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Adopted From India: My Story

Posted: October 6, 2012
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Adopted from India as children, many Indian origin adoptees wish to search for their birth parents. What drives them?

By Miriam Gaenicke

Imagine you live in a Western nation where hardly anyone bears any resemblance to you (especially your own parents), mostly everyone is Caucasian and very few of your peers have black hair and olive skin.

I always had full access to my Indian passport and photographs, which recorded my ten months of Indian foster care and information about being adopted from India. But growing up, I was the “All-American Kid” who loved school, her parents and friends. Furthermore, I was THE tallest and stuck out like a sore thumb.

Aside from my family with two fellow adopted siblings, my first casual encounter with another Indian peer was on my primary school playground. My soon-to-be friend, Rahab, asked me, “Are you from India?” I replied, “Yes,” but quickly noticed that she was darker and shorter than me even though she was also one year older than me (and in lower primary school terms, that’s an eternity).

At the time, it did not occur to me that we originated from different regions of India. And WHY would it? I was just a child. Eventually, I learned most Indians in my Central California region were shorter and darker than me; many came from Punjab and Gujarat.

The questions of the adopted child

Miriam Gaenicke

Miriam Gaenicke

Most people take full advantage of knowing their parents and birth information such as their birth weight, parents’ religion, delivery method and obstetric history. But throughout my 36 years of existence, eternal questions sit in the back of my mind: “Why don’t more Indians resemble me? Aside from Southern India, where does this population live? What does my birth family look like and how do I resemble them?”

I had yet to find any answers to the last and most important question until last year when I sent a random email to my birth hospital via an online request. Surprisingly, within hours, I received a response from the hospital’s physical therapist. This conversation led to my receiving my birth information. For me, this was a miraculous event! Very few Indian children adopted to the United States from the 1960s & 1970s have any birth information.

For many Indian adoptees, one’s birthday is simply unknown. In my case, it has always been known. According to Dr. Kripa Cooper-Lewter, fellow Indian adoptee and Social Work Professor at University of South Carolina, my situation is very unique. Only 5% of Indian children who were adopted to the United States in the 1970’s have access to their specific birth information.

Searching for my birth family

From the Indian American community, I have often heard these equally pressing statements, ‘‘You have a great adoptive family. Why do you feel the need to search for your Indian family?” There are many reasons WHY I (and many adoptees) feel inclined to search for at least one of our birth parents. The main reason is the innate need to know our roots.

You have a great adoptive family. Why do you feel the need to search for your Indian family?

Basic human biology proves this. Adoption is an act of will and it’s natural to want to know more. Curiosity and the need to complete our identities are elements which naturally spark us to ask, “What do my parents look like? Who ‘has’ my spunky personality? And why am I so tall (1.73m)?” Having access to our own medical history is also a major concern. Adopted individuals often need to know medical conditions we may be passing on to our children, and what to expect in our futures.

Of course there is the ultimate question, “Why was I given up for adoption?” Looking in the mirror asking these questions is no different to a non-adoptee looking in the mirror and telling themselves, “I have my mom’s hair, dad’s eyes, and grandma’s sense of humour.” These statements for biological children have answers, while the adoptees’ questions do not.

A mirror is a powerful tool for both parties: adopted and biological. The next time you look in the mirror, please take a look at yourself and think of the thousands of Indian adoptees who have very little and/or no idea of their heritage and early beginnings. It may stun you, sadden you or simply give you a glimpse into our entire lives.

*Photo credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)

About The Author: Miriam Gaenicke was born at the CSI Basel Mission Hospital, Gadag, Karnataka in late November of 1975. Given up for adoption at birth, she resided with her foster family for 10 months before being adopted by an American family in Germany. Currently, she lives in the Central Valley of California, USA.

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23 Comments


  1. It is not only children adopted from outside the U.S. who often want answers to the same questions you have, it is children who were born to American women and were adopted at birth, or before memory began. Go ahead and investigate. Find your genetic family. It will not break the love you have for the people who love you and accept you as you are…..as one of their family.

  2. Simply put, this article is catered to the Indian audience because this website is geared for Indian women.

  3. Linda Gaenicke -

    As Miriam’s parents we want to support her in her journey to find her birth parents. She has been a blessing to us and we feel that her birth parents have, should they desire it, be able to know of her history since birth.

  4. Loved reading your story, Miriam. Good luck to you on your quest, hope you find the answers you are looking for.

  5. I have one cousin and two cousin-in-laws who were adopted as well as a niece who was adopted. So I always like to learn more about what they might be feeling. One of the important things I had to come to terms with was that they did need to search for their roots. Thanks for sharing your story.

  6. When I found out that I was adopted, I felt my life was like a puzzle with some missing pieces. I was fortunate enough to find not just my birth mom, but my entire birth family. For me it has been a wonderful experience. I wouldn’t change a thing. I love my parents who raised me dearly as well as my new family. Good luck on your search!!

  7. I think that wanting to know who your parents are and why you landed up for adoption is a very legitimate question. However if you just visit India and the hospital you were born in you will quickly get the answer. I don’t believe that parents give up their kids to “abandon” them : they hope that the child will get a chance in life which they certainly won’t get with them. I’m certain that in most cases it is an act of love. I deal daily with orphans in India and children with traumas (www.careshare.org). You’d be surprised to know that the real orphans (whose parents are dead) are much happier than those with a family that they await for and never comes forward. Make the best of those who dearly love you. If you find your birth parents….all the best….but don’t ruin your life or make this become a fixation because in doing so you destroy the very purpose for which you were left : so you’d be happier!

  8. Rama Subash

    Good luck Miriam. Hope you get the answers you are looking for.

  9. Wanderlust

    Hope you find what you are looking for. I pray for you.

  10. I was adopted from India too. I’ve been looking for answers for as long as I can remember and I’m not even 20. But the sad fact is there’s nothing available. Records of me don’t really appear. I wonder why I’m even here some days. It’s hard to know that I was given up and that I have no way to find out why. It’s hard to realize that life itself isn’t normal for me. I have medical problems, questions, thoughts and even dreams of meeting him or her or both. I’m just glad I’m not alone.

  11. Hi Miriam, I was touched by your story and I have a niece and nephew who were both adopted from India in early 1980’s. My nephew is having a hard time as he has been looking for answers about his biological parents and can’t really seem to find any solid leads and he is frustrated. He wonders why his mother gave him up, etc. I myself am of the Indian descent and my brother and sister-in-law adopted a boy and a girl from Pune, India. I wish my nephew can contact someone that can help him find his roots. Do you have any contact information that you can share?
    Thank you for sharing your story and best of luck to you.

    • Hello Jayashree, It was with lot of interest I was reading the article of Miriam and happened to read your response. I felt a connection there, as in the mid’s 1980, I was working as an adoption Social worker at one of the fine adoption agencies in Pune, Shreevatsa, based in Sasson General Hospital. Your nephew and niece may want to check out list of agencies in Pune from this website: http://www.adoptionindia.nic.in/. Please feel free to write to me at; impurnima@yahoo.ca, if you think I can be of any help. Currently I am in Vancouver, Canada, involved in writing adoption home studies etc. Warm regards, Purnima

  12. I have a foster daughter adopted from Calcutta in 1996. We have her mothers name what type of work she was doing, date of birth and have been told she actually came to the orphanage with her when 7days old accompanied by the people she worked for at the time.We don’t have her fathers name but know his profession .We are going to Calcutta to seek further information in 2015. The orphanage she came from informed us they have further information which they are happy to give us but as her mother was unmarried and very young it is not conducive to finding her. I believe the orphanage is very small and that maybe someone knew someone there.We have her medical history from 7 days of age unfortunately she is very physically disabled but very bright so no longer lives with her adoptive family. If Anyone has any contacts in Calcutta that may help with a search it would be wonderful would need DNA testing if found so as not to disappoint as I have read a few bad stories. my beautiful girl is very inspirational and has inspired many people .Just finished school this year and despite her disability has helped many achieve their goals.I would love to be able to help her find her roots if there is someone out there that can help

  13. In 1996 my baby was forcefully given to an unknown couple, by my inlaws. My fault was we were not socially married. Just completed the legal formalities. From that day all my respect towards them just gone. Later part of my life I left them. In 1996 I was very young, had no means to keep my baby girl with me, in the nursing home bed I just gave up. She was beautiful. An infant of 4 days never feels anything good or bad..but when I left her..she was crying. I can still remember her touch. Now she is 19. I miss her. I hope she will understnd everything with age. I love you my baby.

  14. I am also adopted from India, Mumbai to be exact. 1988. I was in the orphanage for ten months I forget the name. I have some papers at my parents house. I think i was adopted to a local family but i got sick so they took me back to the orphanage. I was adopted by a great family and now live in Canada. I only have my first name . I am searching for my birth mother. I wish I new how to go about it.

  15. Looking for any help for my adopted son who came from John Abraham Memorial Bethany home in Hyderabad, born in 1995. He is embarking on a search for birth family and we are finding only dead ends. Thank you, journeyed@hughes.net

  16. We adopted our daughter in March 2008 from IA PA in Mumbai. She was born as VA premier in Buldona but we don’t know if that’s where her birth mother lived. We do know her birth mom wasn’t married & was helping an aunt on the aunts farm. Our daughters birthdate is March 8, 2008. She has cerebral palsy due to her premature birth. She is devastated and yearns for any info on her birth parents. What can you suggest to help us find out more? We live in America.

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