Earlier this week one of my colleagues told me a secret -- she adopted a baby girl several months ago.
She's in her late 40s and tried for many years to have a child. That didn't work out and she and her husband decided to adopt. I assumed she got the child from China, but she said it's a local baby from Mother's Choice.
"Do you want to see her?" she asked me and got her mobile phone from her purse to reveal a cute Chinese seven-month-old baby with lots of hair. She brought her home when she was two months old.
At first my colleague who didn't have much experience with children didn't think she would bond with the child as a mother would with her own baby; but as time has gone by, she loves carrying the girl and attending to her needs.
However I couldn't understand why this had to be a secret. Who wouldn't want people to know they had a baby?
Then she told me the adverse reactions she had from some of her friends, particularly men who were shocked she and her husband had adopted. They didn't make disaparaging remarks, but it sounded like they looked down on my colleague for taking home a baby that technically wasn't their own. As a result their circle of friends has gotten smaller.
Which is why she has hardly told anyone at work about her relatively new pride and joy. "I'm telling you because you grew up overseas so you understand," she said. "But you have to keep this quiet."
The upshot is that my colleague's mother is thrilled to have this grandchild, and looks after her while my colleague goes to work. She had told me she went to have dinner at her mother's place every night and now I know why -- to collect her daughter.
It's very disappointing to see Hong Kong people so backwards when it comes to things like adoption; it was a common practice in older generations in Chinese families. Adoptions were seen as a means of survival particularly during tough times, though they were usually to families they knew. Or children were adopted because the couple was childless and could afford to take in one or more child who came from an impoverished family.
For example in my family, adoptions happened one and two generations ago. So why is it such a stretch for middle-aged people in Hong Kong to accept someone adopting a child?
Something that brings so much happiness to my colleague and yet she is too scared to share her joy with others.
It's a strange secret for her to keep. It's fine now as she's a baby, but what will happen to the child later when she grows up?