Adoption taboo must end, says Hong Kong mum who gave up baby and another who adopted
One went through the pain of giving up her daughter, the other through the joy of adopting: both say it's time for the community to talk
Hong Kong's Chinese community must overcome a taboo surrounding adoption and be more open in discussing unplanned pregnancies.
That's the plea from two mothers - one who gave up her newborn after hiding her pregnancy from her family, and an adoptive mother who has witnessed firsthand the difficulties faced by local couples.
Birth mother Lily said that after the initial shock of falling pregnant, she decided adoption was best for her unborn child.
"Back then I could not have taken care of her at all," Lily said. She considered an abortion, but decided against it after hearing her baby's first heartbeats, despite the father of her boyfriend offering to pay for the procedure.
Ten years ago, at the age of 20, Lily gave birth. The baby's father was four years younger than her.
"I didn't tell my mother," said Lily, who was afraid she would be thrown out of the house. "I sometimes wondered if I should've told her. Maybe she would have understood."
Her elder brother took her to Mother's Choice, an independent non-profit organisation that offers adoption services and support to young pregnant women facing difficult circumstances. Her brother lied to the family, saying that she was studying out of town while she stayed at the group's hostel and gave birth. Lily only saw her daughter twice - once after birth at the hospital and once in a taxi as she took her to a Mother's Choice centre.
"When I handed her over, I felt like someone had pulled the skin off the back of my hand - the pain," she said, as tears rolled down her face.
Adoptive mum Fran Gowlland often tells her daughter Lucy that her birth mother loved her enough to choose the brave thing to do - adoption - for her sake.
Gowlland has been involved with Mother's Choice since adopting Lucy six years ago.
"It was meeting some of the local couples [at the classes] - only then did I understand the tremendous pressures they have," she said. "I can see why they would be reluctant to tell people about it."
Some extended families - especially of the older generation - would not be supportive of having a child "not of their own blood", Gowlland said, while prospective parents worried about how the community would see the child.
"Anybody who says you cannot love a child not from your own flesh and blood - I cannot imagine loving Lucy more," she said.
"There's no way I could feel any more love for a biological child.
"You could not separate the two - that absolute mother's love and that parents' love is there, regardless of who gave birth to the child."
The number of successful adoptions in Hong Kong has hovered between 105 and 122 per year since 2005, with adoption of local children by overseas families making up less than a quarter of cases, according to the Hague Conference on Private International Law.