“They sent us that first picture of you from the orphanage, and it was so weird because you can’t touch your baby or hold your baby, but you just know that’s YOUR baby.”

Words from my mother, during a conversation where I told her I was searching for information from my adoption agency about my birthmother. Words I will cherish forever and never forget.

7 months ago I received my adoption file from Holt International, which contained monthly updates given to them while I was under the care of BSSK Pune. I never knew what happened to me during the first year of my life, and after 23 years of uncertainty, here it is unfolding before my eyes in 35 pages. It’s an indescribable feeling.

I am so unbelievably blessed.

Lion

Last week I saw the movie Lion. I’d been dying to see this movie, ever since I learned of it. I waited for it to make its way to the States, as it was playing in other countries first. Recently I learned that it was playing in theaters, and a few friends had offered to go see it with me. To be honest, I would have loved to go see this movie with them, but I really wanted to see it by myself first. I knew there would be ugly crying, and every girl knows what I’m talking about when I say I needed to get the ugly crying out of the way first!

I was absolutely floored by how well this movie was made. It was honest. At times it was brutally honest. It showed the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of India. The good, the bad, and the ugly parts of adoption. The good, the bad, and the ugly parts of a blended family.

I can’t tell you how many times there was ugly crying coming from my seat because I lost count. It was so absolutely refreshing to see another adoptee going through the same emotions I’d been going through since coming to terms with my adoption loss. Dev Patel gave an astounding performance. The awkward responses when asked about adoption (“I’m not really Indian”). The sadness knowing that there was a family of his somewhere out there. The pain of a family torn apart from another adoption gone wrong in the family and being stuck in the middle.

Watching this movie I was overcome with so many emotions, but one of them was jealousy. I was jealous of this man who had actually gotten to experience India before his adoption. He had memories to hold on to. He KNEW he had a family there and had known them, if even for a short time.

I have nothing. No memories, no known family, not even a name.

Knowing that this adoption story had the rare ending of the adoptee finding and meeting his birthfamily fueled this jealousy, and by the end of this movie my happy tears turned to tears of heartache. Oh how I longed for this kind of reunion. Some adoptees like Saroo are lucky enough to receive one. I never will.

A film that can bring about such deep emotions as heartache, anguish, happiness, and relief all at the same time deserves recognition. If you’re a fellow adoptee, I recommend this movie. If you’re not, I would still recommend it. It just might open your eyes.

“The life of an adoptee is like an ancient voyager who searches for the unknown. The stars guided their destiny. They had their sights on the wonders that lay ahead of them. An adoptee travels in the opposite direction.”

Birthdays are bittersweet for me. I recently had one, and as I get older it becomes harder and harder to enjoy my day of birth, as I don’t even know if it is truly my day of birth. It was estimated by police I was born around January 9, 1994 in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. Every year my birthdays mean I grow older, but it also means more time separates me from my birthmother.

I was found abandoned on the streets of Ahmednagar on January 11, 1994 and was placed in a foster home while inquiries were made to try and find my guardians. When no one came forward, I was then placed into the custody of Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK) in Pune. Upon my arrival to BSSK, I was 3 pounds, marasmic, and sick with dysentery. When my health was stable, I was declared available for adoption. I stayed in this orphanage until I was 11 months old, when I was adopted through Holt International by an American couple in South Carolina who had two other daughters adopted from BSSK.

My parents never hid our adoptions from us. Our stories were celebrated and our differences embraced. As a child I longed to have my mother’s beautiful white skin, and she in turn longed for my brown skin. As I grew older I struggled between loving my adoptive family and being so thankful for my adoption, and also coming to terms with the devastation of what I lost when my birthparents abandoned me. On the outside I am Indian, but I am American as can be. That is a hard battle to fight when you are drawn to the culture you came from and once lost, while trying your best not to take the one you were given for granted. I once saw a quote that explained it pretty well:

“Adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful.” – Reverend Keith C. Griffith

I would never call myself a ‘victim.’ But I think people hear the word “adoption” and blindly see only the positive aspects. I don’t mean to say that I’m ungrateful for the gift of adoption and the opportunities I’ve been given because of it. I am unbelievably grateful to my parents – they are one of a kind. My mother risked her life travelling to a foreign country by herself to bring home a little orphan baby. Who else would do that? It amazes me everyday and I don’t think I could ever give her enough thanks. My life story is so unique and I am so grateful, but I also grieve for a loss I don’t understand. A part of me is missing – a part of me that I know nothing of. The loss of my birthmother is forever a piece missing from my heart. It’s a lonely feeling being the only person you know of who shares your DNA.

As I get older, my birthday becomes more bittersweet as I know it’s a day that my birthmother, if still alive, probably will never forget. 23 years ago on the day of my birth, these hands touched her for the last time. It hurts my heart to know she is out there somewhere remembering me. I will never know who she is or where she is, but every year on this day I say a prayer that she is well and safe, has found peace with letting me go. It’s an everyday struggle for me, but I know one day I’ll find peace in her decision too.