!)

This came out of the blue. And the venom with which that phrase was repeated told WonderWoman everything she needed to know. Her adopted children would NEVER be loved by their grandmother. They weren’t a part of the family. And worse yet, her own mother’s neighbour told WonderWoman that her mother was complaining about her having “many” children. Basically, the children who added to the number by being adopted.

One last example. A friend of ours was sheltering an adopted 21 year old who had a young baby. (Again, obviously, Black adopted by Black parents.) Her parents had died and had left her the family home. Except other relatives had kicked her out, telling her she was not meant to inherit her parents’ estate as she was not their child. Thank God, her parents had written a will, so after some time, she gained access to her home. I saw a few stories like this. Stories isn’t even the right word for such heartache and pain. In a legal group I’m in, I’d come across grieving, orphaned adoptees who were distraught because their ‘aunts and uncles’ were kicking them out of the home, telling them they aren’t family, that the home and goods must go to them, not the adopted child.

So, I ask again. If you knew that your child would be mistreated, ostracised, hated and at the worst moment of their life, kicked and beaten verbally, would you fake a pregnancy to protect them from all of that? A Black couple that adopted from our social workers did. They asked for biological parents who had their exact skin colouring (Had a long wait), and then pretended they were pregnant and needed to go for specialised prenatal care near the end of their surprise late term pregnancy as there were complications with the baby. They flew here to Cape Town and hid while the baby waited out its 60 days before it could be taken by the parents. They then told their relatives that the child had been in NICU (baby ICU) and that that’s why they’d had to stay away for two months. It was the only way to explain returning with an already two month old baby.

Would you lie?

Or would you give that child over to God and other truly Christian Christians and trust that God would be their everything?

I unfortunately can’t lie. And we would not have been able to disappear for three months and four months. But… I wish there was a way to protect my heart and my children’s heart from the things they go through. I know I actually haven’t said anything about my own family situation. Hoping if you read between the lines, you will know what I mean.

PS. It’s not all bad. I have a friend whose family accepted her adopted daughter. They were infertile. My friend I mentioned above? Her church threw baby showers for all expectant mothers but her. Yet they knew she was expecting a baby girl. It hurt her a lot. She was very new to the faith and though she too had biological children, this adopted child was also a child of hers, not just some act of charity. They even took a break from church till leaders came to find out where they had disappeared to. So yes, there are lovely stories amongst us of our people accepting adoptees. My friend mentioned at the start of this paragraph had two baby showers for her adopted daughter. One, thrown by HER church.

It’s not that we want gifts, I mean, I didn’t have showers for any of my biological children either and the baby showers for my adoptees came from within the adoption community. But it’s that it sends out a message. In our church, some people don’t call it a baby shower, they call it a baby welcoming. By not celebrating our adopted children, our churches are saying to us, “We only welcome children coming biologically. The adopted ones you are excited about welcoming as your own, we don’t. They are not a biological child. They are not part of your family. They do not deserve gifts.”

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