In this family-oriented (read: nosy) society, the pressure that not having a child puts on a couple must be great, with the incessant questions and unsolicited opinions. And with extremist mamas abound on social media, it is difficult to shield yourselves from the parade of proud parenting.
I've seen what the desire for a child can do to people, both men and women, how even the slightest mention about child-bearing and parenting can set them off; and how it eats them up inside and puts a strain on their relationships. I watch with sadness what my friends and other people go through.
But if the desire to raise a child has become such a life-consuming obsession, where even the slightest reminder of it can suck you into a black hole of despair, why is adoption hardly ever considered an option?
Some people opt for adoption, but it is yet the norm for Indonesians. The source of their reluctance varies: What if my parents don't understand? What if my in-laws are against it? What if I don't love my child? What if the child doesn't love me? What will people think? What happens if the real parents one day claim the child? What about the legal status? How will my bloodline continue?
Speaking from my personal experience, all of these concerns really do not – and will not – matter.
I am a single heterosexual man, and years ago when my best friend Mia became a single mother, I decided to help her look after her baby. We built our houses next to each other, and we’ve since raised our daughter together as a family.
Emma is now 12 years old, and while both her mother and I each have our own personal (love) lives, we are her parenting units. My bond with her and her mother is stronger than an ordinary friendship, stronger even than blood.
Emma may not be my flesh and blood, but my love for the child is seamless, and it is unconditional. At her young age, I can see already the strong and confident woman she will grow up to be. She carries herself the way I do, has the same likes and aversions, and for better or worse, shares the same stubbornness as me.
And she says without hesitation that she is, in fact, my daughter.
Without a doubt, I see myself in her eyes. I am passing on, through her, something more important than my familial bloodline. I am passing on my way of thinking and how I view the world around me.
I believe your love for your child, regardless of the biological ties, will be so great it will defy all odds. It will be so strong, your parents and in-laws will come to terms with it, and they will understand. And because of that, you wouldn’t care less what people think. Because, really, why should we be concerned about the opinions of people who are narrow-minded enough to put so many conditions and pre-requisites on love?
But your case is different, you may say. Yes, in my case I know the biological mother, who is raising the child along with me. But I know friends who adopted children without knowing who the parents were, and they feel exactly the same way. Their now grown-up adopted children never consider them anything other than their real parents.
Perhaps it’s absolutism that prevents people from adopting. The narcissistic belief that our bloodline is so important to pass on, and that a child lacking our genetic make-up is not a perfect child. Or could it be religious concerns?
I was baffled when I heard of a friend’s in-laws’ argument not to adopt: They fear the fact that the child is not a muhrim (a lawful spouse or a blood relative) to them, may later create some (presumably sexual) tensions with the adoptive parents. Meanwhile, their childless situation continues to rot the couple’s relationship, often triggering violent spates.
Will there be an ideal condition for adoption that’s guaranteed and bulletproof? Probably not. But then again, the same can be said about your current marriage, or having kids in general.
The way I see it, if you want to have kids, you’ve got two options: live a life of longing for a child that it gnaws at you; or raise a child who needs your love and whom you will love with all your heart, and who will bring joy into your life. It’s no contest. You could be missing out on something that is very rewarding.
Love is love, whether or not it involves your flesh and blood. And family is truly what you make it. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.
Ethan, who, like many Indonesians, goes by one name and carries two cellphones, runs his own business in Jakarta. Though he often laments it, somehow he has found his groove and decided to stay on.