“I grew up with two sets of parents” — A perspective on adoption

The author shares her experience of having been adopted and the challenges of growing up with two sets of parents

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Having been adopted and also being a mother, I’ve noticed varying responses from people when I talk about my life and the idea of adoption. Therefore, I wanted to share my own feelings, as an adoptee and as a mother.

Growing up with two sets of parents

I am a mother in my late 30s. While my situation may not sound so unique, it is a bit uncommon. I was adopted by my father’s elder brother at the time of my birth. The reason for my adoption was that my parents were unable to conceive. My father had told me about my biological parents from the time I was a baby — even though he was urged not to share the truth with me. His reasoning was that my biological parents ought to receive the recognition they deserved for their selfless act of sacrifice. I was fortunate to grow up in a large, joint family, with both sets of parents residing together. As a result, I was raised to call both sets of parents mumma/papa.

At the age of seven, my parents relocated to another city, and I went to a boarding school, away from both sets of parents. My biological parents went on to have two more sons after me, who grew up knowing about my adoption and treated me like their own sister. Even though I spent only a few days with them during my vacations, me and my biological brothers have always been close.

Brother from another mother

As I turned 18, my parents made the unexpected decision to adopt a baby boy, solely because they desired a son. I believe this was influenced by societal gender expectations, and they might have believed that having a son was necessary to care for them in their old age, once I was married and moved away.

My biological parents, however, opposed my adoptive parents’ decision and expressed their concerns that my parents, particularly my mom, would not love me as much once another child joined the family. Despite this, my parents went ahead with the adoption.

Ideally, it would have been wonderful to have a sibling of a similar age with who I could to relate to, play with, argue with and so on. Unfortunately, I always felt that my brother was my parents’ child, not exactly a sibling to me. As I was already in college when he was adopted, we didn’t get to spend much time together. The decision to adopt him was only for my parents’ benefit, not mine. Having said that, we do share a bond of love and are there for each other when needed.

Getting married

After a few years, I reached the age when most people get married, and my parents arranged a marriage for me, as is common in India.

The whole arranged-marriage affair was one of the worst experiences of my life because both sets of parents had different opinions and wanted to handle things their way. Neither of them realized what I was going through — I was caught in the middle and didn’t know who to listen to. One set of parents wanted me to get married immediately, while the other wanted me to wait. Anyways, I did end up getting married rather young.

Even after marriage, this has been an ongoing issue in my life — balancing the opinions of both sets of parents. All four of them love me deeply, and my biological brothers are also quite close to me. However, what has complicated my life is not the fact that I was adopted, but rather that 1) I was being adopted within the family, and 2) my biological parents had a say in my life.

People often say that I’m lucky to have two sets of parents, but it’s not always easy. During every crisis in my life, both sets of parents have had different opinions, which has added to the stress and confusion.

Becoming a mother

Becoming a mother has been my greatest achievement. As I was growing up, I knew that my mother couldn’t conceive a child and had needed to adopt. This created a subconscious doubt in my mind about my chances of conceiving. So, when I became pregnant, it felt like a monumental accomplishment. Even though there was no real reason to doubt fertility, I always feared that I may not be able conceive. This might be partly because my mother always urged me to have a child soon so that I wouldn’t experience the same difficulties she had. Now, as I raise my child, I often find myself thinking “he’s mine” and “I gave birth to him.” While I know that many mothers share this sentiment, it may not be to the same degree that I do.

How people react

As I was growing up, most people who knew me were aware that I was adopted and that I had two biological brothers who I considered as my own siblings. When I started college and disclosed my adoption status, people often had varying reactions. While some expressed surprise and simply said, “Oh, I didn’t know that,” others had less favorable responses, such as asking if I felt sad about being “given away” or questioning who my “real” parents were. One person even assumed that I had step-parents and step-siblings, which was quite comical.

To anyone who meets someone who has been adopted, I would advise not to express sympathy towards them. Instead, ask questions about their experience and their relationship with their parents without feeling sorry for them. Having a loving family, biological or not, is a wonderful thing.

In conclusion

My brother, who is now 20 years old, is still in the dark about his adoption. My father chose not to disclose the fact to him, fearing that he would feel resentment towards his biological parents for giving him up. In contrast, I have always known about my being adopted since my birth. While I respect my father’s decision to withhold this information from my brother, I believe that he should have the chance to learn about his adoption when he is ready. I understand that many children may struggle with this information later in life, but I hope that my brother will take the news positively.

My life has been both simple and knotty because of my experiences with adoption and motherhood. I believe that sharing my perspective can help others understand these experiences better. I leave you with a quote by actor Hugh Jackman: “I think adoption is a blessing all around when it is done right.”

The author of this blog has chosen to remain anonymous.

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