My amazing and beautiful daughter—Devani Anjali Alderson—turns 20 today, 2/17/15.
As many of you know, Devani was adopted from India. What you may not know is that my husband, Coleman Alderson and I were in India volunteering at an orphanage in February of 1995 when she was born.
This is the story of my daughter.
Six of us were living in a 20’x20′ square room for three months. My husband and I, and four teens, who traveled there with us.
We were there to have a “volunteer vacation”, a different kind of life experience…. the kind that puts first world problems into perspective.
There was a “bathroom” connected to our room, however it was just a room with a drain, a cold-water faucet, a bucket and a scooping cup, like a 2-cup plastic measuring cup.
For bathing, we took cold-water “bucket” baths, by filling the bucket with water and scooping with the measuring cup and pouring that over us to get wet, lather up and then rinse off.
In anticipation of our visit, the orphanage had very thoughtfully installed western-style toilets in the latrine rooms outside and around the corner, so we wouldn’t have to squat over the holes-in-the-floor style eastern toilets. However, the plumbing system wasn’t situated for it, so often those didn’t work.
One morning, a few days after our arrival, the director came to our room and said that their infant nursery had been vacant for over a year, but now they had an infant coming. It turns out the room we were in was the infant nursery.
His dilemma was that was to be our home over the next few months. Of course we immediately volunteered to not only share our room with the newborn, but also to be its caregivers. Then within three days, there were two more infants, all girls! Now there we were, the six of us sharing this same room, taking turns and shifts 24/7 caring for three infants, in very rustic conditions.
The room had a single hot plate and one pot.
We used the pot for boiling water to sterilize the baby bottles, before filling them with milk. Every morning one of the resident children of the orphanage would bring us a bucket of milk—often water buffalo milk—which we would then boil to sterilize, cool and pour into the sterilized bottles before feeding to the infants.
In early 1995 I was 36 and Coleman was 41, and we had not yet succeeded in our aspirations to conceive a baby, though we had been married for going on seven years. We really wanted a family… to be parents… to share our lives with children whom we longed to love and raise. On occasion, we had lightly touched on the possibility of adoption if we didn’t succeed biologically, for whatever unknown reasons testing did not reveal.
So there we were, now caring for three infants. Was it fate?
We had never looked into foreign adoption and had no idea of all that was involved, but we inquired of the orphanage director if it was a possibility. I mean, there we were, aspiring parents without children, living in the suddenly bustling infant nursery. It just seemed like perfect destiny. So we asked, but he immediately said, “This is not possible.” So, we released that idea. Disappointed, yes, but not devastated, as we hadn’t allowed ourselves to get our hopes up yet. We figured it was not the right thing at the right time… that it was not “to be”, and went on back to our volunteer tasks.
The next morning, the director came to our room and said:
“It has come to me in the night. You must have this child. Show me, which one is your daughter.”
For the next five and a half weeks before we were to leave India, we continued to volunteer and care for the infants, and to name Devani, and view her as our daughter. Naively, we thought we would be able to travel home with her, thinking the orphanage directors, who were well respected in India, knew what to do and had the connections needed to make it happen.
That is often how things happen in India, so it was easy for us to assume that the necessary permissions were underway. After all, they handled adoptions regularly.
But of course international adoption was more complicated.
The laws of our lands… both for adoption, foreign and domestic, as well as immigration laws to the US, are not designed to address individual circumstances. Systems can’t do that. Which meant that this story was not about a family wanting to love and care for a child that needed that family, but rather, about red tape and bureaucracy.
So after five and a half wonderful weeks of loving and caring for our infant daughter, we had to leave her behind.
We returned home to begin our US process of becoming approved to adopt, while awaiting the bureaucratic process in India, to lumber it’s way toward approving her for adoption.
To leave her was heart-wrenching.
We anguished over thinking it could take many months before we would could go back and bring her home. Months turned into years of
tears and pain and soul-searching. Were we doing the right thing to keep hoping…? To keep her at the orphanage without a family? But… maybe just a few more months.
It took three years.
When we landed in the US with Devani, after three long and painful years to finally get her home, we were ready to kiss the ground. It was the happiest day of our lives. The expanded story of all that led up to this day and how it almost didn’t happen, and the numerous “angels” helping along the way, is a story for another day. Perhaps those chapters will yet be written, but this is the happy conclusion to Part One of Devani’s 20 years thus far.
These years have flown by… seemingly faster than the excruciatingly long wait to have our daughter home… a long, 3-year labor. We’ve cherished the privilege of parenting and educating Devani and her brother, Nikolai (an easier adoption story to share another day).
Devani blossoms into more grace and wisdom virtually daily, growing steadily into a wonderful human being, a loving and compassionate young woman.
Now, we can unequivocally say, it was worth every tear, every year, every effort and uncertainty.
We would not be today who we’ve become, nor Devani, who she’s become, were it not for each other.
India is an amazing, exotic land of mystery, majesty, mayhem, and deep spirituality, where all imaginable extremes co-exist like dissonant musical notes edging toward inevitable harmony.
We had hoped to return for an extended visit there while Devani was still a teen. We didn’t make it, but hopefully by the time she’s 21.
We will never know exactly what kind of life she might have had there.
It may have been wonderful, but chances are she would not have had the opportunities she has now in this life. We know that her biological mother was 16 and single and along with her boyfriend, made a mistake unacceptable to her culture.
We will be eternally grateful that she had the courage to bring Devani into the world, and the love to allow her the chance for another life.
We are grateful that her mother, Devani’s biological grandmother, had the compassion to accompany her during Devani’s birth that day in 1995.
Today, for the past five years, actually, Devani and I have been working, learning and growing together, as business partners, and as a family. She runs her own social marketing business, Marketing 4 Traffic, which began as part of her entrepreneurial homeschooling education, and has been a phenomenal learning experience on so many levels.
We each help the other in our business endeavors.
Sometimes I mentor her and sometimes she teaches me.
We both value these years of working and learning together. She is a beautiful, loving daughter, best friend and a wonderful human being. Smart, witty, sassy, sweet, and intelligent.
Like all of us, she has “days” where she struggles, but she’s an eager learner, with clarity, maturity and wisdom beyond her years. Others have said about her:
“She will go far. She has important work to do in the world.”
It’s cool that Devani also enjoys helping with this baby boomer site. We’ve often joked that she’s a boomer throwback on a number of levels. Besides thinking our 70’s clothes were really cool, some of her favorite music is of our generation. Hint: The Beatles would be tops. All the songs we’ve sung and danced to from the 70’s & 80’s are amongst her favorites. So she’s an honorary “best boomer and beyond” and “boomers reinvented” member.
One of the wonderful side-effects of homeschooling, is how children grow up with an absence of age discrimination, relative to how much they can enjoy spending time with people of all ages.
The world is a brighter, lighter, more beautiful place because Devani is here. Her work in the world will be as great as she chooses for it to be. Whatever and however that blossoms, I’ve no doubt the world will be a better place for her living in it. Devani, with compassionate soul, quick wit, quirky humor, and an artist’s dreamy vision.
Devani finds the beauty in all things great and small, and has a deep appreciation for nature. She gets inspired by interesting people doing wonderful work in the world, and I have no doubt that she will grow ever more fully into being one of them, even more than she already is.
Devani Anjali Alderson, is a funny, clever, bright, loving, compassionate, and brilliant soul… she is our sunshine, our “Devani” (Shining Celestial Being), Anjali (Tribute or Divine Offering), Alderson (wise warrior).
Interestingly, in India, Devani would be of the Rajput or Warrior caste, and our family name, Alderson, also means “wise warrior”.
Devani, a Warrior of Wisdom Bringing Light to a World in Need
Or whatever she decides it is she’s here to do. I am forever grateful to be sharing this life journey with her in our family, along with my husband, Coleman and her brother Nikolai.
The three year “labor” was absolutely worth it.
Devani, Dear Heart, Sunshine of my life, Happy Birthday. We love you more than words can ever express.