By Amina Saeed Shams, New Star Kafala Blog Contributor
I always loved you. I was always looking for you. I prayed for you before I knew you. You were always mine.
People often ask me why I chose to adopt. As someone who has two biological children it is probably the question I get asked most. To be honest, adoption was never a choice I made; I always felt it was my duty and my destiny. I felt it was the answer to a deep yearning that lived inside me. I would read and reread the Rumi verse ‘What you seek is seeking you’ and feel as though it was my child’s sweet whisper in my ear.
Even as a young child I gravitated towards stories about orphans. I would think about our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the tragic loss of parents he suffered in childhood and cry myself to sleep. I would think about the suffering experienced by children all over the world, and it would make me feel immense pain and gratitude to Allah for a good life. I would dream of someday being a wife and mother, and growing a family through adoption.
As I was growing up I would share this dream of mine with all my friends and family, convinced that if I said it enough it would come true. Every choice I made in my life was in preparation for this role. I chose to study Public Health, focusing on Maternal and Child Health. I chose to work in a company that offered maternity leave for adoptive mothers. And I chose a good partner.
Omar and I were introduced through our families. I was immediately drawn to him and asked him in one of our earliest conversations if he would be open to “growing a family through adoption.” Without a moments hesitation he said, “I had never thought of it before, but I just don’t see why not.” And in that moment my dream turned into our dream and this beautiful journey began.
We married, finished our educations, established our careers, had two beautiful, vibrant, loving biological children, and prayed. Eight years later it was time to start actively finding Younes. It was a crisp September morning in 2013. I was finally in a position to be a stay-at-home mom and focus on the adoption. For years, I had collected numbers of people who had adopted from Pakistan and stored them in my phone under the title “adoption contacts.” I started calling these people, one by one, asking them to share their adoption story with me and tell me about the process. By the third phone call I felt weak in the knees and was breaking into sweats of anxiety.
Pakistan, it turns out, is a very complicated country to adopt from. I was told that if I “knew people” it would be easier and that I should be prepared to live there for at least 6 months. Bribing people to get birth certificates made is also common practice, I was told. As a first generation American, with no strong roots in Pakistan, I knew this was not going to be possible. I felt defeated. I shared all this information with Omar, who suggested we adopt domestically instead. We had previously been to an information session on Domestic Adoptions and the Foster process. Omar was convinced this was the way to go, but I resisted. There was something in me that just didn’t feel comfortable with this option. I wanted a child that looked like us, and shared our religious background. I felt that with all the emotional and social challenges an adoptive child already faces, it would be easier on everyone to have a child with shared identities. I thought about how a child who did not inherently share our Muslim background may grow up to resent being raised in the somewhat restrictive culture. I just didn’t feel at peace with that choice.
The day after these phone calls, feeling totally defeated, I went on a fateful shopping trip with a new friend. As we chatted and got to know each other, she asked me if I wanted more children. With the emotion still raw, tears started to flow down my face. I told her about my dream of adopting, and how I no longer saw a way. She abruptly turned to me and said “Well, its not THAT hard to adopt.” I shot her a look of complete exasperation. She explained that just that very day her friend had left for Morocco to adopt a child. She said she knew a few families that had adopted from Morocco and that the process seemed fairly easy. I could not believe what I was hearing. It immediately just felt so right. Omar and I had recently been on a vacation to Marrakech, Morocco and had completely fallen in love with the people and culture. It seemed as though fate’s hand was gently pushing me in the right direction, towards the child that was destined for me. It was a truly profound moment of feeling God’s presence in my life in a very real way. I couldn’t wait to get home and start looking into adoptions from Morocco!
In the next post I will tell you about my first phone call to Wafa Bennani, the visionary behind New Star Kafala and more about our journey to find Younes…