Signal girl

She stands at the busiest signal in the suburb. Her hair is a hay-like brown from undernourishment and her skin is tanned from standing in the sun all day.  I see her every time my taxi stops at the signal—more than a couple of times every week. Almost always, she has a smile on her face, and she is generally entertaining one or more of the other beggar children at the signal. She’s,not more than seven or eight years old. When I’m traveling with Avanee, she comes to the window and makes funny faces so Avanee laughs. The two of them have their silent interaction for the few seconds that we’re there, and life goes on. I’ve always bought the bunches of ginger lilies she sells in season and wondered where this child finds the energy and enthusiasm to trot around the busy, dangerous crossroads day in, day out with a smile on her lips and a sparkle in her eye.

The other day, my car was waiting at the signal, a little distance away. I could see her at a car ahead, but she wasn’t her usual cheerful self. As she turned around, she hurt her shin on the mudguard of the car and her face writhed in pain. Her lips curled downward and her eyes moistened with tears. She looked exactly like Avanee does when she hurts herself. Except, Avanee always has someone to rush to her side and calm her down; to kiss her bau-bau good bye. She had no one. I saw her eyes search for someone who may have seen what happened, someone who’d come and tell her it’s going to be OK. Someone to simply hold her close. I sat there like a shameless, helpless spectator as the signal turned green and the car sped off.

This was more than a week ago. I have been traveling since then and haven’t seen her since that day but the image refuses to leave my mind. There are so many children out there, at signals, in orphanages, at temple steps, even garbage bins (god forbid) that need families. There are couples out there who have problems conceiving; families that could do with a little cheer, a little baby powder smell and the mess of toys around the house. Why are we not making the connection, then?

I had trouble conceiving, too. When I did, finally, conceive, I had a very difficult pregnancy and childbirth. MK and I had been trying to make a baby for a few years, but thanks to PCOS, we couldn’t. We went through a cycle of treatment, found it too stressful and depressing, and decided to stop trying too hard. We said we’d adopt in a while if we didn’t conceive naturally. As luck would have it, we discovered we were pregnant shortly thereafter. But it wasn’t a bed of roses. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes in the early stages of pregnancy. I quit my job and got busy watching my calories and pricking myself nine times a day—thrice to take my insulin shots and six times (before and after every meal) to check sugar levels. In a condition that is rarely present in pregnant women with diabetes, the liquor levels in my sac dropped low and I had to be on medication. Somewhere around the fifth month, my BPlevels dropped (while I got stuck in an elevator!) and I had to be hospitalized. Avanee, on the other hand, was growing faster than normal, and I would need a pre-determined C-section delivery three weeks before my due date in order for her and me to be safe. When I was opened up, the OB/GYN found that the cord was wrapped around twice (not once as originally shown in the last scan) around Avanee’s neck and she had to be removed carefully and immediately. On the third day after her birth, Avanee developed infantile jaundice (common among children of diabetic mothers) but her bilirubin count touched dangerous 24 (normal is 14). She lay in a plastic case in the room, dressed only in a diaper and eye protection, exposed to light 24 hours a day. Two days later, when she didn’t show much improvement, the doctor indicated a possibility of exchange transfusion. The very thought of draining all the blood out of my 5-day old baby’s body and replacing it with a stranger’s and the complications around it all scared me and I feared the worst. With god’s grace, though, we walked out of the hospital on day 10, safe and healthy.

Avanee will soon be 3 years old. I am still struggling with diabetes and weight loss and live in the fear of inheriting breast cancer. MK and I would like Avanee to have a sibling (we’re sure she would, too) but the very idea of risking the life of another being just on the basis of my bad health scares me. Yes, I should be making more efforts; yes, I should be really pushing myself, but what if…? I think about adoption, I do all the time. I see posters promoting adoption, I read about social workers who’re doing a fab job, and I see pictures of helpless children with a gleam in the eyes, just wanting to be loved. I want to just go pick one of them up. But do I trust myself enough to always be fair to both—the biological and the adopted? Will society be fair? Will my love be seamless and undivided? Perhaps adoption is easier on parents who have no biological offspring. Perhaps I am thinking too much. Perhaps I should just concentrate on being a good mother to the one child I am blessed with. But what do I do about that image in my head—that lump in my throat that comes up every time I think of a little girl at the signal with a bleeding shin and nowhere to go?

Comments (12)

  1. Alka January 21, 2013 at 9:04 am

    I can relate to every emotion that you have shared in this lovely post of yours!
    Hubby and myself were barely able to manage expenses of newly purchased home, getting it furnished and running daily chores when I came to know about the pregnancy. Had a very tough time, feeling sick, unable to cook, at times having to skip meals coz there was no one to cook for me and hiring a cook was not affordable too.
    And worst was when hubby have to leave India for a month and I had to be on my own. Finally when the day came, I was told that the delivery must happen soon and hence was forced to go through C-section. Had to struggle a lot to cope up with post pregnancy blues and watching our kid lying on the glass sheet under UV light, just broke our heart. Maybe all this had made me more of a clinging mom to my son 😉
    It was very tough to manage a toddler and a home on my own, without any help and running around to hospitals along wid my siblings to look after the ailing all the hustle bustle it was impossible to plan another child.
    Me and hubby too wanted to adopt a girl child, so as to complete our family, but then as you said, we too ponder a lot about how the society, family, relatives and we ourselves will handle the situation. Will the grandparents be as affectionate to the adopted child as they are towards their own blood? Will we, as parents be honest and fair enough? Will our son happily adapt to the situation? or will he have a superiority complex over the adopted one?
    Just the mere thought of injustice towards the adopted one, makes me numb, and I feel incapable of handling the mess of emotions, the trauma , the pain, the insecurities, the impartiality and the heartbreaks.
    I wish it was easy to overcome all the ifs and buts and bring home an innocent life 🙁

  2. chinmayie @ love food eat January 21, 2013 at 9:04 am

    This post had me in tears Saee…
    You have put such personal thoughts in words so beautifully. I can relate to this post in many ways. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Madhuri January 21, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Beautifully written! Thank you for the share..

  4. Madhuli January 21, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    Saee I understand your fears about adoption..I had them too..we adopetd our daughter when our Son (biological) was about 5 and she was 1 1/2..One look at my daughter and all those fears vanished..she’s 3 1/2 now and there has never been a moment in my life when I have had any doubts..I am like those mom’s who even count the sprinkles on the cupcakes for both the kids 🙂 In fact since she is so cute and adorable..I have to urge everyone in the family not to neglect the boy now..which usually happens when you have 2 kids anyway..but adopting our daughter has been one of the best decisions we have taken ..pls go ahead.of course you need family support.which in our case was not an issue.just be ready for lotso paperwork that’s all..

  5. Mallika January 22, 2013 at 2:08 am

    Your post is quite moving Saee. You know what, reading this post, you make me thank for the little things in life that I take for granted. Like, we weren’t prepared for a child soon, yet it happened. I shuddered and had odd thoughts. Many suggested that I should have been thankful since not all were blessed and that didn’t bother me much. I pretty much enjoyed a healthy pregnancy apart from the foodie mood swings and had a normal delivery. Touchwood, my daughter too was healthy and was out of me bang on the date of delivery as suggested by my doctor. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t much of stress on mind as many go through. I relate now to what you say, since I have friends of my age who’ve been struggling for years to conceive. As I read your story, you make thank God for my daughter and the joy she has brought to our life.

    Adoption, I’ve heard is quite a tedious task in India. But if accomplished it surely is a new life of boon for both the child and the parents as well. I do hope you will go ahead with your instincts and rest assured all will stay positive!

  6. Rashmi January 22, 2013 at 11:33 am

    This post left me in tears! Conceiving was not as issue for us, but i lost my first child at 20 weeks. It developed certain complication because of which i had to abort it. The pain of your body not being able to protect it, you not being able to give birth to it and whole painful experience of going thr’ labor for the sake of aborting it (since 3 months had already passed, they had to induce me, I waited for 30 long, dreadful and excruciating hours for it to come out) was extremely torturous! I Thank god that my second pregnancy was normal and i have a beautiful daughter of Avanee’s age! There is not a single day when i dont thank god for this gift and i she is more special because what happened the first time…

    Reading your post brought all those memories back like a flood!

  7. Divya January 22, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Saee…its almost like this post is about me..i struggled with PCOS, struggled to get pregnant, finally when i was pregnant thanks to medicines..then GD followed. Childbirth and followed by jaundice with high counts if billirubin my little daughter is 18 months happy and playful as any toddler can be. I so want another baby but adoption has always been on my mind and yes adoption of baby girl only. I feared the society before i got pregnant, i fear now when i think about adoption and another baby even. I’m amazed when i get told i hope it will be a boy next time, it takes all the strength not to hit that person. I already have created bad reputation among my relatives having said that if i ever have baby no 2 it has to be girl, if its a boy will be highly disappointing. When will our society learn to respect one’s decision and mind their own business ?

  8. Natasha January 29, 2013 at 2:30 am

    I read your post yesterday and have not stopped thinking about it yet. Apart from wanting to give up everything I do and work at an orphanage or children’s NGO I couldn’t stop think about your adoption dilemma too. I personally think that you should definitely adopt. You have enough love in you to spread it equally to 2 beautiful children without any discrimination. And honestly, I doubt it will be impossible to love a child less. As far as society goes, is caring about what some people think more important to changing the entire life of a young child? Anyway, these are all emotional thoughts and I’m sure you’ve thought about it practically too and will make the right decision. *hugs*

  9. Mitali February 11, 2013 at 2:34 am

    You should have done something to cheer up the little girl. It wouldn’t have taken much, would it?

  10. Ruchira Sonalkar October 3, 2013 at 2:11 am

    It’s very easy to love a child, comes naturally to us, like an instinct 🙂 Adopting a baby is as fulfilling as conceiving your own, I did it, without any health trauma or inability to conceive. Because it needs to be done. You just need to roll down your car window at the signal and look outside, that’s all 🙂

  11. Rohini October 29, 2016 at 10:32 am

    very well written and extremely touching!!

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