The term ‘ampon’ (adopted) is not unheard of for many Filipinos. Here in the Philippines, where poverty is a serious issue and the rate of unwanted pregnancies is high, we all probably know someone who was adopted or who has an adopted child.
What does it mean, really, to adopt a child? Although no two adoption stories are the same, we try to delve deeper into this very special relationship as two people – a mother and an adopted child – share theirs.
They say that adopted children are lucky to have two sets of parents – their biological ones for bringing them into this world and their adopted ones for taking them in and loving and caring for them. If this is true, then Martha is an extra lucky child for she was adopted not just once, but twice.
Many years ago, a young woman had an unwanted pregnancy. Not ready to have a child, she approached a doctor and expressed her desire to have an abortion. The doctor and his wife, an elderly couple in their ‘60s and ‘70s, convinced her not to have an abortion and instead offered to take care of the baby. The pregnant girl agreed and stayed with the elderly couple until she gave birth, after which she left for her home in another province.
For the first few years of her life, Martha did not find it strange that her parents were so much older than other kids her age or that she would call them Lola (grandmother) and Lolo (grandfather). Her Lola and Lolo had kids who were much older and grandchildren who were nearer her age. She was never treated differently and her childhood memories include that of a loving family.
When she was seven years old, after learning about how babies start in the womb, she asked her Lola how she fit in her Lola’s tummy when she was still a baby. Then and there, her Lola told her how she came to be a part of their family. Martha learned from her Lola that the bus her biological mother was in met an accident and she was, unfortunately, part of the fatalities, and that they don’t know anything about her biological father.
The revelation was not the tearful stuff of telenovelas, “At seven years old, it was a very interesting story to me, but that was all it was to me. It didn’t really make me feel different, at least in retrospect. I don’t think I ever felt weird or strange being an adopted child. I guess it’s because I was always surrounded by love.”
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Martha’s Lolo passed away several years after and her Lola was left to care for her. As Martha approached her teenage years, her Lola became too old to take care of her and decided to look for another family to take care of her. One of her Lola’s daughters, Ruth, who was already married and has kids, was willing and eager to take Martha in, ushering in her story with her third set of parents.
Despite Ruth being her Lola’s daughter, Martha didn’t really see her as a sister, simply because Ruth is just the right age to be Martha’s mother and Ruth’s children are closer to Martha’s age. Ruth and her immediate family became Martha’s family for most of her life, and again, it was a loving relationship and she never really felt differently.
After many years, Ruth found a letter from Martha’s biological mother addressed to her Lolo and Lola. In the letter, Martha’s biological mother thanked them for their help and deemed it best that her child not know anything about her.
Again, it wasn’t a life-altering discovery for Martha, “At first, it felt sad to know that my real mother didn’t want to have anything to do with me, but the feeling only lasted for a while. I was never in need of a mom who loved me, but it really made me wonder about the whereabouts of my blood relatives. But that is as far as my curiosity goes – I just really want to know how the people who share my DNA look like.”
Martha’s story is that of an adopted child who never really pined for her real parents, “If there was a chance I’d get to meet my real parents, I’m not sure I’d want that to happen. Not because I am mad at them; I am actually apathetic towards them. I just feel that meeting them would only complicate things a little bit. I’m not comfortable with the possibility that I’d have to have a relationship with them. What if they’re not as nice as my family and I would have to pretend to be nice to them even if I don’t like them? I’m only interested to meet them as acquaintances, not as family, but then that sounds rude, so never mind.”
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Although Martha grew up with a family story unlike that of people around her, she also never really wished that she was not adopted. She was never treated differently by her family for her to resent them or even wish that she was with her real parents, and for that she is indeed very lucky and grateful.
Ever since she found out about her origins, Martha has used it as an inspiration for her not to put her life to waste, “Knowing that I almost never lived in the first place, then there must be some purpose for me that the universe conspired to make me live this life.” Aside from using it to live a purposeful life, her adoption has also made Martha feel strongly against abortion.
Martha, now an adult and with children of her own, didn't think adopting a child was something she would consider; however, she remains open to the idea because of what happened to her. As a mom, she couldn’t imagine giving up her child to be cared for by another family, “But knowing how my life was saved by adoption, a younger me would have considered it.”
Having her own children now also feels much more special for Martha. She appreciates the relationship she has with her children even more, especially since they are the only people she knows right now who are related to her by blood. Although this does not undermine her relationship with her adoptive parents, she does have a special appreciation of the fact that she now has someone she is biologically related to.
Martha’s story is a testament that love does start inside the womb and is beyond DNA. One’s family is not defined strictly by who carried you in the womb, who saved your life, or who you grew up with. Call it cliché, but in truth, the people around you who genuinely make you feel loved are those whom you can truly call your family.
Names have been changed to protect the subject's identity.