It has been said that a mother’s love is forever. And when we think of mothers, we think of that natural unbreakable bond between a woman and her child. But a mother’s love is born in her heart, if not always of her body. Recently, Anjali Kinnon Landaverde shared with me the story of the long journey she took to become her mother’s child.
Joan Kinnon took an unlikely and difficult road to become a mother. After graduating high school, Joan became a nun. She had no thoughts of her own family and motherhood during her first years in the order. But working with the children of the communities in which she served, Joan began to long for a family. Children to hold, teach and love; children of her own. Raised in a staunch Catholic family, Joan grew up believing in dedication to church and family. For 12 years, she gave herself to the church, but the time came that she needed to leave the order to fulfill another calling – the calling of becoming a mother.
After reading an article about foreign adoptions in 1972, Joan wondered if this was a viable path. She investigated, and found that the costs were very high. Having very little money, adoption was out of the question. Shortly thereafter, a check for $2,500 came to her in the mail. To her surprise, it was from the religious community that she had served, as a repayment of a dowry. She had not originally paid a dowry, so she was reluctant to keep the money, but at the community’s insistence, she did. “I planned on using it for seed money for my first child,” Joan said.
She began saving every penny she could, and contacting adoption agencies. But another obstacle arose; she was single. Adoption agencies refused to help. Try as she may, agency after agency turned her away. Not being dissuaded, she forged on until she contacted a private Canadian agency, which willingly agreed to assist her in her quest for a child. This agency worked with abandoned children in India, and Joan could not have been more pleased.
The two-year wait was agonizing. Much like waiting for a child to be born, Joan waited by the phone for the call; the call to come to the airport and meet her new child. She had requested a child 2-years-old or younger, because she felt their adjustment would be easier. Being a new parent, as well as a single parent, she questioned her abilities to raise a child who had severe adjustment problems.
The children in India were coming from a poverty we can only imagine here in the U.S., with tragedy part of their daily lives. Many are abandoned at birth, eventually ending up in orphanages, where they are given minimal care. The lack of care is a result of the lack of resources and personnel, but certainly not a lack of effort. Too many babies; too few volunteers to help. Wives of pilots and flight attendants working in the region accompany the children from the orphanages on the planes, each adult to bring 3 to 5 children overseas at a time, delivering the children to their new parents.
In 1978, after years of saving, waiting, hoping and praying, Joan received the call that her son, Aaron Nagaraj, was on his way. She had seen only a photo of the 2-½-year-old before greeting him at the Vancouver Airport. Excitement and fear filled her heart as she waited there to meet him.
Off the plane he came, clutching a tiny purse with 2 pennies from the airline, in a jacket, T-shirt, shorts, and new shoes with no socks. Malnourished and obviously abused, this tiny 5-year-old was the size of a toddler. The stewardess accompanying Aaron snatched the jacket off of his back saying, “They will need this at the orphanage,” and away she went. Aaron spoke only Tamil and Hindi; Joan only spoke English. They left together and headed to her hotel room.
Her 2-½-year-old turned out to actually be 5-years-old. Joan had brought a crib and tiny clothing for her new son. Sadly, he was so small, the clothing looked as if it would fit. Aaron was tenuous, and fascinated with the world around him. He had obviously never seen television before, and he was quite unsure about the bathtub. To convince her son to remove his new shoes so he could bathe was the greatest challenge of the evening. An hour passed spent bargaining with this tiny boy. After a good meal, a bath and some television, Aaron spent the night in the crib, wearing his new shoes and still clutching his tiny purse, with his new mother by his side.
The time passed quickly as Aaron made adjustments, learned his new language, and acclimated to Joan and her environment. Chipper, sweet and very polite, Aaron befriended everyone. He hugged every woman, and shook hands with every man.
Joan was astonished at his incredible hunger, as if there just wasn’t enough food to ever fill him. The tiny boy grew healthy.
On one occasion, during that same year, a friend came to visit Joan. As usual, Aaron hugged the woman, but surprisingly looked at Joan and said, “Is this my new Mommy?” Joan hugged him, looked deep into his soft brown eyes and said, “I am your Mommy, forever and ever.” The lack of security in his younger years made an imprint on the rest of his life, and in some respects, it is still there today.
Joan felt that Aaron could grow from the family experience and she knew she still had love in her heart for more children. She started the long, long process over again, but with another agency that worked with Columbian children. She had requested a girl this time, but every child, boy or girl, seemed to go to a couple instead of a single woman. Nearly exasperated, Joan continued to pray, hope, and wait.
Anthony John Javier was born in 1979 and arrived in 1981, on Aaron’s 6th birthday. At 13-months-old, Anthony could not walk, talk, or understand any English. By this time in her experience, Joan had bonded with a community of families who adopted, and found an incredible support system. The families all went to the airport with one another to greet new arrivals, and large parties were thrown for birthdays of the adopted children.
Having proven herself to the adoption agencies, both public and private, Joan was now being approached by the agencies, begging her to take another child. She received a catalogue regularly from the agencies with countless photos of abandoned children. She had hoped for a little girl to round out her family, so when a baby girl from India became available, she knew this would be the one.
Anjali Marie Sakuntala was born in February 1981, and was left in an Indian birthing house by her mother. She stayed there for 3 days, and then went to an Indian hospital. The next few weeks of her life were spent on a journey to her new mother, waiting in the U.S.; a journey many Indian babies don’t survive. Conditions in the birthing houses are deplorable, and many newborns die there. The moment Joan received Anjali in her arms, she knew her family was complete.
“They come here with nothing, nothing but a name. I felt it important that they keep their given names,” Joan shared in our recent interview. “They have their own issues with being adopted. Their own thoughts and feelings; their own identities, and those are wrapped up in that name. You have to remember that they were left behind by a biological parent, and what that does to them, deep down inside.” She looked over at Anjali, now a woman holding her brand new son, and smiled. “It has been an amazing life, just amazing.”
“We are not a text book family, but we are a family. And we have gone through our share of heartaches just as most families do. While talking to my middle son recently, he asked the question ‘You will always be my mom, right?’ And just as I had to reassure my oldest when he was 4 and asked my visiting friend if she was going to be his new mommy, I had to tell him that indeed, no matter what, I will always be their Mom - forever.”
A veteran of the publishing business both in print and online, mastering sales, marketing, writing, and publishing, this former beauty queen with a gift for gab, is high energy with a high-spirited personality making her a natural for motivating others. In 2011 Tina sold over $2 million in internet advertising and now does business consulting as well as internet publishing. Read more at www.TinaWalker.com.