Mum’s ul­ti­mate gift for oth­ers

Central Leader - - NEWS - By MON­ICA TIS­CHLER

Many fam­i­lies have Marama Hama­hona to thank for mak­ing their house­hold com­plete.

The Ranui res­i­dent has ded­i­cated al­most a life­time to bear­ing chil­dren.

But de­spite be­ing sat­is­fied with seven of her own, Ms Hama­hona and her part­ner con­tinue to make ba­bies for friends and fam­ily mem­bers who can’t con­ceive nat­u­rally.

It’s a process known as whangai and is com­mon in many Maori fam­i­lies.

‘‘I sup­pose I’m dif­fer­ent to most par­ents,’’ Ms Hama­hona says.

‘‘I have ba­bies and give them out to fam­ily or peo­ple I know very well,’’ she says.

Ms Hama­hona, 36, started ‘‘giv­ing chil­dren away’’ in 2002 af­ter feel­ing con­tent with her own but know­ing cou­ples who couldn’t con­ceive nat­u­rally.

She agreed to make ba­bies for those in need but un­der one con­di­tion.

‘‘The par­ents need to be present at birth so I don’t get all clucky and want to keep the child,’’ she says.

Whangai means to feed and nour­ish and can oc­cur in whanau mem­bers who are child­less, whose chil­dren have ma­tured and left home or when young moth­ers don’t have the re­sources to raise their child.

Whangai em­braces open­ness. The child knows about their birth par­ents and can main­tain close re­la­tion­ships with them.

Wai­pareira Trust’s men­tal health sup­port worker Josephine Parahi says the whangai prac­tice has been around for many years and up un­til the 1950s it was com­mon for par­ents to give their first born to the grand­par­ents to raise.

De­spite not hav­ing any chil­dren of her own Miss Parahi is a whangai par­ent of 17 chil­dren and says it’s im­por­tant ev­ery child ex­pe­ri­ences love.

‘‘I picked my daugh­ter Elaine off the streets and ev­ery night I tucked her in bed and kissed her good night.

‘‘I never told her to call me mum but af­ter two years she said to me, ‘Mum, now I know what love is’,’’ Miss Parahi says.

‘‘I was blessed with a mother’s heart and love is what they need.’’

Ms Hama­hona has given six fam­i­lies the plea­sure of be­com­ing par­ents.

The dot­ing mother keeps tabs on where all her chil­dren live.

‘‘Three are in Whanganui, two in Ro­torua and one’s in Mor­rinsville.’’

She hasn’t given a baby away in two years but re­mains open to the idea in the fu­ture.

‘‘We’ve had a few fam­ily mem­bers say ‘ Can I have one?’ and I say ‘I’ll keep you in mind’.’’

‘‘I have a cou­ple of cousins who are all putting their bids in but I need to know the fam­ily re­ally well. I wouldn’t give a child to a stranger,’’ Ms Hama­hona says.

She main­tains a close re­la­tion­ship with all the chil­dren and sees them at fam­ily re­unions through­out the year.

‘‘It’s cool but a lit­tle dif­fer­ent when I see them. They all look quite sim­i­lar and have the same hair colour.

‘‘I don’t ex­pect them to call me mum. They can call me aunty if they want.’’

Ms Hama­hona says the whangai chil­dren are com­fort­able with the ar­range­ment.

‘‘They’ve all been brought up to have re­ally good lives and are happy.’’

It’s the re­ward­ing feel­ing of mak­ing a fam­ily com­plete that makes the process worth­while.

‘‘Fam­i­lies thank me ev­ery time I see them,’’ she says.

Photo: MON­ICA TIS­CHLER

Bring­ing joy: Marama Hama­hona, 36, holds the youngest of her seven chil­dren, Hori.

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