100 Reshma McClintock


Full show notes: http://www.adopteeson.com/listen/100

Episode Transcription by Fayelle Ewuakye. Find her on Twitter at @FayelleEwuakye

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(intro music)

Haley – You're listening to Adoptees On, the podcast where adoptees discuss the adoption experience. This is episode 100, Reshma. I'm your host Haley Radke. Here we are, 100 episodes. I am just bursting, I’m so happy. I did not expect ever to make 100 episodes of the podcast. And I'm just so honored that you would take the time to listen every week and for my guests to be so vulnerable and candid with their stories and opening their hearts to us. It is truly an honor to work on this show and bring these stories to you. I hope you are finding them helpful. I hear from adoptees multiple times a week, telling me the show has changed their life. I've heard from adoptees who say their marriage has been saved. I've heard from one adoptee who was contemplating taking her life until she found this show and felt that she wasn’t alone. And so, the impact Adoptees On has been having in the world is absolutely so much bigger than I could have ever hoped or dreamed of. So I want to dedicate this show to all of my guests that have shared with us so freely. And all of my listeners who know now that they're not alone. And to my faithful monthly supporters, without which I would not be able to bring you this show every single week. So thank you so much, it’s truly an honor to get to speak to you this way. And I don’t take it lightly or for granted, I promise. Today, my dear friend, Reshma McClintock, creator of Dear Adoption, producer co director and subject of the documentary, Calcutta is My Mother, is here to share her story and celebrate 100 episodes with us. I asked Reshma to be a guest today, because she is so passionate about the same thing I am, adoptee voices. Today Resh shares what shifted her view of adoption, what it’s like for her to talk about India and adoption with her daughter, and the paradox of navigating cultural appropriation for a transracially adopted person. We even do a little time travel today through the magic of podcast editing, so you are gonna hear my interview with Reshma before her documentary premieres, and right after, to fully experience it with her. At the end of the show, I’m going to let you know a couple ways you can connect with Resh and I in person coming up very soon, and if you listen to the very, very end, my kids have a little message as well. As always, we wrap up with recommended resources, you can find links to everything we talk about on AdopteesOn.com. So let’s do it, for the 100th time! Let’s listen in.

(upbeat music)

Haley – I’m so pleased to welcome to Adoptees On, Reshma McClintock! Welcome, Reshma!

Reshma - Hi Haley, thanks for having me!

Haley – Yeah, I’m so excited! It’s been such a long time since you were on the show because you were. We recorded in person a little, it was at a conference, at the Concerned United Birth Parents Conference. Retreat, I should say. And you talked to us a little bit about your Dear Adoption and why you started it. But I’m really excited because you have big stuff coming up this year and I wanted people to get a chance to know you a little bit better. So yeah, this is so fun! Why don’t you start out and share a piece of your story with us.

Reshma - Absolutely. I was born in Calcutta, India in 1980. And I was adopted out of Calcutta at the age of 3 months old. So I arrived in Portland, Oregon when I was 3 months. I weighed just shy of 7 pounds. And basically, came to start my new life. I, my parents, had a biological son, my older brother, Tyler. And he was 4 at the time that I came over. And then about 6 years later, my parents adopted domestically, my younger brother Simian was adopted. And so there’s three of us in my family and you know, I had a really wonderful upbringing, frankly, an idyllic childhood. My parents and I were very close. My brothers and I were very close and still to this day. As far as family connectedness, I never struggled in that area. I always felt deeply connected and really just valued our time together. And yeah, so we, I grew up in a conservative Christian home. And we talked a lot about adoption, partially because two of the three children were adopted and my brother used to tease, he was actually the odd man out. Because he was biological to my parents. And he used to kind of, you know, feel like the one that wasn’t special. Which is a really interesting conversation, I’ve heard that brought up on your show before about the sibling who wasn’t adopted. So I, yeah, I had a really wonderful, really warm childhood and upbringing as far as thinking about adoption. Growing up I felt really, I don’t know, in a sense it was this kind of obscure thing that I didn’t fully embrace or understand. Although I didn’t realize at the time that I didn't understand it. As an adult I can see that I did have grief because of the separation from my family, my biological family. And separation from my culture and my country. I did have grief but it manifested in really obscure ways and not obvious ways. My parents really tried to present opportunities for me to embrace my Indian culture and it used to just make me really upset. And as a child I couldn’t articulate the reasons why it made me upset because I felt so distant from my culture and it was a scary thing to embrace. But really, I felt like a white person. I still do. I have this huge identity crisis as a transracial adoptee, and I struggle with being Indian and how Indian I am. And you know, because those roots were severed from me. So while I have this incredible family infrastructure that I know not a lot of people, let alone adopted people have, I also have all of these loose ends that I feel, the older I get, you know, rapidly fray. I think that when I meet children who are, I mean, under the age of 15 who are adopted and they are kind of grappling with grief and are able to articulate some of their grief, I really kind of envy them and I tease that at nearly 40, I’m kind of at the same stage as a 10 year old. And some of that is just because they have the, I feel like their parents have better resources than my generation did. And so adoptive parents in some ways, have come a really long way as far as understanding and recognizing the grief caused through adoption, caused from adoption. And then I think, you know, as a society, and I, you know, there’s an asterisk next to this. But we’ve come a long way in just accepting grief in general and being able to process things more openly. So adopted children of this generation, it seems are frequently more able to express kind of their grief and it manifests in more obvious ways because they have the language. And I just didn’t have that. We didn't ever talk about what I lost. We talked about what I gained. And you know, I don’t hold any hard feelings about my parents or my pastors or, growing up about that, because I understand that. But I think if something could have been done differently I would say, it would have been important for us to talk about the things that I lost and to have space for me to be able to grieve those things. Because like I said, as a 40 year old, I sit with a 10 year old who shares and expresses their grief with me, and it makes me really emotional just to think about. But I feel at that same space. And I’m a wife and a mother and a grownup. But I feel very infantile in some sense when we talk about adoption.

Haley – Well I remember very clearly, you’re the first transracial adoptee to ever say this to me. You said, often when I look in the mirror, I’m expecting to see a white face. Like, looking back. And I’ve told that to multiple people because that’s just, your sense of identity is so, I don’t even know what word to use. But, and wrapped up in the grief and all that. It’s encouraging to know that there is, young people are talking about that now. But also it’s like, it’s so frustrating to me, that we didn't have that understanding for you at the time. I don’t know, can you talk about that? Like I just, I don’t have words for that because I don’t understand the transracial experience, I know it’s just a whole extra layer on top of adoptee stuff.

Reshma - Right, it is. I've said that really frequently, that when I look in the mirror, I see, I see myself but I don’t see, well now it sounds like I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth. Because I see myself, I believe my mirrors are working and giving me the proper image, but it’s still difficult to see myself as an Indian woman. And I don’t know what an Indian woman feels like. I don’t know what it feels like to be and feel Indian in a way that is, I don’t know, inherent. Because when I left Calcutta, and I didn't realize this at the time and I don’t think my parents realized this, I frankly don’t believe the adoption industry realized this at the time, all of that was left behind. And it’s like taking on a new identity. And so we talk about about, and I’ve heard a lot on your show, from guests that, we talk a lot about how adoptees are so adaptable, right? We kind of feel like we have to have this chameleon type personality and we can adapt and adjust to whatever environment we’re in. And what’s sort of ironic about that is probably a lot of us really aren’t good at that, but we think we are. You know, we try, we put a lot of effort into people pleasing, or we kind of do the opposite, and we are wallflowers. We kind of just blend into the scenery. So I think growing up for me, I did the opposite, I stepped out. I’m really your classic, and I really, I don’t love stereotyping, but you know, they're stereotypes for a reason, right? I’m your classic performing adoptee. And earning my keep. And while I didn't feel that my place in my home would be threatened if I didn’t perform, I received a really good response when I did. And so I wanted to be the best at everything. And I had a couple of talents here or there, once upon a time. And so I really played on those. But the only thing really that I kind of identified with, as far as being Indian, is that the reaction I got from people, was that I was exotic, right? And so that’s typically the word. And, you know it’s really fetishizing in some sense, not necessarily sexually, right? I definitely am not implying that, but that I was exotic and different looking. So I could kind of embrace that in a way. And anybody likes a compliment, right? So people were telling me I was beautiful or different looking or unique looking. And I’m not saying with any arrogance, trust me. But that was something that helped me stand out. But it didn’t cross all the way over into me feeling like I was Indian. And that that was significant. So another part of, layer of that for me to is that, so much of Indian culture is really based in religion. And it’s based in a religion that I don’t practice. And so, the bulk of India I believe is Hindu. And I am really respectful of that culture and that religion of all religions. But I grew up as a Christian and I'm still a Christian person. And I wonder too if apart from this physical identity of being an Indian person, also my religion and those kind of things, it all makes me feel white. And I've said this a few times but, when I see an Indian woman walking toward me, I cannot comprehend that she also sees an Indian woman walking toward her. Or anyone, I guess it doesn’t have to be an Indian woman walking toward me. But I see an Indian woman and I think, oh, there’s an Indian woman. And something tugs at me or something happens in me. Sometimes I feel irritated, frankly, because I'm envious of her because I'm assuming, I don’t know her background as she’s walking towards me through the mall or down the street, or whatever it is. But I assume she’s more connected to being Indian than I am. Because I feel so disconnected from that. So I kind of tend to overcompensate in some sense, my Indian-ness as I tend to call it. Where I, you know I started wearing a bindi a couple of years ago. Every once in a while just from time to time. A bindi is a sticker or makeup that you put on the center of your forehead, kind of between your eyebrows. And it’s a really significant piece of Indian culture, more specifically for the Hindu religion. And you know, I'm not, like I said, I'm not a practicing Hindu, and so I struggle with cultural appropriation and then I wondered, but if I were a real Indian, and had grown up in India, and not as a Hindu, would I feel more comfortable, would it be okay then? Is it not okay because I grew up with white people? Or is not okay because I'm not that religion? Or is it okay because I'm Indian and that’s enough?

Haley – I wanna ask, pause you here, because I want to talk to you about your documentary. And we’re talking right before you have your world premiere, so the first time anyone else has gotten to see it. And so we’re not gonna do any spoilers ‘cause we want you to go and see it. But can you talk to us about how that came about and I imagine, this theme has led you to this, going back to Calcutta. And what that was like?

Reshma - Yeah, I am 10 days from the premier of Calcutta Is My Mother. So you can imagine the nerves and just the excitement, anticipation, I’m feeling all the feelings. But mostly good, I mean this is a really exciting time and it’s a privilege that not everybody has to share their story on this kind of a platform. So I'm really excited about it. Calcutta Is My Mother started when Michael Hirtzel, he is a friend of mine from high school, I went to high school in Portland. And we were Facebook friends, we hadn’t spoken directly in, I don’t know, almost 17 years I think by the time that we really connected on Facebook. We graduated in 1998 and then he moved to Dallas, I moved to Denver and we were friends on Facebook and kind of saw each other from time to time. But didn’t really connect beyond that. And he went on a trip to India with his best friend, another friend that we went to high school with. And when he came back from the trip, he sent me an email and just said, you know, he was having a hard time processing some of what he saw. India is incredible. It is a beautiful, incredible place with incredible people, but it’s tough, there’s some tough things that we as Americans are not familiar with. So you see some things and experience some things that are a shock to your system emotionally and obviously physically as well. So he had just reached out and said, I know you have been to India, do you have any suggestions for me processing this as I kinda come back into my, settle back into my American life? And I said no. You know, I didn’t really have anything to offer him I just said, yeah it’s hard. It’s hard to go to India and take it all in and then it’s a lot to process.

Haley – You had already been back to India?

Reshma - I had been to India but never to Calcutta.

Haley – Okay.

Reshma - And so it wasn’t my first time in India, it was just, and I’m really happy about that. Years ago I had hoped that my first time back to India would be home for me, would be Calcutta. And I'm actually glad that I kind of had the opportunity to experience India on its own, which was emotional in its own way of course. But without going home and having that added layer of emotions and just part of the experience. I'm glad that happened in two phases, frankly. So Michael and I just kind of started chatting and I had just started writing about adoption publicly, I didn’t know it at the time, but I had just started, you know, crawling out of the fog. I had some, a little bit of curiosity, is really what peaked the whole thing for me. I started wondering about, well, I had a daughter and she was my first biological relative that I could ever know or see or touch. And I thought that would be the only biological relative I would ever know, or see, or touch. And it was just kind of, adopted people we share this when we are able to have biological children. It’s kind of mind blowing. It’s this, having a child is an incredible thing anyway, and when you’re adopted, that’s your first biological relative, I mean there really aren’t words to describe it. Anyway, it all came down to a Facebook message from Michael after we were talking about it. And he said, hey, what would think about going back to Calcutta for the first time and us filming a documentary about it? And I, at the time, I don’t think I really thought we would do it. So I said yes. When somebody asks you to do something scary and you don’t really think you’re gonna have to do it, you just say yes. And you imagine it will peter out and go away someday. But yeah, Michael had done some filming but nothing on this level. He has a real talent and a real gift for it, not only that, Michael and I are very similar in our personalities. And so he was able to really draw some things out of me and help me process my crawling out of the fog, in an incredible way. And he’s not an adopted person and he’s not a person of color, but he had some just real insight that not everybody could have. But he really understood me. so we basically just started, Michael put a campaign together and raised the money on Kickstarter to film. We interviewed people for our crew online, we just did facetime, we interviewed people all over the country. And we found Jeffrey Alexander was our director of photography and Shari Vance was our sound technician. And they did really good work. So we left for Calcutta in, at the end of May of 2015. And we were there for I think, about 17 days. And we were there on the 35th anniversary of the day I left. Which was really significant for me. So I actually went to the place where I was born, likely born on that anniversary. And it was a really heavy day. And it’s one of the best and one of my least favorite parts of the film, is capturing that day, because there was just so much going on internally for me. The whole process again, without giving any spoiler alerts, which is hard to do. The whole experience was really, really difficult. And I had begun kind of navigating a little bit of grief and it was like I stepped off that plane in Calcutta, it’s hard to even think about. And the floodgates opened. It was like being ripped open. And I wasn’t prepared for that. And to navigate that while being filmed was difficult although, I’m really grateful for it. Because again, it’s a privilege. Not everybody gets to do that. Michael, you know, isn’t a therapist. But he kinda was mine in a sense. Every day we would sit and we would setup and interview in the hotel room or outside the hotel. And he would just ask me questions about how I felt and it was really helpful. It was not easy. But it was really, really helpful. And I really went in, I really went all in. I can be really insecure and, but I just, I knew that I didn’t wanna do this if I wasn’t gonna say everything, I wasn’t gonna do it. And so I made a really conscious decision to just say everything. And I did. I said all the things. And you know, seeing all that compiled in a film is just, I think, incredible. You know I've said, the thing I've loved about the film is it captures my unfogging in real time. I'm still unfogging, right? It’s an ongoing thing, I don’t know that we ever really reach the end of it. But I am still coming out of the fog in some ways. But it is, you know, this snapshot of a transracial adoptee, and a search to connect to culture which is really why I went. And the film starts kind of in those, when I'm first just kind of dipping my toes in and saying, all I want is to connect to my culture, I don’t need to find my people, I don’t need to know any information, I just wanna connect to my culture, I just wanna understand. And now when I watch that, it’s kind of laughable. I mean, it’s not funny probably to the viewer, but it’s so funny to me how far I've kind of come from that space.

Haley – But isn’t that, you’re protecting yourself. That’s a safe first step into looking deeper into where you came from, right?

Reshma - It is. And you know, I, I’m really glad you said that, because you know very well. Adoption spaces online are really, really tough spaces. There are a lot of opinions, heavily fogged adoptees. There’s heavily unfogged adoptees, there’s some people kind of in the middle and there’s people in all these different stages, coming together, trying to have a productive conversation about adoption and most of the time it just doesn’t go anywhere. It feels very frustrating, people get angry, people say nasty things, someone ends up crying, someone ends up blocking, it’s just kind of, you know it’s like, I don’t know, high school. It’s terrible. So, but I, and I’ve been criticized for this. But I still stand really firmly on it, it may change someday but as of today I still really stand in this place that I really believe all adopted people should freely be allowed to share. And I don’t, I really for the most part, don’t think that it is ultimately damaging to what the mission is, right? For you and I, we really, we’ve come out of the fog and we have this heart to elevate adoptee voices, to shed some light on what it’s really like to be adopted, to reposition adoptees as the most valued resource and voice in adoption. I wrote something the other day and said, you know we need to really reclaim our place as the most valued resource because it’s shifted to the industry people and to adoptive parents and I think first it should be adopted people and second it should be first families. And I feel really strongly about that. But I've been criticized for I don’t know, I had somebody tell me once, pick a lane. Are you for fogged adoptees? Or are you for unfogged adoptees? And I’ve just said all along, I’m for adoptees. I’m for adoptees who are heavily fogged, and for them say that it was the best thing that ever happened to them. I'm for adoptees who say it saved their life. I’m for adoptees who say it ruined their life. I'm for adoptees who think it is absolutely wrong and should never happen again. I’m for adoptees who still see some redeeming qualities in adoption and I’ll tell you why. For me, if I had never started writing while I was in the fog, I never would have gotten to this place. And so when, even a fogged adoptee, now I’m not saying it doesn’t irritate me. But you know, when I see something online and someone say, oh, an adopted person says, it’s the most beautiful thing, the most wonderful thing I’m like thinking, uh huh. I roll my eyes, just like everyone else, wish there was an eye roll option on Facebook and all of that. It frustrates me and I have my own judgements I make. Which is frankly what they are, it’s none of my business how anybody else feels about it. I don’t feel like it’s setting us back though. I just don’t. I think that the conversations are gonna happen, we’re never all going to agree, but if I had not been, I don’t know, allowed, if that’s the right word. If I had not began writing about adoption while I was still heavily fogged, I wouldn’t now be writing about the adoption truth that I've since discovered. And so it was a part of my process. So while I might be irritated at someone who is heavily fogged or more fogged than me, or who is in exactly the place that I once was, or I would have said, adoption is all good all the time, how could it be bad? At one point I’m sure I said that sentence and it makes me cringe a little. But I might cringe at those things, but I still stand by the, each adopted person, no matter where they are in their journey, in their path, gets to say what they wanna say. And that we should listen. And I don’t always like the way people say things either. People can be mean, but you know, my scale may be different. What’s mean to me may not be considered mean to someone else, and what’s gentle by someone might not be considered gentle by someone else. I really stand firm in that. And so there are, the film begins, and there’s a couple of things I say, really like in the first couple of minutes of the film. And I’m like, oh my gosh, I can’t believe I said that! It’s like, I’m gonna be kicked out of every adoptee group, people are gonna start disowning me left and right. But you know, it’s where it began for me. And it was self-protection, you could not be more right. It’s how I protected myself. It’s how I felt like I needed society’s permission to start talking about adoption and in order to do it, I had to do it under the cloak of, but don’t worry, I’m really, really grateful to have been adopted.

Haley – Yeah, I mean, I get it. Because I do think you’re right, we all kind of start there, don’t we? And having to think about it and actually going to a place where you're speaking out publicly or writing publicly, that’s the easiest place to start. Because then you don’t get the pushback and you don’t, like when I started blogging, yeah. I was pretty in the fog too.

Reshma - Isn’t it funny to go back and read those?

Haley – I mean, that’s why I don’t link to it. Like, I don’t talk about what it was called. Hopefully people don’t look for it. But you know, we do have to start somewhere.

Reshma - Right.

Haley – Okay, documentary, no spoilers. Let's talk about post documentary. So post filming, you come back and you’ve had this cracked wide open for you. And you started Dear Adoption, and you're like in adoptee land. So you’ve got all this stuff happening. What does that look like for you now? On the other side, or in the middle I guess of the fog? Not in the middle, but like, going towards the end?

Well one of the things that really, I think catapulted me out of the fog, was the process of asking for support for the documentary. When we first kind of kicked things off, now again, the trailer that Michael created and used for the campaign, to raise the money for the documentary is pretty, most of what I say is pretty fogged adoptee. I said, I just wanna connect to my culture, I just need to know where I came from and how I came to be, and I just need India. I just need Calcutta. And the title of the film, Calcutta Is My Mother, it came out of a conversation that Michael and I were having. And I said, you know, I can never get to my Indian mother and so for me, Calcutta is my mother. It’s as close as I can get to my roots, is to go back to the place where it all began. Well the outpouring of love and support for me, was unbelievable when the campaign launched. My family and friends of course were incredibly supportive. My parents and my brothers obviously, my husband and my extended family were really, really supportive. There was a couple people here and there were just like, I just don’t really get why you need to do that. But you know, I think it’s cool, that’s fine, that’s fair. And you know, those people kinda still stand in that place I've noticed. But you know, and it’s okay, you know what you can expect from certain people. And you know, sometimes, as long as you know that’s, you can manage that. But in general, adoptive parents and even some agency people, people came out of the woodwork and supported me and I was blown away. Well as that support was rushing in, I started getting friend requests on Facebook from fellow adoptees, primarily transracial adoptees, but domestic, American adoptees as well. And I, my inbox was just inundated with emails from adopted people. And some of them were just saying this is so cool, I wish I could do something like this, or thanks for being brave, which I wasn’t brave. But they were thanking me for that anyway. The bulk of them however, were coming from adopted people saying, I can't believe how much support you’ve gotten, this is amazing, nobody will listen to me. And those kept pouring in, and pouring in, and pouring in. And you know, I found myself staying up until 3 in the morning emailing with adopted people and trying to remember that I'm not a therapist and I'm not qualified to be counseling adopted people but they just wanted to share. They just wanted space and so I wasn’t advising anyone. because I'm not equipped to do so. I was trying to find resources for adopted people and send them that way. But I was so new to adoption land, I didn't know what was out there. I didn't know that we needed to go to an adoptee or adoption apt therapist. I didn't know that. And I think Anne Heffron has said that when you go to a therapist who isn’t, doesn’t understand adoption, well I think we should all be going to adoptee therapist, maybe ideal. A therapist who doesn’t really understand and acknowledge adopted trauma and grief and what it is like for an adopted person, it’s like going to someone who speaks a different language. And as Anne has often talked about, these years of therapy, they really mean nothing because it was, they didn't understand where she was coming from and what the really the root of everything was for her. So I was really struggling to help people and feeling like I needed to do that. And I think at one point, I'd gotten to like 516 emails that I had from adopted people just in the first like 2 months of all of this. So this is before I went to Calcutta. And I was so mad, I was so mad because I was talking to people, I started talking to some people on the phone, and they were just sobbing and pouring out to me, my family won't listen to me, nobody understands that I need to connect to my culture. Everybody thinks that I'm just being ungrateful. Everybody thinks that I'm just angry and maybe I am angry, but mostly I just am so confused about how I feel because I've been told to be grateful my whole life. And it feels like I'm not being grateful if I wanna connect to my culture or if I wanna find my family. And you know what, it pissed me off. And I was just up at night thinking, well I felt really guilty, frankly. I felt really guilty that I had this outpouring, and I still do, I struggle with that which sounds like such a first world problem, right? That, oh, I feel so bad, everybody’s so supportive of me. But I do because my family has been nothing but supportive. I haven’t received any pushback and they’ve just allowed me to do this. Even though I’m sure it's been painful for them at times. But they have put my pain front and center because this happened to me. Because I was removed from my Indian mother. because I was removed from my country and my culture and my heritage. I had my roots severed and they know that I love them. They know that none of this affects that, affects how I feel about them. So basically, Dear Adoption came to me in the middle of the night, and I thought, I’m gonna create a space for adopted people. And I’m not the first one to do this. I didn't know about any honestly at the time. Now I know, there’s so many. I mean there’s so many incredible spaces for adopted people, and so many people doing such good work, who really have laid the foundation for what Dear Adoption now stands on. Because there’s other people who were brave, who were really talking about this and creating space for adoptees way before anybody was willing to listen. And you know, I think they probably received a lot of resistance and I still do with Dear Adoption. I still receive pushback, I get a lot of emails from adoptive parents, I hate to call people out. But truly, I get a lot of emails from adoptive parents saying, what are you doing? Why are you allowing such hate and vitriol on your site? And I just, well now I don’t respond at all. So just so you know, if anybody’s listening. If you send me that kind of email, it gets deleted. I used to respond, though. And I used to say, I’m not intending to spew hate or vitriol, that’s not what this is. You’re not listening. This is this person’s story. This is, you know, someone who is pouring out their heart and you’re not listening. Anyway, I just realized I was beating a dead horse, it wasn’t making an impact, it wasn’t delivering. I would get more and more emails and responses and it was just irritating. Because we need to just listen, even me. I need to sit down and just listen to other adopted people. It’s so important and Dear Adoption was born of Calcutta Is My Mother. Because I got this outpouring of support and so much positive feedback on one side and on the other side I’m getting all these emails from adopted people saying, why are you getting this? And we’re not? And nobody’s listening, and so I thought, I just have to do this. I have to create a space. And Dear Adoption has been really, really successful in that adopted people have been sharing. And I think for the most part, have been well received. And to people who don’t like Dear Adoption, and I get people saying, why don’t you share any happy stories? And I say, I share what I receive. Literally we’ve never turned anyone away. We share every story that we receive. And I’m really, really proud of that. But I will continue to share what I receive and what I would say to people who are frustrated with Dear Adoption. First I would say I don’t think you’re listening properly. And you need to really lay down your defenses and your concept of what adoption is and your ideas or how adoption has even impacted you as an adopted person possibly. But if you don’t like what’s happening at Dear Adoption, you don’t need to click. You don’t need to come there. It’s a safe space for adopted people to share their stories and I will keep allowing them to do that. And if you don’t like it, that’s fair. Fair enough. Go somewhere else.

Haley – Yes. Goodbye.

Reshma - Yeah, right? Exactly. And I don’t mean it rudely, I mean, that’s fair. Go somewhere else, you can, we all have different opinions, and if you wanna learn, then you would spend some time at Dear Adoption. If you truly are for the adopted person and if you truly are for ethics in adoption, then you would listen. And if you’re not, see ya. There’s plenty of, there’s more spaces than not on the internet for you.

Haley – There are definitely a lot of great places for them to get high fived and feel good about themselves.

Reshma - You wanna go ahead and plug those Haley?

Haley – Ah, no. I will not be plugging those. But I do wanna ask you, going back to coming home from Calcutta, filming the documentary and you already have your daughter at that point. And so, how have you tried to pass on your, can I say that? Like newly found Indian culture? Then to your daughter?

Reshma - Well you know what’s interesting is that I really struggle with, as I said, I really struggle with feeling Indian and acknowledging that I am. And frankly giving myself permission to be Indian.

Haley – Well you said before, like, oh is this cultural appropriation? So that’s a fear that you have.

Reshma - Right. Exactly. And I think, I don’t even know, I don’t even know the answer to the question. But I think that maybe an Indian person would never worry about appropriating Indian culture. It’s kind of funny, you know? Because, I guess I’m not! That’s a really good aha moment for me right now. Probably most Indian people don’t worry about appropriating their own culture. I don’t think that’s a thing! But for me it’s kind of a thing as a transracial adoptee. It’s a transracial Indian person thing. Worrying about appropriating your own culture. Which is really, I mean, we’re laughing about it, but it is so sad. I mean it’s really, really sad. Because you just think, that was ripped from me. And now I would do anything, it’s like I’m grasping constantly to connect to that and it’s really sad that it’s an issue for me. But the wonderful thing for me and I feel like, not to sound super cheesy or cliché, but life’s gift to me in all of this is that my daughter, Rubina, she’s 7 and a half. She has no issues with embracing her Indianness. She is so proudly Indian and many times a week, she will confirm with me that she is in fact 50% Indian. She wants to know the stats and the details on that. Well if you’re all Indian and daddy is, you know, then what’s the other half of me. And we kinda tease because my husband is Irish, among other things, but we call her Indianish because a combination of being Indian and Irish. But she loves India, and Indian things, the way I wish I had as a child. And the way I think my parents wished, my dad kind of teased, she’s like fulfilling all our hopes in that way, because my parents really wanted me to stay connected to India and I resisted it, so emphatically. I really did not want to have anything to do with India as a child. I was, I think in a way I was angry with India. I think I was angry with India because I felt forsaken by India in some sense. India didn't want me, India didn't keep me. And I just didn't wanna have anything to do with it and I didn't see how I fit into that in my very, very white world. Rubina loves being Indian. And she loves talking about it. She often talks about, you know, she’s, has brown skin but fair brown skin. And often talks about how she wishes she were darker skinned because she wants to make sure people really know she’s Indian. And I was the opposite. I wanted, hated that I had such brown skin. And now, you know, while I feel that same way, I really, really want people to look at me and see me as an Indian person. And I'm starting to, I mean it makes me sound so unintelligent but it’s really an emotional, psychological, deeply rooted thing for me. I'm starting to grasp that people do. You know, I do have brown skin. Nobody else is looking at me thinking, look at that white woman, is she trying to pose as an Indian? Nobody else is thinking that! But that’s how I feel, I feel like an imposter. I feel like I'm not really Indian and that I have this gift of a little girl who is learning Indian dance and listens to Indian music and reads Indian books in English of course. She wants to wear a bindi, she wants to dress up in her sari, she loves all these things about our culture and I kind of tease she came out of the womb loving the color gold which is very Indian thing. A lot of Indian things, a lot of things in India are gold. And one year for Halloween she said, I wanna be the color gold. And I was like, that just makes my Indian mamma heart so proud. That she just, she loves gold and India. And anything to do with that. So I feel like her love for India has healed something in me. It really has. I'm really strong in my stance that I don’t believe in this life, there is full healing for adopted people. Once that fracture takes place, once we are removed unnaturally from our mothers, whose bodies housed us, once that fracture takes place, I believe there can be many things taken, many steps, reunion, and getting to know someone, researching. Even if you can’t have physical reunion with your biological family, understanding your heritage and embracing those things, I think they can all bring some degree of healing. Rubina has brought some degree of healing, just her existence, just having a biological relative living that I know and I can see. Having myself mirrored in her. And on top of that, her love for India. I believe those things have really brought me a lot of healing. But the fracture doesn’t go away. So it’s a really wonderful thing for me, and I should also say, and I don’t know if credit myself is the right way to say this. But she loves India because I bring that into our home. I mean, she didn’t, I do believe some of it is innate to her. There’s something, I mean maybe it skipped a generation, I don’t know. But it’s like, she just gets it. She just, and sometimes, I teased her recently because I felt a little embarrassed because I feel like there’s things she understands that I don’t about India and Indian culture. And some of that may just be the openness of young minds, right? So I think that it’s been a real, a real joy for me to get to see her embrace the culture and for us to do it together and to really learn together. And the things that I’ve brought into my home and the frequency with which we speak of India and Indian people, it really has an impact on her, but the way she has embraced it is really what the sweet gift is for me.

Haley - Have you let Rubina see Calcutta Is My Mother?

Reshma – Yes. The, I’m trying to think, about a year ago, I saw the first rough cut of the film. Kevin and I watched it together and we talked about having Rubina watch it with us. And we were just all home together when we got and we were so excited. And she was really excited. She didn’t, you know children, can’t fully grasp something until they see it in front of them. And so I don’t think she understood, she doesn’t do a lot of documentary watching on her own time. So she didn't really understand exactly what it was going to look like. So we did, we watched it together. And we, you know the three of us, we cried together when we watched it. And Kevin stayed home with Rubina while I was in India. And so he had heard all the things probably way too many times. But he, to physically see what happened and he knew how much I struggled. But to see it was different. And the three of us, we were still living in Denver at the time, now we’re in Seattle. But I can picture us. We sat on the couch together and kinda huddled up and we cried. And it was really good for us. And you know, Haley, you’ve got these two sweet boys. And I know they know about adoption. And they know what you do. And it’s a really interesting thing to be educating our children about adoption loss and trauma at such a young age. It’s also, it’s difficult with them in some ways as it is with our parents, kind of, our unfogging, right? Because Rubena knows my parents. And loves them. And so I have to, we kind of, together, she has kind of learned with me how I have this longing for my Indian side. And I have this deep connectedness to my adoptive side. And it’s hard. But you know, she asks about her Indian grandma. And the first time she did was really, call me dumb, the first time I really realized the significance of her losses. You know, she too has an Indian family. And I didn’t share this before but three months, you asked me about returning from Calcutta. And three months after I got back from Calcutta, my mom passed away. And that really added this kind of extra layer of grief as I was still really numb and just starting to figure out how I felt about my time in India, my mom passed away and I was very, very close to my mom. And Ruby was very close to my mom. And so, it was in that first three months after my mom died, so 6 months after the film, after we filmed, that Ruby and I both kind of started grieving my Indian mom and my mom who raised me. And it was a really unique thing for us to do together. She was little enough that she was home with me, at the time she hadn’t started school yet. And I remember we sat this one day and she was, she got emotional and said, you know I miss Grammy, which is my mom. And I said, you know, I really, I miss her too. And I started crying and she said, and I also miss my Indian Grandma, but I don’t even know her. And I had this real struggle and I still do with you know, grieving the two of them. Grieving this mother who raised me who was this remarkable, she was this remarkable, extraordinary person and mother. I just, you know, she wasn’t perfect but she was really wonderful. And I never felt any lack of connection to her other than just the knowledge that I was not biologically hers. And then also, in a way, it felt so much easier to grieve her because I knew her. But then I also had this newly found grief over my country and my heritage and my Indian mother. And how do you grieve someone you don’t know? How do you grieve someone who you aren’t sure or not is grieving you? And people say that all the time, this is not a new concept. Grieving the living is so much more difficult. And you know, I'm sure you’ve had this said to you many times too, people say well, of course a mother could never forget her child. Of course she thinks of you every day. And the reality is, we don’t know that. And even if I did know that, it’s not the same as sitting with her and hearing that from her. But you know, she’s likely out of reach for me forever. And when you kind of realize you have to grieve that, it’s difficult. And so to be able to kind of do that with my daughter, my little girl, and also being sure not to burden her with my burdens and really and truly, these things have really come from her. It’s been incredible and I think, you know, that’s why I say it’s like this gift to me. I don’t have like this in house little culture hotspot with her. She’s just embracing it and she gets even at such a young age that we have a family to grieve.

Haley – Okay. Well, you got me crying too. Good job. It’s, yeah. Okay. God, you know every time we talk about grief on this show, something just cracks open and I just, I don’t know, there’s something there.

Reshma - Yeah.

Haley – Okay, I guess I might need to make an appointment with my psychologist. Anywho, before we wrap up, I want to ask you, now you’re, I don’t know if you’re gonna categorize yourself like this, but I’m going to. You’re a public figure in adoptee land, and especially now that you, the documentary is coming out, it will already have premiered when this is released. And you’ve got things coming up, more showings of it, and speaking engagements, et cetera. But it started somewhere for you. You started writing about it. But what would you say to other adoptees who don't necessarily have the public platform that you’ve built? What would you say to them about sharing their experiences and the importance of that?

Reshma - I would say, to just keep doing it. I would say keep plugging away, I would say be prepared for resistance. I think that when you are writing and sharing as you’re coming out of the fog, you are very easily influenced. And I think that if I could kind of go back and do this again, which of course wouldn’t have the same result, right? Had I known anything going in. But I think that, not that I have necessarily any great wisdom to impart, but if I were going to say one thing I think I would encourage people to be so honest, even painfully so. And anticipate that some people may push back a little bit. But I think it’s just worth it to go all in. I think that it is one of the scariest, most vulnerable things to really be honest about our innermost thoughts. I think especially in adoption where there’s this really false narrative out there that people have clung to and are really having a hard time pulling back from. I think it’s just really important to just be honest. And know that you’re gonna get pushback. But I think it’s just really important to keep trudging through it. And to lean on the community. But I also will just say, if you’re going to write about adoption, if you’re going to speak about adoption and you’re coming out of the fog, and you’re just beginning to do some of these things, honestly, I would say get an adoptee competent therapist. I just started last year. For the first time, I found an incredible therapist who is also a transracial adoptee. I would recommend that for transracial adoptees. Or again, at least someone who kind of understands, and recognizes and acknowledges adoptee trauma. I think that really would have significantly changed my processing of it. I think it would have really played a key role. So yeah, I think though, just, I just think you have to just keep going. You just have to keep doing it and keep pushing. And people are gonna say and react however they want. But it’s important. It’s important. It’s worth it.

Haley – Agreed. Well said.

(harp music)

Haley – Well this is like, the Adoptees On time machine now. Okay, so, same interview, but we’re like a couple weeks ahead now. And your premier’s already happened, so I want you to tell us all about it.

Reshma - Oh the premier really went so well, I can’t have imagined it going better then it went. It was a really bizarre experience, to tell you the truth. But it was really, it felt really good at the same time. But definitely bizarre. I mean there’s just no way around being in a room full of 230 people watching your film. This is nearly 4 years, well, 4 years in the making because we had started the process, long before we actually put the initial trailer out. So yeah, it was really interesting and I thought I would feel kind of a sense of relief like an exhale. I’d been holding my breath for about 4 years. And it felt like maybe at the premier I would be able to exhale or in the days following. And I haven’t exhaled yet, so I don't know if that ever comes. I might need to consult an expert or something. But you know, it’s a weird feeling. I think that at the premier, everything went so quickly. We got there to kind of set up a couple of things, and then you know, within minutes, I’m seeing people from my childhood, old neighbors of mine, people from every church I’ve ever attended, every school I’ve ever attended. One of the leaders from a mission trip that I was on when I was 14 came in, I haven’t seen her since, you know that time. It was also, I feel like I need to confess, that it was a mission trip in Hawaii, because I know how to do mission work. But anyway, so, we did work. We did work, we worked really hard. But we were also on Maui. So, anyway, but I got to see her and that was really a neat experience after 25 years. And then, you know, all my family was there, cousins and aunts and uncles, of course my dad and brothers and my in-laws were there. And it was a really nice feeling to see everyone, but also just so, I mean I just, I’m gonna be redundant and keep saying the word bizarre because I feel like there isn’t anything else that could really describe the event. But it was good, good bizarre.

Haley – Good bizarre.

Reshma - I don’t know—

Haley – I don't know if you’re gonna say this, you’re too modest. But it was sold out, that’s amazing to get over 200 people to come to something like that. It’s a huge accomplishment. You were on TV the morning before promoting it, like, come one. Don't be too humble, that’s like a huge accomplishment.

Reshma - Okay Haley, reel it in. No, I appreciate that, thank you for saying those things, I wasn’t gonna mention any of those things. But I appreciate that. It is and I can acknowledge that. I kinda keep saying, there’s two, well I say this frankly a lot of adoption. That there’s two parts of me, but regarding the film, there is producer Reshma who, you know, does what’s for the best of the film. The film’s money is separate from everything. We’re not profiting from this, everything that we make on ticket sales go into fund the next screening. I’m not lining my pockets. Plus, it should also be said, we raised the money for the film on Kickstarter but also Michael and I have put in a lot of our own money to make this happen. Which we’re happy to do, that’s not a complaint and not something that we need a pat on the back for. But just to say, I like to be really clear especially in adoption land. That this is not something where we’re trying to, certainly not a get rich quick scheme.

Haley – Yeah, it’s like the worst way to make money possible.

Reshma - It really is. So, we’re bleeding money, but that’s okay, we’re really grateful for the people who’ve been so generous with their money and with their time. And for us, we just, we see a lot of value in putting this film out there, so it’s really worth it to us. But I just did wanna clarify that. Yeah, Michael and I got to go on Portland’s morning show, Friday AM Northwest. It’s a show I great up watching with my mom. And it was really a cool experience. It was really fun, Michael and his wife flew in from Dallas. Michael’s the director of course. And they flew in from Dallas and the studio, the KATU news studio, they gave the girls a full tour, our daughters. They got to do the weather, all the things. They got to meet the meteorologists. Did I say that correctly?

Haley – Yes.

Reshma - And they just had the greatest time and we did too. We felt like it went really well. And we were really well received. And then yeah, we sold on Friday, the night before. And we had hoped we would sell out. But yeah, it was really exciting feeling to know that we could pack that theater.

Haley – So you’re in the theater, it’s packed, what happens?

Reshma - So I’m in the theater, everybody starts, they start dimming the lights, and you know our host was a really good, is a really good Kevin’s and mine, Kevin’s best friend in fact. And he kind of hosted the event so that we didn’t have to, it was wonderful. And I'd given him a really strict timeline. And all of the sudden he’s up there and you know, it’s like, oh my goodness, it’s 3 o’clock, it’s time. It was out of body. You know, to be sitting there, again just the culmination of events that has led us here after all this time. Michael was sitting in front of me, I was sitting next to Kevin. Michael and his wife were sitting in front of us. And I kind of reached forward and grabbed his shoulders and I’m like, oh my gosh, this is happening. Like it’s happening now and I kept trying to figure out, am I here? You know, am I in, I’m not, I don’t feel in my body. And so I felt really vulnerable and exposed because I was. You know, I really did not hold back in the making of the film. Every feeling and thought that popped in my head, I said on camera. And so those things were shared and a lot of people have kind of followed my journey but didn't have, you know, insight into my inner thoughts, right? And so those were out there. And it was weird, I didn't think, so I told a lot of people before, I won't be able to sit in there and watch the film. There’s just no way that I can sit in a room full of people and watch this, I’ll leave. And I imagined myself sitting in the lobby and just kind of waiting and popping my head back in here and there. But I actually stayed. In the very end I left for a couple minutes, it was kind of an emotional scene. And I did leave for about 2 minutes. But for the most part I sat and watched. And I was really pleased with the response. people laughed more than I thought they would which is really good. because I had been so worried, and I’ve told you, that this is the most depressing film. And so it isn’t. I mean, not the most depressing film, but you know, it documents the journey of an adopted person out of the fog. And that’s a really scary, can be a very sad, really difficult journey. And so it isn’t that, I'm teasing of course that I think it’s the most depressing film. It’s really enlightening, but people laughed a lot and that felt good, people cried a lot and that felt good too, because I felt like the message was conveyed. I felt like people can understand how I was feeling as I was navigating all of these things in Calcutta. You know, they essentially went on this journey with me in Calcutta. So that felt really good. My biggest concern going in was that everything was taken with a spirit with which it was said, right? And so there are times you know, that I talk about kind of longing for my Indian mother and that was a new feeling. That wasn’t something I had really felt I guess, I guess maybe in an obscure way I had been longing for her. obviously I was longing for my country and didn't, I didn't really see that that was longing for my Indian mother disguised as something else, this longing for cultural connection. And so of course we feel like we have to defend everything we say, adopted people. So it feels like, just because I’m longing for her doesn’t mean I don't love my family. And I really wanted to be sure that message was conveyed. And actually it’s funny, because people kind of give me a hard time and say, you go so above and beyond trying to make that point, that we’re actually getting a little tired of how much you love your family. You know? So good, and I’m actually happy, I’m happy to be on that side of it, frankly. But the people who I really, the response, I was really the most interested in the response from my family, from my dad and my brothers most, more specifically. And then—

Haley - Had they seen any of it?

Reshma - No.

Haley – Okay.

Reshma - They had only seen the trailer. So I offered them a preview actually, if Michael’s listening to this, he doesn’t know that. I had told my dad and brothers, if you feel like you need to see it before you watch it in a theater full of people, I’ll make that happen. Because it’s really sensitive obviously to our family. And they said no. Well, my dad said no on behalf of them, my brothers really would have liked to. I said that my dad would make the ruling. And my dad said no, that he wanted to see it in the theater for the first time. So it was a lot for them to see that. And I imagine they're still processing. But I was most concerned about their response first and foremost. And they were so, I don't know, I couldn’t have had a better response from them. They were so, they were really emotional. My brother teased, he said, I only cried once. Right from the start, all the way through to the end. It was, they were really sweet about it. And then the other group of people I was interested in their response, was the other Indian adoptees. There were quite of few adoptees from my specific orphanage. And then, I think there was like somewhere between 12 to 15 Indian adoptees and about half of those came from IMH, my orphanage. And so we share a similar story. And their response has also been really, really incredible. And I you know, I worried about that because in adoption land, it seems like there’s a couple of people out there telling their story at a time. And I am only telling mine. I'm only telling my feelings based on my experience. I’m not a representative, I am not a spokesperson, I would never want to speak on behalf of other specifically transracial adopted people. And so that’s not what I’m trying to do. So I really don't want to influence any adopted people’s experiences who have gone back, and I actually appreciate in the, during the Q&A, an international adoptee from my orphanage actually stood up and she said she had gone to India and she had a very different experience than I did. And I was happy that she said that because I really think that’s so important. I'm not setting some kind of bar to which anybody else needs to either lower themselves to or raise themselves to, right? I just, this was just my experience and that’s all it is. It is Reshma’s experience returning to Calcutta for the first time and Reshma’s feelings surround that experience. It is not representative of the adoptee or transracial or Indian adoptee community at all.

Haley – Wow. Okay, so, you’re doing the Q&A, what other questions were people having or were they just telling you like, how they received the film? What was that like?

Reshma - The Q&A was interesting. I really appreciated that anybody was willing to kind of stand up and say anything. I received some really good questions. One of the first great questions came from a woman who had approached me in the intermission in between, after the film and before the Q&A. And said that she’s currently awaiting the arrival of her daughter from India. So, I think she said she’s within just a couple of months.

Haley – Yikes.

Reshma - And she’s, it was that, that always throws me off guard just a little. Some is just because there’s just natural tension be adult adoptees and adoptive parents. And so, and I won't even get into all that because it’s just such a nightmare. But I, so I always worry a little bit when I’m approached with that kind of information. But I will say, she said that she has been studying and researching for years. That she’s been intentionally seeking out adult adoptee voices and adult adoptee websites and doing a lot of research. She said that regarding India, that the film was the most insightful for her. And so I felt really good about that. That’s what I’m hoping is, that it will open people’s eyes. And you know, it isn’t my job to encourage or discourage people from adopting, I’m just out here speaking truth about my situation and what I believe about adoption. But you know, I long ago, let go of this duty to get people to stop adopting or whatever. I think that when people know the truth, that the, likely they’ll do better and make choices based on that truth. Even just with my project, it isn’t my job to stop adoption. I mean, that’s a ridiculous assignment. And so, anyway, so one of the first questions was from this gal who’s waiting for her daughter from India. And she said, how soon should adopted people know their whole story? And I just said, always. I joked that people ask me a lot, well when did you find out you were adopted? And it’s like, as soon as I could see that all of my family were white. You know, it was pretty evident for me, there wasn’t much hiding. I am not a late discovery adoptee. It would have been a really difficult thing to disguise. So I have always known. Of course my story kind changes through the film from what my parents were told, to what was reality. And that’s, you know, not really, it certainly wasn’t my parents’ fault, but it is industry professional’s fault. I believe my orphanage holds some responsibility there and I believe that the adoption agency holds the bulk of responsibility there. I think they just lied. To make me a better story, right? More saveable. So I appreciated that question and what I, in general about the Q&A, I don't necessarily need to go into all the questions, but what I appreciated was the privilege that I have, that I get to do this, that I get to go around a country and the world, and present this documentary, and then stand up and say what I believe. And talk about my convictions about adoption. Again, not that it’s my job or responsibility, but I feel like I have to really maximize this moment. This is just a brief moment in time, this film. And this opportunity and I have learned a lot. And I think that knowledge needs to be shared. And I've learned it from other people. I’m not just brilliant on my own. I mean, that’s like really funny, because I'm not at all brilliant. But I have learned and I have—

Haley – That’s not true.

Reshma - Well that’s very kind, but I have learned and I have listened a lot over the last few years. And I think it’s really important. I’m thankful for the people who spoke up and shared those things with me and now it’s my time to kind of share those things with other people. So I think it was a great opportunity to say, to expand on my story a little bit. People had some follow up questions about where am I now, 4 years later, right? The film ends and I’m just coming out of the fog and I’m really devastated by that turn of events. I didn't anticipate that, it did not go how I thought that it would go at all. So people had some really good follow up questions about where am I today, how am I today, what are my relationships with my family like, have I gone back to India again, will I go back to India, you know, all of those kinds of things. And I just, I really appreciated the opportunity to answer those questions. And it feels like, I think that, I’m guessing at some point there will be a time where there’s a screening where I won’t have a Q&A after. And I think that’ll be hard. I think that I, for me, I needed that opportunity to address the audience who just kind of went on this journey with me. and so I don't know what that looks like. I mean, eventually people will be able to stream it in their homes and obviously I won't be there for a private Q&A on their couch. And that’s a little bit more difficult for me to think about.

Haley – Sure, ‘cause you can’t get in there and be like, and just so you know, I do still love my adoptive family. You’re gonna have that in the credits? Like oh, and also, lemme just fill in.

Reshma - In case you missed it, exactly. All of my disclaimers, exactly. Reshma’s currently living happily in Seattle Washington with her family. She does still love them and speak to them every day.

Haley – Oh my gosh.

Reshma - Yeah.

Haley - Brutal, brutal. So I know you felt vulnerable and exposed and sorry to bring this up. But they did show a clip on the news. I don't know if it’s from the trailer, or, anyway. You’re walking in India, and you have this like pink something, and your back is so sweaty. And I’m like, oh my gosh, why? Why would they do that to you? That’s so mean. I can’t believe they would do that.

Reshma - Okay, this is hilarious. So, that scene. Okay, yes, it’s very, very, very hot in India. And it’s so funny, because I, the back sweat is like real. I mean, there is more sweat on my back than there isn’t, right? Like it was so dark pink. And somebody asked me after the film, were there any parts of the film that you don't like? And I said, did you see the scene where Michael’s filming while I’m going up the stairs from behind? I don't like that scene! Like, all these things. So, yes, when I'm watching the film, what’s so funny is, and maybe this is a self-protection thing, but all I can see are the, oh my skin looks bad there, oh my gosh, look, I can see a double chin, or look at the back sweat, or there’s my butt going up stairs. I don't know who thought that was a good angle. Yes, yes, I appreciate you addressing the vulnerability on many levels. And yeah, I would tell people, I think I might prefer spilling my guts on screen again than having my gut shown.

Haley – Well, I just, I think that, just for people to understand what it's taken you to come to a place where you can share all of these things. And it’s not just baring your heart, it’s also as a woman, how you feel about yourself. And how you’re portrayed that way. And then, I know you keep saying, I’m just sharing my own personal story. But for a lot of adoptees, they look up to you, they identify with you, and just, we talked a little bit about this, moments ago. But it was a couple of weeks ago. Just about sharing your story and how important it is. But that there’s also a cost that goes along with that. And so now that you’ve been out a week and I looked at your Facebook page. people are like love it, everybody that’s, that went to see it, like some people came to your Facebook page just to tell you how much they loved it and how meaningful it was. How do you feel about that? The impact it’s having, even though there is a cost to you, the impact that it’s had for the people who have seen it and will see it?

Reshma – I’ll go back a little bit where, I love that question, Haley, that’s a great question. Yeah, it did come at a cost and it continues to come at a cost. And some of the, not even all of that has hit yet. I haven’t really experienced very much criticism. For the most part, everything I’ve heard has been really positive feedback. We’ve heard a couple of constructive criticism things about the film. But, I mean, by a couple mean I literally mean 2. And so the film was done so beautifully and so well, Michael is just incredible. And it’s really mind blowing. But, and then really, most of the feedback has been positive. And sure, is there a couple people hiding somewhere who may have had negative feelings or didn't like it or something and they’re just being polite? Sure, that’s fine and that’s fair. But yeah, the cost is great, and I think it will be ongoing. I appreciate what you said just about being a woman and putting myself out there. It’s like, do I wish I lost 45 pounds before I filmed the movie, yeah, you know. Do I wish I’d lost the same 45 pounds that I seem to be holding onto, before I went to the premier, yeah. Those are real things that we as women, and frankly, especially for adopted people because so much, there’s so much weight put on our, pun intended, on our parents, right? And how we view ourselves because we’re always looking for these mirrors. And so, it’s like, oh, this physical part of me looks like that, or oh my nose is big, or my nose is small. Or whatever it is that we’re constantly, we have all these ties to our parents because that’s just such a huge part of who we are and a huge part of what we’re missing. So that for me will just be ongoing. And I ultimately just had to let it go to some degree. I'm not totally comfortable with it, with the back sweat and the bottom filling up the screen going upstairs. I mean, I'm telling you, you haven’t really seen your bottom until you’ve seen it on a movie theater screen.

Haley – Oh my gosh.

Reshma - So you know, it’s not ideal. But, it really is kind of like a metaphor for this experience, right? I really, really, really spilled my guts and bled on that screen. I let people in so far, that it, you know, dangerously far. Because people are going to have opinions about my opinion. People are going to have opinions about my feelings. And it’s just ridiculous, right? because none of us really should have opinions about those things. None of us should voice opinions about how someone else feels about their own experience, but we all do it. We’re all guilty of it. And especially for adopted people, we really are heavily scrutinized on our response to adoption. And that we should just be so grateful and all of that. And so any time there’s any kind of questioning or pushback, immediately labeled as angry or ungrateful, right? I think that, just, the response has been really incredible and I think, I really believe in the film, as cheesy as that sounds, I really believe the response will continue to be for the most part positive. I think that I really believe that people will see my vulnerability and even if they don't agree with what I'm saying or even if they think well gosh that just seems so weird that she would feel that way, I think that people will take it for what it is. It felt that way. You know, what’s interesting about that is, I really thought that having the initial premier would be like ripping off the Band-Aid. And that you know, I would have that exhale, that sigh of relief, like, oh okay I can do this now, I can go on this screening tour. What’s funny is, it dawned on me immediately after the screening, it’s like I had no break. Immediately after the screening I thought, well this is literally the safest environment that I will ever be in showing this film. Like, I could not be safer, there could not be more buffers around me, right? My family, who love me, my extended family who love me. My family and friends. Michael’s family and friends. And all of those people, it was really the safest we could be. And so now I’m a whole new different kind of scared. Going out to show this to strangers who don't know me, who don't know my background, who don't my family. And don't really have that entire frame of reference, you know? They will really just see this snapshot. And of course there were strangers there, there were people there who gave really positive feedback who didn't know me. A couple of people came up to me and said, oh I just found this on the internet the other day. And you know, so we bought tickets. And so there was a handful of people there, I don't know, probably 10 to 20 that we didn't know. And then of course some of Michael’s family and friends also don't know me. And so there were people there who didn’t know me and still had a really good response. But it’s scary and I think that it was naïve in some sense that it would get less scary. I think that the fear of being seen and the vulnerability both just physically and emotionally and all of those things, that fear will continue. But I also think that I will learn to manage it better. We, I’m trying to think, so a year ago new year’s. 2017 going into 2018. We were originally gonna release the film last fall. And so I knew it was gonna come out in 2018 and then we just missed it by a couple of weeks ‘cause of dates and things. But I was terrified coming up on New Year’s, coming into 2018. Because it was gonna be the year the film would come out. And I couldn’t breathe. I was like, dreading New Year’s and I kept crying and I kept thinking, I cannot do this. There’s just no way, I’ve gotta go back, what was I thinking. And so I've come a long way since then and it isn’t easy but it’s getting easier. And I think that will just be an ongoing part. You know our friend Anne Heffron talks about writing the book and she says, writing the book was so hard but it was actually harder when you know people are reading the book. Because you, doing the work is really, really hard. And it’s an emotional process and this therapeutic thing that you have to go through and these really high highs and these really low lows. And then you kinda think it’s over like, I did it! But then other people, other people who, some are very kind and not judgmental and other people who aren’t as kind and are very judgmental. All of those people are going to see this work. And then you have to kind of deal with that. And so that’s where I am right now. That’s what’s next, is people are gonna see this and you know, I wouldn’t necessarily ask anybody to go easy on me. It is what it is and people will react however they’re going to react. I don't have any control over that. So it’s really just up to me at this point to you know, stand my ground in who I am, right? And what other people, you know, it’s that saying, what other people think of you is none of your business. Which is like, absurd. It’s the most absurd statement. Because could anything be more difficult? And every once and a while you hear people say, like, I don't care what people think of me. And I think, yeah right! That’s all I think about! It’s just like, all I think about constantly is what other people think of me and how I’m being perceived. And that’s just something I’m gonna have to keep learning to release and letting go.

Haley – Well thank you. I am so envious of those 200+ people who got to see it.

Reshma - Working on Canada!

Haley – Yeah, yeah, come on up! Wonderful. Thank you so much, Resh, thanks for sharing with us. And hopefully your vulnerability hangover will lighten up a little bit.

Reshma - Yes, vulnerability hangover, that’s the best way to put it. I just wanna say too, on a personal note, you have been so incredibly supportive and encouraging. And over the weekend I received texts and boxes from you, and little notes just encouraging me and I just really means a lot to know that you were out there rooting for me and so far away. It just, it just means a lot. So thank you, I’ve got that from a lot of support from friends all around. And it just really helped to sustain me. So thanks for that.

(harp music)

Haley – Okay, well thank you so much for sharing your story and taking us through some of that journey with you. And of course, for recommended resources I’m gonna recommend that people go check out Calcutta Is My Mother. And I know you’ve got the premier will have finished and you’ve got some scheduled. Where can people find upcoming showings of it?

Reshma – Well the production crew for Calcutta Is My Mother is still working on some of those details. But we do have, following our Portland premier, we will be, the dates are not solid yet, but they will be on our website, calcuttafilm.com. Probably within the next few weeks following the airing of the show.

Haley – Okay, so if people want to see upcoming dates and follow along with everything that’s happening, calcuttafilm.com is the place.

Reshma - Yes, and we’ll be going, right now we have plans for Denver, Seattle, Dallas, Indiana, working on Minneapolis, working on a couple of northeast locations and somewhere in southern California. So we’re ironing out those details, it’s just a lot of work.

Haley – I’m sure, I’m sure. Okay that’s great. And then I have recommended Dear Adoption before on the show, we talk about it a lot here, because it’s such an amazing resource. But today, I asked Resh’s permission, if I could read you, this one example, like if you haven’t checked out Dear Adoption, you’re gonna definitely go after this. ‘Cause it’s so powerful. There’s a few different letters that you have on here, that are from young people. This one is called, Dear Adoption, I Wish I Had her Freckle. And it says, “this piece was submitted anonymously by a 12 year, east Indian adoptee, at a workshop hosted by Dear Adoption. I got adopted and moved to my new family when I was a baby. I do not remember my mom who had me, but I always have this same dream about me being a baby and I can see her hand on my head and her hand has a freckle on her finger. I think that this is my memory, coming into my dream. Sometimes I draw that freckle on my finger with a pen and pretend that I’m her and that I'm like her. I wish I had her freckle. I hope that when I grow up, I can be like her with my looks and everything but I will not make the same mistake she made when she gave me away.”

Reshma - Hoo!

Haley – Yeah. So, really powerful. And you know, this is almost full circle from when we’re talking about in the beginning of the interview, you sitting with a young 10 year old who’s processing the same grief as you as an adult. And that’s just another piece of it and to see it written out, and to hear those words from a young person is just incredible.

Reshma - Agreed.

Haley – Thank you for curating a space like that for us.

Reshma - Thanks for, you’ve been so supportive and wonderful to Dear Adoption, so I really appreciate it very much. It’s really what it is, because people are willing to share as you were talking about earlier. So, I’m really grateful for the people who are willing to share.

Haley - Yes and I wrote a piece for Dear Adoption, you gotta scroll way back to find that, because it was a long time ago. Do deep dive if you wanna find that. Okay, what did you wanna recommend to us today.

Reshma - I just have a couple I wanted to recommend. I know you and I both share a passion for preserving families and not separating them unnecessarily. I really believe that adoption and family separation should happen as an absolute last resort. I do believe there are circumstances that may call for it. I believe they're fewer than what we as a society engage in. So that’s really important to me. I started an organization called Family Preservation 365 with my friend Stephanie. And we basically are just a resource site, an educational site, and I’m just trying to spread awareness for adoption ethics, the lack thereof, rather. And providing tools and information and educating people so that they understand that really most families don't need to be separated. That there is a way to keep them together. So that is FP365 and the other one is an incredible resource that kind of blows my mind by another friend of mine, Katie. And she has started the Family Preservation Project. And the Family Preservation Project has a state by state resource guide for vulnerable women who are pregnant, or single mothers, vulnerable or not, I really feel like all women, when we’re pregnant are vulnerable, married or single or in a difficult situation. Whatever their circumstance, pregnancy is a vulnerable time. Which is why we’ve got to intercept these adoption agencies preying on people who are in these situations. So Family Preservation Project has a state by state resource guide, information for fathers, and it’s vast. And incredible, and Katie assembled this on her own. And if you go to her website and search your state, you can find resources and information that will blow your mind that most people don't even know are available and she found them all. So I highly recommend it.

Haley – And resources can mean places to find financial support, or housing support, or diapers, or places to stay that are affiliated with adoption agencies. Because a lot of, this is so sketchy. There’s places you can stay for free, like we give you free rent and food and medical appointments and at the end, goodbye, it’s just like a baby and mother home and we take your baby.

Reshma - Yep.

Haley – But Katie has vetted all of these places. And so everything on there is a safe place for you to go to if you’re in that situation or to recommend to a friend who’s in that situation. If you’re in any of the Facebook groups that are not necessarily adoptee related but just adoption related, there’s women that are going in there and looking for help. This is a great place to recommend they go. You can say oh go check out the Family Preservation Project, I bet you can find something near you that will be helpful to you.

Reshma - Exactly.

Haley – Resh is not exaggerating, it is extensive.

Reshma – It is brilliant. Katie has a really brilliant mind in general. She’s a first mother, she’s experienced this first hand and she has said, if she had even an ounce of these resources available to her, she would not have lost her daughter. And it’s just remarkable what she’s done in light of really, what has been done to her. It’s pretty incredible.

Haley – Yep, yep, absolutely. Okay great, thank you so much for sharing those. And where can we connect with you online?

Reshma – Well you can find me on Facebook, Reshma McClintock, Instagram same. And I spend a lot of time there and then I have my own, rebuilding my personal website right now a little bit. But mostly social media is a great place to connect.

Haley – Perfect, thanks so much. It was just an honor hearing your story today. And hearing from your heart. So we appreciate that so much.

Reshma - Well, I really appreciate you and we are friends beyond adoption land, and I really appreciate the friendship. But just the work you’re doing’s incredible. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve seen posts or shares of your show and people just saying that Adoptees On has changed their life and I truly believe the work your doing is life changing. And I’m so thankful for it and just in awe kind of what you’re able to do. And the far reach that you have managed. And it’s just, it’s really powerful and I’m excited this year to see what keeps happening with Adoptees On! So thank you very much!

Haley – Thank you! And just as you said before, we can’t do this work without people willing to open up and share.

Reshma - Yes.

Haley – From their hearts.

(upbeat music)

Haley – Reshma and I are both speaking at conferences in April. If you would like to see Reshma speak, she is presenting at the Indiana Adoptee Network Conference. You can find out details about that over at indianaadopteenetwork.org. And she will also be screening her documentary, Calcutta Is My Mother. And I will be speaking in Washington D.C., at the American Adoption Congress Conference. And I would love to meet up with you there if you’re able to come. Please let me know you’re coming so we can make sure to say hi and I will be posting details of a listener meetup over on the Adoptees On Facebook page so make sure you’re following that to find out details of where and when. But it will be sometime in the span of the conference which is April 3rd to 6th. Again in Washington, D.C. Would love to meet you there, americanadoptioncongress.org has information about how to register. Thank you so much for supporting this show by listening every week. I would love it as a gift today if you would consider sharing this show with just one other person that you know who is adopted and would benefit from hearing from adoptee voices. Just like theirs too, so they can know that they’re not alone on this journey. Thanks so much for listening, let’s talk again next Friday.

(exit music)

Kids – You’re listening to Adoptees On, the podcast where adoptees discuss the adoption experience. Experience. This is episode 100. This is episode 1! hundred! This is episode 100, this is episode 100! You’re listening to Adoptees On. You’re listening to Adoptees On. Thanks for listening to my mommy’s show.