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When you already have a biological child, can you accept and love your adopted one equally? Nayantara shares her personal experience.
By Nayantara Mallya
Six years ago, we made a trip to meet a very little baby, who is now almost four feet tall and almost in first grade. It was the culmination of a dream, and it feels so good to have gone ahead and adopted our second child (Read, Child Adoption Process In India: Explained).
Our elder daughter had just turned three, and I found myself longing for another baby, much to my surprise, since I had sworn during the sleepless nights of her infancy that we’d be crazy to think of having one more. When I brought it up with my husband, it was already certain that we would either adopt a child, or stick to having only one child. The question that helped me decide was, “When I’m eighty and dying (!), will I regret not adopting?” That sealed it!
A question we have been asked often, especially during the decision-making was “Can you love both equally?” To me, it has never made any sense. In any family with more than one child, that question is going to arise. Each child is different and deserves parenting tailored to their personalities, needs and issues; but it’s always going to be a challenge keeping it ‘equal enough’. Find me any pair of grown-up siblings who will agree that their parents loved them one hundred percent equally! Go on!
I think that question is based on the concept of “us” and “them”. As in, a child born from my own body is mine and belongs to me, but a child born to another woman is hers and I can’t possibly love him or her the same way. Somehow, we have never subscribed to this line of thinking. Being able to love and parent a child should not have anything to do with the way he or she joined the family. Raising a child is a lifetime journey; it seems pointless to harp on the child’s origins and history and to say one can’t love a child enough because he didn’t grow in my own body. In fact, there is no such thing as an adopted child. Once the child joins the family, it’s done, why label him or her for life? Our son is our son, not our adopted son. In fact, we strongly believe in destiny – our son was meant to come to us.
Being able to love and parent a child should not have anything to do with the way he or she joined the family.
Having a biological daughter first has actually helped, because of the challenges we’ve faced raising her. Yes, there are issues, feelings, experiences specifically connected with adoption that need to be dealt with, but with balance. It’s not good to pathologize everything the child goes through as being connected to adoption. Neither is it ok to buy into the “everything is the same, there’s no difference” myth that Indians bandy about.
Most challenges we encountered raising our children were resolved when we corrected our parenting, relationships, communication, and ironed out our own muddled lives, legacies and feelings. After all, there are no problem children, only problem parents.
Other worries brought up by those ‘concerned’ for us were about how the child would look, behave, perform, turn out and so on. Again, I think this is about a fear of being different, or having to deal with issues that are not commonplace or the ‘norm’. I guess coming to terms with differences is what makes the difference! It’s really not necessary, for instance, that just because I gave birth to our daughter, that she’s going to be a clone of my husband and me, and a chip off the old block! I think kids need us to let go of them and allow them to be who they’re supposed to be…they don’t have to look like us, achieve like we did (or didn’t!) or conform to our standards and expectations.
We’re open about our son’s story with our kids, but we avoid harping on it. Storybooks, albums, mementoes are kept available, and we privately celebrate the day we met him, and his homecoming day. We also tell his story in the larger context of our family’s stories. It’s not about him being more special or lucky or born from our hearts! I find it absurd to gloss over the fact that he was born from a woman’s womb, just like every other child. I feel anger when people advise us not to tell him that “he’s not our own child” or that he doesn’t “belong to us”. Since when did kids belong to their parents? I feel pity for people who cannot comprehend that you can love a child who didn’t grow inside you, and that that child was ‘born’ in our minds, again just like every other child who is planned for and wanted.
I feel anger when people advise us not to tell him that “he’s not our own child” or that he doesn’t “belong to us”. Since when did kids belong to their parents?
It has helped to remember that young children’s minds are fresh without the imprinting of prejudice and societal programming about morality, stereotypes and norms. Most discomfort we adults feel about adoption is not initially there in children’s minds at all. So, it’s right that our kids grow up knowing their stories in an age-appropriate fashion.
It’s been important to us to continue celebrating our daughter’s story. Every child’s birth story is special, along with additional facets like adoption, IVF, surrogacy, C-section or what-have-you! I dislike it when celebrity adoptive parents like Sushmita Sen put out statements that imply being born and raised by the biological mother and father is boring! How ridiculous!
As an adoptive family, I have realised our responsibility to develop a thick skin, to stand up for our family and educate people where possible about adoption. When you’re different, you have to be proud about that difference, and remember that everybody is different. Most families look very ‘normal’ from the outside, but everyone has their issues. You just deal with the cards life deals you in the best way you can.
*Photo credit: boletin
I'm currently a communications specialist in the corporate world, and mom to a teen
Written from the heart! The concluding lines are particularly inspiring!
I should say its a very interesing article. Even I thought of adopting a girl child. I am 33 yrs and had an abortion 2 yrs back. I need to may be speak to you as I am feeling quite low. Can you please send me a mail @ firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks & Regards,
Can relate to every word you have put up there. We are also proud parents of a 2.5 yr.old girl we adopted 1 yr. back. She is our second child. Kudos to you for putting it up so nicely.
Good to know that Madhuli, thanks for your comment!
Hi Madhuli! Can you please share your email address ? I want to talk to you regarding adopting second child.
Hi Madhuli, i am 35 and i have 4.5 years boy child. Now we want 2nd child and planning to adopt a girl. i want to talk to you on this…would you help with you contact no. pls…my email id is email@example.com
Great article, woman! Inspiring is right. Well done!
Thanks Lavanya! :))
Very beautifully written. Thanks for sharing your story. I am sure this will inspire a lot of people. I am also curious to know about your immediate and extended family’s reaction. That is often a reason why couples don’t want to adopt (I don’t agree with that, but have heard many couples tell me that).
Thanks to Women’s web for providing this amazing space and featuring inspiring stories like this.
Hi Shridhar, thanks for your comment!
Our extended family’s reaction ranged from utter delight and support to dismissal and downright objection. I think couples need to decide whether they want to make choices according to their dreams or their family’s expectations…we have just one life to live!! :))
Thanks Nayantara for sharing your inner most thoughts on this sensitive topic…I reckon with your thoughts and feelings about that only child vs adopting issue. Am in the same boat. I know that as women God has given us the ability to love and that i feel that we should use that to spread His joy and love to the little kids out there who have been abandoned for no fault of theirs. Its sad that there are parents in this world who don’t want a child so they dump him/her. But there are others who want to love and your story just boosts our morale! Thanks again!
Good luck with your decision Jennifer!
I agree that children are abandoned for no fault of theirs, but I wouldn’t ever diss the birth parents…for them it’s a heartbreaking choice, thanks to various circumstances, to place their child for adoption. It’s not dumping, and judging them means the child also gets judged by extension.
Amazing and inspiring!It is people like you who make all the difference!
I wish a lot of parents would think of adopting a second child, there would be no orphaned child. Just wanted to ask u whether one should let the child know that he is adopted and if yes then at what age should he be told and what are the likely implications
You have written this piece so well, right from the heart. We have a four yr old biological son and are in process of adopting a 2 year old baby girl, and can totally relate to your words.
I work in an MNC , I am single but will get married in another 2 years. I have always thought of adopting a second child. I read your article and really liked it but I have few concerns though we let the child know that he/she is adopted, will they take it properly ? will they not feel complex always?? what if my first biological child cant accept the adopted one?? and what if when they grow up and want to find their biological parents??
This is a very inspiring article. Thank you Nayantara 🙂
You put a lot of my feelings in words.so true that when the child comes into the family why call it the adopted child.. 13 year ago we got a 13 day old angel home and I have not regretted it. We had 2 sons both teenagers at that time we took their opinion as it would mean not only to share everything but even they would have to share the parents fortunately everything have worked out well in fact I sometimes feel I love her more .
Nice to read your article – actually even me and my husband
Deepak were planning to adopt a second child after having
A biological son and probably a daughter and after reading your article am sure
Am going to go for it.
Nice .Motivating article for my as we are in the process of child adaption. i got answer for my all questions that was in back up of mind . Thank you very much for your story
Archana and Prashant
Pingback: How Single Women In India Are Managing Adoption - masalamommas
Nayantara it was a great read. Very precise n straight forward.
Lately I’ve been thinking so much about adopting a child. I’ve a biological daughter who’s 7 years old. Before her I had had 3 miscarriages all in 3rd trimester. I learnt the value of that tiny life. I quit my job after my kid came along. Spent complete 5 years with her, until I joined her school as a teacher. I feel Every Child I see there is my child. It brings a closeness to my students with me. I discussed this with my daughter, and she is equally excited. She even came up with a name for the baby and said she wants a sister. That’s when I came across your article. Yes, I don’t want to wake up one day and regret that I didn’t do it! Thank you so much for being a beacon for many online readers.
Very nice article , comes direct from heart. We have 5 years old daughter and longing for second one , couple of years back I had to abort my twin pregnancy which left me longing for second one to complete my family. We have been thinking of adopting a child since then. Your article is very nice and throws light on many aspects. Thanks for sharing your inner feelings and experience with all.
I am shweta ,working woman i had a daughter 20 year old i now wishing to adopt a child. my daughter & i staying in mumbai ,i am living separately since last 26 year from my husband.
Please advise me
The article is indeed a reflection of a beautiful mind and is written straight from the heart. Nayantara, if you dont mind, could you share your emIl id on my email firstname.lastname@example.org
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