“Love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.”

This photo was taken November 16th, the day my little nephew Noah was born. I remember holding him for the first time and being so careful to protect his neck and his head. He was so tiny and fragile, I didn’t dare do anything that might cause him harm. As I held him that first day, all I could think of was newborn Pranali. I must have been born premature, because at 23 weeks when I was admitted to the orphanage, I was only 4 lbs. In this photo, Noah was about 6 lbs. On my first day of life, I must have been extremely fragile and tiny. All I could think of was how at his age, I’d already been abandoned by the only people who were supposed to love me and protect me. It was a very sobering thought. I was so very thankful that Noah had two loving parents and a room full of people who already loved him more than anything.

This second photo was 3 days after Noah’s birth. As I took this photo, I remember thinking that at 3 days old, I’d already spent the first days of my life completely alone on the streets. I’ve known this my entire life, but having a newborn to hold and care for made this a tangible reality. At 3 days old, Noah was getting all of the snuggles and all the love he could possibly take. He cried if he was put down for too long because he would get either hungry or lonely. At 3 days old, I didn’t know what a mother’s loving touch was. I didn’t have a source of nutrition. I was sick, malnourished, and alone. At 3 days old I’d just been found by the Ahmednagar police and was in the hospital getting the medical care that I needed. The beginnings of our lives had been so very different, and it was a very sobering thought.

Watching my nephew grow has given me so much joy my heart can hardly handle it! But it is bittersweet to compare my own journey through early life with his. I can’t imagine abandoning a human so tiny, fragile, and innocent. If I could tell newborn me anything, it would be that the journey without familial and cultural connection will be long and difficult, but if I can survive the first few days of life alone then I can survive anything life throws at me.

I know that my precious nephew Noah will NEVER run out of people who love him and care for him and protect him. He will never have to wonder what a mother’s touch is and he will never have to be alone. He will never have to experience the pain of severed connection. I’m so very thankful that the love he’s already experienced this far in his early life will truly give him some protection forever.

“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.

“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?