Monday, September 5, 2011

Open Adoption

When I told a colleague/friend that I was going to take Aloka to meet her birth family last year, there was a stunned silence. Then she asked politely "Are you sure it's the best thing to do?" I have a feeling what she wanted to say was "Are you out of your mind, you crazy woman!"

No, I am not out of my mind and yes it's the right thing to do- for me and Aloka. By the time Aloka arrived in Singapore, about two months after I had legally adopted her, I had decided that this will be an open adoption. But those two months were tough. I agonized over the issue and struggled with my own confused and mixed emotions of attachment, jealousy, insecurity and what not. I worried about the complications that could arise from contact. I read as much as I could find on issues related to adoption, but everything I read amplified my doubts. Finally, it was a simple question that helped me decide. Would I be able to tell a lie to Aloka for several years? The answer was actually quite easy. No. I could not use a lie to build a family. I could not lie to a little girl in her foundational years and expect her to trust me or anyone for the rest of her life. So, the decision was made.

It is said that there are many ways to lie, but there is only one way to tell the truth. Sounds simple, but how do you tell the truth to an infant? I used a bit of what I had had read and a bit of my own intuition here and started talking about mommies and babies when Aloka was about a year old. I used a lot of different opportunities to talk about it, be it a pregnant woman walking on the road, small kittens in the car park, or a book with children and their parents. By the time Aloka was two years old, talking about two mommies was nothing new. We often talked about how she didn't come from my tummy like Atta did, but was in my heart forever. Honestly, talking to her while she was so young helped me a lot too. I figured out the vocabulary that I wanted to use and got over my hesitation about discussing certain issues. But I knew that these words meant nothing unless Aloka actually met her birth family and saw them for real. Thus the decision to see them in Aug 2010. And the experience was amazing (more about that another time).

Now, ask Aloka how many mommies she has and she will promptly tell you "Two" and will go on to name them. Sometimes, she gets carried away and cites five mommies, including Mallika, Atta and Anakin. Lately, witchy aunty also has developed two mothers and is as lucky as Aloka for having two mummies who love her so much!

Aloka is not yet four-years old. I am not a fool to think that there will be no confusing emotions in her when is older and no deeper questions about her birth family and the circumstances around her adoption. There will be. But that confusion will not be compounded by secrecy and lies. That I am sure of....and happy about.


  1. Back in 2010, when you told me about your decision to take Aloka to meet her birth mother, I honestly thought you were taking a huge risk. It takes a very big heart, secure in its capacity for love, to take this step.

  2. Devna, it was you who I referred to in the first sentence! Ha ha!

    I didn't want to talk to Aloka superficially about this aspect. When I committed to telling her, meeting her family was an integral part of it. There was no going just half way.

    From another perspective, anyone who becomes a part of our lives has a deep connection with us, far beyond this life. I am secure in that knowledge.