“The minute I held the baby in my arms, I knew she was my daughter.” This adoptive mother takes us through the journey which connected her with her little girl.
By Ashwin Lobo
What are your views on adoption? Would you be comfortable with adopting a baby?
While your child is lucky to have a loving parent like you, there are many children who aren't. They are orphaned, abandoned or relinquished each year. Some of these children find their way to adoption centres. Here, they wait for a loving family to take them home. According to the Ministry of Women & Child Development, 2,064 babies were adopted in India in the year 2017 alone.
We wanted to gain some clarity on the adoption process and spoke to a Bengaluru-based mother who adopted a baby girl in 2015. Listening to her experience touched us and we would like to share it with you as well.
What made you think of adoption?
For me and my husband, it was a mutual decision. I was always very keen to adopt a child, even before I got married. My initial plan was to only adopt and not have a biological child. Once we got married though, our plans changed a little. We decided that we also wanted to experience parenting by having a biological child. We had a little baby boy and named him Aarav. Once he turned three, we revived our adoption plans and decided that Aarav was old enough to have a younger sibling. It felt very natural for us, we didn’t think of it too much. So, my husband and I registered with the Central Adoption Research Authority (CARA).
What made you adopt a baby girl?
I always wanted to have a girl child. Besides, our first child was a boy. So, we thought it would balance things out if we adopted a girl.
What was the first thing you did once you decided you wanted to adopt a child?
For us, the first step was emotional preparation. We needed to be sure of our decision to adopt before we went through with it. Fortunately, my husband and I were on the same page, so we were confident that adopting a child would be a good decision.
Then, both of us told our parents and made sure that they too were in agreement as we wanted the immediate family to accept the child. Thankfully, both my husband’s parents and mine were open to it.
Could you walk us through the adoption process?
Once we were confident with our decision, we registered online with the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA). We uploaded the required documents on their website. Then, they assigned us a registration number. This was in October 2014. At that time, CARA was following a system which allowed parents to choose a specific agency as per their preference. We chose one in Pune because we knew some individuals who had adopted children through that agency. But, we are residents of Karnataka and the agency was in Maharashtra. So, there was some additional paperwork to do since the baby we wanted to adopt was from another state.
After registration, a home study was done by a social worker from CARA. She came to our house to meet us and asked us for the documents that were needed for the adoption. After this process, she submitted her approval to the State Adoption Research Authority of Karnataka. They gave their approval and transferred the request to the Maharashtra Government. Then, our file was given to the agency in Pune. The agency gave us a new registration number and waiting list number. By the time all this happened, it was May 2015. We were told that it could take as long as two years for our turn to come.
However, right after this, the Ministry of Women & Child Development brought in some reforms to the adoption procedure. By August 2015, the new system was in place. As per the new system, prospective parents could not adopt from any agency of their choice. Instead, all prospective parents were put on a national waiting list. We were given a new User ID on their website. By logging in, we could see the details of our application and our position on the waiting list. Although we no longer had the option of choosing a particular agency, we could choose three states of our preference.
These sudden changes came as a big jolt to us. Nevertheless, it had already been ten months since our registration; so, we were quite high on the waiting list. Within a few days of getting the new User ID, we received an email saying that six babies from Karnataka had been shortlisted for us to choose from. This was towards the end of August 2015. We were shown the pictures of these babies along with other details. It was a little disappointing because we wanted to personally meet the babies. However, they told us that we had to arrive at a decision within the next 48 hours. If we didn’t reserve a baby within that time, we would move down in the waiting list.
We shortlisted a baby from Chikmagalur and ended up going there. The authorities at the adoption agency there were really helpful. They allowed us to spend some time with the baby. The minute I held the baby in my arms, I began to feel that she was my daughter.
We reserved this baby girl, submitted the necessary documents to the agency and by 9 September, we brought her home. It was a little chaotic for us because we were caught in the transition from one system to another, but now, things are much smoother.
Were you nervous that the baby would find it difficult to adjust to a new environment?
In the beginning, we were really afraid that our baby would have difficulty bonding with us. She was just three and a half months old when we adopted her. Thankfully, there was no problem at all. She bonded with us almost instantaneously. It was like she was our biological child.
How did your son react to your adopting a baby?
From the beginning, we made him take an active part in the process. He was there throughout. When we went to shop for baby clothes, he came with us. When we went to Chikmagalur, he accompanied us. We had told him in advance that he was going to get a little sister. We were afraid that he might be a little jealous of the new baby, but he was so welcoming that it touched our hearts.
When your daughter is older, do you plan on telling her that she’s adopted?
Absolutely. When we feel that she’s emotionally ready to cope with it, we will tell her. We will probably tell her when she’s around 10 years old, as I feel that by then, she will be ready to learn the truth. Once she knows that she is adopted, I fear she will go through a bit of an identity crisis. She will also feel hurt that her biological parents left her. There will be a lot of questions that she would like to ask her biological parents, but she probably won’t get the chance. We will have to be with her through all of this and support her emotionally.
Did you have to comply with any formalities after completing the adoption?
There is a follow-up which happens once a year for the first five years after adoption. This is just to see how the baby is doing. We have to take pictures of the baby and send these to the authorities. They also assigned a local agency to us in Bengaluru. We have to take the baby there once a year. All this is to make sure that we’re taking good care of the child.
Why do you think there’s stigma around adoption?
I think some individuals have a mental block. They’re unable to accept the fact that they can raise a child that isn’t biologically theirs. But today, the mindset is changing, and things are getting better. There’s a Facebook group called For & Of Heart Babies started by two women who are adoptive mothers. They act as a support group for adoptive parents and connecting with them was of great help to us. Having a group like this on social media is a big leap forward. Today, there are also many organisations that conduct events for adoptive parents. Personally, I don’t hesitate to say my little girl is adopted if someone asks me. I don’t want to be secretive about it because my daughter will be able to tell if I’m hiding something. Hiding things may also lead her to believe that there’s something shameful about being adopted. I don’t want her to feel betrayed in this way. She needs to have as normal a life as my son. When she grows up, it will be a bit challenging to deal with her questions but that’s okay, I feel that love can surpass everything.
What would your words of advice be to prospective parents looking to adopt a child?
I would request them to only go ahead if they’re really sure about it. It’s about taking up the responsibility of a new addition to the family. It’s almost like planning a pregnancy. Once you’ve planned to have a child, you can’t just abort it. If you’re unsure, just don’t to it. It’s unfair to put the child through your uncertainties. Once you’re sure and you’ve adopted the child, just be natural. Don’t give extra love or care to the adopted baby, she will sense that there is something abnormal and may begin to feel insecure. Treat adoption as an alternative route to traditional parenting.
As Deepika says, the decision to adopt a baby should not be taken lightly. However, if you’ve made up your mind, don’t shy away from adoption. For, as you strive to give a child a better life, you will enrich your own.
P Deepika Murthy is a research analyst and content writer. She has a passion for fitness and boxing. She lives in Bengaluru with her two kids: Aarav and Asavari.
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