After years of unsuccessful fertility treatments, a mother has discovered firsthand the joy of adoption. Joyce Gan explores how Andrea’s experiences brought her to help other parents answer the difficult question: "What about adoption?"
* All names have been changed.
ONCE UPON A TIME, Andrea was a successful marketing manager for an MNC. She loved her job and her husband John, a successful man.
They were married when she was 25 and he, 27. Both did not want children then and assumed they could conceive when they were ready for parenthood.
“The problem then was how not to have children,” said Andrea.
Four years later, when they wanted to start a family, they discovered they could not conceive. Andrea also faced irregular period problems.
Many treatments followed, but “every month when my period came, it was a reminder that I was [still] not pregnant”, Andrea sadly recalled.
The couple could not understand why they had everything except the baby they desired so greatly. So they started to discern what God’s message for them could be.
When the couple visited Lourdes, they experienced emotional and spiritual healing.
“There, we surrendered and asked God to show us what He has planned for us and said we’ll stop doing it our way,” she remembered.
Soon, John’s company assigned him to the U.K. and Andrea followed. Coincidentally, she was introduced to NaProTechnology from a leaflet taken from St. Patrick’s Church.
This treatment aims to restore fertility naturally by identifying and correcting underlying causes of couples’ infertility. (For information, visit www.fertilitycare.com.sg).
She followed this lead to Ireland where she learnt that self-injection with hormones was part of the treatment.
Initially, she was afraid.
But, with John’s support and prayer, she drew courage and went through with it. This turned into almost two years of painful injections and mood-altering medications.
Still, she persevered.
Returning to Singapore interrupted the treatment as then, NaProTechnology was not readily available here. Also, five years of unsuccessful fertility treatment had emotionally drained Andrea.
“I felt like I was at the end of the road and that I should [just] throw myself into a job since I couldn’t conceive anyway,” she admitted.
Throughout all this, Andrea and John had never considered IVF (in-vitro fertilisation), because they are Catholics.
The Church teaches that IVF is morally unacceptable because it dissociates the procreative act from the sexual act.
In addition, they were informed that there is a low chance of conception (30 percent), and risk of premature birth which could lead to other complications.
“Apparently, [the children] also contract cancer earlier in life,” Andrea revealed.
The couple agreed that a child was “a gift of life” and “not just to satisfy our own need to be a parent”. Wanting to have a child by such means despite the risks and possibilities of illnesses showed a lack of responsible parenthood, she said.
“Normal conception also exposes [a child] to such risks, but that’s not within our control,” she added. “It is just unnatural to play God.”
The turning point
In 2005, the couple met a social worker who raised the idea of adoption. John had once suggested it while Andrea was undergoing fertility treatment but she was not ready then.
It was different this time.
He was 37 then and Andrea, 34. “He did say we’re not getting any younger and that adoption does not put an end to conceiving naturally,” Andrea shared.
They enquired further and found that a baby girl was due in a couple of months.
“In contemplating adoption, I did grieve the fact that I may never experience pregnancy but I overcame the mental hurdle through prayer and trust in God,” Andrea recalled.
Jane was born prematurely and then they were put to the test.
The social worker called with bad news: their child had a blood disorder, and added that the couple could change their minds about the adoption.
Standing by the cot while hearing this, Andrea imagined Jane as her biological daughter. Immediately, Andrea knew that she would not let her go. “This was probably God telling us: ‘This is your baby. Whatever condition [she is in], you will have the strength to love her’,” said Andrea.
The blood disorder turned out to be insignificant. But for Andrea, it was a moment of realisation that come what may, she would embrace this child with love.
“We just want you to know”
Now, Andrea finds little difference between biological and adoptive motherhood. “Pregnancy is just for nine months. Having a child is for a whole lifetime. Motherhood is definitely more than just pregnancy,” she explained.
But unlike biological parents, adoptive families should reveal to their child his/her adoption through a process called ‘disclosure’.
Though disclosure remains optional, the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) has made it compulsory, since 2007, for all adoption applicants to attend a workshop on adoption disclosure.
Adoptive parents are encouraged to disclose their children’s adoption as early as the age of two when children begin forming their identities.
“People have different reasons to disclose but mainly, for us, we knew we would need 1,000 lies to cover one,” said Andrea. “We want a family based on love and trust.”
So Andrea started practising when Jane was just nine months old. She encouraged Jane to pray for her “tummy mummy”.
“My words came out sounding clumsy, awkward, hurtful, so I started to write them down and to refine a few lines,” she said.
When she shared this with her support group at Touch Community Services – the community arm of Faith Community Baptist Church – the members encouraged her to continue writing.
After a year’s work, Andrea compiled the writings and launched a book titled “We Just Want You To Know” (see sidebar) in June this year.
It just had to happen this way
Andrea still remembers a time when she felt disappointed by God: “It was a far greater pain than disclosure. I wanted to stop going to church. I told God, ‘I’m a good person; I’m not wicked. I help anyone I can.’ Both John and I felt this way.”
But now she thinks differently: “With my gynaecological complications, I may not have been able to go through pregnancy. I had to go through those five years to learn perseverance and patience, and become a better mum to the wonderful child I have today.”
Her journey may have been “God’s plan for me to be the mother I am today. It just had to happen this way”, she said.
For those struggling with infertility, she has this to say: “Consider adoption as an option to starting a family. Adoption is [also] a real way of building a family. Our daughter has given us so much fulfilment and completeness as her parents – it isn’t just us giving her love; and disclosure helps us to journey… as a family.”
Andrea and John are currently in the process of adopting their second child.
“We Just Want You to Know – Our Journey to Becoming a Family”
is a beautifully illustrated book to help adoptive parents disclose their child’s adoption.
Written by Andrea Yee and illustrated by award-winning Kristal Melson, the book describes the yearning for a child, celebrates his arrival with the family, and other significant moments in the journey of adoption.
Each page is decorated with colourful animals, birds and insects making it relevant to people of all races, religions and family compositions.
Half the book is dedicated to affirming the child of his adoptive parents’ love. The second half serves as a ‘Life Book’ where pictures, notes and drawings may be pasted to customise the book, making it the child’s very own.
“We Just Want You to Know” is priced at S$28 and is available at Catholic News Book & Media (2 Highland Road, #01-02), and other bookshops.