Baby Chains - Or ‘The Final Day’

A three year pregnancy - A story of love and determination

Story and photos
Marion Vogt

It is imagined that a baby chains the hearts of a couple together. This new being is a mixture of Mum and Dad, and is a symbol of their love for each other. But sometimes it is not that easy. Sometimes, for many medical reasons, people just cannot conceive and this can really be a burden for either husband or wife, if they cannot fulfill their wish for a child.

Irma and Bernhard Schmalz, during their last minutes before becoming ‘parents’.

Montha is still a little suspicious about the excitement going on around her.

I met Irma and Bernhard Schmalz last week when they arrived from Switzerland. An always-smiling middle aged couple, having waited more than ten years to receive, but remained childless. But instead of giving up and feeling sorry for themselves, they started to think about adoption.

Adopting a baby in Switzerland is almost impossible, but both of them are very open-minded and broadened their horizon by thinking of adopting a baby from abroad. The adoption agency in Switzerland told them about many orphaned babies in Thailand, and they started going to work. And work it was. From the decision to adopt a Thai baby until the final day - exactly 3 years.

I met them in the hotel lobby on the morning of the big day and Irma said, “Can you imagine, I have been pregnant for three years, and in a couple of hours I will finally have my little girl to take home. I am so excited; it really feels like being in labor.”

On Good Friday, the expectant parents were brought to Viengping Children’s Home, Chiang Mai. This institution is a government organization under the Division of Welfare for Children and Adolescents, Department of Public Welfare. The Home cares for orphans and abandoned children, from 17 northern provinces of Thailand and is one of the residential homes in Thailand, which already has placed 312 children with foreign parents. The ‘Schmalz family’ had already had a meeting in Bangkok with the social welfare department and knew who was awaiting them. A girl called Montha, 21 months old, who was abandoned at Budthachinnarad Hospital, Phitsanulok Province.

Little Montha is carried out in the arms of social worker Piyanart Poolpipat - ‘Are you my Daddy?’ she seems to ask.

Mama Irma is between laughter and tears feeding her daughter for the first time.

(Seated) Bernhard with his daughter Montha and wife Irma, (second row): Piyannart and Manita Tulereilok, the superintendent of Viengping Children’s Home, and (smiling in the back) Khun O.

It was really getting exciting on the bus ride with the social worker, Piyanart from the Children’s Home, who slowly started to go through the procedure and filling them in on Montha’s background, as well as on the surroundings where she was brought up until now.

Arriving at the center, there was still no hint of when the baby would be brought to them. It was ‘inspection time’ - looking at the surroundings, the playground, the dormitories, and watching a movie on how the children live and play. Watching a 15 minute PR movie of the orphanage, filling in more forms afterwards, and a dozen or so more signatures. It was 10 o’clock now and Irma was on the edge of having a nervous breakdown.

Finally the social worker went out to get ‘her’. It is always said that adoption has the purpose to find a family for a child, but on the other hand the couple has the same desperate desire and need for having a child, and nothing in the world prepares a mother to see her child for the first time in life. And it really was like giving birth; Montha started crying the first time she was supposed to change arms. But a little walking around the grounds of the children home, a little bit of banana mousse and some time with her new Mama took care of that. A little nap after lunch on Mama’s lap on the swing, another quick meeting with the staff and the superintendent, and off they went. All in all, after a 3 year pregnancy, a very quick birth but one with all the excitement, emotion, tears and laughter that a ‘real’ birth would bring.

Irma, Bernhard and little Montha flew back to their friends’ beach home on the Eastern Seaboard that evening and will shortly, after some more court and embassy appointments, fly home to Switzerland with their child on a Swiss passport, and when their 2 years as foster parents are up, they will finally be able to adopt little Montha.

The Chiangmai Mail wishes the newly enlarged Schmalz family all the best for a happy future!