'My sister was an alcoholic and died of AIDS, so I adopted her son'
How did Elaine handle having to tell her son about what happened with his biological mother and how he came to live with her?
It was a question of when I will get him. It was never a question of if I should adopt him. (iStock)
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Through a disclosed adoption, this woman became a mother to her nephew and doesn’t regret her decision one bit.

Elaine always loved Mohammed very much. He had a special place in her heart from the moment he was born to her alcoholic sister.

“She started drinking and doing drugs when she started high school,” says Elaine. She’s not sure why her sister became an alcoholic, but their family did try to get her help, which she refused. “By the time she had reached her 30s, she was a full blown alcoholic. She could easily finish a 750ml bottle of vodka a day,” she says.

When Elaine’s sister became pregnant with Mohammed, she married the child’s father and seemed to get clean for the duration of her pregnancy, but Mohammed’s dad abandoned them when Mohammed was a year and a half because of his mother’s behaviour.


Also see: Heartwarming moment as mom is reunited with son 44 years after adoption

'From the time he was born he would bounce between my sister, my mom and myself'

“She loved her son as best as an alcoholic can love anyone,” says Elaine. “[Alcoholics] are usually very manipulative and wrapped up in their own challenges. From the time he was born he would bounce between my sister, my mom and myself. I did worry about his safety when he was with her, was he eating, the company she was keeping was bad, would any of those people harm him?”

A few years later, Elaine’s sister discovered she had HIV after being sick for a few months. She died six months later.

Mohammed was just shy of his seventh birthday when he went to live with Elaine and her daughter, Audrey, who he already saw as his sister.

'It was meant to be'

Elaine says there was no question as to whether she would adopt her sister’s son.

“There was not really a long discussion as to who will take him, he was always in my heart and my home as a child of mine anyway. It was never a question of if I should adopt him. It was meant to be,” she says.

There was a moment where Elaine was scared she wouldn’t be able to adopt her son as her sister called one day saying she had found another couple she wanted to give Mohammed to.

But she died a week later and Elaine was allowed to continue the adoption as it had not been withdrawn.

“I never had a strong urge to be a mom,” says Elaine. She had Audrey with a previous partner, but he left after Audrey’s second birthday.  “I had another daughter [Astrid] from my boyfriend at the time in 2005. We later went on to get married. All 3 children have an excellent bond with their ‘dad'” says Elaine.


Must read: “My family wasn’t wrong": A black adoptee talks about growing up with white parents

'In our house we discuss everything openly'

So how did Elaine handle having to tell her son about what happened with his biological mother and how he come to live with her?

“In our house we discuss everything openly,” she says. “There are no secrets. He knows everything as do the two girls. There is no question that he is their brother and my son. We often laugh about it that he is the chosen one because I actively chose him, with them I didn't have a choice. My children know that if they want to know something or require an explanation they must just ask.”

Elaine also cared for a boy, Moses, who stayed with her along with his parents from the time he was two until he was six. He came to live with her without his parents when he was in high school and they still have a very close bond to this day.

“He is 30 years old now and has a key to our house, so he can come and visit anytime.  He does come over at least once a week for supper and of course all other family occasions,” she says.

While this non-nuclear family sounds pretty happy (Elaine says the kids all call each other brother and sister), it obviously wasn’t all just smooth sailing, especially for Mohammed. “It was very difficult in the beginning as he was prone to extreme outbursts of temper which could go on for hours at a time,” says Elaine who acknowledges that having her mother living with her also made it slightly easier. “He went to therapy for a year to help him cope. He doesn't speak about [his biological mother]. He has very little memory of his time with her. I was told he has blocked it.”


Also see: Meet the dad taking on the government on behalf of SA's orphaned and abandoned children

Mohammed is now 23 years old and happy as he goes to university and also works part time. He still lives with his family and (mostly) gets along with his sisters.

“To anyone considering this method of adoption I think it the best,” Elaine says about disclosed adoption. “Everyone understands what is expected of them. If the mother has any special wishes for her child, the adoptive parents can ensure that it is carried out. There are no secrets which I believe helps the child adjust so much easier.”

To find out more about adoption in South Africa, read Parent24’s guide: Everything you need to know about adoption in 2018

*Names have all been changed to protect the family’s identity

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