On January 11, 29 years ago today, a newborn girl was found in a gutter.
The first few days of my life are unknown. My date of birth is unknown. No name, no family.
“When life begins with the trauma of maternal separation, life is built upon that separation. To believe an adoptee can simply “get over” being adopted is like telling a non-adopted person to get over being alive.
I’m not telling my story to convince anyone that adoptee trauma is real. I’m telling my story because it is, and I deserve the healing that happens with every word.” – Ferera Swan
I just learned about this day a few years ago, and how ironic that it comes the day before Mother’s Day. But it gives me the space to remember you and honor you and all that you were to me and grieve what I lost when we we were separated.
When I saw a medium several years ago I was told you were my spirit guide and I’ve felt you more today than I have in a long time. I got the chance to speak to some like-minded Indian adoptees and when I say it was soul food—literally what I needed as this painful weekend comes up.
I look for you everyday in all that I am and in all I do — in my curly hair, in my dimples, when I wash my face, when I’m laughing. I look for traces of you and wonder what remains. I scour through photos of myself and stare in the mirror hoping to think of some kind of resemblance to a woman whose face I’ve never known.
This is adoption. These are the unknowns. These are the thoughts that consume me this Birthmother’s Day and Mother’s Day weekend. I will forever wonder if thoughts of me consume your mind as well, but no matter what I hold this day in my heart to honor the woman who breathed life into me.
This was written last week on a particularly emotional and difficult evening. Every year as my birthday gets closer and closer, a heaviness comes over me—a heaviness that only adoptees seem to understand.
Aai, I went through my wedding photos today. I looked for you in every single one. I searched my face for features that might have resembled yours. Some moments I feel my heart can’t handle the agony of knowing you will never see me in my bridal saree. Other moments I am comforted because I felt your presence all around me every moment that day. I felt like a true indian bride and I longed to see what you looked like on your wedding day. Maybe we looked the same. I ache for you.
So many milestones you’ve missed, and I have missed many of yours. There will always be one we share. 26 years ago I was still a part of you. You were my first home. We only had a week left to be together. I so wish I knew your thoughts during those last few weeks and days. I can only hope you were not alone.
We are turning 26, and each year that passes adds more and more distance between us but I will never give up on trying to find you. You are forever in my heart, my aai. Please don’t forget me.
As many of you know, I was interviewed back in April 2018 by my good friend and fellow adoptee Oleg Lougheed who runs his own website and podcast called Overcoming Odds, hoping to let those who grew up in foster care and as adoptees share their stories and let others know they are not alone. The mission is to encourage and empower them to live the life they were born to live and overcome the odds that were thrown their way in life.
In the last few weeks I’ve had several people ask me for the link to my podcast interview, and I realized I never posted it on the blog. Better late than never! For those who already subscribe to the podcast, it is podcast #18 entitled, “Where Do You Belong?”. Here is the link for those asking:
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.
So much has happened in the past year. If someone would have told me all of the amazing people I would meet and all of the deep connections in store as a result of this blog, I would’ve laughed in disbelief.
Although I don’t have photos of each new adoptee I’ve met, I thought I would share just a few. Many of these photos were taken at a Lost Sarees retreat. Lost Sarees is a group of South Asian adoptees who come together each year to celebrate and embrace our culture. It was a life changing experience for me and it inspired me to be more brave and more open to embracing my heritage and my people. I made so many new friends who turned into family and I can’t wait for next year’s retreat!
Each and every person I’ve met has had a significant impact on my adoption journey over the past year. I’ve made some incredible connections (some of whom came from my orphanage in Pune) and had new experiences embracing my culture and my adoptee community.
Starting this blog in 2017 was only the beginning. I’m so excited for what 2018 has in store. Thank you to all the incredible people I’ve met and connected with—truly the BEST tribe. ❤️
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.
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.
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.