Interview with Pia Ghose- Author of ‘A Simple Wish’, by Smriti Sugant (Intern, Mount Carmel, Bengaluru)
“Adoption means love and nothing less” says Pia Ghose, who is now the mother of two girls and the author of a self-published book that has touched a lot of hearts. When thoughts and feelings are penned down to remember precious moments the best unplanned book about adoption and disclosure emerges.
Pia Ghose speaks to Padme about her book “A Simple Wish” that is the most elaborate yet elegant story of her children coming into her life, with the simplest language catching the reader’s eye.
How did it all start?
It all started from a very young age. I’ve always wanted to adopt my children and was very sure of it. And it’s always easier when you meet someone that feels and believes in the same things you do. I was lucky enough to marry somebody with exactly the same idea on family, adoption and on how to start our family. So, that’s how the journey began for us.
How was the whole process, though? It must’ve been very different. I’m sure you’ve dreamt of it for a very long time, but when it’s a reality, how did it feel?
The idea was always in our minds and we already started the process when we were living in India, but subsequently moved to Hong Kong after. We wanted to adopt our daughter from India. We had started the process and it’s exactly like how I mention it in my book … lots of paperwork. This was 19 years ago when Trisha came home. India’s adoption system might’ve changed now, but back then it wasn’t as orderly and time efficient as it is today.
We had a lot of paperwork and travelling back and forth during the process. The process was long drawn which included following up on the paperwork, home visits etc. I was prepared for it, I knew what was needed. My husband on the other hand was very busy at the time so most of the paperwork was filed and done by me. There were bumps in between as expected but since our focus and determination didn’t simmer down, things worked out well for us, eventually.
So when your ‘Wishes’ came true, how did it feel?
It was fantastic. Till then, it was just an idea that we had. It was an idea that, “Oh God, we are actually going to be parents!” But unlike someone who has a biological child and has that 9 month period to prepare and gear up for the journey, ours was just filing paperwork with no real known timeframe. So, when we brought Trisha home, we put her on the bed, looked at each other and said, ‘Okay, what do we do now?”
In most cases, the adoption process happens quickly and before you know it, the baby’s home and sometimes we wonder if we should’ve made a list or done this or that, but we had our parents to help us out then. But yes, the change from having no children at home to suddenly having an infant at home was drastic, rewarding and a lot of fun.
I take it that you’ve been abroad for a very long time. You’ve been in Hong Kong for a while and currently you live in Singapore. How do you find their societies reacting to adoption as an option to start a family? Is it any different from those living in Indian society?
Yes, they are open-minded with the idea of adoption as a way to have a family. Like I mentioned before, we adopted our first daughter from India 19 years ago. In those days, it was still a bit of a taboo. It was difficult for people to accept the idea of it all. Nowadays, many couples come forth and take up adoption as a way to start a family, which is great, but back then it was a tad bit difficult.
Our own immediate family was very excited and happy for us, which helped us through the process, but there were others who were a little skeptical of it all. The question that irked us then was, “Why would you want to adopt, when you could have a baby of your own?” They couldn’t understand why we would choose to do so. But as a couple, if you’re determined and you believe in it, then things fall in place. The process was a lot different when we adopted Maya, our second daughter.
What was the process like? Was it quite different from the Indian one? Was there anything distinctly unique about either of the adoption systems that you have been a part of?
The process in Singapore was a lot more systematic and time efficient. When they said something would be done in two months they meant it so one could plan ahead accordingly. The paperwork is organized and the legal system works much faster. One felt that the system is quite involved and looking after the child best interest as well as the family throughout the adoption process was proof that their social systems worked really well.
I’m sure it’s probably quite the same in India right now too, but back when we adopted Trisha; it was quite the wild goose chase. Apart from the fact that each countries approach was unique the actual process or even the paperwork was essentially the same. They look for the right answers, their home studies, their trying to match babies with the right families as is done worldwide. I just feel that at the end of the day, it’s just about which country has systems that are faster with the purpose of keeping stress levels at the lowest.
Were there any difficult moments that you experienced during the process of adoption or afterward?
Parenting, to begin with is the most difficult task on the planet and nobody prepares you for that. The whole idea of parenting comes with its own ups and downs, but nothing different from any other family. Like I said, the process itself was long drawn but it all worked out for us eventually, sure there are families who struggle but I do believe that if it’s meant to be it all does work out. It’s about staying focused and crossing hurdles when they do come but also staying practical and open-minded.
About your book, “A Simple Wish”, how did that start?
When Trisha was a baby, I would just jot down a few lines that I would feel at the moment while she was asleep. So, I had this folder, this word document, if you will, and I kept adding words, thoughts and feelings to them, as and when through the years. Then Maya came home and I added more. So by the time Maya was around 7 or 8, I figured, ”Let me put them all in order and write them properly.” So I did, I wrote them down and I shared it with the family i.e. Trisha, Maya and my husband. Looking at the book, Trisha said, “Why don’t you publish this, mom? Why don’t you print it?”
My original plan was to write this down in some form or the other and put it together for the girls. It’s their little journey put simply. Maya read the book, she thoroughly loved it. She said, “My friends would love to read something like this!” That’s how it all came to be. The book is for Trisha and Maya. I then started looking for a printer and found an amazing illustrator, who understood my journey and that was that. I do want to spread the message about our story, but I also want the book to help start the dialogue at home about adoption with other families. Most families struggle with the idea of disclosure and my hope is that this simple book can be a conversation starter.
How did you disclose it to them? How did they react to it as they grew older?
Like I mentioned in the book, from the moment the girls came home from the time they were babies, we would talk about adoption. We always associated adoption to love and love meant family. I think that was well-ingrained in their minds from the minute they came home. By the time they were at an age when they could have conversations, the association between adoption and love was very strong and clear.
They weren’t really shocked because we’ve always been open and transparent about everything as a family. Of course every child is different and disclosure should be approached accordingly. Trisha is very secure and asks us about anything that comes to mind and it’s the same with Maya now and our conversations are very honest. As it should be ideally when touching upon any topic as they grow.
Was there anything interesting that you noticed once you started putting your thoughts that were on paper into a book for the kids?
The book has everything that actually happened. It’s a simple book written keeping children in mind and that was it. For instance, when Trisha came home, my husband wasn’t in town. When he came back from a long business trip, he saw Trisha for the first time at home. It’s all in the book. I wanted to keep it factual and just added tiny humorous elements which are also true, like the instance when I went out immediately to buy some baby diapers and a cot for Trisha after she came home, it was all so sudden. My girls still go through the book and stop at a page and then we go back to the memoryJ
So, essentially the book is about your kids being the simple wishes that came true?
Yes absolutely. The story is about my girls and how they came into my life, and how wishes can eventually come true. There is so much talk about adoption and this is a book that shows that families can be created in different ways. Adoption is a path to becoming a family and whilst this is our particular story it can be similar for many others.
Was it difficult to find a publisher for the book?
I tried to publish this book with the help of a publisher, but I wasn’t satisfied with their quality and service. I’m a little picky about certain things and wanted everything to be just perfect including how the book felt and looked. Through word of mouth, it has reached a lot of people and in particular families who I hope will benefit. But if any publisher would like to publish it, I’d be more than willing to give that a shot as wellJ
Has anybody come back to you regarding the book saying, “This book changed my life.”?
Quite a few actually because over the years, I’ve been speaking to a lot of people who struggle with the idea of adoption, disclosure or some who are still wondering whether adopting a child is the right fit. Many bought the book and got back to me saying it helped them a lot. That was the whole idea. I wanted it to reach people and help them understand the simplicities (without disregarding the challenges that come as well) of adoption and the response makes me happy.
Since you’ve been a pre-adoptive and you currently counsel, what do you think scares the majority the most about disclosure?
Majority of them think that their kids would start moving away from them and probably have feelings of abandonment etc all over again. As in, the general fear is that the child wouldn’t accept the idea favorably and might become extremely sad. It is an understandable worry simply because it can be a very tough conversation to have.
I think early disclosure is critical but that is something many families don’t do as yet, because they are too nervous as well as not sure on how to begin. They wait till the child is around 4 or 5 and I personally think one doesn’t and shouldn’t have to wait that long. Sometimes we underestimate our children.
From our own experience my learning is that children can be much wiser than we give them credit. I think the fear of rejection and questioning of their love and trust is what makes parents wait but the earlier they start disclosing the more secure the child feels. One can start from the day their baby/child comes home.
Have there been parents who come back and talk to you about disclosing to older children, say around 19 or 20?
Yes, my husband and I sometimes get called to speak at panels about adoption and disclosure in Singapore. At these meetings, I’ve met quite a few parents who attend the workshops to gather some courage to finally tell their children. I know someone who discovered she was adopted when she was around 20, and that didn’t go too well. She was already at an age and stage where she started feeling the need to question the very foundation of their relationship, asking questions like, “Why didn’t they trust me enough to tell me?” The fear of abandonment is overpowering and extremely overwhelming, at that point.
Our social worker told us that every adopted child will have some amount of personal pain within them, no matter what, that we as parents can’t fix. We shouldn’t go out of our way to try and fix that. It’s something that we leave to the child to come to terms with. As parents, all we can do is make them feel really secure and loved.
I am always mindful that my girls will have questions. Sometimes they talk about them and sometimes they don’t. I’m sure they wonder and that’s something every adoptive child has in him/her. We as parents should always be open to their questions and have a lot of dialogue regarding the same when the time comes.
What is the most interesting question your girls have asked you during such conversations?
In all honesty, my elder one Trisha, hasn’t asked us many questions. She says she feels extremely secure and is generally a very practical happy go lucky person who lives in her own little world. Maya is more curious and asks questions like, “Where is the mummy whose tummy I came from?” or “What is she doing nowadays?”, etc. but that was earlier, now I think she feels more comfortable with her story. She talks to her friends about adoption. She understands the biology of it, too.
It is difficult for a young child to understand that they are not from your tummy so being prepared to clarify that helps. That realization comes with age and a lot of conversations regarding the same. The older one did a two week internship at the organization from where she was adopted in Kolkata, two years ago. I think that puts things into perspective for her. She did ask me, “If I could ask them about my biological parents?” And I welcomed the idea, heartily, but she changed her mind and has had no regrets since.
Is there anything that you would like to tell your readers?
Like the title of the book suggests, keep it simple. Let us not underestimate our little ones. They are warriors. A lot of adoptive parents get anxious about talking to their children about adoption and understandably so.
Disclosure is a scary thought, but I do believe the less worried one is about it the easier it will be for the family to start the conversation. Once that hurdle is crossed the rest will come naturally. I do hope ‘A Simple Wish’ can be a tool to help families overcome this critical step towards feeling more at ease at talking to their children about how simple it really was to become a family. I am a qualified counselor and hope to work with adoptive families before, during and after the process.