September 13, 2021 02:52 PM | by Salma Ihab
Here’s What Lenah Hassaballah Had to Say About Adopting Her Son
We always read about cute adoption stories and how adopting a child changed someone's life, or if you hear the story from the other side, how when they were children, they were adopted and this made a huge difference in their lives, and they are who they are because of this heroic action. Like the famous Steve Jobs, he was adopted by his parents who were unable to have a child so they chose the best option, adoption, and we now owe most of the technology in our hands to him.
Some people still question the entire concept of adoption or adopting, but seriously, we live in 2021, and we should have accepted this idea by now. Many people go through adoption, whether they are married or they can't conceive, or they are not married and want to be parents, or they already have a child and want to have another, and that is what the beautiful Lenah did and she shared her journey on Instagram, and I felt it was my duty to get the story out there for more people to be inspired and to support the idea more.
"Raising a child, whether adopted or not, is difficult, and adopting a child is no exception"
1. Lenah, your story has undoubtedly inspired many people to take the first step toward adoption, but what inspired you to consider it in the first place?
Since I was in school, I had believed in adoption. Living in Egypt, seeing child beggars on the street and sleeping on the floor became somewhat of a norm, and I knew in my heart that it shouldn't be. I've always wondered in my mind what wonders these kids could accomplish in this world if they were given the same privileged life that so many other children were born with.
It sort of started there and grew much bigger when I began my journalism career and focused on human stories, so I really delved deep into poor societies in Egypt, always saddened by the children there. So you could say I always knew I'd do it, and it just felt like the right time when my husband and I took the step.
2. I'm sure the process wasn't easy, but can you tell us more about it? Would you say you chose sayf, or sayf chose to be part of your family?
The process is not for the weak. It takes a lot of patience, self-discipline, and a strong will to truly want to adopt. This will is what will actually push you through all of the government bureaucracy that we are all too familiar with in Egypt. It takes a certain amount of patience to persuade Madam Seham to move her behind and that signing a specific piece of paper so you can finally pick up your son/daughter from the orphanage takes 2 seconds, not two weeks! So there is a lot of paperwork involved if you want to go all the way to changing your child's name, but it's worth it.
We went back and forth between Dubai and Cairo and finished everything in about a year. But Sayf was in our arms for about ten days, from the time we first saw him to the time he arrived at our house. He chose us, not the other way around. God had a plan to bring us to hims. He was the first child we saw at the first orphanage we visited, and when he gave us that first toothless smile, his father, my husband, said this is it. This is my son. And that was that.
3. Adopting a child is a huge responsibility that comes with many challenges; what is a recent challenge you've faced?
The challenge is in raising a child in general. Raising a child, whether adopted or not, is difficult, and adopting a child is no exception. The only difference is that they are told the truth, that they are adopted. I adopted Sayf when he was young, and I plan to start hinting at it when he is three years old. By reading adoption-themed storybooks, for example. According to experts, we should gradually introduce the information to them so that by the age of seven, they are already aware. Otherwise, all of the difficulties are the same as those faced by any mother, adoptive or not.
4. What advice would you give to a parent thinking about adopting a child?
I’d say really be 1000% sure about your decision. Ask yourself if you're prepared for this lifelong responsibility. If the answer is yes, go for it and never look back. Don't listen to society's judgments and prejudices; they've never done anyone any good.
5. You already have a cute boy Sulayman; how did you bring up the idea of him having a brother, and how did he react to it?
We adopted Sayf when Solly was four years old. An innocent, loving little boy, untainted by life's prejudices and judgments. So it was fairly simple for him. We just told him he'd be getting a brother soon. I didn't have to explain much because he doesn't know where kids come from. And, as soon as we brought Sayf home, he took on the role of "big brother" so naturally, and it's been that way ever since.
6. You adopted Sayf at a young age; do you believe parents should tell their children they are adopted or not? and why?
Definitely should. Never lie because the kids will always find out. Read books about adoption to ease them into it. Explain to your children that babies come in two ways: from mommy's tummy and from mommy's heart. Or from the big house of babies. Stuff like that. Keep the conversation going so that it’s a natural thing.
7. We've all heard the heartbreaking story of the girl whose parents abandoned her after the mom became pregnant; what steps do you think can be taken to prevent such a tragic event from occurring again?
To be honest, I believe it is the ministry's fault. They must be more cautious when deciding who can adopt. Of course, some people will fall through the cracks, but others will be obvious, and government workers must look for these signs. I'm not suggesting that they add more paperwork and complicate the process God forbid. I'm suggesting that the process of vetting people out before the paperwork (interview and house visit) be more strict.
8. Some people in our society are still not open to the idea of adoption if you are a single mom, believing that it will end her chances of marriage, as in the Arabic series “leh la2a”. What advice do you have for the ladies who want to take this step but are afraid of society?
As I said before, just go for it and don't look back. Society and what they believe has never served anyone well.
9. How do you raise an adopted child without spoiling them? We understand that most people want to give them everything they don't have, but this is a tricky game in which they end up spoiling them.
I treat both of my children the same way. Some may say I'm too strict, but I have no tolerance for disrespect from either of my children. It's difficult because, as a mother, I want to give my children everything they want, but I also want them to be balanced, respectful individuals. So I try to discipline and spoil while maintaining a balance between the two. It's hard!
10. How can people help support orphanages or orphaned children? Besides money donations
When sending money, always always follow up to see where it is going. Call them, pay them a visit, and ask them questions. It's frequently stolen. Donate diapers, formula, and clothing, as well as a follow-up!
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