A Bag Full of Mixed Emotions

by Meher Venkatraman

my story“Adoption is when a child grew in its mommy’s heart instead of her tummy”- This statement is so true and yet, when making a decision to bring a child into the fold of the family, one has to give it serious thought.

Going from ‘Us’ to ‘Our Family’:

Bringing a child into a family – irrespective of whether the child was born into the family or came in through adoption, is a time of great joy. Especially after years of being married and having tried for a child (5 years – in our case), we realized that one needs to decide on adoption fast. This enables the couple to be young enough to raise a child and minimizes the issues related to a large generation gap.

A couple, when making this crucial decision to become ‘parents’, give a lot of thought to the concept. Suddenly one has to give up the idea of ‘Us’ to ‘Our Family”. It is not difficult if a couple has made up their minds to become parents. It is a lovely feeling, at the same time; it involves a lot of responsibility. Every stage of the growth of the child, as well as the family, brings a bag of mixed feelings – joys and tears.

My husband and I have had a very fulfilling experience in raising our children – a son and a daughter. We had them when they were aged 3 and 5 months respectively (our daughter joined us almost three years after our son), and now, after 20 years – “we have no regrets”. Once the children came into our lives, it was just the same as having children at home. Yes – we also had children without waiting for nine months, without going into labour and without the stress of waiting to see if our baby was a girl, a boy or a normal child!

The wait before bringing baby home:

Once we chose our children, the difficult part was to wait for all the paperwork to be over, to bring ‘our’ children home. There was an immediate connect, which tore us apart – as parents, not being able to bring ‘our children’ home immediately, once we had formally accepted them.

However, later we realized that it is better that all legal work is completed rather than having to regret being hasty later. “A couple must be cautious to finish ALL legal paperwork so that there are no repercussions later in life, for anyone.”

Dealing with reactions:

After having brought our children home, as parents, we needed to be confident to deal with various reactions. We had to learn to understand and deal with the mixed response from people around us – the reaction of relatives, friends and youngsters.

Some accept an adoption with open arms, though some find it unusual, especially, the young who don’t see a pregnant aunty and suddenly find a baby at home. For the adults, it is different – those who can’t accept adoption, find it difficult to understand the concept of adoption and wonder why couples can’t accept not having children. Some question why couples don’t try more avenues of having a child naturally.

Adults must understand that a child enriches a couple’s life – bringing joy and fulfillment. In the case of children, explaining to them that aunty had a child given by God is a good option since they accept this willingly. Children love the concept of God giving a child…it makes it more acceptable (wish adults were more open to this!).

Personally, no one needs to justify their personal choices, but with adoptions, we need to amicably resolve the situation, or else it could lead to our children growing up in a hostile environment.

Acceptance with an open mind, heart and arms:

There are times when a child may develop learning disabilities or may have some physical health issues. Some may like to blame it on the child being adopted. Do remember, children naturally born to parents ALSO develop these kinds of problems later in life, and not only at birth. One can NEVER blame disabilities or sickness on adoption.

In fact, when a couple adopts, they have a right to refuse the adoption if the child fails a physical checkup of any kind. Does a couple have such a choice when a child is born to them? Therefore, a couple must adopt a child with an open mind, heart and arms!

Establishing a relationship of trust:

Once the child is accepted into society, the next question revolves around raising the child. During the formative years, it is important to tell children that they were not born from their mummy’s (adoptive mother’s) stomach but from the heart, a baby specially given by God. With this information, the child grows up knowing it was not “naturally” born to the parents and this helps establish a relationship of trust.

During the ‘inquisitive’ years, the child is bound to ask questions about their birth mother/parents. It is very important to tackle these questions without feeling uncomfortable. Even at this stage, children accept answers, if answered confidently. If there are domestic conflicts, the explanations may not go down well with the child. For example, in a joint family set up, the answer the parents give may differ from what other elders give. This creates doubts in the child’s mind. However, here again, the child accepts answers based on the love and confidence with which questions are tackled by the parents.

The most difficult time answering questions on adoption are the ‘teen’ years. At this stage, children are naturally rebellious and ask plenty of questions and they do not accept ‘covered’ answers. In addition to the normal rebellion, parents may also encounter rebellion in the form of – ‘You are not my natural parent’. It is disturbing for a parent to hear this from ‘their’ child, but it is also the truth. This too needs to be tackled with firmness, love and confidence. Even a slight hint of weakness is what teenagers are looking for and they will definitely take advantage of it.

Most of us, do not know the actual past of the child, but the natural inference is that the child was abandoned under various circumstances. It is difficult for some teenagers to accept this, even in the most loving environment. Today we live in a world of ‘live in’ relationships; having children out of marriage, separation or divorce and single parenting. It is, therefore, difficult for a child to accept that he/she is the one who was abandoned. It takes a lot of tact, patience, love and convincing to make the child accept that the past is not relevant to today or tomorrow. This is just one more issue we parents have to tackle while our children our teenagers.

It is also essential to keep in mind that every child’s reaction to his / her past or to the fact of being adopted is different. In our case, one child accepted the past, but the other retaliated – the home, parents and circumstances were the same.

There are difficult times and one cannot give up at ANY time. But, isn’t life constantly throwing challenges our way? We, as parents, need to overcome problems with our children just like any other problem. Take the help of anyone you think can help – a counselor, a friend, a relative, the child’s friend, teacher – anyone, as long as the problem finds a solution! Don’t let your internal hurt or ego come in the way of finding solutions.

We couples, who do not have the joy of naturally having children, find a lot of contentment and joy in having a child by adoption. There is no other relationship that is more rewarding than seeing children grow up into successful confident adults and compassionate, good human beings.

Later in life, when one looks back, it is an overwhelming joy to see how through love and a sheltered life one has given ‘life’ to a child, through adoption.

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