She looked neither like Anuj nor like Meera, but she was theirs. She did not have Anuj’s deep brown eyes nor Meera’s wrinkled smile, but she won their hearts. She came into their lives late, but she made up for all the time they thought they had lost. Bringing her home changed their world and hers. She was daddy’s little princess and the apple of mummy’s eye.
Anuj and Meera had known it was not going to be easy. But when they got together, they had decided they would adopt a child. It was their plan for life. They adored children and there were many who needed a home. There are many couples–like Anuj and Meera–around us who choose to adopt instead of having their own children. Then there are couples who adopt children because they can’t have their own. Whichever the case, adopting a child brings immense happiness to both the parents and the child.
But amidst all the excitement of welcoming a new child into their world, parents tend to worry that they did not have nine months of pregnancy to prepare themselves for the journey. Addressing this, Jodi Picoult in her book Handle with Care writes: “Was it the act of giving birth that made you a mother? Did you lose that label when you relinquished your child? If people were measured by their deeds, on the one hand, I had a woman who had chosen to give me up; on the other, I had a woman who’d sat up with me at night when I was sick as a child, who’d cried with me over boyfriends, who’d clapped fiercely at my law school graduation. Which acts made you more of a mother? Both, I realised. Being a parent wasn’t just about bearing a child. It was about bearing witness to its life.” From Picoult’s experience, it is clear that one does not have to bear a child in order to become a parent. Shaping a child’s life makes a parent too.
Making a child understand that he or she was given up for adoption so that they could have a better life is, perhaps, the most challenging part of the process. But once they realise this was done for their own good, they might actually develop a sense of gratitude towards both the adoptive parents and the birth parents.
Parenthood is about being with the child every waking moment of their early years, celebrating their successes, motivating them when they fail, and growing with them. Not everyone gets nine months to prepare themselves but prepared they have to be. After all, parenting is a life-altering experience.
The very process of adopting a child is quite hard in itself. Bangalore-based Vathsalya Charitable Trust facilitated adoption of children up until 2013. Founder-director of the trust Mary Paul says there is a lot of stress in the process of adoption. “That’s why there are preparation workshops. Generally, adoptive parents attend workshops, read extensively about adoption, interact with friends who have already adopted, and prepare their family for the big change,” she explains.
Adoption is just as hard for the biological parents who have to give up their children. Even the little one suffers grief, as he or she is separated from the mother. “The child has to undergo detachment and then attachment once again. It is a lot of stress for both the child and the birth mother, just as it is for the adoptive parents. It is called the adoption triad,” Paul says.
Many a time, the sheer joy of adopting a child tends to override the need to understand this triad. Adoptive parents may expect the child to be happy, but it may not happen right away, as the child has just been separated from the previous caregiver. This makes the whole process complicated. If not handled with sensitivity, it might not work as expected. It might cause pain to the adoptive parents, the biological parents, and the child.
The next phase of the journey begins once the child settles down in the new home. As the child grows up, parents face a big dilemma–whether or not they should tell the child that he or she was adopted. Most adoptive parents feel it is extremely important to be truthful; it can be heart-breaking for the child to learn of it from others. Ask art teacher Ankita Mishra who adopted a baby girl years ago, and she will tell you concealing this bit of truth is never a good idea. “If you hide the fact that the child is adopted, then they will start wondering what else you have hidden from them. You hide things when you do something wrong. Adopting a child is not wrong,” she points out.
Adopted children are bound to be curious, of course. They often wonder why their birth parents gave them up. Maria D’Souza faced this dilemma first hand when her daughter began questioning why her birth parents gave her up. “Whenever she felt rejected, we explained to her that her birth mother would have given her up due to illness or poverty or some other dire circumstance. And not because she did not love her.” Such constant reassurance is necessary in most cases for the child to understand that he or she was chosen, and not rejected.
Making a child understand that he or she was given up for adoption so that they could have a better life is, perhaps, the most challenging part of the process. But once they realise this was done for their own good, they might actually develop a sense of gratitude towards both the adoptive parents and the birth parents. After all, how many children are blessed with two sets of parents–one that gave them birth and one that gave them a life!
*A few names have been changed