Editor's Note : If you have followed the Times of Amma for a while, you know that I love inspiring parenting journeys. I've been following Kavita Balunni Kaktwan's story for a while now and I am so inspired by her heart, her courage and her journey with her husband which is the reason all of us get a sneak peek into her daughter Veda's life. Kavita is an Adoption Advocate with particular emphasis on Down Syndrome Adoption and I'm so honoured that she took the time to share a bit of her life with the readers of the Times of Amma.
Could you tell us a bit about your life before Veda?
It’s hard to remember life without Veda now, but we were a couple who loved to travel and try different cuisines before her. I was a food and travel blogger.
After completing my graduation, I have worked as HR trainee and recruiter and lastly I worked as a pre-school teacher for a year post marriage before moving to USA.
Now I am a homemaker and even after Veda our travels has been up and going. She is an amazing travel partner.
You have mentioned in interviews before about getting drawn to children with Down Syndrome and that this took you down the path to meet Veda. Could you tell us what it was that made you realize that this was the motherhood journey for you?
Biological motherhood was never a plan for me. Early in my life I thought of adopting a girl but never got the courage to share it with anyone. As I met Himanshu before marriage, I shared this with him so and he was more than happy to be part of this journey and so we decided to have a baby girl through adoption whenever we would plan to extend our family.
Years passed by travelling, enjoying married life, exploring different cultures and cuisines. In 2016 when we were in USA, I came across a few kids with “Down Syndrome”. Having no idea what it is we searched online and collected some information. Since then everything changed. For weeks and months we saw articles and videos on Down Syndrome, families having kids with DS.
And we thought of going ahead with adoption of a girl child with DS as these kids have less to no chances of getting adopted in India. Personally, we couldn’t find any single reason not to do so.
So, we decided to come back to India as we were on a work visa in USA.
Veda was 15 months old when you brought her home. Could you tell us a bit about the preparations you made before she came home for other parents who might be getting ready for the same momentous occasion?
Well, that’s an unusual story. When we registered under CARA in April 2017, we thought that it will take at least 1 year to bring the baby home but actually there is no waiting time period for kids with disability/special needs. We were not aware of this.
Once our home study got completed, I checked the disability section instead of waiting for referrals in May 2017. I searched for Down Syndrome and two profiles came up and one of them was Veda’s profile. I contacted her orphanage in Bhopal and asked about her. We were told to reserve her and meet within next 15-20 days as per the guidelines.
We reserved her and when we met her we were told she’s legally free and we can bring her home in a week. So, we got just a week to prepare ourselves and inform our family. Although they disagreed to our decision.
30th May 2017, within 45 days from registration Veda was home and we became proud parents.
Your family was hesitant at first till they fell in love with Veda. What advice would you have for other parents who are facing a similar situation with family and friends? How can the transition into including a child with special needs be made easier for everyone involved?
Well as you said friends and family were not happy with our decision and our child wasn’t welcomed by any of them. As new parents, our main concern was to work on Veda’s medical issues, therapies, emotional well being and bonding, of course.
For a year we gave all of our attention, time and energy to our girl. For some personal reason we had to visit my in-laws and then they met Veda. Since then, they are in love with her but only as a child. They haven’t accepted her condition and adoption.
To all those who want to move down the road, please go ahead if you believe this is the right path and do not worry about who is moving along with you. Remember adoption is the process of finding family for kids not other way around, so focus should be on kid and rest of the things will fall in place now or later.
A child coming through adoption needs to feel part of family. In the case of a special needs child welcoming behavior and taking extra efforts to make the child feel like the part of the family can work wonders. Introducing the child with everyone in the family and moreover providing a personal space to sink in can drastically reduce the transition period.
What is the most challenging aspect of parenting Veda, at the moment?
People are most challenging. Not Down Syndrome, not even parenting.
Making someone understand, answering weird questions on Veda’s tiny stature, glasses and handling continuous stares & shaming, it’s frustrating sometimes.
Veda will be 4 this coming January, but she looks more like a 12 month old kid wearing glasses which is seriously a topic of discussion and stares for people in India.
As she’s growing and can sense when people say weird things to our face related to her glasses. I am sure it’s not going to be easy here.
Most of the time, family members don’t understand her emotional needs due to the childhood trauma she has faced.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your journey with Veda, so far?
People know us as Veda’s parents and that’s more than just rewarding. She has totally changed our perspective towards life. She has an aura and any room she enters everyone just gets attracted towards her, her presence is infectious in every manner
October is Down Syndrome Awareness month and we would like to amplify your message. Could you tell us three of the most important and basic things that people must know about DS?
There are many things but well top three would be:
1) Down Syndrome is a genetic condition and not a disease, we strive for awareness not the cure.
2) People with Down Syndrome have Hypotonia(Low muscle tone), they are not lazy. They have to put extra efforts and work hard for basic things like crawling, walking, eating even speaking.
3) People with Down Syndrome needs regular monitoring around their medical check ups as they have high chances of hypothyroidism, blood disorders and infections.
You are unschooling Veda. Could you tell us more about this and what it means from a socialization perspective?
Unschooling is what we are following now. We plan to homeschool her in the future but currently we are not following any curriculum. We want her to learn at her ”own” pace. And somehow we found this works best for our family. We love to travel and Veda also enjoys travelling a lot.
She is too social and loves people of every age group. Right now she’s not at all comfortable with kids of her size or age but she enjoys and play with elder kids very easily. That’s why socializing is not really a concern with her.
Veda is adored on social media and on your YouTube channel. She is a joy to watch. I’m sure many of our readers follow her already and would like to know a bit more about her. Tell us, what is she into at the moment in terms of toys and books? And what is her favourite activity at the moment?
Veda is a calm child with a lot of patience and that makes her special among kids in general. She loves to be around me and my husband while we are engaged in our daily activities like cooking, doing laundry and cleaning around home.
Although, she is fond of matching toys and puzzles and love to go through her books. We also do physical and occupational exercises and activities at home. She’s very fond of matching activities, I have to come up with new creative ways of matching shapes, colours, patterns with different objects, puzzles even pom poms.
Her love for books is growing day by day, she always ask me to sing or read “ Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See” to her.
The Family Book, Peppa books are her favorites.
She is truly a nature baby and love to walk and spend time in parks and never fails to say Hi to trees, plants, flowers.
Thank you, Kavita for sharing your family's story. Your inspiring journey will certainly help other parents who are on similar paths.
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