So I took the kids to a playdate with a newfound friend yesterday. We’d met at the park some time ago and decided to arrange home-based playdates. She’s a Taiwanese and I thought it would be good for the kids to be exposed to some Mandarin since I speak squat, and more so since the weather has just been sweltering these past few days. We have like 20 fans going on in the house with no AC. Don’t think Lokes is going to love it so much now that it’s a hundred degrees in AND out.

Anyway, my friend Mia is married to a gwailo, but little Aylee, with whom we’ve had two previous playdates with at the beach, has no, as Mia coined, “half and half” looks. I never asked because I have seen many cases where a kid never gets any of the gwailo features, but since we were getting more comfortable with each other, she revealed to me that Aylee was in fact, adopted.

To think I’d said that she looks like her. How embarassing for desperate-for-friends-so-I’ll-say-anything-nice old me. Well, I think she still does, and I’m not just being nice.

Mia revealed to me that she’d had a baby who died in her womb at 35 weeks two years ago. Needless to say, it was a painful revelation, but she stumbled over her words only a little. I did her the favour of turning away to watch our kids play, almost tearing up myself, remembering what it felt like to almost lose a child.

Anyway, Mia was not able to get pregnant again after and since she was getting advanced in her years, they decided to adopt. And I cannot help but admire them for it.

If I thought her story about her loss was heartwrenching, her stories about the orphanage Aylee came from were devastating.

Nine babies to one adult. Fixed four-hourly feeding even if a baby needs more (which was the same at the hospital Skyler was in when she had to stay there for her first two months, although the preemies were tube-fed). Fixed four-hourly diaper changes even if the baby has been sleeping in its own waste for hours on end. Milk overflowing to the necks and eyes and ears and noses because bottles were left hanging precariously off the mouths of infants who can’t even hold their heads up, much less a bottle, simply because there are not enough volunteers to spread around. Endless crying with noone to pick them up for comfort or a kind word.

I’ve only been to two orphanages in my life, once as a girl guide when I was 15, and once to help out with a field trip a few years ago, but they were only for bigger kids because apparently, infant orphanages are not always open to visitors. Now I can almost understand why.

Looking back, I realise now that only after becoming a mom did the reality of how horrible the living conditions were hit me, and the impact of growing up without parental love or guidance. I’d wager that one trip to an orphanage will be all it takes to change one’s perspective on a lot of things in life. No longer will you worry about your child not getting enough gifts for his/her birthday. About that carb-laden sandwich you had for lunch. About how old your BMW is, or how you’re going to celebrate another Chinese New Year without new bajus.

I remember when my sis and I were kids, what my mother would say to make us finish our meals.

“Children in Ethiopia got nothing to eat you know? You know how lucky you are to have good food?!”

It had seemed like a million miles away then, this place called Ethiopia. Perhaps she should’ve took us to an orphanage then to show us what she’d meant. We would definitely have finished every grain of rice and scrap of meat on our plates if we’d thought it’d help. Or at least know what it was like to go hungry.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Angelina Jolie and the Melinda Gates (and now Buffett) Foundation do not own the market for adoption and giving to those who deserve it most. I know having a child is an inherent desire in all of us. But sometimes, things don’t work out as you’d hoped they would. And when all that stands between you and a baby is enough money, it is time to take a step back and re-evaluate.

So before you sign that cheque of 60 or so grand to take yet another IVF gamble, consider seriously the option of adoption. All I ask is that you take a trip to an infant orphanage – if they will let you in – to see for yourself what it really means to bring another child into this world, and what your money can really do, when your heart is in the right place.

Just one trip, that’s all.