All the caregivers in the orphanage hugged her goodbye and were crying. Then she grabbed my aunt’s hand and walked out.

My daughter, Pia, is 2 ½.

I was single until I was 36. I am Indian, but I grew up here. I had my own dental practice starting at 29 so I was pretty career-oriented. I did go through the process of my parents trying to arrange a marriage for me. It was just like My Big Fat Greek Wedding… where all these weird guys came to eat dinner. Some of them were pretty geeky and some of them were really cute. It was very stressful. I wanted to get married. I really did. I always have. I just wasn’t meeting the right guy.

Then I met Brett. We really both wanted children. Shortly after we got married, we started trying. We tried for about two years. We tried fertility treatment. That didn’t work. So we started the adoption process.

The in-vitro process was so grueling. Our appointments were before work. We had to leave home at 6:30. I would get to the clinic at 7. It’s in this corner with no windows. You feel like you’re underground. They would tell you how many eggs you had, how big your follicles were and whether you were ready for them to extract the eggs.

It’s very stressful because you’re just hoping they will get what they see in the ultrasound. Then, the next day, they tell you how many embryos they actually got. It’s usually a smaller number each time. Like seven follicles and you get five eggs and maybe three embryos. For the retrieval, I would have to take off a day’s work. Then you have to go back after three or four days after the embryos developed and then they would transfer them. It took a few minutes. Then you just waited. It just never took. I think we went through three rounds of in-vitro and then artificial insemination. The whole thing cost probably about the same as a nice car.

I did give up for awhile (crying). You know, I’m pretty happy. I was happy single. I always wanted to get married and I did. I thought, maybe I’m asking for too much?

I had a very strong desire to adopt an Indian child, to continue the legacy of my family coming over here. It’s maybe egocentric, but I wanted my footprint on this child. I did get pregnant while the adoption was happening. We’d cool down the adoption process and wait to see how the pregnancy was going. Then when they didn’t work out, we would get back on our feet and move forward. I was pregnant about three months each time. Two times.

Getting the placement… that was really exciting. She’s from New Delhi. That’s where my family is from. My aunt’s a doctor so she went to visit the orphanage to make sure that the child was healthy.

In the US, being with your child for the first time is such a private thing. That wasn’t the case with my family. We were in India. Brett and I jumped in the car. Then my dad came and then my cousin said he had taken the day off. And of course, my aunt, the doctor wanted to come.

Oh, she was so fragile. Her eyes were so lively. That’s what I remember. She was a lot smaller than I thought. See, she filled up the picture. But photographs can fool you. And they had just shaved her. They do that for good luck and also for sanitation. She wasn’t as vigorous as I thought and I was a little taken aback and scared. The orphanage director said, “now, don’t you worry. Her true colors will come out very soon.”

We got her. We said hello. We all held her. I held her the most. They said they wanted to give her lunch for the last time. So we went out to lunch. I went back in the orphanage with my aunt. All the caregivers were kneeling on the floor and they all hugged her goodbye and they were all crying. Even the guard was crying. Then she turned around and grabbed my aunt’s hand and walked out.

I took two weeks off. I had to dive back into work because I’m in solo practice. I feel when I’m at work, I’m racing against the clock to get home to her. It’s a tough balance.

I think I could describe myself as 100% Indian and 100% American. But my parents are 100% Indian. She’s going to get a lot of culture passed down to her through them. We observe Dinali; the special puja, or prayer, we do when there’s a big occasion.

My relationship with Brett? Even though we were in a rush to have kids, it’s sort of a blessing that it took so long because we really got to spend four good years together. We have a strong foundation in our marriage to build upon, but I miss the intimacy and how many hours we had together.

My relationship with my mom? (crying) It’s strengthened. Pia’s been the best thing for us. We have a common goal now. It’s all for Pia. There was a lot of stress—for her and my dad (voice catches) because I married so late and then I had trouble having kids… It was a huge nightmare for Indian parents. They are so happy to be grandparents.

The hardest part is that there’s not a book to learn how to do it right so you’re always wondering whether you’re doing the best thing for your child. It’s trial and error and you have to accept that it’s not going to be perfect. The best thing? Pia’s my best friend, besides Brett. I love having her around. It’s so exciting seeing the world from her eyes.

Throughout this, I discovered it was my destiny to be a mother and specifically to be Pia’s mother. It’s all played out the way it should have played out.

Advice? I don’t think you can ever be prepared for how difficult it is and how time-consuming it is and how tiresome it can be. But I also don’t think you’ll ever expect to get as much joy as you do. I just don’t think you can understand that until you are a mother.

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