Even before she was married, Kavita Baluni Kaktwan knew she wanted to be a mother to a baby girl. But this child would not be a biological one. She wanted to adopt and give her a home and all the joy in the world.
When four-year-old Veda Baluni Kaktwan’s parents got married in 2012, little did they know that she would change their lives, and make them “the happiest parents in the world”. In 2017, when she entered their lives at 16 months of age, Veda made them the first Indian couple to have adopted a baby with Down syndrome. Three years later, as the family celebrates the adoption anniversary on May 30, Kavita talks to indianexpress.com about the journey.
“Adoption was a dream of mine, ever since I was a teenager. I was not interested in having a biological child. This is something I had told my husband before marriage. He was always a feminist, and I knew it when I met him through an arranged marriage setup that we are not going to be an ordinary couple and there is a reason that we have met. When I told him of my plans, he asked for three days to process it. And then he said there is absolutely nothing wrong with the plan; he was game. He said when we do adopt a child in the future, it was going to be a baby girl,” recalls the Ghaziabad resident.
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Your child is so “lucky” to get adopted. You have done an amazing job by adopting her. . 🖐🏻Please, STOP calling or telling children who got adopted that they are “LUCKY”. . 🔸Every child deserves a home, parents and a safe environment to grow. . 🔸We are not saviours here. . 🔸Children who get adopted don’t have to feel grateful or lucky. —————————————————————————— Adoption will be a taboo in India till the time people will sympathise with kids who get adopted by calling them “lucky” and expect them to be “grateful” for that. That’s WRONG… . Going through trauma or difficult times at an early age, without parents when you need them the most doesn’t make them “lucky”, NEITHER getting in a family. . 💗We are the lucky ones, we are grateful that she chose us as her parents and it’s our privilege to be her parents. . So next time tell parents that their child is strong, beautiful, courageous, brave, anything but “LUCKY”. . #LetsLearnAboutAdoption . . . . . . #changingperceptions #breakingthestigma #adoptionawareness #meetthedetermined #wecouldhavemissedthis #lovemakesafamily #learningwithveda #adoptivemom #adoptionislove #theluckyfew #meetthedetermined #extrachromosome #blessedwiththebest #trisomy21 #diversityandinclusion #adoptionisbeautiful #morealikethandifferent #adoptionislove #motherhoodintheraw #downsyndromeadoption #downsyndromeawareness #adoptionrocks #changingthefaceofbeauty #breakingstereotypes #specialneedsadoption #thisismotherhood #downrightperfect #upsyndrome #wouldntchangeathing
The decision to adopt a child with special needs, however, came to Kavita and her husband Himanshu Kaktwan in 2016, when they visited the US. There, they learnt about kids with Down syndrome, and the couple thought it best to adopt a baby girl with this condition. “In India, there is a stigma attached to disability, and for kids with special needs, the wait is longer. We thought it was better to adopt them and provide an environment, a home, and cater to all their physical and medical needs,” she explains. She added: “When we adopted Veda, we were already married for five years. Our respective families were upset that we were not having kids. Whenever we talked to them about adoption, they would get uncomfortable. So, we did not discuss it with them. When my husband and I adopted Veda, they weren’t happy and believed a child with special needs would ruin our lives. But, we were quite determined that we were doing it for the baby, and not for ourselves.”
The Kaktwans are unschooling parents, who have been teaching Veda at home. “We do not believe in formal education. Every child is different, learns differently. Their pace is different, too. So, Veda decides what she wants to do. My day starts with having breakfast and doing activities with her. She loves watering plants and painting. We also involve speech and occupational therapy while she does her activities. We go up and down the stairs to strengthen her muscles, and this is pretty much our daily routine,” Kavita shares, adding husband Himanshu is an equally involved parent.
Kavita says she never sought social acceptance, and hence, never gave any importance to society’s opinions. But the parents did have to face some taunts. “Veda is super tiny. She has been stared at and shamed for wearing glasses. People say things like: ‘itni chhoti hai, chashma laga hai, iska kya hoga…’ But, I correct them saying there’s no need to utter such things on her face; she is just a child. They get offended. But, we have otherwise only received love.”
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Three years ago, we met our daughter. . The day our lives changed forever. We loved her even more when we saw her. A tiny, calm, sleepy baby with a beautiful smile and shiny eyes arrived with a caretaker. It was magical💕 . A person like me who never wanted to be a mom, choose to be a mom of a child with Down syndrome, was scared and happy at the same time. . No doubt life had big plans for me. I was going to experience the beauty, joy, loss and pain of adoption🙏🏻. It’s my privilege that she chose me to be her mom. . We were so happy and excited to meet her without having any idea what will happen next. . We thought it will take months in other formalities but we were told that she's legally free and can go home with you in two days. What!!! Our home wasn’t ready, we have to shop baby essentials. We were not prepared but then we signed the acceptance letter and visited her again for a couple of days, spent some more time with her and then left our child with a heavy heart in the orphanage for one more week. We travelled again in a week to bring her home❣️ . . . . . . . . . #wecouldhavemissedthis #extrachromieveda #theluckyfew #meetthedetermined #lovemakesafamily #extrachromosome #blessedwiththebest #trisomy21 #adoptivemom #morealikethandifferent #warriorprincess #letslearnaboutadoption #adoptionisbeautiful #adoptionrocks #downsyndromeadoption #adoptionjourney #downsyndrome #adoptionstory #downsyndromeawareness #realmotherhood #indianadoption #thisismotherhood #changingthefaceofbeauty #advocatelikeamother #downrightperfect #upsyndrome #lifeisbetterwithyou #wouldntchangeathing #daughtergoals #documentingmotherhood
The challenges Kavita and Himanshu faced were aplenty. But they rue that they didn’t receive any family support in the initial days. Kavita says she never asked for or expected it, but she never got it either. “When Veda came home, I had no one. No one welcomed her. I understood that we were on our own. And while we were not seeking any help, we did want some emotional support. Thankfully, my husband worked from home for the first few weeks, as he had taken paternity leave. It also took us some time to understand our child. She had both medical and emotional issues, and we dealt with it on our own,” she says.
Kavita says a child, when adopted, needs a lot of love. They need physical touch and cuddling, because they may have experienced some kind of trauma. And as a new parent, no one tells you that, she says. The first few months flew by with hospital visits and medical check-ups. Kavita says she still feels hurt.
“Now they love her. They call her every day. They cannot live without her anymore. But, it is because of Veda that this change has happened. She is such an amazing child that it is hard for someone to not love her. She has only love and kindness to give. My in-laws, when they met her, they got attached to her. We do have some boundaries, though. I tell them they cannot talk about certain things in front of her, or show her any sympathy,” Kavita remarks.
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Me- Vedu, can I take your picture? Veda- Ya..and started posing. Me- 😂😳🤣Where did she learn that🤷♀️ . . . . . . . #wecouldhavemissedthis #learningwithveda #theluckyfew #meetthedetermined #lovemakesafamily #extrachromosome #blessedwiththebest #trisomy21 #lovedoesntcountchromosomes #adoptivemom #morealikethandifferent #warriorprincess #adoptionisbeautiful #adoptionrocks #downsyndromeadoption #downsyndrome #futuremodel #downsyndromeawareness #realmotherhood #indianadoption #changingthefaceofbeauty #advocatelikeamother #downrightperfect #upsyndrome #lifeisbetterwithyou #wouldntchangeathing #daughtergoals #documentingmotherhood
Kavita says that on some days, she feels like she is living with a teenager, and not a four-year-old. “She is calm, but she is also bossy sometimes. Veda is a patient and kind child. People love her even on the social media. Maybe it’s because my husband and I have been involved with her from the first day. She has opinions of her own. We have always given her the agency.
“To other parents, I would like to say that treat your child as a child. People who have kids with disability find it hard to get acceptance. Firstly, you don’t have to accept them. They are just kids. I always tell people to treat their kids as individuals — they are not above or below you. I also feel people should start celebrating differences. Disabled people don’t have to be accepted, they have to be included,” she concludes.