“Tu me manques.” (“You are missing from me.”)

Today we held a baby shower in honor of my sister Mary, who is expecting a baby boy in December. The morning was spent with family and friends, celebrating a new life that will be joining the family. I am so excited to be an aunt! My sister is going to be an amazing mom and I couldn’t be happier or more proud of who she’s become.

What I didn’t expect was to come home at the end of the day and feel so heavy. I didn’t even know that I was feeling so heavy until it was 1am and I was alone watching tv, going through the pictures I took throughout the baby shower and I broke down. I saw my sister’s glowing face in every photo. I saw her friends who were also pregnant, and talked with them about the joy and excitement of meeting their little ones and watching them grow up together. I witnessed the blessing of community and support for a woman who is about to bring a new life into the world.

At the end of the day, all I could think about was my birth mother.

I will never stop wondering if during her pregnancy she was ever excited about bringing me into the world. Did she have any kind of support system? Or did my birth only bring grief? Today I felt my nephew moving around and kicking for the first time and it was the most incredible feeling. I can’t help but wonder what my mother felt when I was kicking and rolling about inside of her.

At one point during the shower I thought about how strange it is that bodies have the ability to grow another human. How fascinating is that? Isn’t it crazy that a human can grow inside of another human? The thought that I grew inside of someone else is so foreign to me, almost like it couldn’t possibly be true. When I look at other families, it makes sense because of the resemblance to other members of their family. It’s usually pretty easy to point out which parent one resembles so I don’t even think twice about where they came from or the fact that these two people made a baby and they had the baby and raised it together in one family unit. But when I think of me, I feel very isolated. I have two parents, and I have a sister. But my parents aren’t the humans who made me. The ones who made me are not the ones who raised me. I can’t even fathom what it’s like to be raised by the people who birthed me. I don’t know what it’s like to have siblings who resemble me. I’ve been told I’m “overthinking” this concept but I disagree. That comment came from someone who has no idea what it’s like to be in my shoes. I am the only person in the world that I know of, who shares my DNA. If you haven’t walked that journey, then you don’t get to tell me your opinion about it.

As beautiful as it is, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to watch my sister walk through her pregnancy with the medical resources so readily available and support from friends and family at hand. She is very fortunate to be able to go through this journey with these blessings. In 1993, my birth mother most likely had no one. I will never know the woman who birthed me, the first human I ever had any true connection with, and that is the most devastating fact to come to terms with.

Today was a beautiful day, but it was also a bittersweet time for me. It is times like this when I wonder if she thinks of me as often as I do her. The English translation of the French phrase meaning, “I miss you” is quite literally, “You are missing from me.” I feel this deeply about my birth mother as she misses milestones she should’ve been a part of, but today I felt it even more so. I may not know who or where she is, but I hope she’s been fortunate enough to find the support and the help that she needed when she was pregnant with me.

Someone get me a Xanax

I’ve been trying to string together words that make sense into a post for several months now. It’s been a busy few months, but every so often I will sit down and pull my thoughts together until I feel I have a coherent idea. My train of thought has a different agenda, however, and after several different tangents and deleting and overthinking and rewriting and self doubt I will finally just save the damn post as a draft, forget about it, and then come back to it days later and realize how awfully disorganized and stupid it is and delete the whole thing.

This is how my adoptee brain works.

Some days I wish I could just take a break from my brain and sit inside someone else’s head. A non-adoptee.

Not another adoptee’s brain, because we all seem to think the same way. The more adoptees I connect with, the more I realize we are all the same. Something in our brains were rewired the moment we were left by our blood and abandoned to our own devices. Some as infants, some as children, some even as teenagers.

That damn fight, flight, or freeze reaction that was permanently wired into my brain the moment I was abandoned as a newborn.

That damn overactive stress response that my subconscious alerts to every stressor and every change no matter how minute.

These I know too well. The stress and fear of change and failure that have accompanied me every moment of every day since Day 1. They in turn summon my good ole friend, Anxiety.

Just for a day I would like to know what it is to be relaxed. To be normal. To see what a normal functioning mind looks like.

I need to understand what it is like to be able to fly by the seat of your pants. To be able to change plans last minute and not panic about every small detail that could possibly go wrong.

What is it like to get ready to go out and be rushed and not have an elevated heart rate? To not snap at someone who rushes you or mentions the time because you’re so anxious about it you’re raging inside?

I would love to understand what it’s like to go to a family reunion and not feel like a stranger among them. I’ve known them my entire life—yet it still feels like something is missing. What is it like to be among family and feel whole?

What is it like to not be N E R V O U S all the damn time? Sometimes I don’t even know what I feel nervous about.

Also, can we talk about the stress of meeting new people? Someone please explain to me what it is like to not absolutely DREAD meeting new people. And when I say dread, I mean I would rather take a razor blade to my tongue and chug some whiskey than meet new people. Since Day 1, I have been hard wired to remain self-reliant. If there is anything I’ve learned from my experiences, it is that people lie and people change and people leave, even the ones we call family. I don’t say this for your pity or concern, I say it because it’s just true. I don’t need people, and the ones I choose to remain in my life are the ones who I know, I KNOW they won’t be leaving. The honest and the genuine. So when I meet new people, I begin the process of figuring out which kind of people they are—the changing kind or the staying kind. It’s an exhausting process and one that I would rather avoid.

You’re probably stressed by now just reading this. Exhausting huh? Chances are, if you know an adoptee they struggle with these issues as well. Some hide it, others embrace it. Some still live in what we call a “fog” and have absolutely no idea these feelings of grief and anxiety and depression even exist. Maybe they are aware and struggle but don’t know why. I have struggled with these issues all my life and I never realized until recently how it all ties back to my abandonment/adoption.

Don’t get me wrong—adoption can be great. CAN be. But it always always begins with trauma for the adoptee. Somewhere along the line, someone decided to abandon/give away/leave and even if it isn’t meant to, it hurts. Being given up or abandoned will fuck someone up for life. Over the past year I have been meeting more and more adoptees who share these same experiences and subconscious responses that abandonment has hard wired into our brains. It has been refreshing to know that what I experience is normal for adoptees because they experience it too. I’m growing ever more thankful for these connections that validate my existence. Despite our different beginnings and backgrounds and different upbringings, we function the same way because of the burden we all carry. It can get to be exhausting.

So just for a day, I would like to experience what it is to be a normal, non-dysfunctional, non-adopted human. Sometimes this anxious brain just needs a break.

To my Indian mom on Mother’s Day…

Dear mom,

Happy Mother’s Day, wherever you are. I may not be with you, but you are with me. I see you everyday. I see you in my tiny hands. I see you in my small wrists and my funny looking feet. I see you in my knobby knees and my monkey toes. I see you in my unbearably frizzy Indian hair, in my smile, and maybe even my laugh. Wherever I go, I know you’re a part of me. I’m truly thankful for that. Thank you for giving me life. I think of you always mom. ♥
-pranali

Most ignorant conversation I’ve had this week…

“Where are you from?”

Omaha.

“No, I mean where are you from?”

Well I was born in India.

“Yeah I can tell.”

(…then why did you ask?)

“How long have you been in America?”

I grew up here. 

“I can tell!”

😒

“So you probably don’t like spicy food then.”

….Needless to say, I ended this conversation prematurely. I don’t have enough patience for this breed of idiot.

“I don’t know my birth family.”

Just this morning, someone at work asked me where I am from originally. I immediately knew how this conversation was going to play out because I’d had this conversation countless times, and it is every bit as awkward as the first time. 

I responded by saying I was from India. When I mentioned that I grew up in the states, the response from this person was, “I can tell!” Wanting to prevent any misunderstanding about my “authenticity”, I decided to add that I was born in India, but then came to America and was raised here. This took him by surprise and I was then bombarded with questions about where I am from in India, where my family is, and do I go visit them often. 

It’s been 23 years and I still don’t know how to approach this. I don’t mind telling people that I’m adopted, but I am never prepared for the questions. Or the looks I get when I explain that I don’t know who my family is nor will I ever probably know. If you’re a fellow adoptee and you have an answer let me know because I stumble over my words every time. 

How do you explain to someone that void?

Strangers Like Me

I work at a Children’s hospital and interact with children on a daily basis. I often ask them what their favorite Disney movies and songs are. Most of the answers I get are from the movie Frozen. Others were from Beauty and the Beast, understandably so since the new movie just came out and it is fresh in their minds. I mentioned that my favorite Disney songs come from the movie Tarzan. One in particular is the song Strangers Like Me.

It’s not as much of a popular song, but I’m sure you’ve heard it. You’re probably not as familiar with the lyrics, so I’ll post a few excerpts here:

“Whatever you do, I’ll do it too
Show me everything and tell me how
It all means something
And yet nothing to me 

I can see there’s so much to learn
It’s all so close and yet so far
I see myself as people see me
Oh, I just know there’s something bigger out there 

I wanna know, can you show me
I wanna know about these
strangers like me
Tell me more, please show me
Something’s familiar about these strangers like me

Ooo, these emotions I never knew
Of some other world far beyond this place
Beyond the trees, above the clouds
I see before me a new horizon.”

This may sound like a random song to be favored among the others. But if you take a closer look at the lyrics, it truly describes how I feel around other “authentic” Indians.

Those first few sentences truly resonate with me–“Whatever you do, I’ll do it too. Show me everything and tell me how. It all means something to me and yet nothing to me.” Being around other Indians is an awkward feeling for me. I so badly want to feel like I fit in with them. I look like them…it makes sense that I should act like them too. The reality is that I will never be fully Indian. I missed growing up in the culture I was born into. I will always look Indian, but I’ll never be fully Indian. I don’t look American, but I am more American than Indian. Can you imagine how confusing this becomes?

“I can see there’s so much to learn. It’s all so close and yet so far. I see myself as people see me. Oh I just know there’s something bigger out there.”

I truly want learning about my culture to come easily to me…but it just won’t happen. I see myself as an American because that’s the culture I was raised in. I’ve had friends say to me, “I always forget that you’re Indian.” To be honest, sometimes I do too. But then I look in the mirror and remember this dark skin is not American. But there is a world out there that beckons for me to come discover it, and find others who are look like me, yet feel like such strangers because I lack the culture, identity, and religion I was born into. They are strangers…strangers like me.

“I wanna know, can you show me? I wanna know about these strangers like me. Tell me more, please show me. Something’s familiar about these strangers like me.” Growing up I wanted to be as American as I could be–I wanted to be a normal, typical, all-American kid. I never quite fit the mold. Now, it feels like I’ve been living the remainder of my life trying desperately to grasp what I can from that life and culture that I lost. I am Indian on the outside, but am American through and through so growing up I never felt like I quite fit in with Indians or Americans. It can become an isolating and lonely endeavor to try and balance this dual identity.

“These emotions I never knew of some other world far beyond this placeBeyond the trees, above the clouds I see before me a new horizon.” It may be too late for me to truly experience my culture the way any other Indian would having grown into it, but it’s not too late for me to try. As awkward as it may be to be in the presence of people who look like me but act so differently, I truly love learning. My heritage and culture is beautiful, intriguing, and mystic. This song makes me feel as though I am not alone. Talking to fellow adoptees has been so encouraging to me as well as I’ve been finding that I am not the only one who goes through this experience. I wouldn’t change that bond for anything.