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Mum’s (not) the word!

Adoptive mothers tell Sushmita Murthy why it is important to have an open dialogue around adoption, and why it is the best decision they have ever made

A common dialogue around adoption has always been about whether or not to reveal the fact of adoption to the child and how to go about doing it gracefully.

A child gives birth to a mother, they say. No matter how much Dr Spock you consume, workshops you attend, or seasoned mamas you speak to, nothing prepares you for the first time your little one officiates you as his or her mother dearest. The moment is perhaps doubly surreal for adoptive mothers because it comes at a time when they least expect it. The wait for bringing home a new member of the family once you have registered with an adoption agency can be long. And therefore makes the arrival that much sweeter, agree all the moms we spoke to ahead of Mother’s Day.

Jane & Jacob
Jane & Jacob

For Jane D’Souza, a Goa-based photographer, the transition was natural. “My son Jacob was just under four months when we got him home. He didn’t really know the difference between the adoption home and our home. He took to us almost as effortlessly as we took to him,” says Jane who celebrates Jacob’s arrival twice over. “We celebrate both - his birthday and his adoption day (when he joined our family). Sometimes we travel and sometimes we host a party with his friends. Or it’s just my husband, Jacob and I spending time together. We’ve only had four occasions so far since he’s only two, so this is still new to the idea wagon.”

Deepa Nailwal, a former Squadron Leader in the Indian Air Force and one of the first female Air Force officers in the country, knew from the very beginning that she wanted to adopt. “When I was younger and saw children without families, I always thought to myself that if every family adopted just one child, we wouldn’t have homeless children. I always knew that if I had to start a family, it had to be this way,” says Deepa, who is a single mother to her now 11-year-old daughter Shloka.

Deepa & Shloka
Deepa & Shloka

Sheetal Purandare, who runs a unisex salon in Gandhinagar, shares Deepa’s philosophy. In fact, after she and her husband adopted their daughter who is now 14, she convinced four of her friends to turn adoptive parents too. “I consider it my big achievement,” says Sheetal with a smile. Speaking of her experience she continues, “Mohini was 2.5 when she entered our family. The Bal Vikas Mandal where she came from had 63 children under the age of 10. Physically it was not the most luxurious place for kids. This makes the children self-reliant and resilient. So the first time that she came to me crying after bruising herself is when I knew that she had accepted me and grown to trust me. That was when it hit me that I now have a daughter.”

A common dialogue around adoption has always been about whether or not to reveal the fact of adoption to the child and how to go about doing it gracefully. Keeping it hidden is not an option, we’re told unanimously. Says Jane, “Most people know about our adoption journey. That’s not to say that we go out of our way to point it out, but we don’t think it’s something to be kept a secret. I think, talking about adoption can help one get rid of the taboo surrounding it. I’m always happy to talk about our adoption journey. I also try to be as neutral as possible when people ask openly why I chose to adopt instead of having my own children. To me, there’s no difference at all. Sometimes it’s hard not to get angry, but I don’t want Jacob growing up with a negative attitude towards adoption.”

Deepa started the conversation with Shloka by weaving the fact into a story. “I started talking to her about this when she was barely 2 or 3. I don’t know how much sense she made of it then, but I used to narrate to her stories about Krishna. How he had two mothers – Devaki and Yashoda. I’ve always told her that she was meant to be my baby – one way or the other,” she adds with a smile.

Sheetal & Mohini
Sheetal & Mohini

For all the mothers out there who’re contemplating adoption, these moms have one piece of advice — go for it! Adds Jane, “I keep telling people who are considering adoption to just apply for it first and think later. The wait list is very long and by the time parents make up their minds, they have to wait another 2-3 years before they get a child, making the process quite difficult.” As for those that are deterred by other reasons, Sheetal has a message. “I know some parents worry about lineage, parentage, background – but it doesn’t matter. Your child will grow up to reflect your values, and will learn from the environment you provide. I always tell everyone that upbringing trumps heritage.”

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