To My First Mother on Mother’s Day

I recently found out that Birthmother’s Day exists. It is traditionally celebrated the day before Mother’s Day. What a weekend full of pain for those whose mothers are only a memory (or lack thereof).

Although there are good days where the crushing weight of your absence in my life is a little less heavy, and although there are days where I don’t stare in the mirror trying to find traces of you in the reflection, today is not one of those days. Today I can hardly move. Today is a day where I ache so deeply for you.

To the woman who carried me, bore me, and saw my first breath in this world, you are with me today. I wish you could’ve been here with me through every stage of life, but that is not how fate would have it. I look back on the files in my possession from the agencies and I can’t help but stare at the photos wondering what traces of you I’m seeing. If I could turn back time I would go back to the day we were together–my first and last day with roots.

Not a day goes by without thoughts of you, but today they run rampant throughout my mind. I have come to the realization that I won’t get to meet you again in this life. I will never know your face, nor the circumstances surrounding why we were separated. That is a weight nobody will understand but those who are experiencing this journey with me.

On this weekend that is meant to recognize mothers and birthmothers, I remember you. I will never forget. I carry you with me everyday. Happy Mother’s Day.

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It Might Have Been A Sunday

January 9, 1994.

My paperwork throws this date around on almost every page. They tell me this is the day they think I was born. It’s also the day they think was our last together.

Is this the day? The last day my hands touched you? The last day I heard your voice? The last day I knew your smell?

I wonder if it affects you as it affects me. The trauma that occurred on this day 24 years ago changed the course of my life and walks with me every single moment. On this day I became a tree without any roots. I can’t help but wonder if it affects you. Do you yearn for me the way I yearn for you? I have this word tattooed on my forearm: “hiraeth.” It is a welsh word with no direct English translation, but a loose translation describes hiraeth as, “The nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost people and places of your past.” This perfectly describes how I feel about you, mainly on my birthday. GRIEF. I grieve for your loss and for mine. We are forever intertwined, you and I, although we may never know one another face to face.

This evening, I channeled my inner Desi and danced to my favorite Bhangra playlist as I did the dishes. I kept feeling the bindi between my eyes, making sure it was still there. I tried my very hardest not to cry while I was missing you so very fiercely. I wondered how we would be celebrating my birthday if I’d stayed in my homeland all this time. As kids we used to celebrate our birthdays the evening prior because India was a day ahead. So now, every year on my birthday eve, I wonder where you are and what you are doing and if you’re thinking of me. I wear this bindi because it connects me to you. It connects me to my roots. It connects me to my people, my culture. Our culture. As silly as it looks in my sweatpants and T-shirt, this bindi and my Bhangra take me back to you on this anniversary of our last day together.

It might have been a Sunday.

January 9, 1994.

A very odd day. I wonder what it was like for you and who was with you. I was too small to be full-term—I wonder if you were alone and scared and abandoned me because of this. I’ll never know. I think a piece of me wishes that you regret leaving me alone on my first day of life, but I can’t even imagine the weight of that burden. So I truly hope that you’ve found peace and I hope you know happiness today. I hope you have the support and love of community you might not have had back then.

Maybe someday I will find you. For now, you remain in my heavy heart on this 24th anniversary of my last day with roots.

To my birthmom on Christmas

And so the Christmas holiday comes to an end, which means my (approximate) day of birth soon follows. Another year separates me from you. Since I was a child I have written letters to a woman who is so much a part of me but who I have never known.

It is not an exaggeration when I say that not a day goes by where I’m not reminded of you or I don’t think about you. I wonder if you think about me around this time of year. I wonder if my hands are beginning to look like yours did 24 years ago. I wonder if I got them from you, or if I got my funny earlobes from you. Or maybe I got my monkey feet from you. It’s an overwhelming and painful reality that I’ll never know.

I don’t know where you are this holiday or if you even celebrate, but you are a part of me and so I think of you today, wondering if you think of me also. Merry Christmas, mom. You are with me always.

“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.

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

“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?