Wale is a 25-year-old lawyer and the only child of his parents, and they showered him with love and all
the care they could provide. He was confident in their love and concern for him all through his growing-
up years until they both died in a car accident, while they were traveling to attend a family event in their
hometown. He was devastated by the sudden loss and felt all alone in the world. All shades of relatives
showed up and started demanding the sharing of his parents’ assets, which shocked him to the marrow,
and he vehemently opposed it. They had not even concluded plans for their burials, and they were here,
arguing very cold-heartedly about sharing assets. That was when they informed him that they knew his
history and they will tell him in case he didn’t know…..that he was adopted as a baby after his parents
had battled infertility for several years. So, he should just keep quiet when the family was talking. He
was devastated when the family lawyer confirmed this to be true but reassured him that they had left a
will and he was the sole beneficiary.
But it was not about the wealth and the assets. He suddenly felt lost and without bearing. It was almost
like he had lived a lie all his life. His mind was in turmoil. Who were his biological parents? Why did they
put him up for adoption? Are they still alive? Could he possibly have siblings? Why didn’t they want to
keep him? And as he was entertaining these thoughts, he was also conflicted about the only parents he
had ever known. He loved and cherished them and was grateful for all the love they had shown him. But
he also felt a twinge of regret and some bitterness that they never confided in him so he could ask them
all the questions he had now that couldn’t possibly be answered anymore.
Last week, we started this series with three scenarios involving Mr. and Mrs. Emeka, a loving couple who
had been married for 12 years and were struggling with fertility challenges and critical comments from
both sides of their families. We also introduced Alhaji and Hajia Halidu who had a 7-year-old son but
Hajia needed to have her womb removed when she was bleeding continuously after the c/s to deliver
her son. They had always wanted many children and were now considering the option of adoption.
Lastly, we narrated the story of Bose who dropped out of school due to financial challenges and married
a Mechanic who loved her but was killed in a car accident within a few months of her delivering a set of
twin boys. She struggled with the thought of trying to bring them up by herself and the real possibility
that they may also end up on the streets without education. She was entertaining thoughts of putting
them up for adoption by a family that will take them together and promise to guarantee them quality
education and a good home. That way, they may stand a chance of having a better life than she could
ever afford them.
This week, we introduced the perspective of an adopted Wale who only found out after the demise of
his adoptive parents. In all these scenarios (names are fictitious), it should be clear that adoption
provided a viable alternative with potential benefits for everyone concerned. But that will only hold true
if it is handled the right way by everyone concerned.
Some Emotional Challenges of Adoption
Adoption clearly carries with it, several emotional challenges for everyone concerned. The parents or
single parent who put up a child for adoption may be wracked by guilt and regret afterward and
sometimes may wonder how the child is faring. An individual who was adopted will struggle for a long time and will continue to wonder why their biological parent felt they could do without them. Was it
that they were so worthless to their biological parents? Yet they are so treasured/loved by the adoptive
parents? What really is their place in the family and in society? The adoptive parents often dread having
to tell the child that he/she was adopted – for fear that they may lose the child. Many never do, as we
saw with Wale above. But this is unfair and not in the best interest of the adopted child.
Open and honest conversations from early on, is the best strategy for everyone concerned. There are
emotional challenges, but this can, and indeed, also occur with biological children and all families. The
most important take home is that they are surmountable. Adoption, should and can be a win-win for
everyone and the wider society at large.
Dr Jibril Abdulmalik
Tribune Article for the column “Your Mental Health & You”
Thursday, 4th August 2023