We already introduced Josephine in an article about her painting. We talked to her once more to collect her double experience of adoption in Peru. Thank you Josephine for sharing with us your very interesting story!!!
My strong interest towards pregnancy and birth started in India, where I was living with my husband. At this time I used to work with communities, especially with women during birth giving and in the after birth period. When I went back to Cambridge I was so lucky as to attend some psychology courses at the university with a team of professors and students that were very interested in intrauterine life. At that moment I had already been told that it would have been extremely difficult for me to get pregnant. When I moved to Peru, in Huancayo, where my husband was working, the idea of a possible adoption had already begun to take shape. I also wanted to continue working with women on birth giving. As soon as I arrived in Peru I therefore put myself in contact with one of the hospitals, and I started attending its paediatric yard regularly. I spent time with the children, assisted them, made them play, in short I was doing everything no one else wanted to do. The situation of that yard was awful. Most of the children there were abandoned and nobody wanted to take care of them. Those were the difficult years in Peru, and many of the children at the hospital were orphans of the terrorism. They were usually kept in the hospital for the first two years, and then were sent to the reformatory in Huancayo, where they remained until they were 12 in a special department created for them. At 12 they moved straight to the prison, together with the young criminals. This situation hurt me a lot. Seeing children suffering was very painful.
André – mother in 24 hours
My neighbour in Huancayo was a youth attorney. She also went to visit these abandoned children, but in another hospital, the Carrion, not the one that I was attending. In that hospital there was André, my son. I saw him one day when I went with Katie in one of her visits. André was 7 months old, and he had been abandoned at birth because the parents had mistakenly been told that he had died after birth. When the misunderstanding was explained, he was given to the couple, who did not want him because they thought he was not their child. When I saw him for the first time, I was shocked: he was dirty, malnourished, in a filthy bed… I went closer to look at him, and he held out his hand towards me. We chose each other reciprocally. But the father was not in the picture yet. I told my husband that I strongly felt that one was my child, and the same had to happen to him. So I sent him to look at the child, and he felt the same. Than night we spoke until 4 am. We had lots of doubts and incertitudes. The child had lived the first seven months of his life in a state of almost complete abandonment, and it was impossible to know whether this had provoked any kind of damage. But we both felt very strong that this was our child. At six I was up calling Katie: she had told me that if we wanted the child, we could have him on a temporary adoption basis immediately. At seven Katie and I were outside a baby shop waiting for it to open, and buy all that was needed. When we got to hospital, I did not want to go up. I left Katie go and get him. I waited into the car, and in the end I was a wreck. More than one and a half hour in a state of total agitation, fear, anxiety and expectation. Katie was late in coming back because she was feeding André, who was very slow in drinking his milk from the baby bottle. When she arrived with bundle, and we were heading home, I was so excited that I almost had a car accident. My husband was waiting for us at home. When I put André in his arms, he started crying. This is how I became a mother in 24 hours. But the adoption was much slower… yes, because once we had the approval of the Peruvian authorities, we had to adopt him in Italy (at that time I did not have British citizenship yet). Since Italian judges did not recognize the parenthood that Peru had granted us, they warned me through my layer that the child would have immediately been taken away from me, had I landed on the Italian territory. The once Italian consul certainly did not help the situation. We went to see him to try and solve this complicated burocratic matter, and all he was able to tell us was “had you had your own children, all this wouldn’t have happened”. My husband and I stood up immediately and went to the British embassy, that luckily treated us very differently. They gave us a temporary permit to go to England with André and to start the adoption procedure there.
Anna – a mystical adoption
André was three and we were still living in Huancayo. I was very busy with a local theatre group, I was working a lot and I was very happy. We had been talking for a long while of the possibility to adopt a girl, sooner or later, but we had not done anything in concrete terms about it. At the time of André’s adoption I had told the hospital to call me in case they had an abandoned girl. Time had moved on very fast, though, and we were all absorbed by our lives.
One night I dreamt that I met a little girl. I met her and I knew she was my child. I woke up rather upset by the intensity of the dream, and that same morning the hospital called me to tell me they had a four days girl that had been abandoned on a chair in the hospital. I rushed to see her, and she obviously was the girl I had seen in my dream. She was Anna, my daughter. My husband had left for Cusco, and even before talking to him, I presented my demand of adoption to the judge. I called my husband in the afternoon, and told him that I had seen an abandoned girl… his reaction was rather sharp, we were all working a lot at that moment, I had little free time, he did not think it was the right time, etc. I kept calm and asked him to wait until he saw the girl before taking a decision. He came back some days later, with a dark face but a doll in his hands. And so Anna was given us in temporary adoption. There was a problem, though: a nurse of the hospital had seen Anna and had also deposited her demand of adoption. I was advised to be as fast as possible if I wanted the girl, because other persons were also interested in her. When the judge called us (me, my husband and the other couple that had asked to adopt Anna), he told us that we were both good families and apt to adoption, and so, lacking elements for his decision, he would chose the ones that had deposited the demand first, that is to say us. The couple appealed, and there was no guarantee about the final decision of the court. Anna was already part of our family and I could not even think of her being taken away from me. I went to talk to the nurse that had appealed. It was a long and moving meeting, with lots of tears and emotions. I explained to her that Anna was already part of our family, she already was my daughter, and that it would have been terrible for all of us to lose her. The couple withdrew the appeal.
Marco – the surprise
It is incredible how easy it is to have a biological child compared to adoption. Pregnancy is easy, giving birth is easy, but most of all the fact of giving birth speeds all procedures up. While I had to give up adopting my first two children in Italy, and I had to wait for a long time (and with the anguish that you can imagine) before obtaining the adoption in England, everything was fast and automatic with Marco. This is incredible and hard to accept.
Adoption also presents another aspect that is not part of having a biological child: friends and relatives divide between who agrees and who does not agree with the adoption. When we adopted André, many people stopped talking to us from one day to the other. If the fact that he was a Huancayo child (Huancayo was the terrorism cradle in Peru), people of other nationalities clearly told me that they were against international adoption and broke with us.