After a working day, I was browsing through my Facebook feed like I usually do everyday, and was met with a post from 2018 of a woman with a boy. The first thought I had was how much they look alike, which was something normal for a mother and her son. What grabbed my attention though was what I found out after reading the rest of the post and the comments people left. The post was the woman's story with her child which she has adopted. I found myself following her Facebook page called 'An Adoption Story in Egypt' for weeks reading what she wants to share and encouraging millions of women to adopt or support children.
When November started, which is National Adoption Month, I decided to approach Rasha Mekky for an interview with Fustany about her story of adopting her son Mustafa and how it was a turning point in her life.
First, talk to us about the time you decided to adopt a child, how did you make that decision?
I adore children so much and always dreamed of having many kids of my own. So, for 20 years I tried to get pregnant but it never worked. After 7 years of constant trials, which all failed to solve my pregnancy problem, I started thinking of adopting. Taking the definitive decision and action was very hard because I've never heard of any family that adopted a child in Egypt. I didn't have enough information about the process or how adoption even works. What made things harder was my insistence to adopt an Egyptian child even though I live in the USA.
Were you always open to the idea or notion of adoption in general?
Of course, I've always been very open to the idea of adoption. All I've ever wanted was to have a child and be a mom, it never mattered to me if I gave birth to that child or if I adopted. All my life I have believed in the concept of adoption but I never imagined it would give me the same feeling of motherhood like being pregnant and giving birth.
The decision to adopt isn't easy, especially when it comes to convincing the husband. How did you manage to do that?
I never really had a hard time convincing my husband Mohamed to adopt. Since we first met he's always known how much I love kids and how I always wanted to become a mother, so he encouraged me to adopt. He is also very attached to our son Mustafa since day 1 and they love each other very much.
There are many women who do have a hard time with their husbands' approval of adoption. After I created the Facebook page 'An Adoption Story in Egypt' I got hundreds of messages and calls from women who don't know how to convince their husbands and it truly is a struggle for them. I always try to give them advice and offer to speak to their husbands with Mohamed.
What do you think a woman should ask herself before taking the step to adopt a child?
Think it's just one question but it's an extremely important one... 'Am I really ready to take the responsibility of adopting and raising a child or not?'
These children are not a game you can spend some time on and then abandon. From the moment you adopt, that child is your son and you are his only family. Taking him back to the orphanage is not an option if you find that the responsibility is too much for you. Such a thing would permanently damage the child.
Women always associate the feelings of motherhood to pregnancy and giving birth, so they never think adopting would feel the same.
You could think that before taking the step, but once you actually adopt and the child is in your home, things change completely. Even though I've always been convince of adopting, I never imagined that I'll feel that much love inside me towards Mustafa. Now, after raising him since he was a baby, feeding him, seeing him grow in front of my eyes every day, I can't imaging my life without him.
Whenever I talk to other women who already have kids of their own but decided to adopt as well, they always say that there is a special love between them and their adopted children that is different than their own kids.
So, how would you describe your life after adopting your son?
Just like any normal family, and my son Mustafa has never felt anything different. I even sometimes forget that he's my adopted son. Just like any other family I share with him every detail of his life, I take him to school, go to training together, hang out with friends. We also have the same problems any regular family would have. Life is very normal.
A lot of families find it hard to tell their kids that they are adopted for many reasons, How did you deal with this?
It's true, a lot of families are very confused about telling their kids they're adopted, and some of them wait until they are older and go with their children to a psychiatrist to tell them. In these cases, the child might face an emotional trauma and the trust they had in their families gets crushed. Our children are not mentally ill to need a psychiatrist to treat them or tell them the truth. It all falls on us, we should be honest with them from day 1 and there will be no problems at all.
For me, I talked very honestly from the first day I adopted Mustafa and told him the truth. I also told him many stories about adoption and read him books about it. I even introduce him to others as my adopted son and now he is used to it and understands it very well. When he grew up a little more I started telling him more details that he can understand. So, I've never lied to him or hid the truth and this is what all parents should do.
How did that affect Mustafa?
His trust in me became very strong, he is even suggesting that we adopt a second child now. We sat down and discussed it together and I asked him many questions. Will you love him? Will you share your toys and clothes with him? Will you let him sleep next to you? He was very excited and enthusiastic, he even told me that he will treat the new baby like I treated him.
Bullying has been spreading now more than ever. Do you think adopted children are more prone to bullying than others?
They are like any other child, so they aren't more prone to bullying. In fact, we should be working on building their self confidence so they can face the world. Being honest and open from the start with them and making sure they understand all the facts and their circumstances, they'll be strong and confident to not feel they are different from anyone else. Which in turn will not make them subjected to bullying more than any other child. Our children are not mentally ill, we're the ones who make them ill.
Tell us about the Facebook page you created and what do you aim to achieve from it?
The page 'An Adoption Story in Egypt' has many goals, and here are the main points:
1. Encouraging people to adopt and helping every woman who wants to be a mom fulfill her dream.
2. Spreading awareness to Egyptian families who would like to adopt a child, from the procedures, to how to shorten the time needed, to how to treat the adopted child.
3. Helping Egyptian families who adopt a child and migrate to another country (specifically USA) since I've become very aware of all the procedures. So, they can shorten the time to one year instead of taking too much time like in my case.
4. Collaborating with one of the organizations here in the USA to help Egyptian families living in any of the states in completing all the legal matters if they want to adopt a child from Egypt and come back with them to the USA.
5. Increase the awareness of christian families who don't know the procedures needed to adopt. I'm trying to communicate with churches and officials to know all the details and the locations of the christian children who are allowed to be adopted.
6. Helping foreigners who are married to Egyptians and living in Egypt adopt children, because many think that it's not allowed.
7. Providing the posts on the page in both Arabic and English languages to help Egyptians born in other countries and don't understand the Arabic language to be aware of everything related to adoption from Egypt.
8. Translating all the books and stories about adoption into Arabic, even filming some of them as videos of a mother narrating a story. It's meant to help Egyptian families who have adopted a child and want to tell them their truth.
9. Finally, we aim to make these orphanages empty where all these children find homes and families to raise them. Now, many orphanages contact me to tell me whenever new children join them.
Every experience has it's pros and cons. Does that apply to adopting a child?
Mustafa changed my life... The experience of adopting a child has no cons or down side. In fact, it has given new meaning and worth and beauty to life. For me, before adopting I used to do everything, I work hard, gain money and then spend it all on traveling and shopping. Even though my life might have seemed full of fun, there was always something missing. But having a child at home has made everything feel different. I found the true meaning of happiness seeing him grow up in front of my eyes and raising him everyday.
For more details about adoption and it's procedures, please visit the Facebook page An Adoption Story in Egypt.