If you tuned in to Susan Haglof’s nightmarish story on Locked Up Abroad: Not Without My Baby, I’m sure you have questions. We checked in with Susan to get answers and see what life is like for her today and here’s what she had to say:
Were you aware of Egypt’s adoption laws before you visited the cathedral in Cairo?
No, we went there to inquire about adoption, it was all very vague.
When you saw Marko for the first time, did you learn about how he came to be under the care of the church?
No, we did not know anything about his circumstances. The church does this to protect the mother and the baby. It is all handled within the church.
What was your day-to-day like in prison?
Well, our trial lasted 9 months, so the first 9 months were spent hoping and praying that we would be set free with Marko as our son. Our court dates were every 2 months so we just hung-on 2 months at a time. We always believed that once the government realized that we had adopted Marko with the church’s blessing that we would be set free. Once sentenced, I spent my day with prayer and Bible reading in the morning, we were able to spend most of the daytime outside in the yard, so I took advantage of that. At around 3 or 4 in the afternoon we were locked inside the dorms. I spent my time making jewelry in the evenings, I made over 500 pieces of jewelry while there.
Were you and Medhat able to communicate during the two years of incarceration?
Yes, Medhat and I wrote letters to each other. His family visited us every 2 weeks, and they passed letters from Medhat to me and passed my letters along to him. The government actually brought Medhat to the men’s prison near the women’s prison where I was for a 2 month period. During that 2 months we saw each other once a week, which was wonderful.
Did you meet any other prisoners who were locked up for similar reasons?
Yes, our case actually was supposedly ‘a gang’ of child traffickers. There was another couple imprisoned for the same thing with slightly different charges.
After your release from prison, what was the reaction from your community? Have you been accepted back into society, or dealt with any specific challenges as a result of this experience?
My main concern during the whole ordeal was that my church in the US would not think that I had done something wrong. Of course my family knew beforehand that we had adopted Marko through the church. However, they did not know the adoption procedure was writing the birth certificate in our names as Marko’s parents. I had been doing mission work with poor children and orphans for many years prior to this incident. My church stood beside me, realizing that the reason for our imprisonment had to do with Christian/Muslim laws about adoption. This was a great relief to me.
Have you been able to visit Marko at the orphanage again? Are you allowed to contact him or send him letters? Is fostering Marko out of the question because he is being raised Muslim?
Medhat and I do not live in Cairo presently, however, whenever we go there we always walk by “Marko’s house” (as we call it). We have been fortunate to see him playing outside on one of our visits. We have no chance of fostering him now that his identity has been changed. When we visited Marko the first time, it was done anonymously with a group from the church. We do not believe that we would be allowed to see him if they knew that we were his adoptive parents.
How has this experience changed you as a person?
That’s really hard to say… I hope that it has made me a better person. By that I mean more patient, tolerant, kind, giving, accepting, loving. I try to really appreciate each day, enjoying the moments. In my life I try to learn and grow from each experience.
How do you feel about Egypt’s adoption laws?
I feel that something needs to change with how adoption is done in Egypt. This way of doing adoption opens the door for corruption in many ways. Adopting orphans for us Christians is essential to practicing our faith. I hope that the Christian church in Egypt will take a stand against the government and demand that they allow adoption to be done openly for Christians. I could write pages on this subject, but I will say that I totally understand ‘why’ it is done like this for now.
If you were able, would you ever consider adopting again?
Yes, it is still the desire of my heart to be a mother.
What’s life like for you and Medhat now?
Medhat and I are very happy; of course there will always be sadness in our hearts because of what happened, and the thought of Marko always brings a tear to my eye, but life goes on. We have 9 months of sweet and precious memories of him that can never be taken away. I am still in ministry with the poor children, teaching them English and buying them clothing and school supplies. Funny thing, I love all of them, but there is one that I especially am drawn to, it turns out that his birthday is the exact same day and year as Marko’s.