"When you came to us, you already knew how to eat" - about "in-vitro kids" and adoption
Nino Khazhomia, 40, Tbilisi. In-vitro kids and adoption in Georgia
“Given my biological parameters, I should have been childless. If it hadn’t been for advanced medicine, I would have never had a child. Saba, who is 13 now, is our genetic child, born to me and my husband through in-vitro fertilization. I was constantly repeating that if Saba were born, it would be a real miracle. It’s a common knowledge that there is a so-called ‘branch’ within the church that is against any progressive ideas, including, in-vitro fertilization, that is prohibited by it.
Years after, I had a serious quarrel with one of the priests, who told me that I should have been anathematized, because I dared acting against the God’s will and did an in-vitro. He said, God wanted me to be childless.
It caused my strong reaction: ‘If my childlessness had been through the God’s will, then an in-vitro fertilization would have been also unsuccessful and you’d better anathematize your grandma.’
Saba was born successfully, though during 9 months of pregnancy there was a great risk of miscarriage. Throughout that period I was constantly thinking about having one more child whom I would adopt…
This decision had a certain precondition.
A decades ago, I did a journalistic investigation for the ’60 minutes’ program. It was about a 3-year-old boy, who lived in Kojori orphanage and who was mistreated there. I remember one scene: a 3-year-old child folded his clothes and put them under the pillow together with his footwear before going to bed, so that nobody could grab them and he wouldn’t be left without clothing the next day.
That scene was a real shock for me and it would never be erased from my mind. It was then that I first thought that no matter how many children I had, I would surely adopt a child and provide it with family care.
I put that idea into effect when Saba was 1,5 years old. My husband and I lined up to adopt a child.
Our decision was taken very aggressively by our parents. Although my mother is a religious person, she spared no effort to convince me that I made a wrong decision. She told me it was ‘shameful’, that genetics meant a lot and that we wouldn’t know what kind of person an adopted child would grow into. But I didn’t listen to anyone.
Probably few are aware that there are two ways of adopting a child in Georgia: legal and illegal. An illegal way implies that you choose in advance a pregnant woman, who either didn’t want to or couldn’t do an abortion and who is going to give birth to a child with the aim to further foster it.
Such women are paid money and a baby is discharged from maternity house under the foster family name. It should be a regional maternity house, since it’s easier to arrange a matter with the doctors there. The prices vary: some children cost US$2,000, others – US$5,000 or 10,000.
At first I chose a legal way. We filed an official application for child adoption. Some major requirements to a child could be indicated in this application. For example: skin, hair or eye color, ethnic or religious origin, physique etc. We didn’t indicate there any preconditions for accelerating the adoption process. And any child was acceptable for us.
Despite that we were waiting in line for 10 years!
When I called the adoption agency 4 years after submitting the application, I was told I was 662nd in a wait queue, which meant that by simple arithmetic calculation we would have adopted a child at the age of 70-80! There is a legislative drawback. Although there are many children who are deprived of parental care in Georgia, but a child isn’t included in the list of those subject to adoption provided that someone visits him/her in the orphanage at least once in 6 months.
It could be even a distant relative, whom a child barely knows. A child may thus live in the orphanage until his/her legal age. He/she is regarded as a child who will potentially return to his/her family. Therefore, child adoption is a rather lengthy process.
So, a decade of waiting passed. It was December 28, 2013. The New Year preparations were underway. Suddenly I received a phone call and was told that a child was found and I could visit him in a foster family in Rustavi. I was told his name was Nikoloz and he was 9 months old. At first I thought, it was part of some hilarious New Year pranks by the Comedy Show guys. Under my estimates, our turn shouldn’t have come that early. Later I was told that Nikoloz was a child so-called ‘rejected by everyone’.
I decided to visit the child the next day. Saba was already 11 at that time.
I couldn’t sleep that night. It was the most crisis night in my life. I was suddenly overwhelmed with fear. I got scared at the very idea that at some point I might have focused more on Saba and Nikoloz would have merge into the background; that I might have felt that I had made the biggest mistake; that I might have gone soft and followed my relatives’ advice.
It was the night of struggle that finally ended with Nikoloz’s victory. And I made a decision.
Our first meeting in Rustavi convinced me of the correctness of my decision. As soon as I saw a boy wrapped in blanket, I realized that it was my son whom I had been waiting for 10 years.
After my consent, we were to undergo certain bureaucratic procedures- court, public register, meetings with social workers. You first had to complete all those procedures before you could take a child home. This process took us 2 years.
Throughout that period I was often thinking about Nikoloz’s biological mother. I was kind of sympathetic to that woman. Maybe she had been facing hardship and had no money to provide for her child and that’s why she decided to abandon him?! I decided to find that woman to have a woman-to-woman talk with her. If she had told me that she wanted to get her child back I would have supported her financially on monthly basis.
So, I started looking for that woman; I found the region and the village where she lived. What actually made me stop was that during that search I discovered that she had never struggled for her child, she just left him in the maternity house and fled.
Nika first came to our house on February 28, 2014. We slept in an embrace that night.
My fears that I would focus more on my biological child turned out to be groundless. It doesn’t actually matter, whether you give birth to a biological child, carry it in your womb, or adopt a child. The most important is your contribution, care and love to a child. I don’t even remember that Nika is not my genetic son, and I don’t make any difference between Saba and Nika.
I think, it’s a great mistake when parents lie to an adopted child and conceal that information from him/her. In my opinion, parents are driven by some egoistic reasons. A child should know who his biological parents are. I will tell Nika about his mother if he wants to learn it when he reaches a relevant age so that he could realize all that.
Nika is 4 now. But we have some preparatory conversations. For example, he would asks me from time to time: ‘Did you breastfeed me?’ And I would respond: ‘No, I didn’t. When you came to our family you were already a big boy and you ate ordinary food.’ Then he would ask me again: ‘And where had I been before I came here?’ And I would tell him: ‘You had been staying with a very nice family that had taken care of you for a couple of month and then we brought you to our place.’
Since Nika has come to our family we celebrate his birthday twice – on February 28, the day we brought him home, and March 13, the day he was born. I think it will help him realize things painlessly and make it easier for us to explain everything to him.
The most ruinous for me are those stereotypes, when I’m told that I shouldn’t reveal to the child the truth that he is adopted, that it would be stressful for him. I believe that the most stressful will be if I conceal that from him and he will still learn it from some ‘well-wishers’. The child will, more likely than not, blame you for making him live in lie.
I’m often thinking, whether I will be jealous or not if Nika want to see his mother and decides to live with her. Then I put it as follows: there are no grounds to be jealous, because the reason we need children is not that we would like them to pay back a ‘contribution’ and take care of us when we get old, but rather to bring them up as decent and loving individuals.’
‘Women of Georgia’ social project is implemented by the ‘Women’s Voice’ initiative group (auth. Maiko Chitaia; Ida Bakhturidze; Nino Gamisonia). Photo: Nina Baidauri; Salome Tsofurashvili. The projects is carried out with the assistance of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the financial support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).