Dipika Sasi Kumar
1.How is it being an adult and sharing your views on adoption at this stage in your life?
Freeing. Growing up, I knew I was different from the other kids in my class. Now, with age, I realise that I am not different from them. Because of this, sharing my views on adoption isn’t a big deal anymore, I have embraced my birth like any other individual.
2.What was it like growing up with the knowledge of your adoption status?
Firstly, I am glad I grew up knowing the fact that I came through the system of adoption. Being aware helped a lot while growing up. My parents have been extremely supportive. Their aim was to raise an independent individual who can face life with kindness and courage, I can guarantee to you that they have achieved this particular aim. One thing I would like to bring to your attention is that my upbringing is no different from that of my peers, while swapping stories with my peers, I have realised that they all revolve around the same themes.
Adolescent period was difficult for me. Like every other adolescent, I too had to go through my share of turmoil while finding myself. The only strangeness during this phase was that it was difficult for me to find my roots. Books helped me bridge the gap of the unknown, they became a place I would retreat to in order to find myself. With time, I grew up into an independent individual constantly learning and growing. Looking back, I have come to realise that during my growing up years the struggles I faced were very similar to those of my peers, I have now understood that self-discovery is difficult, whether you know your roots or not.
3. Were you at any point curious to trace back your birth parents?
Of course yes, I think it is natural to feel so. I definitely was curious about my birth parents. I wanted to know some basic things like how they were as individuals, how they looked, what their hobbies were and things like that. I did express this to my parents and they helped me understand that it is a complicated procedure and some times, we might not be able to find out as well because we don’t know how efficient the record-keeping process was at that time. With time, this curiosity started losing its importance, life happened and I had other things which seemed more important, like becoming a graduate and becoming a mental health professional.
I have come to understand that it was one of my needs at that point of time in my life to know about my birth parents, once I found out that it was an elaborate procedure, and I would have to dedicate time to it which would take away precious time from accomplishing my dreams, my priorities shifted.
4.Did you sense any negative feeling from your peer group in the formative years in school?
Not at all. I wanted acceptance and not sympathy, that is what I received as well.
5.Did you share the status of your adoption while you were growing up (with teachers/friends and peers)
I did so much later on in life. When I was younger, I wasn’t explicit about a lot of details about me, so of course the status of adoption was hidden away to everyone while growing up. Also, when I was younger, I did not clearly understand it myself. With experience and learning, as I understood who I am, I started sharing facts about me to certain chosen ones with whom I am extremely close. Along with other facts, one fact I shared was the status of my birth which did not change the unconditional acceptance I was receiving from these chosen ones.
6.How did you process this information in your teens and in adulthood?
Teenage is that phase in our life which pushes us to pursue the question, “who are you?” I can tell you that this was a difficult question to answer without having any knowledge of my roots. It caused a lot of conflicts within me. I used to escape into the fictional world of books at that time. There are certain themes which I closely associate myself to like, boarding schools, strong friendships, relationships with pets, and mythology, if you notice, they are either related to becoming independent, or, having strong supportive relationships, or related to ancient ancestors. These themes helped me to build my identity without having knowledge of my roots and slowly the conflicts settled down allowing me to have a smooth transition into adulthood, all the while keeping important relationships intact.
As an adult, I don’t notice it. It truly does not matter that I am a child from the system of adoption. I am a mental health professional who is grounded in reality and loves the arts, that is my identity. I have embraced the status of my birth into my identity and I have come to understand that it is the least bit important. I am what I am not because of where I was born , but because of what I did with the books I read and the people I met.
7. How did your parents share your adoption status with you?
They had an interesting idea of bringing me up with this knowledge. I vaguely remember being told once that I was a gift from God. Then as I aged, I was told that I didn’t have a similar birth like my friends, meaning I wasn’t born from mother’s “tummy” but from another wonderful lady. Then after a bit more maturity, I was introduced to the process of adoption and from then on I started asking more questions on factors which I was most curious about the location of the agency, the birth parents, how others in the family reacted to me and so on and so forth. Because of this gradual exposure, nothing came as a shock.
8.What do you think is the perquisite for healthy foundation between the child and the parent in the adoption process?
Basic prerequisite is faith in the fact that if I fall, my parents would catch me. Now, with time I’ve learnt that they might not be around to always catch me, so then, I’ve tweaked this expectation into, faith in my parents to support me when I have fallen till I am ready to stand back on my feet.
9.Is there any closure at all for children through adoption?
Yes. Definitely yes. I have come to understand that closure doesn’t have to come from birth parents but from myself. I have had to understand that there is no difference between me and my peers, my struggles are not necessarily related to my birth, but related to facing what life has to offer, this helped me realise that closure is a battle for everyone, not just for children through adoption. That was the beginning of the process of closure. Of course I’ve had to take effort in gaining closure, that doesn’t mean I was dealing with it all on my own, I have a huge source of support from my parents, my friends and my partner.
10.Do you think it is important for parents to discuss about disclosure to their child? Why do you think it is important?
It would’ve caused me immense pain if my parents had not disclosed the truth of my birth the way they had. It is important to develop in an environment of truth, if it isn’t the truth, imagine my foundation. It would have been so easy for me to fall apart if my foundation wasn’t rooted in reality and truth.
Also, disclosure is key in establishing a trusting relationship between the parent and child which is essential in building a wonderful individual. If there is no trust, the child would most certainly find it difficult to have faith in the parents.
Dipika Sasikumar, Counseling Psychologist
Wonderful article! As a prospective adoptive parent, it was very helpful.