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Interview with James and Ee Shian, and their adoption story

8 November 2021 | By Nur Atikah SK

James & Ee Shian's interview is also one of the many stories from our book, In Time, We Blossom. If you'd like to read more stories like this, you can download our free e-book here

"People say that Madeleine is so lucky to have us and our heartfelt response, is that we’re actually the lucky ones to have Madeleine join our family." 

— James, on loving their adopted daughter Madeleine

If you saw James and Ee Shian out with their 3 lovable daughters Natasha (11 years old), Madeline (4 years old) and Lauren (3 years old), you would think that they were born to be parents. However, they had a rocky start as new parents to their first child, Natasha. Here is their story of how they went from struggling to adapting to parenthood to deciding on adoption of their second child. We dig deeper into the challenges they faced in their adoption journey, how they came to meet and fall in love with Madeline, and how they have grown together as parents.

Gillian: How did you feel when you had your first child, Natasha? 

James: When Ee Shian got pregnant, I was actually very upset. It was frustrating, as if my life had been thrown into disarray by this new entrant into our lives. I felt I had lost my wife, who was now consumed with caring for our child. At the same time, it was a struggle balancing the desire to focus on my career with the responsibility of being a father. I was a reluctant father and it took me almost a year to start developing feelings of true affection for my child. 

How did things change over 

James: One day, I was carrying Natasha when she was about 9 months old, she looked up at 
me, poked my nose and laughed. I looked at her and thought "hmm, maybe I don’t hate you so much after all" and thus began a gradual shift. It took me almost two years to become a proud father. Natasha is a special kid. Despite my initial lack of interest, she was always warm towards me and made it easier for me to love her.

"It struck me that you do not have to be related by blood to be family. My desire to nurture was stronger than my need to give birth to a child." 

— Ee Shian, on her reaction towards adopting

With such a challenging experience after having your first child, what made you decide to have a second child?

Ee Shian: I had always wanted a second child but because we had had such a rocky start and were finally happy as a family, I had to really ask myself if it was worth rocking the boat again. When Natasha was 6, I roped her in to convince James to have a second child.

James: After I thought about it, I came back to Ee Shian and Natasha saying yes, let’s have another kid. My only condition was that we would adopt our second child. My rationale was simple—why bring another child into the world we could hopefully help someone experience a better life? That would make the endeavor well worth the effort.

Ee Shian, what was your reaction when James said he wanted to adopt a child?

Ee Shian: I was shocked—to me, it seemed unconventional. I took a long time to think about it. As a Catholic, I reflected on how even Jesus did not have a conventional family as St. Joseph was his foster father. When I was a child, I had a nanny who treated me like her own daughter. It struck me that you do not have to be related by blood to be family. My desire to nurture was stronger than my need to give birth to a child.

What was the process of adoption like?

James: It was a lengthy process. We had to register for a Home Study Report, where the government-appointed agency interviewed our family, did a survey of our house, bank statements, references and medical test results. That took six months and was tedious at times, but the goal was for the Ministry of Social & Family Development (MSF) to establish that we were ready and able to adopt a child.

Ee Shian: I then signed up with MSF to indicate our interest in adopting a child but there was a long waiting list. I also contacted a couple of private adoption agencies but did not hear back from either of them. Just as I was losing hope, I got a call from one of the agencies! We were invited to meet a little girl who was born on Christmas Day. I was emotional, excited and scared. Having read a lot of books, and being more idealistic by nature, I was expecting to feel an instant bond, a feeling that she was ‘the one’. But when we met her, I felt underwhelmed. I prayed on this and the message that every child is a gift from God was reinforced in my mind. Once that became clear to me, we decided to adopt Madeleine into our family.

James: People say Madeleine is lucky to have us and our heartfelt response, is that we’re actually the lucky ones to have Madeleine join our family.

"Having Madeleine in my life has made me very aware that every child is a gift from God, no matter how they enter your life." 

- Ee Shian

What challenges did you face in your adoption journey?

Ee Shian: People have said hurtful and insensitive things to us. "How much did you pay for it?," "where did you buy your baby?" or "an adopted kid is not as good as having your own." There was hardly any encouragement. My mum was so against the idea of us adopting a child that she did not want to look at Madeleine when we first brought her home. But now she is an adoption advocate! She recently met an auntie whose daughter was finding it hard to have a baby. She proudly showed her photos of Madeleine and encouraged her daughter to consider adoption. What a miracle!

Is there any difference in loving your biological and adopted children?

James: I love my three children equally, but it’s important to note that equal doesn’t imply identical. My capacity to love them was very dependent on who I was when they each came into my life. For Natasha, I was a very reluctant father. When we adopted Madeleine, I was a very happy and willing father. Then when Lauren came unexpectedly, my heart was so softened by my first two girls that I was able to embrace her, even though we had not planned to have a third child.

Ee Shian: There’s no difference in how much I love each of my three daughters. Just as the circumstances in which they entered our lives was different, the joy they bring is also unique to each child. Having Madeleine in my life has made me very aware that every child is a gift from God, no matter how they enter your life. 

How have you seen each other grow in this journey of parenthood?

James: It has been humbling to see my wife grow in resilience and strength. I have a lot of respect for who she is. She has responded admirably to every challenge.

Ee Shian: He started off as an unwilling father, and now he is the more devoted parent of the two of us! He used to be very impatient with the children, but now he is so tender towards the girls. To see him devote so much of his energy for our family is heartwarming.