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.

Comments

  1. jenn
    USA
    July 23, 2012, 10:55 pm

    My heart goes out to you, me being a mother this story brought tears to my eyes. Stay strong.

  2. Chicago Bulls Snapback
    July 24, 2012, 10:14 am

    I haven’t checked in here for a while since I thought it was getting boring, but the last several posts are great quality so I guess I’ll add you back to my daily bloglist. You deserve it my friend :)

  3. Joel Marcos
    Texas
    July 25, 2012, 6:35 pm

    Nah Nah Nah! This woman tried to kidnapped a baby no matter what she says. She lied constantly, and you can see by looking at her face that she is a liar. I dont believe her and I think she should have stayed in jail.

  4. Hillsy
    July 26, 2012, 3:05 pm

    I wish they would’ve explained adoption in Egypt better. Anyway, I feel terrible for a parent that loses a child under circumstances like these or other ones (unless they harm the child in ANY way). As a mother this story was painful to watch and I hope these parents are healing and get to adopt another child someday soon.

  5. Melody Smith
    New York
    July 28, 2012, 8:17 pm

    I feel that Americans ignore laws of other nations. Actions like this couple are why international adoption is so expensive and complicated now. We have experienced the problems of intl adoption firsthand and we tried to obey the laws, often with mixed success. Do not lie to adopt a child. Do not falsify paperwork. You disrespect their laws, if you disagree with them it doesn’t give you the right to break them. Often the children are not true orphans. They may have been kidnapped or sold, obviously they were income to this gang of crooks. They took advantage of your age and desperation. You still can sponsor a child. Perhaps you could sponsor the education of a child like Marco, or even Marco in his own new family.

    Americans — respect the laws, and understand the penalties. Adopt in the US. There are kids here, too.

  6. alwaysblessed
    July 29, 2012, 1:44 am

    I don’t understand, so they changed Marko’s identity and you are not able to adopt him at all?
    Is there any way you can adopt Marko?
    I pray so! Please keep us updated!
    My heart goes out to you and your husband! God Bless you and Markos!

  7. Renee
    Ohio
    July 29, 2012, 7:34 pm

    I was curious as to what made the embassy officials suspicious in the first place. I felt too that there wasn’t enough back ground given regarding why they were told to be discreet. Also Susan mentions a couple of times that the day was coming in which she could trust nobody and implied that included her husband but that was never really explained throughout the program.
    However, as an adoptive mother this story made my heart break. Regardless of the circumstances, if the birthmother willingly gave up her child for adoption, then Susan became his mother and bonded with him during that time. What a heartbreak. I can’t imagine.

  8. Al-B
    NC
    July 29, 2012, 7:49 pm

    No pity here for her…..she got exactly what she deserved. At the very least she knew what she was doing was illegal. Just looking at her in the video made me feel that she’s the type of person who will lose it when she can’t have things her way. The bottom-line is this, she knew that she was breaking the law!

  9. cheryl
    Wi.
    July 31, 2012, 10:38 am

    That was a very cruel act to take Marko’s away from loving adpotive parents. Do you know how many children there are in India and Egypt with out clothes and food?-A lot!!!
    Remeber Mahatma Gandhi said, “The wasy we treat our animals is how we treat our society”. Perhaps Egypt should think about that statement and help their child that are not wanted by the birth parents. God Bless Susan and Medhat for trying!!!

  10. Kate
    Hong Kong
    July 31, 2012, 10:50 am

    As a mother I have sympathy for Susan because I can’t even imagine how horrific it must have been to give up the baby. However, it seems bizarre to me that she and her husband didn’t check out the adoption laws and processes before going to the church and rather blindly following along with what they were told. They don’t seem like stupid people but maybe naive and too trusting in the church. Susan says that what worried her most was what her US church would think of her, and that says volumes. Of all that was happening, that was her greatest concern? The mind boggles.

    I have more sympathy for her than pretty much anyone I’ve ever seen in this series, because her motivation was the need to love a child. I understand that. But lying is no good means to an end in anything. during the scene at the embassy when she was faced with falsifying the application, I kept wondering why she didn’t just ask the embassy employee if she could speak with him privately and just tell the truth about the whole thing. But I often wonder that in these shows. It seems a sensible thing to do before you put one more foot closer to the hell that looms so clearly in front of you.

  11. BCR
    August 8, 2012, 9:26 pm
  12. MIL
    Egypt
    August 22, 2012, 2:34 am

    She knew that what she was doing was illegal. I live in Egypt and her story is so full of holes it couldn’t carry water. She knew she lied about being the biological mother, just so many lies that she admitted too, I’m wondering about the lies she didn’t admit too. Egypt has laws, which she probably knew, that restrict the adoption/fostering of Egyptian children to foreigners also the age of her. Plus it wouldn’t have taken much (this did happen in 2008) to google adoption in Egypt. Considering she married him and presumably moved to Egypt in 2004 she had lots of time to learn and understand the laws here. Just because you don’t agree with the laws of a country doesn’t give you the right to break them in order to get what you want.

  13. Heather Pellerin
    Vancouver Canada
    September 7, 2012, 1:18 am

    I think there’s so much more that she left out. I mean come on. Rekindles an old foreign flame. Gets married. Steals a baby and then tries to return to the USA. Well it’s been done before or you wouldnt of stood out so easy.

  14. Essie
    Canada
    September 28, 2012, 8:18 pm

    I have no sympathy for this evil woman!!! How dare she sit there and cry over “her child” being taken away. She should have thought about the emotional turmoil that the child’s BIRTH MOTHER was going to. She has no right to call herself a mother, if she’s willing to put another mother through that. I wish she had received a more severe sentence. She disgusts me.

  15. Hike108
    United States
    September 29, 2012, 8:59 am

    I do not believe she’s lying. Naive, yes, You would think that she would approach the US Embassy and lawyers to inquire about adoption before proceeding. But she had lived in Egypt with her husband and probably trusted him to make the proper arrangement. The real deal is that the husband knew the laws and prohibitions and failed to inform his foreign-born wife. He tried to make her happy and handle “the details.” This is a cultural dissonance when you go to live in another country. You may think you understand the people, the culture, the language, but there are nuances that you do not grasp. That was a painful lesson.

  16. [...] More photos from this episode can be seen here. To find out more about the Susan Haglof story, her biography and background and where she is now, after the ordeal, read a recent interview here. [...]

  17. Disgusted
    October 14, 2012, 12:56 pm

    What a piece of garbage this woman is. She attempts to smuggle a child, that doesn’t belong to her, out of the country, yet she portrays herself as some kind of a victim!?

    There should be no leniency for human traffickers, I don’t care how “clever” their stories, or how “stupid” they pretend to be.

  18. heather
    nyc
    October 14, 2012, 9:31 pm

    You American haters are truly disgusting people. My heart goes out to her for her loss and ordeal.

  19. Donna Imelda
    Jakarta - Indonesia
    October 16, 2012, 3:14 pm

    I just watched this story, my heart goes out to you Susan, as a mother I just can’t imagine how sad the moment was when you were seperated with the baby after taking care of him 9 months its so sad. I am in tear watching this story, how it contribute to my heart. I hope Susan will soon have an adoption baby. Although it will be hard to forget memoir of Marco. Keep praying and God bless you.

  20. June
    Canada
    October 18, 2012, 11:59 pm

    People don’t look at laws regularly. there should be so many laws per country that it would be hell to read through all the details. I’m sure there are laws in our city/state/province/country we ourselves don’t even know about. You have to be a very detailed person so I understand that she didn’t ask around. however, I don’t know how long she lived there or if she was able to find out information on adoption simply by “living” there. Her husband probably should’ve known more. I don’t know if he has an excuse for not knowing. We don’t know if they had any friends they could’ve asked about adoption. But honestly, people rarely go online & read through the laws. There are so many articles/subsections per law & the wording is so difficult to understand.

    Some people are more thorough in their plans. Others aren’t. There’s no reason to call her an evil bitch. A lot of people have “sinking feelings” but her emotions and she may have been in the early menopausal stages, so her hormonal levels are crazy. If the show portrayed her accurately (which I don’t know if it did), she immediately bonded with the boy. She should’ve thought again if the people said there was no paperwork. But she was simply ruled by her emotions & didn’t use her brain. She is not evil in my mind & I do feel sorry for her. People simply need to be more careful.

  21. Anternoz
    Philippines
    October 22, 2012, 11:09 am

    So much hates comments from people whom have no ideas what she suffered! Yes, she lied once.. And the lies had to spiral to stay on track.. Just went out of control. Even after jail, they both stayed in Egypt. And she is still helping poor kids on needs… Some compassions guys!! Easy to juge and critic when you are not involved yourself…

  22. F.S.
    Netherlands
    October 30, 2012, 5:10 am

    I heard in your story admit that you did something wrong saying it was worth committing this crime.
    The moment they said you have to be discrete and that there will not be official papers, you of course knew it was illegal.

    Illegal adoption is in my opinion a very big crime. Maybe the baby is stolen or taken with force from the biological mother just to earn money on the child. In your story I never heard you talking about what you did indirectly to the biological mother and the baby by cooperating with this gang.

    You only looked at it from your side, making people feel sorry for you. You never thought what is good for the baby and the biological mother. My thoughts are with her, not with you. What is the problem in doing a legal adoption? I really don’t understand it. Therefor I think it is very good that illegal adoption is being punished.

  23. HL
    Malaysia
    November 3, 2012, 11:22 am

    Susan, yours is a truly touching story. I wish you the very best moving forward.

  24. Mike
    USA
    November 4, 2012, 4:42 am

    So let me get this straight.
    You went into an American Consulate in Egypt. Freaked out when they wanted you to sign a paper saying you were the child’s biological mother so the child could get his own passport and then couldn’t believe it when they didn’t believe you?
    So where exactly do you think you went wrong?
    You want to act like everything was so vague so you don’t have to take any responsibility.
    The biggest problem you ran into was yourself! Trying to pass off as a mother after menopause is a joke. If you really wanted a child you would have had one when you could have.
    Your lucky they only gave you 2 years.
    This child was never “Your Baby”
    I would hope the US has a warrant out for your willingness to sign a false document.

  25. Chantelle
    Canada
    November 16, 2012, 1:29 pm

    Susan clearly thinks that she was completely in the right because she really wanted a baby. The fact that she knew something was wrong, that she was lying about the baby being hers and therefore was illegally adoption the child, that she wanted to raise the child as Christian when the state did not allow this, seemed not to matter to her because she really wanted a baby. She thought that her actions should have had no consequences and that it was ok to disobey the law because really wanted a baby.

    Hers is an unjustifiable, indefensible position and I have no sympathy for her. Human trafficking is a “horribly serious crime” (as she put it) and yet this is exactly what she did. She deserved to go to jail and to have the child taken away.

  26. jeff tomas
    toronto canada
    December 28, 2012, 9:37 pm

    This woman is sick you can just see it in her, there is a reason why she was unable to legally adopt a baby in the U.S. She is playing stupid and she knows it. The sick woman blames it all on the guy. What a joke I laugh at her No sympathy she should’ve gotten more time for acting like she didn’t know it was wrong. If you read this SUSAN you are crazy person that doesn’t deserve to havea kid with a mind like yours. BABY KIDNAPPER.

  27. Crazy
    toronto canada
    December 29, 2012, 9:34 pm

    This woman is sick!!! She is trying to make people feel sorry for her when she is in the wrong, you should get more time in jail for trying to smuggle a infant. There is a reason why sicko couldn’t adopt a baby in the states. Hope This is on her record so she doesn’t get her hands on another infant for this to happen again.

  28. Sai
    India
    January 11, 2013, 4:30 am

    Very powerful narration and I have tears in my eyes as I write this. But I wonder why she didn’t care to think of the little baby’s real mother who carried him for nine months only to see him stolen from her. Was she thinking it’s okay to steal a Muslim baby and convert him to Christianity so that she gets brownie points at the gates of Heaven? One less Muslim in the world? What the hell was she thinking? Can you imagine the horror of losing your baby in a crowded train station, never to be found again?

    Humans are not puppies to be factory-produced in puppy mills and sold. I own a 3-yr old pet dog and often I feel the guilt of taking him away from his mother when he was just five weeks old. He’s just a dog!

    I know Susan’s heart got her into trouble; but her head should have prevailed soon after getting the baby home.

    I see sadness in this lady’s face, but I don’t see remorse. That is a shame. In almost all the other Locked Up Abroad episodes, the protagonist feels guilt and remorse in the end. But it is missing here.

  29. ancilla
    india
    January 13, 2013, 11:50 am

    i seen yr case on discovery. i was truly touched by your words …….. it was better knowing and loving him than not loving him at all. as we know – love conquers all and hope some day marco would officially n legally be a part of your home. u r in my prayers. with best wishes.

  30. Kathy
    Texas
    February 2, 2013, 10:32 pm

    I can’t believe how hard hearted many of the commenters are in this thread. Particularly notable are those from Canada. Why is that?

    Sure, she should have checked things out with a lawyer and heeded the red flags from the US Embassy. But can anyone on this board (Canadians??) assert that the child was better off in an orphanage than in the parent’s care? Why in the hell didn’t the embassy be blunt and honest with them? They work for us!

    This is a tragic story in many ways and my heart goes out to the parents and baby Marko.

  31. Laura
    February 17, 2013, 9:55 am

    my sympathy to you. I hope life continues well for you and I am sure that the children you see in your work like you very much. My admiration to you for having share your story with us. It takes lots of guts to do that!!

  32. G
    Venezuela
    April 2, 2013, 12:19 am

    As I have understood, Marko was not kidnapped from their biological parents, he was given for adoption to a christian church. In Egypt christians are very restricted to adopt kids, so that’s the way they do it. I know it is illegal but I think that describing Susan as a Kidnapper or children trafficker or something like that is just an exaggeration since there are no details about Marko’s biological parents, and they were never being looking for him. Marko’s was not kidnapped.

    And I don’t know why american embassy tell Egypt police about the case, it is Egyptian government’s problem, the embassy should limit to approve or deny the visa, or in this case the passport.

  33. Curious Roxas
    US
    April 11, 2013, 8:19 am

    US police entities operate in many countries throughout the world. They are generally there with the permission of the host countries. We have treaties with those host countries and American officials can not simply turn the other way when they suspect an American to be a criminal.

    US Embassies come under the US State Department, enough said about that.

    This selfish woman broke the laws of the US and Egypt. I don’t feel sorry for her, I don’t fully believe that she was unaware of the fact that this adoption was tarnished. She got what she deserved and less.

    She accepts an internet proposal form someone in a hell hole country, goes there, marries him, and proceeds to kidnap a child. Then she has the audacity to hide behind the church? Give me a break. This is one sick bitch.

  34. Danny Cleveland
    United States
    June 23, 2013, 12:34 pm

    For simple clarification, Blake and all persons related to him are citizens of and born in the United States of America and have no ties or marital relations in the Middle East.

    Google Help Find Blake Edward Cleveland

    here is the link:
    http://sites.google.com/site/blakeclevelandmissing12inms/

  35. Yvette
    Australia
    August 26, 2013, 6:27 am

    Susan,
    My heart goes out to you. You should have been warned by the church that what you were doing was illegal- then you could have tried leaving the country more discreetly . It is disgusting that Marco’s religion was changed by the state. The church would only have access to babies born to Christian mothers- so they had no right to do this. I’m just sorry the church couldn’t help you more. I hope you had him baptised – they can’t change that! Good luck .

  36. SANJa
    Canberra
    January 5, 6:53 pm

    How do you know this, Danny Cleveland? How?

  37. Stemsell
    Australia
    March 18, 12:36 pm

    This woman is scum!!! What a lying, deceitful hag!! She knew she was doing the wrong thing and still did it. Then she has the audacity to play the victim and to try and play the sympathy card. Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic. You and your husband or who ever he is should be ashamed of your selves. “Oh I want my papers back, what does this paper say, oh I don’t have pictures of me being pregnant, I can’t provide DNA, I’m not his real mother!!!!!!!” Fact, your not his real mother!!!! You lied about it, your falsified documents about it, you told officials that you were but you weren’t. Fact! Act innocent or ignorant but at the end of the day you are a cold calculating manipulative criminal and deserve what you got! Get over it. Think about the poor woman and family of the baby you attempted to steal. She is the victim, you are a cog in the wheel that drives illegal child activities. Your lucky you aren’t in prison for life. Because that’s what the real mother of the child received, her whole life left thinkin about her baby being taken away from her.! You can’t even produce real tears or emotions in your interview because deep down you know its a load of crap. No OSCAR Award for you, pathetic acting for the camera, and stop calling him your son, he isn’t and never was. Drop the act because it sickens me.

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    March 20, 11:29 am

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