"He asked me what I'd do if the baby was ugly"
What happens when a woman decides to adopt purely out of choice
I was 11 years old when my parents hosted a birthday party for my brother at an orphanage. I remember thinking “We can come here to celebrate our birthdays with them, but who celebrates their birthdays?” That thought stuck, pushing me to realise how these children don’t enjoy even simple things like going back home to a family, that we tend to take for granted. By 13, an idealistic teenager, I was sure that I was going to be adopting a baby, but I wanted a biological child as well.
Then, I met my husband at 24, and a whirlwind romance translated into marriage the same year. We got married so quickly that we had no time to have the important conversations that couples should before getting married. Adopting a baby was one of those.
But I knew what kind of a person he was, so I felt he’d be on board when it was time.
A little into the marriage, I told him that I’d always wanted to adopt. Initially, he was a little apprehensive because he hadn’t expected it. We were in no hurry, we were happy in our own little world that we shared with our three dogs.
Over time, he realised how serious I was and became more enthusiastic than I have been throughout the journey.
Step two was breaking it to the families. Even though I cannot wrap my head around adults using “My family won’t let me” as an excuse for anything, having them on board was important for us.
Initially, my parents seemed fine. They assumed we would eventually have a biological baby as well.
But in 2018, when we finally decided to do the paperwork, it hit them and we were met with a barrage of questions – “How do you know the child’s medical history?” “You’ve never even liked children, are you sure you want to do this?” “Why not at least try to have a baby of your own?”
My husband’s parents felt the same way.
That was my lowest point. As we inched closer to the top of the wait list, my excitement increased — so did my sadness. All I wanted was to be able to share the joy I felt with the people I loved the most.
It’s not just the immediate family, there’s also truckloads of unsolicited advice that comes your way from the extended parivaar.
They couldn’t comprehend that adopting a baby wasn’t my last resort but an informed choice. That I was adopting without even trying to have a biological child.
Some people just assumed I had fertility issues and came to me with unwarranted advice about what I should eat, drink, and do to increase my chances of conceiving.
Friends would say “My family would never allow this” with an undertone of pity.
One friend was insensitive enough to ask what I’d do if the baby was ugly. I don’t talk to him anymore, but in that moment, I responded calmly, saying “Looks really are not a factor, I want the baby to be healthy. And that could be a possibility if I was having a biological child too.”
Most people feel that the paperwork is the most cumbersome part about adopting a baby. But that’s a cake walk. Developing a thick skin and going about your life without letting insensitive comments affect your decision takes the most work.
My journey as a mother after adopting a baby
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I was one of those people who didn’t know what to do around babies. Even after getting married and reaching the age when you’re supposed to develop maternal instincts.
When I received a message saying that we were just a couple of days away from meeting our baby, I felt excited, but wasn’t overwhelmed by emotions the way people talk about it.
When we flew to Patna to meet her, I was too scared to pick her up because she was so tiny. My husband held her the entire time.
I expected that dramatic Bollywood moment, where the second I’d look at my daughter, I would burst into tears, but it’s the small things that make this the best decision of my life.
Her smiling from ear to ear when she saw my mother for the first time. The once apprehensive grandparents being head over heels in love. Seeing her and my golden retriever becoming best friends.
Every time I look at them, my heart explodes into a million pieces. I can decipher her expressions, it’s like we have a secret language, and even she knows that she can look to mumma whenever she wants or needs anything.
The only stereotypical ‘new mom’ box I have managed to tick is that I think that my baby is the cutest baby in the whole wide world. No, really, she is perfect. She doesn’t cry unnecessarily, she lets us sleep through the night, and her precious smile makes everything better.
I can’t imagine life without her.
(Ankita Katuri, 33, is the co-founder of a marketing firm called The Smarketers, and is based in Hyderabad.)
– As told to Nikhita Arora
For more information about the adoption process in India head to Central Adoption Resource Authority’s website.