By Sugandha Agarwal
Adoption in India continues to carry stigma from various perspectives, often because of cultural ignorance and prejudices promoted by movies. This blog will attempt to address some of the most common concerns about adoption, from everyone’s perspective – aunties with unhealthy curiosity, friends and family, and PAPs.
Let us first address the challenge all of us grew up as the ultimate threat,
“Log kya kahenge?” (roughly translated as “what will people say?”).
It is assumed that people do not choose adoption and is the last resort for many. There is an irrational and unhealthy focus in Indian culture on continuing the family name (which has its own patriarchal baggage – a girl child does not “carry on” family name, does not have the power vested to ensure a seat in heaven for you and lots of other bamboozling). This importance on the very constrictive concept of family, that only people sharing your blood and DNA are and will be family is deeply internalized.
When I started talking about adoption, my 7-year-old niece told me instantly that I should not and the baby should have my DNA. I had a long discussion with her on why having similar DNA doesn’t matter and what makes my family genes more important. We need to convince ourselves and people around us of the same. Changing racism, casteism and regionalism is a far-fetched goal; let us start with checking our thoughts on what makes me and my genes better than anyone else.
Why does anyone feel superior about their gene pool? Why is procreating a validation for anything at all? If you will not look down upon someone who has a migraine, why would you look down upon someone who is not able to conceive? It is as much a biological functional issue as your body not producing enough thyroid! But we make it an issue of identity, a cultural dilemma, a matter of public discussion that a couple has issues in procreating. It becomes a matter of shame. “Becomes” is a wrong word here, it is intentionally made a matter of shame.
The man is not “man enough” if he cannot produce a child and a woman is “barren” if she cannot conceive. The terms themselves are cruel, reducing individuals to a baby making machine! It is made summum bonum of whole family and the whole “society” that people must reproduce. What would have earlier been an act of love, passion and pleasure becomes an item on schedule. People are coerced to go in IVF cycles, devastating them emotionally, physically and financially, just to prove they are “man” and “woman” enough. There are no words to describe the pain of a failed IVF cycle, only people who have gone through it can understand it. These toxic stereotypes force people to go through so much pain to just fit in, conform to the social requirement of having a baby with similar DNA as theirs.
A large number of people still choose to hide that they are considering or have adopted a child. They change cities or move locally to hide the fact of adoption. A good number of people also inquire about how they can hide the fact of adoption from, the child as they do not want themselves or the child to be ostracized for adoption.
Once people overcome the concerns of their own gene pool, the concerns for the child being adopted start: what religion, what caste, who were the biological parents, what if the parents were criminals – will the child have criminal tendencies, in all probability the child was born out of marriage or as a result of rape and worse. Even if you cannot track anything in the child’s limited history available to you, you presume that only poor people abandon their children, they have low IQ, so your child will not do well in studies. The ultimate threat being, adopted children never accept you and a large number abandon their parents once they are adults and go away to look for their biological parents.
How does is matter where the child came from or who his/her parents were? Are we exactly what our parents are? Would we still be the same if we took birth and then lived not with our parents but someone else? How important are genes vs. the upbringing and social and mental conditioning that we get? What moulds us more?
Our children are a reflection of who we are because of the moral and social conditioning we provide. They are not our extensions by default. We as a society want to curb individualism and cherish qualities like obedience, likeness to parents, toeing the line, conforming to stereotypes. We do not want to accept that a child has his/her own characteristics and will grow up according to the conditioning and stimulus s/he gets. We are quick to quote some family member or acquaintance or some random news where an adopted child did not turn out to be the ideal kid, we hardly take a breath and find out adopted kids who did great deeds!
If DNA determines everything, how do siblings have any differences at all, be it physical, emotional, IQ or career choices? They should all be clones of each other! We need to acknowledge the role of parenting, conditioning, circumstances and individual personality in what a child grows up to be. DNA is not the sole determining factor.
Being a parent is a responsibility as well as a thing of pride, one dares to bring up a child, actively contribute to the world that the next generation will live in. Being a parent is, reproducing is not! Nobody’s DNA is going to determine the future of the world; our parenting and conditioning of the children will.
Sugandha Agarwal is a lawyer and amateur author based in Bangalore. An ardent dog and chai lover, she likes to spend time understanding the world around her and make her way around stereotypes and social conformity. She is a single PAP and hopes to bring her baby home soon.