Mother, by choice
On the occasion of International Mother’s Day today, May 13, VINAYA PATIL speaks to mothers who have gone the extra mile by welcoming their bundle of joy, albeit in a style that’s a class apart
Being a mother is an exceptional journey to say the least. From the day the news of conception breaks out in the family to the sensitive first trimester, the next six months of carrying a life within you, the extreme pain of labour, delivery and the sharp ups and downs of motherhood — it is no less than a roller coaster ride for every mother, who literally brings up a piece of her flesh into the world and raises her/him in as right a manner as she can.
But what about the ones who choose a slightly different path? The mothers who decide to take on the responsibility of a child that is not born out of their womb, and still shower all the love in the world upon them, are a race apart.
In a country with the world’s second highest population, the rate of adoption is sadly dwindling — from 5693 inter-country adoptions in 2010 (between April and March) to 3210 in 2017 (Data: Central Adoption Resource Authority, Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India). However, this International Mother’s Day, there’s still hope, we figure from these heart-warming stories.
‘We feel privileged with each other’ Nirmala Bakre (50) — Myra (13), Pune
My mother was a nurse and she would often take me to the hospital with her because there was no one to take care of me at home. I have thus always grown up in empathetic surroundings. Also, I did my Masters in Social Work (MSW), and have always worked with women’s organisations or places that deal with women’s issues. I have thus always wanted to adopt a female child. However, the catch was that I had decided to stay single.
Although I did face some resistance from family, my mother said that she would support me in raising the child. Also, my sister decided to be the guarantor for me while we were signing the adoption documents. Since my salary was quite negligible,
initially there was a lot of resistance from the organisation. More than 10 years ago, adoption was a much tougher process. Also, my minority status, made it slightly more tricky.
I was 39 when I brought Myra home. She was two and a half years old. Today, she is 13 and the favourite grandchild of my mother. Since I was a single parent, I had to explain to Myra that she was adopted; before she could ask about her father and other details. So she had to learn these things early on, and when she shared it with her friends, they didn’t understand it either. However, she is now very accepted and loved among her peers. She sometimes asks me to show her the organisation where she lived the first two years of her life, but that organisation shut down and there’s nothing to show her, so I just show her the empty building sometimes.
Handling my professional life was a slight challenge for me when I adopted Myra though. While there was moral support from some of my colleagues, the logistics weren’t in place. There was no gender budgeting for single parents and no fixed leave privileges. I worked that out though and now we both feel privileged with each other. She is very expressive with me and it is a wonderful journey. I had no inhibition about this since day one because I was always fond of children and have been a teacher for many years. While some people initially gave me a guilt trip, it has all been worth it.
‘She knows every little detail about me’ Vibha Dholakia (54) — Isha (22), Mumbai
I am generally a very caring person, so I keep hounding my daughter with little things, and so does she. She will be by my side 24*7 if I am unwell. That’s my daughter Isha for you. She shares everything with me and her father — be it her arguments with friends or any other tensions. Not like it’s all rosy and good. We do have our share of arguments and fights when it comes to being organised and eating healthy. But with age, she’s figured things out. She now knows why I was that nagging mother who would insist on oiling her hair once a week. Her friends now tell her that her hair has amazing texture.
She is, however, not like many other girls her age who constantly hug or kiss their mothers. I sometimes want it but she knows every little detail about me — my favourite food, song, movie and everything. That’s what matters to me. She will only expect me to hold her hand on some nights. That’s when I know she is not okay. She prays just because I like it, she promises to click a picture with A R Rahman at the airport where she works just because I like the singer.
That’s the kind of bond we have developed in the last 22 years right from the day we got her home. It was August 16, 1996. I was already undergoing the training that is given to adoptive mothers, and was very impatient about getting a baby home. That’s when I was told that a baby was available but I could still look at pictures of three children and choose. I said no to it, since I knew that if I had my own offspring, I wouldn’t have a choice. I simply got three-month-old Isha home but she wouldn’t stop crying through the night. One of those initial days, I was crying alone in a room, and she simply smelt me and crawled up to me. That was the day I knew I had someone of my own for life. Slowly and steadily, she began eating and becoming healthier and began looking well-nourished. Now she grooms herself so well and excels at her job (she is a ground staff with an airline at the Mumbai International Airport). She has ensured that I have a life beyond home and household chores by insisting on occasional outings etc.
‘Cannot imagine myself without her’ Pooja Patil (44) — Krishna (14), Navi Mumbai
In all honesty, the acceptance came slowly to me. I had a son and my husband suggested that we adopt a daughter. When he first said it, I was very happy and thought it would be easy considering I already knew what it was to be a mother. What was the big deal? We were doing something with a very good intention, so it had to turn out fine. Thus began our quest. We had been advised to adopt a very young child, below the age of three. At the organisation we had registered in, on one visit, we saw Krishna playing with another baby that we were being shown. But we loved Krishna at first sight and decided to get her home instead. She was four then and already had a set pattern of behaviour and ideas.
There began my uphill task. It has been a long challenging journey but today, I can say with complete confidence that she is closer to me than my own son. My son might be intellectually ahead of her, but emotionally she is way ahead of him. She understands every little emotion on my face and reaches out to me when I am low. I believe I have been slightly immature myself initially, but I have grown as a mother with her, and reached a stage now where I cannot imagine myself without her. Now she shares a lot of things about her past with me, and it helps me put things into perspective. I have come to realise that she is very innocent and easily trusts people. So I feel all the more concerned and responsible for her.
I tell her to be bold and strong and not give in to strangers. I feel like I have newly become the mother of a daughter and want to completely be available for her always. There used to be days when I would receive complaints from her school, which I was very new to. I didn’t know how to handle my child’s complaints from school, and listen to the teachers’ scoldings, which I hadn’t ever done even as a child myself.
There would be days of frustration and I would wonder why I was having sleepless nights. But gradually, I began seeing her actions and behaviour in perspective.
Now I am only glad that I took this step and that Krishna is a part of my life. Rather, I now tell people to adopt a child even if they have one of their own, possibly below the age of three. That way, the parenting becomes much more effective since the first few years of a child’s life are very crucial to what she/he learns for life.
Today, I am a proud mother of two amazing children and never for once have I felt ashamed of being a home-maker. I am raising two very responsible citizens of the country. I believe that as a homemaker, this is a big responsibility that you must take on as your service to the nation.
‘Liked each other at first sight’
Mamta Shinde (47) — Aradhya (6), Pune
When I met Shriram (my husband) for the first time before we got married, he suggested adoption to me and I thought it was a great initiative. Three to four months into the marriage, we began our hunt for a daughter but there were waitlists everywhere. Finally we reached an organisation where I saw a two-and-half-year-old Aradhya and immediately developed a liking for her. I simply asked her if she would come home with me. ‘Dad is coming to pick us up and take us home. Will you come along?’ I asked her and she immediately gave an affirmative nod. The kids at her organisation are told that one day everyone’s parents would come to take them home, so she believed it and accepted us as her parents. We welcomed her with a small puja and she was very amused.
My husband’s brother had two sons and there was no daughter in the family, so Aradhya was extremely loved and pampered by my in-laws and my parents too. Over time, she has become healthier and started excelling at academics and sports.
With her around, there’s never a moment of despair in my life. With the entire family’s support, I have made my world around her, even quitting my job, since the adoption centre mandated having someone at home to tend to her.
‘Bring home someone who needs you’
Sunita Kumari (42) — Draksh (4), Dhanbad, Jharkhand
Having grown up with leucoderma — a disease that causes the loss of skin colour in blotches, it was a subject of constant bullying and mockery during my teenage years. Contrary to what I had imagined, things didn’t really get better after I got married. I had desperately wanted a child, someone to cling on to, love and share all my happiness with, as my husband, a politician, would constantly be out on tours while I stayed at home. Partly because I hadn’t completed my graduation, and partly for the fear of getting bullied, I didn’t take up a job. After three miscarriages, and a lot of trauma, I received another jolt from my gynaecologist when she told me I couldn’t conceive. My world came crashing down, and the bitter truth that I couldn’t become a mother, started to kill me from within.
My health began to deteriorate. With age, my skin started to get worse which compelled me to stay confined to my home. When I saw my sisters’ children grow up, my longing for my a child grew stronger until one day when I got a call from my cousin, a doctor by profession, asking me in his firm voice if I wanted to adopt a child because the mother of the newly-born had abandoned him. I immediately said yes. I felt this was the call of the hour and I didn’t think at all before saying yes — I didn’t even ask my husband who obviously supported me in this decision. I couldn’t understand how a mother could leave her child. The moment I held him in my arms, something within me changed — all the emotions that were bottled up inside me came out in the form of tears. He is four now and I deeply regret not adopting a child earlier, but I’m glad I got him as he truly completes me.
I think sharing your love and kindness is what being a mother is all about. My son is my world and I feel that women need not torture themselves with fertility treatment. Bring home someone who needs you.
— INPUTS BY AMRITA PRASAD