It was a beautiful day for Gedraphe. From that day on he would be known as Baba Salva. And Salva would formally be under the care of an adult who had taken parental responsibility.
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Gedraphe had adopted Salva. And, as far as he knew, he would become the first single man in Kenya to adopt a child.
“The day we were introduced to each other we just clicked,” Lutta says. “Salva is turning five in July and it has been an awesome journey growing into fatherhood.”
Lutta, 43, is not your typical single man. He was married before, then got divorced.
Why then would he want to adopt a child especially after his marriage ended?
Lutta and his wife (now ex-wife) had had a conversation about adopting a child. He says: “We were going to adopt a child whether we had a biological child or not. Even after the marriage ended, I still had this strong desire to adopt a child.”
Beyond that, Lutta, a chef by profession and a man of faith, had been a children’s minister with an interdenominational ministry called Desire of Nations.
Having worked with children for years, he had grown fond of them. His heart had spawned a yearning to be a father. “God put that desire in my heart,” he says.
But he did not know how to go about it. He felt there were a lot against him.
“I had known of couples adopting a child. I was not so sure that as a single person – not to mention a single man – I would be allowed to adopt a child,” he says.
Lutta first got the courage to formally apply to adopt a child after attending a homecoming party for an adopted child.
“I remember asking the adoptive mother where her husband was. I had only seen her interacting with the baby. She said she was single.”
“I was amazed that a single woman could be allowed to adopt. I then went about researching if a single man would be allowed to adopt,” he says.
Indeed, he could adopt. But the law only allowed him to adopt a boy and not a girl. And so he commenced the adoption process.
Almost immediately, the challenges of being a single father hit him. Without a nanny, Lutta found himself parenting round the clock – feeding the baby, bathing him and changing diapers.
Having been raised in a patriarchal society, Lutta could not have been any less prepared for the demands of single fatherhood. Nevertheless he took his new responsibility in stride: making sure that the baby was being fed as per the schedule.
“I had anticipated some of these challenges. Lucky for me Salva Tulivu, like his second name, was generally a calm baby. That made my work easier,” he says.
A month down the line, Lutta hired a nanny to watch over the baby as he went back to work. He, however, made it a point of spending more time at home with his son.
He says: “Being a parent is not easy. You have to be present to raise them up.”
While in formal set-ups Lutta may describe the boy as ‘adoptive son,’ he does not doubt the father-son bond between them.
“I love Salva like a father loves a biological son. And I am proud to be his father. I don’t have any hang-ups about that,” he says.
Occasionally, Lutta attracts questions such as, “How did you raise a 9-month old?” The answer is easy: he took his son to clinics, fed him and clothed him.
But as children grow up, they transition through different phases of growth – each one presenting its own challenges. Does Terrible Two ring a bell?
Once every week, father and son go out. “We can go out for lunch. Sometimes I take him to kids’ jamboree,” Lutta says.
If Lutta has work commitments that would see him away from home, he will inform his son accordingly.
“We are open with each other. He expects that, as his father, I will be around every day. And so on a day I won’t be home, I inform him ahead of time,” he says.
Before bed time Lutta will read Bible stories to Salva. In the morning they will pray together before Salva’s school van arrives to pick him up and Lutta heads to work.
Growing up meant that Salva was learning his environment. Through school, he learnt that children have ‘mommies’ too.
“Has he ever asked where his mother is?” we ask Lutta.
“I knew that he would ask that question. It was only a matter of time. Sometimes when he sees me with a female friend, he asks, ‘Is that mommy?’”
Calmly, Lutta would answer, “No, that is not mommy. God may give us mommy later in life.”
Lutta would love to marry again in future. “Whoever it is they would have to love both Salva and I. Especially Salva: they would need to love him like they would a biological child.”
The law, says Susan Otwoma, the CEO of Little Angels Network, an adoption agency, allows singles to adopt – if they are adults above 25 years of age and not older than 65.
“But they can only adopt children of their sex. A single man will be allowed to adopt a male child and a single woman can only adopt a baby girl,” Otwoma says.
In unique situations, a single male or female can be allowed to adopt a child of the opposite sex.
Grace Wanunda, the chairperson of the newly formed Adoptive Families Association of Kenya (AFAK), has adopted two children: a girl and a boy.
However, she first adopted the girl, then the boy followed a few years later. “Having been a mother before (to my adoptive child), I was allowed to adopt a boy the second time,” Grace says.
Lutta is an advocate for adoption.
He says: “I am passionate about adoption because it gives adults who are capable of and would love to parent a child the opportunity to do just that. It also offers a child without a family the chance to have parents that love and care for them.”
Lutta’s dream is for Salva to grow into a God-fearing man who will make an impact in the society.