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Thank You to a Birth Mother

There is an instinct in a woman to love most her own child - and an instinct to make any child who needs her love, her own. ~Robert Brault,

Mama………… such a beautiful word. It connotates warmth, strength, support, nurturing, discipline, and most of all, a deep, unconditional love.

It, or some variation of it, is used all over the world. But why wouldn’t it be……..motherhood is a women’s issue, a GLOBAL women’s privilege. Can anyone other than a woman give a baby protection within the warmth of the womb? Can anyone other than a woman put a baby to her breast and provide nourishment from her own body? Would life, as we know it, exist without women?

“Mama! Mama!” I hear in the distance, but it is the nudge on my arm that brings me out of my daydream. “Can you give us some chips?’ she asks. I pull myself up from the chair and go to the kitchen.

Glancing back, I can’t help but smile. There they sit on her blanket on the floor. Their heads, topped with unruly, dark curly hair, are so close together that they touch. Their eyes, dark like melted chocolate, stare at the television. “Shaun the Sheep,” one of our favorite shows, is on.

February 21, 2006. I will never forget that day because I became a mother for the second time. Coming to me just a few days before my birthday, I considered her to be my gift from God.

November 10, 2010. Another bundle of joy entered my life. This time a boy. He was unplanned, but nonetheless, a welcome addition to the family. Coincidently, his father, sister and brother’s birthdays are all in November. Yet another of God’s precious gifts.

I have three children. Two of them did not come to me in the usual way. Nor did they come to me with a lot of cooing, awing, and words of congratulations or best wishes from excited relatives and friends. In fact, it was the opposite. The arrival of my children, my beautiful angels, resulted in fights, threats, hurt and rejection.

Although I am not their biological mother, I AM their mother in every sense of the word. They are my adopted babies.

The worldwide statistics about orphans are overwhelming. According to the Third Annual Report to Congress on Highly Vulnerable Children in 2008 there were approximately 163 million orphans - children who have lost one or both parents.

The United Nations Population Division estimates that in worldwide there were 260,000 adoptions in 2010. Sixty percent of adopted children are under age five at the time of adoption. Girls are adopted more often than boys. Birth mothers tend to be young and unmarried.

But let’s bring these numbers a little closer to home.

Israel’s Ministry of Social Welfare statistics show that in 2010, 18 babies were adopted to Arab families. They can not predict how many women get pregnant and have abortions instead of calling a social worker. The birth mothers range from ages 18 – 35. They feel that thay have no options but to give up their babies.

Now back to my children’s story……….

The fact that I wanted to adopt a child was not unusual for me. I knew that one day, regardless of whether I had biological children or not, I would adopt. But as fate would have it, the possibility became a tangible thought in my mind when I realized that I would not bear more than one child.

Convincing my husband was not easy. He is after all, a product of his society.

Amongst Arabs, adoption is an unusual step to take even for childless couples. Statistics from Israel’s Ministry of Social Affairs state that 85% of Christian Arabs in Israel approve of adoption, while only 65% of the Muslim community approves.

Ninety percent of the babies that are put up for adoption in the Arab sector of Israel are born to unwed mothers. Since sex outside of marriage is strictly forbidden, a pregnancy would be highly unacceptable, as would the result of that pregnancy (the baby). This conservative, traditional society is quite unforgiving about unwed women bearing children, so much to the point that many of these women fear becoming victims of so-called honor killings.

My belief is that in the case of adoption, culture and religion collide, and many people falsely cite religion as the reason for adoption not being acceptable.

Hadith (sayings) from the Prophet Mohammed:

The Prophet said, “I and the person who looks after an orphan and provides for him, will be in Paradise like this,” putting his index and middle fingers together.” (Sahih Bukhari Vol.8 Bk.73 No.34)

The best Muslim house is that in which is an orphan is benefited; and the worst Muslim house is that in which an orphan is ill-treated.” (Sunan Ibn Majah)

The form of adoption in Islam is more a guardian / foster care relationship (kafala). The child may live with his / her guardian, however he must retain his family name, and he may not inherit from the guardians.

My husband hesitantly agreed to visit a Palestinian orphanage with me, where I dropped off bags of used clothes that people donated. Once there a little old girl captured his heart, and that was all it took – he agreed.

Unfortunately we could not adopt her, but eight months later the social worker called to tell us that a baby girl waited for us.

My joy was dampened a bit as I bought the items the social worker told me to take with outfit, milk, a bottle, baby wipes……….because I could not share my excitement with my in-laws.

However, I did not predict the outpour of rage that we faced – actually that my husband faced. I did not discuss it with anyone. My husband’s mother was totally against the adoption, and naturally the rest of the family fell in line with her.

The next morning, the moment I saw my baby, I pulled her into my heart. So tiny and frail, at 2 days short of 3 months old, she looked like a newborn. On the drive home, I kept looking at her, amazed and a bit confused.

Not one member of my husband’s family came to welcome her. I probably felt the same rejection that the biological mother would have felt had she kept her.

A baby rejected twice – by the biological mother and by society. Insensitive comments from acquaintances still ring in my ears:

“What’s her story?”

“Who is her family? My reply, “We are her family.” “No I mean who is her family, he asked.” I echoed my answer. “You don’t understand,” he persisted. “I mean WHO is her family?

“Aren’t you disgusted to touch her?” “

“Why did you choose such a dark girl?”

“How can you put her in a house with your son (implying sexual misconduct).

“If you go on vacation and don’t want to take her, put her where you got her from for those days.”

I swore that day that I would do everything in my power to protect this innocent child, my daughter.

We lived three months, somehow avoiding and being avoided by people. I put a wall around myself and my daughter, imagining it to be similar to the wall that any woman who is giving her child up for adoption would build around herself.

During this time, my husband would tell his family stories about her. “My mother wants to see her,” he told me one day. Reserved, I took her to my mother-in-law, and placed her in her lap. In that instant, three months of rejection dissolved as everyone gathered around to look at her.

With her acceptance, came that of others. My mother in law changed completely. She and my husband’s aunt, who lives with her, now sponsor orphans in Gaza.

One morning, I received an unexpected phone call from the social worker. “She has a biological brother, and will you take him?” she asked. Tears wet my cheeks as I wondered ‘why did the birth mother do this again?’

There was no denying that he is her brother – they looked so much alike. Though lighter in complexion, they had the same toes, and the same mischievous look in their eyes.

And in spite of a few objections (not from my mother in law) he became ours! I did not have to face any rude questions this time, although two and a half years later, people are still curious if they are biological or not. I ignore them.

I wondered what are the birth mothers thinking as they go through the pregnancies?

Rosan Eid, social worker with Israel’s Ministry of Social Welfare answered some of my questions. Using Mace (name changed) a birth mother (not my children's) as an example, she described the birth mothers: “They deny they are pregnant, letting themselves believe that there is a problem with their period. As the pregnancies advance, they attempt to cover their growing stomachs with large clothes, or just spend time alone,” she explained. “By the time they admit it, it is too late for an abortion,” she continued. “Mace told her brother and a social worker, but many do not tell anyone,” she said. Toward the end of the pregnancies, the birth mothers go to homes for pregnant women. “Many fear for their lives,” she said.

Mace, as most birth mothers, was enveloped with guilt, sadness and depression. With a sense of hopelessness, she felt angry because society would not permit her to keep her baby.

Mace’s minute with her baby happened 12 years ago. Today she is married and has 3 children. Her husband who struggles financially, carries the knowledge of what she did, and she suffers through his verbal abuse.

My children have warmed the coldest hearts. They made people realize that orphans are normal children, innocent of the circumstances of their birth. People in my community who think about adopting sometimes discuss it with me. I offer my encouragement.

Still there is hope - the Arab community is becoming more accepting of adoption. The Social Welfare Departments in the cities and several women’s organizations teach about and encourage the use of birth control. The high schools provide basic information also.

In 2008, Buds of Hope, was formed to offer support to adoptive Arab families. In a society where motherhood is expected to be achieved, the women who are not able to have biological children, loose self esteem, Buds of Hope gives women a place to talk about their situations in a non-judgemental way. According to their director, there are 400 adoptive Arab families, 100 of whom attend their programs. They give lectures and courses, and hope to many families while they promote adoption in the Arab community.

I often wonder about the birth mother. As I went home carrying a baby, what did she feel as she went home with an empty stomach? As I was celebrating their birthdays was she making cakes in her mind? As I would rock them in the middle of the night, was she hearing their cries? As I watched them take their first steps, did she hear their giggles as they stumbled over shaky legs? When I heard them say “mama”, what was she hearing? And as I was being rejected by society, was she feeling accepted (or acceptable) now that she is baby-free?

If I had the chance to talk to her, I would tell her please learn about birth control, and better yet, avoid dangerous situations, because no child should have to go through the pain that mine might suffer in the future. And she should not have to suffer more too. I would tell her that the kids are doing great, are loved dearly. And I would tell her Thank You.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.


valerie.bagley's picture

Beautifully written!

This is a beautiful and touching account! It sounds like you have created a lovely family. I wish you all the best of luck in the future; and may the mentality towards unwed pregnancies slowly begin to change in the Arab community.

noreens's picture

Thank you Valerie. They are

Thank you Valerie. They are great kids and we have gotten so much love and goodness from them. There will not be a change in attitude towards unmarried women getting pregnant, but the feelings towards adoption are beginning to change. I know 4 couples who adopted and felt nothing but happiness from people. I think it just depends on the family. While my in-laws were against it, my own family was very excited, and my kids are very close to them. People also wondered why I adopted since I already had a child (biological). It's was a moment in time that passed, and they are loved by everyone. Since then, some childless couples have asked me about it and I always encourage them to follow their hearts, and do what is right for them.


Juliette Maughan's picture

A Selfless Act

This is a beautiful story. I believe that all children should have a home, a place of familiar faces and a smile that greats them.

I applaud you for offering that to these children.

All the best,


noreens's picture

Hi Juliette, I always say

Hi Juliette,

I always say that taking my son is the most selfless thing I ever did. She had just started kindergarten and I was enjoying a bit of freedom, and he came along. And he was really difficult. For about a year, not one night passed without him waking two or three times, and it would take a while to get him to fall asleep again. And he was very clingy - always wanted me to carry him. I was exhausted. And it made me angry with the people who didn't support me in this because I did make a sacrifice and some people could not see the goodness in that. Lots of hurt at that time. But it is the best thing I ever did or ever will do. They are beautiful loving kids, and I adore them.

Thanks for your nice comment!


patf's picture

What a story!

Hello dear Noreen,
How beautiful to write about your children. How powerful it is to write from both perspectives: as the adoptive mother, and the wondering aboutvwhat the birth mother . Children have a way of opening hearts to flowing love, just as you mention about your mother-in-law. I was touched by your story and I learned more about you. Wonderful, Pat

noreens's picture

Hi Pat!! I'm so glad you read

Hi Pat!!

I'm so glad you read my story. I really wanted to talk to a birth mother, but it was not easy getting one to agree. They have to take into consideration their safety, and I'm sure talking about it brings back many painful memories. Yes, children can open hearts and minds. I'm so glad that I followed my heart, instead of listening to the people who told me not to adopt. These kids are blessings! Thanks, Pat!


Stella Paul's picture


Dear Noreens

Such a beautiful story you have for us here! Its heartwarming to know that things are changing and that people are embracing the idea of adoption. In India we have the same stiff opposition to adoption. In our films you have this very popular line - 'apna khoon, apna khoon hi hai',meaning blood relation's can't be replaced. Also, an orphan is always seen as something sinful. There are couples dying to have a baby, have millions, and yet won't take in a baby and give him/her a home.
But that's beginning to change too. Your story reminded me of two of my closest friends Sarat and Lalita who adopted a baby girl a few years ago and I was the first person to see her. Would you believe, the girl even looked like Sarat!

You did so good Noreens, by going against the current. May you and your kids stay blessed forever!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

noreens's picture

Thanks!! I'm so glad that I

Thanks!! I'm so glad that I followed my heart and went against the current. I wonder if I did not take them, would they have gone to a good home? Would the people who adopted her, also have adopted him? If not, would they ever find out they had a sibling out there, and would they ever have met? There are so many things involved in cases like this. As you said, there are so many childless couples, and it's a shame that culture or their fears stand in the way of making themselves and a child happy. As far as I am concerned, making these kids my own is what religion (Islam, in my case) and life is all about. I gave two innocent babies a good's the biggest thing I will ever do in my life.


Nusrat Ara's picture

Brilliant. So heart touching

Brilliant. So heart touching and beautifully written. You warmed my heart as well. Well done.



noreens's picture

Thanks Nusrat! They are

Thanks Nusrat! They are really great kids, which made it easy for me to write our story. I'm glad that you took the time to read it and enjoyed it.


nasreenamina's picture

Noreens.. I am very touched

Noreens.. I am very touched for your history and I have tears in my eyes. I think that explains a lot. Thank you very much for this story but especially thank you very much to be part of humankind. We need more "mothers of heart" on earth, more women and men willing to make a decision of love in behalf of children. Family ties are made from love,that makes all the diference.

And, from a political sight, I think muslims have to rethink about adoption and encourage it instead of encourage polygamy in the cases a couple wants more children. In my labour as activist inside the muslim community sometimes some sister asked me for counselling them about a single and young girl wants to become second wife since husbands wants more children. I am not a couple matcher anyway and polygamy is not recognized in Argentina, is illegal and I don't agree at all with how polygamy is taken nowadays. Since the original sense of polygamy as social institution was to bring protection for orphans, I always ask about adoption. I wonder: Have your husband and you ever thought about adoption? Is in the Q'ran and bla bla... The answer I receive, in all the cases is :"No, my husband wants a child of his blood". Is a shame male proud and prejudges are more important than mercy. Thank you for remember us Mercy is our duty, our hope and our relief.

One's life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion

Follow me @DivinaFeminista

noreens's picture

Hi Nasreen, Family ties are

Hi Nasreen,

Family ties are made from true. My feelings for my biological son and my adopted kids are the same. I've raised them since they were babies - there is no difference between them at all. Blood ties are so important to Arabs, and maybe that is why people have a problem with the idea of adoption. Sometimes a person has to experience something to actually understand it. Once I told a relative of mine that my adopted son will get inheritance, and she was shocked. And what about the person that suggested I return them where I got them from so I can go on vacation? It's because they do not see them as my REAL kids. These types of comments offend me so much because it's as if they are seeing the kids with less value in my life........and shows me also that if they do not understand that these kids are so important to me, then after years of knowing me, they do not understand who Noreen is. Things are slowly changing as people get used to the idea of adoption, but the people who have adopted are those who have no kids. Marrying two for the sake of having kids..........I will never understand that also!!

So glad you liked the article, and I will answer the message you sent privately later on.


ikirimat's picture


I an glad to lean from you what goes on in your part of the world. Infact, culture and religion play a big role in how our societies operate but its unfortunate that these have always been unfair to the women.

Otherwise in Uganda, adoption is also a very unusual thing and still considered something for the western world.

I have learned a lot from your frontline journal and good luck

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."

noreens's picture

Thanks Grace! I agree -

Thanks Grace! I agree - culture and religion get mixed up, and sometimes are lives are controlled by that confusion. I'm glad that you gained from my article......isn't that what we are all about here, learning from each other?!!


Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture


What a beautiful and touching story. You did a marvelous job at interweaving statistics with your own story, which really makes the reader feel like they are sitting in your front room. Bravo!


"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

noreens's picture

Thanks Rachael! My kids are

Thanks Rachael! My kids are so close to my heart that it was easy to write about them. I'm happy that you enjoyed it!


R's picture

Heart words from the frontline...

"The next morning, the moment I saw my baby, I pulled her into my heart."

My dearest Noreen...your words can never fail to touch because they come straight from your heart, direct and to the point yet steeped in love.

Your talent with words makes a difficult story look so easy and effortless!

Your strength of character in adopting your babies without family and community support is REAL bravery. The world needs more people like you!

Congratulations my friend and I want you to know that it is a privilege to work with you.

Much love

noreens's picture

What a sweet comment! Your

What a sweet comment! Your suggestions helped make it a better, more pulled together story than it was. So I thank you for that. Did I tell you that I live next door to my in-laws? hahahaha - that made it all even more difficult, but you know, when a person really believes in something, and that thing is not hurting anyone - but doing the opposite - then no one should stand in that person's way. That is how I felt, and still do. And the best part is that everyone has grown to love them, especially their grandmother!!

Thanks again, Rosemary.

Much love to you too,

Monica Clarke's picture

I wish I could be your star

Dear Noreens

Your bigness of being leaves me speechless. The cultural, religious and national obstacles you face in your personal life, your work, your path and for your people are huge, yet you are able to bring into your already immense life new life to nurture. And your children, those lucky children, will have this bigness of being as their role model. Lucky, lucky them!

I wish I could be the star which gave light to you at your birth, the same star which follows you, lights up your path and guides you through dark paths, helping you to make the right decisions at crossroads. I wish I could be with your star when she sees your consternation at a time of doubt, when she sees your light flickering in uncertainty at times as you struggle in the dark. not knowing which way to go. I wish I could be there with your star when she sees - as she knows without a doubt that she will see - your face light up as you, in your times of confusion, magnetically turn your head in the right direction.

And there, I wish you could look up and see her head thrown back in triumphant laughter to the universe, to those who doubted, as her Noreens hesitantly takes the right step which will lead her to her next victory.

What joy to be in your world, Noreens!

I dare not ask how old you are. You were born old and wise and I salute you.

Love and hugs from Monica in France

Monica Clarke, Writer & Storyteller, bringing human rights alive.
I wish you 'Nangamso', that is: May you continue to do the good work which you do so well.
(A blessing from my ancestors, the Khoikhoi, the first people of South Africa).

noreens's picture

Monica, I am so touched by


I am so touched by what you have written. I read it twice, and kept thinking, "Is she talking about ME?" It was too important to me to give in to other people's selfish wishes. I believe that this is what my religion is about - giving, sharing, helping, etc. In my mind, it's the most religious thing I will ever do. I know that I did a good thing by giving my kids a loving family, but I feel that I am the lucky one. They have brought so much to my life. I think they brought out the goodness in other people too. They are great kids - and I say that as he is standing next to me eating a tangerine, and getting me dirty, and I am wishing it's their bedtime!!!

By the way, my name means "two lights" in Arabic. Maybe, according to your message, the kids are my guiding lights?

Thanks so much!


malba66's picture

This is such an important

This is such an important story to tell. Thank you for sharing this deeply personal tale. Every good work that we do is a seed of hope for the world, and where better to start than one's own family. We have had 2 adoptions in my family and the blessings for all are innumerable. Peace and Light to you and your family. May you always be beacons of compassion and love. Mari

noreens's picture

Hi Mari, I agree with you -

Hi Mari,

I agree with you - life is all about doing good while we are here. They have brought a lot of peace to our souls

Thanks Mari!


Okeny-Lucia's picture

Took my breathe away!


Allah be praised as the most High!

Adoption in my country is one of the most challenging times for couples who opt.It is a time when there are so many paper work and assessment to be done.Such length of time discourages well wishers.However I must congratulate you for this heroic move,the adopted children become blessing to a family.And I wish you well in this.
You captured the deeper society within the Arab world!

Though a christian ,I have always enjoyed to read the Qur'an online.Very important highlights given here.


Lucia Buyanza
Reproductive Health

noreens's picture

Hi Lucia, I know in many

Hi Lucia,

I know in many countries it takes a long time for the adoption to go through, but in our case, it was very fast. I think the reason is because in the Arab sector there are less families waiting to adopt. In the Jewish sector, it takes longer. And yes, they definitely are a blessing!

Thanks for reading my article!


noreens's picture

Hi Lucia, I know in many

Hi Lucia,

I know in many countries it takes a long time for the adoption to go through, but in our case, it was very fast. I think the reason is because in the Arab sector there are less families waiting to adopt. In the Jewish sector, it takes longer. And yes, they definitely are a blessing!

Thanks for reading my article!


Valéria Barbosa da Silva's picture

Mother's heart

How beautiful your story. Give a child love is the truest form of approaching God.

Kisses and congratulations for the beautiful text.

noreens's picture

"Give a child love is the

"Give a child love is the truest form of approaching God." What a nice thing to say. Thank you, Valeria!!


Celine's picture

A beautifully crafted story.

Thank you Noreens for this beautifully crafted story. You warm my heart. You are indeed a change maker, set a pace for other women around you to follow. Bravo.


noreens's picture

Hi Celine, I didn't adopt

Hi Celine,

I didn't adopt them with the idea to make any type of change except in within my family and a change for them, but since people have learned from these adoptions, and have decided that it is not such a bad thing, then I have accomplished even more then I set out to do. Every child deserves a loving, safe home. I am so honored to be able to make a difference in their lives. I couldn't have asked for sweeter kids!


bennettml's picture


Thank you for this story. What a reminder of how complicated and twisted simple life joys can become. You do a nice job of talking through all of the realities of this complex situation and at the same time take us to the simple joys of motherhood and the reminder that these children are innocent in this equation.

Thank you for teaching us about your country. I was drawn into your story from the start to the end.

Thank you for being a mother to these children.


noreens's picture

You're right...something that

You're right...something that should have been so simple turned out to be complicated. It was a matter of time till people got used to the idea, and now they are loved.

So you are in NC? I lived there for a long time, and when I go to the States, I go to Raleigh. My parents have a house there, and my brother is there. I haven't been there in 3 1/2 years.

Anyway, thanks for reading my article, and for your comment! I'm glad you liked it!

emilybrews's picture

A beautiful story

What a wonderful piece - your children are lucky to have a mother with so much room in her heart. I'm so glad that you set the example to help your in-laws understand the joys of being an adoptive family. Here's hoping that many more people will follow them in this change of heart.


noreens's picture

Things are changing, and I

Things are changing, and I know several families in my town who have adopted. I think that t hey were better accepted because they did not have any children when they adopted. Personally, I don't see what difference it makes. Thank you for reading my story! I'm glad that you liked it.


usha kc's picture

you touched my heart

you touched my heart dear:)))
thank you for sharing with us.

noreens's picture

thanks Usha. They touched my

thanks Usha. They touched my heart!

mirette's picture

This an amazing story Noreen.

This an amazing story Noreen. It takes a lot of courage to do something that your society disapproves of, but your story has showed us that when you do what you truly believe in, the society gradually changes and sees what you see. I wish you and your beautiful family all the best.

noreens's picture

Sometimes I ask myself, "What

Sometimes I ask myself, "What if I gave up and respected (or went along with) my in-laws wishes and did not adopt. I would have missed out on so much, as would have my biological son. I did not see why I should sacrifice my happiness to make them happy. It was just a matter of everyone finally getting used to the idea and knowing they could not change anything. The kids are loved by everyone now. Thank you for reading my article, Mirette!


MaDube's picture

Hi Noreens

Wow, that is my overall impression of your beautifully written story. You touch on an issue that most conservative societies refuse to confront and refuse to accept. Yes many people feel sorry for orphans and some may take their old clothes to the orphanage from time to time but very few ever think to bring a child into their home and love them as if they were their own. You have a big heart and deserve a big applause for reaching out to other people, inviting them to open their hearts the way you have. I wish you peace and good health in your family.



noreens's picture

Thanks MaDube! I got many

Thanks MaDube! I got many touching comments about this story, and about adopting my kids. But it's not just that I gave them a family, they also gave me so much. Truth is that I consider myself to be the lucky one.


Ruun Abdi's picture

Thank you Noreen for this

Thank you Noreen for this beautifully written story, its really so touching. Adapting a child is also so challenging in my country as people think they are somewhat impure, but as you mentioned the prophet said “I and the person who looks after an orphan and provides for him, will be in Paradise like this and put his index and middle fingers together.”

God bless you and your babies.

Well done work.

noreens's picture

You're right, many people see

You're right, many people see them as "impure" which is so unfair. I feel that I have been blessed with gifts from God - that is what I feel they are. Thanks for reading my article!


noreens's picture

Exactly - a mother is not

Exactly - a mother is not just the person who gives birth. She is the one who raises the child and sees her / him through all the good and bad. She is the one who gives the child love. Doesn't matter if the child is biological or not. Thanks for reading!


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