One morning, I walked up to my mother to inform her of my desire to adopt a child when I am married: she exclaimed, “olorun o ni je, won bi iwona ni wa bi ti e (God forbid, you will give birth to your children as I gave birth to you). This my Nigerian mother ehn! The reply was without alarm but said with a soft voice.
Some years after I had informed my mother of my intention, I “popped the question to” my father. And so, during one of our phone conversations, I asked him, “What is your take on adoption?” He replied, “you mean you want to adopt a child?” (Why is my father so quick to jump the gun like this?) I replied, “no, but what is your general perception of this practice?” He said, “there is nothing bad in it, but to what end?” I told him I just see it as a way of blessing others. Then he added “if you want to adopt, you have to give birth to your child. I want to hold my grandchildren. It is a good idea for helping elderly people stay healthy, though.”
There was no difference between my parents’ expressions. Maybe you could try asking your parents, as well.
As Nigerians, we attach the sense of cultural stigma to adoption. To many of our parents, adopting is an absurd idea. Even a mere acquaintance on the street of Lagos has a negative perception of adoption. The unspoken word in my parents’ reply obviously is “barrenness.” I wonder why we associate adoption with barrenness? If you adopt it means you are barren: male or female. Someone is quick to ask you, “have you people gone for reproductive tests in the hospital?”
How did I come about my love for adoption, if you may ask? It is nothing serious. At times random conversations foster the right actions. This grew out of a conversation I had with an ex-boyfriend some years back. While dating this young man, I often said I would like to give birth to five children. This young man was not having it. He wanted to have two or three children. In one of these “number of children” conversations, he asked “have you ever thought of also taking care of other people’s children? Don’t you want to be a blessing to other children?” These questions sounded weird, I actually wondered what went wrong. Later that day, I had a rethink about the ways I would like to be a blessing to other children. From that precious day, I decided that I would adopt at least one child. Ever since I have nurtured this dream and desire.
Nothing sounds more appealing than hearing a woman tell me how she takes care of other people’s children. I met this forty-three years old where I currently work. According to her, she mothered about fifty-three foster children and adopted two of them. I marveled. Deep within me, I thought of how it made sense to this woman to take in children and then later return them to their parents. You might want to ask how convenient it was for her to train these children. Well, she was a stay at home mum for twenty-three years and she fostered these children with the assistance of her church. Even the way she gushed over her two (adopted) sons enthralls me. How can one woman love this deeply? How could this be easy for a woman to call another person’s child her child? This could only be God’s love – AGAPE!
The belief in love makes adoption one of the most natural things to do. The part of the bible that says, “love your neighbour as yourself,” calls us to service. It calls us to accommodate one and another without dissent. Adoption is born out of love. It is an opportunity to share what you would naturally share with your child with another person’s child or children.
Adoption should never denote barrenness. People who adopt children do it out of love, desire, belonging, and joy. They give hope to other children. It is also the fulfillment of the blessings of creation in Genesis, that says “be fruitful and multiply.” The Nigerian mentality of adoption should be quashed. Africa is a communal society, and if we as a community truly want to live to the full expectations and demands of communal living then, we must sincerely show love to one another.
Know that adoption is not only by going to foster homes to take up children. The children that come into our homes as house helps, nannies, and next-door neighbours are also our adopted children. I know of a man who trained other people’s children. I was told he and his wife ensure they trained young children and come to their home as house helps from Togo up to the university level. The ones who would not like to go to school were trained in fashion designing or the like. Later in life, many of these children became so highly placed in top industries in Nigeria and across the world. Today, they see this man and his wife as their parents. Taking care of or loving other people’s children as your own is not about what we would gain in return. I reiterate it about showing genuine love.
My parents believed that to be barren is to want to take another’s person’s child as my child. This interpretation is not close to the reason why adoption is a good thing. I believe adoption majorly for us, should be to keep living, loving, blessing, and embracing community. Not everyone would adopt or love to adopt but the essence of this is to continue living as God’s true creation. This kind of heart starts by showing love to our neighbours.
1. “popped the question to” – to pop the question means to ask a woman’s hand in marriage. This is used in the context out of poetic licence (that is a writer’s freedom to use words or phrases by departing from the conventional usages rules.
2. Olorun o ni je, won bi iwona ni wa bi ti e (Yoruba words) – God forbid, you will give birth to your children as I gave birth to you).