Influencer Naomi Neo’s recent video revealing she found out she was adopted has sparked many questions about the topic. But what is it like when you conceive naturally after adopting the first time? We speak to Linda Isham to find out...
Adoption brings up a lot of questions, opinions and dilemmas. When is the right time to tell kids they’re adopted? And how to tell them in the first place? Linda Isham knows this more than most. As a mum of two, one daughter who was adopted and the other conceived naturally, she knows all about breaking the news. Here’s her story on how she went about it, and her advice for other parents who are facing a similar scenario…
CONCEIVING NATURALLY THE SECOND TIME AROUND – HAVING A BABY AFTER ADOPTION
Linda was a 28-year-old flight attendant who had been married for four years to her now ex-husband. After a round of IVF, which ended in disappointment, the couple knew they were always open to the idea of adoption, but neither realised how fast that option would become available. After the failed IVF, Linda’s mother had a friend whose daughter’s classmate was pregnant. It was a teen pregnancy, and the young mother knew she wouldn’t be able to raise a baby at 16. Linda’s mother asked Linda if she would be interested in meeting the baby. Here’s what happened next…
Hi Linda! What was the adoption process like in a case like this?
Ayra, my daughter, was two months premature when I held her for the first time. She was mine – I just knew it. I made the decision as soon as we met. She slept over that night, and the next day her birth mother came to visit with her health booklets. That’s when I found out she had a hole in her heart, a condition fairly common in premature babies. It didn’t change anything; as I said, she was mine. I engaged a lawyer with help from a friend who had also adopted. That was it, a pretty easy process.
Most mothers have nine months to prepare, whereas this happened so fast – did you have any worries?
I didn’t worry about her condition; my main concerns were the same as any first-time mother. Will I be able to do this? Am I doing this right? Can I give her the life she deserves? Many worry about the bonding, but that came the second I held her. There was never a need to build a bond; it was just everything else. Luckily I had great support from my family, who bought plenty of baby essentials and gave me all the support any new mother would have needed.
You decided to tell Ayra she was adopted at age nine – was that a mutual decision?
While going through the adoption process, we needed to attend an adoption forum. There were doctors, psychologists, experts, and of course, people who had been adopted. We listened to everything, and the common thread was to tell the child early. The people who were adopted were the biggest influence on our decision. They all shared that they found out later in life and agreed that they would have preferred to know earlier. We wanted to tell Ayra at 7, but we did it at 9.
What was that process like?
By then, I was remarried to my current husband and already pregnant. I knew I couldn’t wait anymore. The new baby was coming, which would mean less time and attention on her. She had been the only child for nine years. I didn’t want her to find out she was adopted and feel that’s why she was getting less attention or felt she was less loved. It’s only natural in any family when a new baby comes; there is a slight and temporary shift of attention. I told her in front of the family because they had been my support from the start and wanted to be there to support Ayra should she take the news badly. She cried for a while but very quickly accepted things – there was no difference.
Now that you’ve carried your second child and breastfed her, is there a different bond?
I really don’t feel a different or stronger bond. I adopted Ayra when she was two months, so very young. She was so tiny, 2.4kg like a little kitten. If anything, I felt Ayra was more loving; she was very manja (loving) as a baby, and she always wanted cuddles and didn’t mind being held. My younger daughter Nova is the total opposite. She wants to put herself to sleep and walk without holding hands. She’s very, “just leave me alone, mum, I know what I’m doing!”.
What are some things you’d tell parents who are hesitant to break the news to their child?
It’s always best to find out from you. You can control the narrative. You owe it to your child to be truthful. Adoption is a good thing; it shouldn’t be hidden and made to seem shameful. I strongly feel telling them young is the best move, which worked for us. However, every situation is different. You can’t force someone to do something their heart isn’t willing to do. Maybe they don’t have the same support I did – you never know their circumstances. In those cases, do it in your own time. Only you know when is best for you and your child.
When would you tell Nova that her sister was adopted, and what would that conversation be like?
I’d probably like Ayra to tell Nova in her own way. Maybe when we’re all in bed together snuggling and being cosy, she can tell her little sister the news. Nothing too serious, just in a light-hearted child to child way.
How would you feel if Ayra wanted to have a relationship with her birth mother?
I doubt she’d want to have a relationship, to be honest. I have the birth mother on Instagram, so she has seen what she looks like and her half-siblings. I’m fine if she visits her birth mother over Hari Raya or festive periods, but playing a role in her life, probably not. Ayra is super close to my first husband’s family and spends a lot of time with them, and she’s close to my family, so there wouldn’t be extra time for more families!
Are there any plans for your current husband to adopt Ayra? Would it make her feel more part of the “new” family?
Not at all. Ayra has a great relationship with my first husband. Her father. She stays with him every weekend. At the same time, my current husband loves and treats her like his own. A piece of paper isn’t needed to make her feel “more” part of the “new” family. She knows that everyone loves her. Nothing can change that.
Got a story you’d like to share? DM us and let us know!