I Adopted A Newborn Orphan At 22 Years Old, And It’s The Best Decision I’ve Ever Made

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How It All Began

“I used to type into Google ‘the latest age women can have a baby.’ Before and throughout the university, I had gone on many trips and travels. I could not wait for more adventures and wanted them to continue for as long as possible.

I had no idea that my biggest adventure was awaiting me just around the corner and it would change all my plans.

After I finished my last lecture in July 2014, I was pretty much straight onto an airplane; I flew to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. My friend then flew out to meet me and we traveled around, going on safari and relaxing at the beaches in Zanzibar. Soon after, she left and I headed to Uganda where I had booked a two-month trip to volunteer in a children’s home. I then had plans to go down to South Africa alongside several other countries. Yes, I was THAT typical young white girl. The one that could not wait to love on some babies as part of my travels, ‘do my bit,’ and then move on. Looking back now, I am horrified at my naivety and lack of self-awareness. Despite this, I would not change a single thing as every choice I made has led me to where I am today.

woman going on a life changing journey to africa
Courtesy of Emilie Larter

I got stuck straight away at the children’s home changing nappies, helping with meal times, and entertaining the children. I had only been there about one month when the manager of the home received a phone call. A mother had tragically died, leaving behind seven children, including a newborn baby.

We jumped on the back of some Boda Bodas (motorcycle taxis) and rode deep into the villages, where we arrived at a burial. A 5-day old baby was placed into my arms. I was only 22 years old but, at that moment, my life as I knew it changed.

There was no one in a position to care for the baby, who was sadly not even given a name before his mother had passed. He was placed in the children’s home to be raised. As the mamas at the home were so busy with all the other children, the charity director asked if I would help out and be the baby’s main caregiver, just to give him that extra one-to-one attention a newborn needs. I accepted without any hesitation.

woman holding her new son
Courtesy of Emilie Larter

Falling In Love With Adam

When we reached the town, I unwrapped him from the bundle of blankets he was in to reveal this teeny, tiny baby boy. I don’t think I had ever seen or held such a young baby. He was perfect. Adam. He was given the name Adam. Baby Adam.

I extended my stay. For two months, I stayed in town to look after Baby Adam, and my life completely revolved around him.

I did the night feeds, the nappy changes, and the rocking to sleep. He fell asleep on my chest every night. It is safe to say, I very quickly fell in love with him, and I guess he loved me too. Whenever he would start to whimper, I’d hold him in my arms and talk to him. He would stop in an instant. He never cried, not really.

Adoption entered my mind but quickly left it too. I knew it just was not a realistic option. I was so young. I had just finished university and had not yet got my first job. Besides, international adoption was expensive AND difficult. The adoption laws in Uganda meant it was extremely rare for a single woman to adopt a male child.

woman's son as a baby
Courtesy of Emilie Larter

We moved back to the children’s home and my time was shared a little more between the other children, but he remained my top priority. I raised money to buy baby formula, nappies, and clothes. I extended my stay again…But after over 7 months in Uganda, it was time to go home. I couldn’t be a volunteer forever.

The Heartbreak Of Separation

I was broken. My friend brought him to the airport to say goodbye. Of course, a 7-month-old baby had no idea what was going on, but I did. I still don’t know how I got on that plane.

Back in the UK, he was on my mind every single day. I got myself a teaching job. Each morning as I walked to work, I tried to hold back my tears as I listened to the songs I used to play for him on repeat: Einaudi’s I Giorni, Bebe Cool’s Love You Every Day… I had the biggest hole in my heart. From afar, I enrolled him at a British nursery school and funded his baby formula. Even if I could not be with him, I wanted him to have the best possible start in life.

One day, I received a message. Baby Adam was in the hospital with severe malaria. I called my Dad in floods of tears. All I wanted at that moment was to be there with him, comforting him and making sure he was okay. It was then that I realized I could do this no longer. I would find a way. I loved him more than anything.

mom taking selfie with her son
Courtesy of Emilie Larter

My Return To Uganda

Christmas 2015, I went out to Uganda on my second visit since I had left, and I met with a social worker… and then another.  It was official. I was going to pursue adoption. We got the ball rolling and the process of me fostering Baby Adam began.

May 2016, the care order was granted. August 2016, I packed my suitcases and moved six and a half thousand miles across the world, away from my home, to Uganda. I had managed to land myself a job at the only large international school in the area. Everything was working out. I soon came to learn that things were never going to be that simple. We had a LOT of bad luck. My friends would joke about how unlucky one person could be.

The first major bout of bad luck was when cutbacks were made at the school and I lost my job mere months after moving to Uganda. I had no idea what I was going to do. Adam had just moved in with me; I was finally living with him and raising him. How could I leave him?

mom giving her son a kiss
Courtesy of Emilie Larter

The GoFundMe That Changed It All

A colleague saw my anguish and suggested I reach out to family and friends with a GoFundMe page. Reluctantly, I set one up and shared it. One morning I woke up and people from all over the world had donated to it. We were all over the internet, in newspapers and magazines. We were interviewed on live TV, I did countless radio interviews. I had barely told anybody about my plans to adopt Adam before I moved to Uganda. I had not even shared it on my personal social media. Now, everyone knew our story.

The way people rallied together to support us was incredible. To this day, I still cannot believe it. We had enough money to complete the adoption and my family had offered to support our living costs until I was able to secure another job. At that point, I don’t think anyone could have imagined I would be in Uganda for over four more years.

The Long Road To Adoption

I watched people adopting come and go, come and go: not everyone had the same experiences as me. For us, the adoption process was extremely difficult. Everything that could possibly go wrong, did. From canceled court dates to our lost file to names spelled incorrectly, you name it and it happened. After two failed court hearings, we finally stood before a Judge in December 2018. Seven months later, she declared me legally Adam’s mom. It had been nearly five years since I first held Adam in my arms. I cannot describe the sense of relief I felt when I heard those words.

It still wasn’t over. We had to get the written ruling, the adoption order, his name changed, his passport, and his UK visa.

woman happy with her sons papers
Courtesy of Emilie Larter

We obtained an appointment at immigration in order to get his passport. Our rental car broke down on the way and we didn’t make it. We were given a new appointment a week later. At this point, I didn’t think anything else could possibly delay us. I certainly did not predict a worldwide pandemic! We arrived at immigration, but we were not allowed inside. The day of our appointment, immigration closed and lockdown restrictions started.

The end of November 2020 is when FINALLY every single part of the Ugandan adoption was complete. We had the passport and Adam was granted his visa.

January 2021: 4 and a half years after moving to Uganda, we flew to the UK to begin the next chapter of our lives.

son's green card
Courtesy of Emilie Larter

It still was not over. The Ugandan adoption was not legally recognized in the UK; Adam could move there with me but I would not be legally recognized as his mom until I adopted him AGAIN via UK law. We started again: numerous visits from social workers, more court hearings, and background checks.

December 2021, just before Christmas, the UK Judge declared me Adam’s legal mother. Something I had felt in my heart for years. Finally, in both of our home countries. It was official. Nothing could change that now. My baby boy, totally unplanned, totally unexpected. I was just 22 when he was placed into my arms at 5 days old. 7 years and 4 months later, he was forever mine and I was forever his.

The Trauma Of Adoption

Although adoption IS beautiful, it’s important to remember that in a perfect world it wouldn’t exist. Adam went through an unimaginable loss at an extremely young age and that is something he will carry with him his whole life. The monumental responsibility of me, a white woman, raising a black son is not lost on me. I just hope that with my love and support, he’ll grow up to become everything he is capable of being: just like any mother wants for her son.

I didn’t ‘save’ him. I’m not the hero of this story. I just held a baby in my arms and fell in love. I chose love over everything else. After all, love IS what matters.

Present-day: Adam is my absolute best friend. We have a bond like no other. He is such a little character; he constantly has us all in fits of laughter, yet he is also incredibly kind and so caring. He loves animals. He loves his family. He is fantastic and extremely talented at sports. I had no idea who he would become that day I first held him in my arms, but I am so, so proud of him.

Growing Our Family

Believe it or not, we are still not finished… during my many years in Uganda, our family grew. I found my life partner, Josh. Three more children joined our family. Now, they remain in Uganda whilst Adam and I are in the UK. It’s tough. Nothing is harder than your family being apart. We have so many processes left before we can permanently be together as a family, but I know we’ll make it. We did it before, we can do it again. Nothing will stop us.

woman with her family in uganda
Courtesy of Emilie Larter

It’s funny, that 22-year-old Emilie had such huge dreams. I may not have been traveling now for the past 8 or so years as I had planned, but what life had in store for me was so much better. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

woman taking a picture with her son in the snow
Courtesy of Emilie Larter

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Emilie Larter. You can follow her journey on Instagram and YouTube

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