As good as it gets: Motherhood by adoption, its joys and challenges
Dr Ayshe Talay-Ongan, Psychologist and Author
I was all of 16 when one day, I rushed out from the bathroom barely wiping my bum, and yelled out to my dad in glee. “Dad, dad, I’ve decided on my daughter’s name — Coral!” I said, being absolutely addicted to the azure waters of the Mediterranean in my homeland. He looked at me with a wry smile. “In the army,” he said, “we used name our faithful work horses Coral.” My beloved Dad was oblivious to how this comment was likely to shatter his daughter’s spark.
Then at 36, weeks before I was to be married to a man who already had a young son, I had to have a total hysterectomy. Together with sliced off bits of me, gone was my dream of motherhood. I consoled myself in all manners possible (partly because he wouldn’t): the kids I worked with were “mine” as was the stepson; so what’s the problem? Get on with it!
When I finally realised that I was destined to become a mother, I was in fact guided my a series of dreams, in which a little girl kept calling me to come get her. At 39, I not only had my baby, but having learned that it was doable, I breastfed her for three months! I felt proud as a peacock, being able to share a skin on skin experience with her that no birthmother could. Oh, bliss…
She was my gift from the seas, and so she defined herself from the time she could toddle. She knew and she was proud. When in primary school, she learned to say that she was the chosen one; that her parents had her by adoption. She asked the peers who bullied her to ask their parents why they had them.
My major challenge was to let go of the common conception that I was a noble person for having adopted an abandoned infant. I hated the idea of my child being indebted to me but copped the “compliment” from others pretty steadily. Then one day, I was able to open my eyes to the fact that neither my child, nor I would have been whole without each other. I needed her as much as she needed me. Case resolved and closed.
My daughter is 25 now. She takes her name from the seas; she is beautiful, temperamental as she is loving, searching for her path in life, and recovering from a work related back injury. Looking at her, I can but send a prayer of gratitude for she has given me an unwavering purpose in life. She has, in fact, not only made me a better (less self-centered) person, but made me feel that I belong to the human race.
I’ve often asked her whether we should make an effort to locate her birth mum. She laughs at the idea dismissively and adds that she knows all she needs to know. She can name her great grandparents and their offspring, their places of birth and death, if not their passions.
I sure can’t.
Then I look at women I know who are dying to conceive with IVF, adamant not to adopt. If they only knew what they were missing…
Fiction, 456 pages
Sid Harta Publishers, Jan. 31, 2012
Set against transcendent love, unrelenting hatred and loyalties to friends and family, Turquoise is the story of an enduring and passionate love affair between Yasmin and Renan, which spans two decades, two marriages and three continents.
Yasmin and her Armenian classmate Ani were oblivious to ethnic differences during their school years in Istanbul. Years later they run into each other, and Ani introduces Renan, her husband, to Yasmin. At that moment under the blazing autumn skies, as Yasmin locks eyes with Renan, she knows that she has come upon her destiny. But political tensions in their land soon force Renan, her secret love, and his family to immigrate to Sydney.
A few years on, Yasmin’s diplomat father is appointed as the Turkish Consul General to Los
Angeles where the family faces a devastating tragedy that will impact their lives in ways
unfathomable. She is now forced to make a choice between passion that defines her and reason
that guides her.
When so much is stacked against Yasmin and Renan, how can love possibly triumph?
Excerpt from Turquoise
Mum is already at the Sunset Flat a couple of days before I arrive, getting the house in order. My trusted friend Alev picks me up from the airport. It is nearly sundown by the time we’re home. I feel drained and lightheaded having travelled half way around the world. With embraces, excitement and jubilations, the three of us sit on the terrace and have a quick cold beer and leblebi, roasted chick peas.
Mum, who is reticent about wearing bright colours, has on a cream silk shirt with burnt-orange swirling paisleys atop her brown pants. She looks simply splendid. ‘Last stretch before I become a Grandma…’ she says dreamily.
‘Waiting these last few days will be agony,’ I mutter.
‘A brilliant decision, Yas. Just wonderful!’ She rises. ‘I must leave and get dinner going for the family,’ she says. When she hugs us at the door, she lingers, then touches my cheek. ‘Hey, sister,’ she says in a tremulous voice. ‘Let me know when you plan to bring my baby niece home.’
Mum and I toast the sunset to be followed by a much-missed mum-cooked meal, I know. Draped by the last spilling golden rays, Topkapi Palace looks even more regal and Haiga Sofia even more grand this evening. Talking about what’s ahead, we tingle like we were young girls eyeing boys. There are sparkles of genuine joy in her eyes and quickness to her step.
‘Come,’ she says as she takes my hand. ‘I have a surprise for you.’ She leads me to her bedroom and there is a white wicker basket crib, the very one I slept in as a newborn. ‘It was a bit of a hassle bringing it here from Ankara,’ she explains. ‘And see the sheets? I’ve kept them all these years, too. All scrubbed, washed, ironed and ready for my granddaughter. And your first baby blanket. But this is new,’ she says, handing me a small linen pillow threaded with exquisite spring flowers which spell Derya. ‘I’ve embroidered it for her. Her first pillow.’
Thanks to Ayshe for writing for the blog! I’ve been reading Turquoise and loving it so expect a review soon!