From Adoptee to Mother


Once a year we celebrate National Adoption Day. Adoption can happen in many different ways. It can be an open or closed adoption, or it could be a foster to adopt situation. Families can also adopt family members. As far back as I can remember, I always knew I was adopted. When I was one year old, I was adopted from Calcutta, India. My adoptive parents are Ukrainian, Polish, and are descendants of a few other European countries. Whenever I’d hear how much I looked like my parents I rolled my eyes. This is because our physical differences are vast. 

I’m glad that my adoption was never hidden from me. 

I never felt tricked or lied to. Growing up, I did wonder about my biological parents. I would dream about them and had created a crazy fantasy about who they were and who I would be if I got to live with them. I was always thankful for the life my adopted parents were able to give me. It was never lost on me that my entire life could’ve been different had they not decided to pursue adoption. 

My Indian heritage wasn’t something that was brought up or explained a lot.

I had done some school reports on India and my best friend growing up was Indian, but I never knew or embraced the culture. When I came to the United States, my parents decided to keep my Indian name as my middle name. I didn’t celebrate holidays like Diwali or Ganesh Puja. My family and I celebrated the more western holidays of Christmas and Easter. We would create Ukrainian Easter eggs. Mine were never quite as good as my mother’s designs. My dad would set out his favorite aluminum tree and I’d help decorate it with the excited glee that any young child has at the approaching yuletide holiday. 

There were a few times throughout my childhood where being adopted did bother me.

I distinctly remember in 6th grade, during our human development unit, students were tasked with asking their mothers what their pregnancy was like. Were they sick? Did they have cravings? My mom told me to tell my class that she ate a lot of chocolate while she was waiting for me! And while I appreciate my mom helping me with my school assignment, it just didn’t feel the same. Other moments, like when I got my first period, were awkward as well. We had no idea what my cycles would be like since I had no biologically related precedent.

 As I aged out of my childhood pediatrician and was forced to find my own doctors in college and beyond, I’m always asked for my medical history. I don’t know how many times I’ve just scribbled on the forms


It’s not exactly a trigger for me, but it’s exhausting to continually correct medical professionals who should have it in their systems already. (Especially my OB/GYN’s office which asked me at every prenatal appointment if my medical history has changed.)

When I got pregnant with my first child in 2016, I became apprehensive (like all new moms-to-be) about how my pregnancy and labor would go. I couldn’t talk to my mom about her experiences.

I mourned the ability to share my pregnancy with my mother as a woman who was currently pregnant and a woman who had been pregnant. My mother-in-law and I would talk about her pregnancies, deliveries, and more.

But it’s just not the same since it wasn’t my mom.

She tried to ask questions and would try to compare experiences she had that could be similar to pregnancy or labor. This is not meant as a negative statement towards my mom, but just a statement of fact. After I had my second child, my mom asked me if labor was just like cramps because when she was younger she had terrible cramping. I tried to explain to her that labor was kind of like cramps just a million times worse, but until you live that experience you don’t know what it feels like.

She is a very loving grandmother and it matters absolutely nothing that her grandkids are not biologically related to her. 

 My mom loved feeling my belly move with the rapid kicks of the baby and talking to her grandchildren while they were in the womb. She was fascinated with their development, ultrasound pictures, and more. The moment she met each of her grandchildren at the hospital she burst into tears.

I’m so fortunate that they had it in their hearts to adopt me from halfway across the world.

I never doubted the love both of my parents have for me and my brother (who was also adopted).  I can’t thank them enough for the wonderful life they provided for me. While I may not know my genetic history or my birth story, I know, without a shadow of a doubt,  that I was wanted by my adopted parents. 

Being adopted has shaped how I am a mother to my children.

There is an acute sense of not being wanted by my biological parents that continues to this day.  I strive to make my children feel wanted every day. In the future, I would also consider undergoing medical testing to see if I’m a carrier for certain diseases so I can help my children be more medically well-informed when pursuing healthcare. I feel that I’m leaving their future health to chance because I was adopted with no medical history. Growing up in a loving and stable home shaped me more into the mother I am today. Nature and nurture definitely played their part in who I am today, but I think nurture definitely won out. Families come in all shapes, colors, and sizes and I’m so glad mine led me here to Ohio. 

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Julia Whalen
Julia resides in Perrysburg with her husband, their three children (Ari (6), Annie (3), and Jonah (9 months)), and two cats (Godric and Cali). Her children are the most amazing, funny, lovable, and crazy little humans she’s ever met. Julia moved here from the Cleveland area right after college. Some of her favorite things about living in NW Ohio are being able to do legal U-Turns and going over 25 mph on a main road. When she is not fulfilling her Ravenclaw dreams of working as a STEM teacher or moming, Julia is most likely rewatching The Office or rereading Harry Potter for the billionth time. Her favorite places are Target, Starbucks, and Disney World. Feel free to follow on Instagram @jwhalen1


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