by Adele Pereira
If you’re an Indian considering adoption in India, you can’t ignore this question. In fact, many people who are uncomfortable with the idea of adopting are actually deeply concerned about the answer to this question- Can our Indian society actually accept a child who has been adopted?
Well, since we are part of our society, let’s decide for ourselves. Here are a few things for you to consider:
Question 1: Whom to tell?
Answer: The adoption agency will require you to tell your parents, siblings and immediate family members besides your neighbours; as part of the process. Rightly so, for they understand that even if you do not live as a joint family, a child’s happy adjustment to this new life will depend, in part, on how open and accepting your family and neighbours will be. Of course, you can’t control how everyone thinks and how they will choose to react to this news, but its only fair that you give them this news in the best possible way to make it easy for them to accept this new phase in your lives and more importantly – your child.
So make a list of all the people in your life under the following categories- immediate families, relatives, friends – old and new, colleagues, neighbours, those who work for you or come to deliver stuff to your house. There really is no point leaving anyone out because then the only option you are giving them when they see you with your new baby is to ask you uncomfortable questions or gossip behind your back and spread untruthful information.
Case study: The local chemist near our house used to send their delivery boys almost everyday to our home because we constantly needed medicines and other supplies for our two ill elderly. Before we got our daughter home, we told each one of the delivery boys about the adoption, because we knew she would see them daily and we wanted them to react positively to her. Before my daughter started playschool, we met her principal and teacher to tell them she was adopted and I told each of her classmates mums myself in Esther’s presence. So everyone in her playschool knows she’s adopted and is very comfortable with it.
Question 2: But what to tell? Its so overwhelming to understand and deal with even for myself.
Answer: What you tell – how much of the intimate details (of why you decided to adopt and whatever you know of your child’s early history) you want to share is up to you. But what you share and the manner in which you do it will definitely reflect your own mindset. If you are ashamed and secretive about it, people will try to find out or make up their own juicy details to use to gossip. If you are open and transparent about it, people won’t have much to gossip about because you have already told everyone the truth directly. In order to send out a united and confident message to the world, you and your spouse need to be on the same page and at peace with why you have decided to adopt and how you intend to raise your child to be confident with this truth. Tell the truth. Anything other than will only cause more confusion and pain.
Case study: A couple visiting our home brought along their 10 year old daughter who we knew and a little girl along with them. No one introduced her, so we asked the 10 year old- who have you brought along with you? She looked at her mother confused and answered tentatively- my sister? Her answer was more of a question than an answer because the parents didn’t know what to say and left it the to girl to answer people. Wouldn’t it have been easier to call ahead and say – guess what? We have a surprise, we’ve adopted a little girl and we’re bringing her over to meet you.
Question 3: Do I have to tell my child s/he’s adopted? Can’t s/he be spared from knowing this horrible fact about him/herself?
Answer: Everyone else knows! You really can’t be NOT pregnant, bring a baby home as your own and expect people not to talk about it! The real question is – do you want your child to, one day accidentally figure out what people have been talking behind his/her back all his/her life? Or do you want her/him to be at peace with this truth so s/he will be able to face life and society wherever s/he goes, long after you have gone? Honesty is the best policy. The truth will set you free. These are not just sayings. This is wisdom- to make your peace with an uncomfortable truth rather than live your whole life looking over your shoulder in fear that the lies will be exposed.
Case study: An only child was told by her parents just after her 18th birthday that she had been adopted. They waited till she had become an adult because they thought she was now mature enough to understand the truth. But besides dealing with the fact of her adoption she also had to deal with the fact that everyone in her life knew she was adopted, except her. The weight of the lies she had believed for the last 18 years devastated the girl and it took them 2 years to get her out of depression and heal family relationships. It was 18 years of lies that hurt the whole family, not the plain and simple truth.
Question 4: How to tell?
Answer: This is the fun part! You can be as creative as possible and use different ways for different people. The important part is to tell each person in a way that helps them understand adoption best so that your child and you benefit from their acceptance and understanding. For more guidelines and details, please look at the article titled ‘How to tell the truth about adoption‘