Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Helping others

Having already said that my only regret in all this was not being sufficiently prepared for rejection, I have a real desire to ensure that other people start their search with the benefit of my experience. This came true sooner than I had expected. I noticed a brief message on the family history site recently which had been posted by an adopted man asking for advice on how to trace his birth family. For some reason, I just felt that contacting him was the right thing to do and we struck up an immediate friendship. I sent him an excerpt from this story and was very touched by his reply. Derek said that he had been incredibly moved by what I had written, because right up until now – at 40 years of age – he thought nobody else had the same thoughts, feelings and behaviours as him. As he read my story, he felt that I could actually have been writing about him. He was so relieved to discover that he was a ‘typical’ adoptee with a ‘typical’ adoptee attitude, and this reiterates my earlier statement that only an adoptee truly knows how another adoptee thinks and feels.

Derek was, like me, fortunate in having a supportive family and I was happy to be his ‘search mate’ for want of a better term! I did the actual research and then discussed my findings with him on each step of the way. Sadly, I discovered that his birth mother had already passed away – another scenario for which adoptees are never fully prepared – but through a developing relationship with other members of his birth family, he is now able to learn about his birth mother from them.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Aunt and Uncle

I was aware that my birth mother had a brother who had emigrated to South Africa many years ago, and whose address had not been passed onto my brother. James had got on well with his uncle and I thought it was rather a pity that they weren’t in touch. I asked on the family history site whether anyone could advise on the best way to track down a relative in South Africa and I received an email from a really nice lady who said that it was pretty difficult to trace anyone over there, but that she would have a go if I gave her as much information as possible (she was herself South African but living in Portugal!). I told her as much as I knew, names, dates etc, and settled back for the long wait. I couldn’t believe it when I opened my mailbox just four hours later to discover a very excited message from her – she had found our uncle because he lived two streets away from her own brother. Frantic emails crossed the world and by that evening, I had spoken to my uncle and put him back in touch with James. After Uncle Bill had got over his initial surprise (his first words to me being ‘I thought you’d been a boy’!), he was thrilled to not only have contact with his nephew again, but to have an additional niece as well. I was told all about his wife and son, and he actually rang his wife to come home from work and read our emails. Once again, I received a very warm welcome to the family.

I then started my family history properly, as opposed to tracing my birth family, and I discovered a whole website devoted to people with the surname of my maternal birth family. I emailed the person who ran the site – there was no name given – and introduced myself, explaining the whole adoption situation. Imagine my surprise to receive an email by return from this person, informing me that she was in fact my aunt. It appeared that my maternal grandmother had also had an illegitimate daughter who was put up for adoption – my Aunt Jane.

This is another reason why I couldn’t possibly have any regrets about conducting this search. My aunt had only carried out her own adoption search a few years ago, although her birth mother was still living at that point. Due to her birth mother’s age, she thought it best to contact her half-sister (my birth mother) and had been treated in exactly the same way as me. Initial acceptance and nice letters, followed by an abrupt rejection. Aunt Jane had also contacted Uncle Bill and whilst he was very polite and kind to her, he just could not believe that his mother had had another child that he didn’t know about (of course, what had confused the issue was that Aunt Jane was actually the result of an affair and was born between her half-brother and half-sister). As I had been in touch with Uncle Bill for some weeks now and was on good terms, I asked Aunt Jane if she would like me to email him on her behalf, and she gratefully took up my offer. I was able to explain to Uncle Bill that she was definitely his half-sister, that I had seen her original birth certificate naming his mother as her birth mother, and giving him some details about the circumstances surrounding her birth. He made contact with her immediately and they are both thrilled to be in touch with one another. My more unpleasant experiences with Wyn have helped Aunt Jane to realise that she wasn’t at fault for being born, any more than I was. We are in regular contact and found that we have much in common, particularly our love of the arts. She has found her own past much easier to accept now that we have shared our experiences, and of course she too has a new, extended family.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Even more family...

So, moving forward. Would it have been better to have left the past where it belonged? Why put myself through the emotional wringer unnecessarily? I can’t honestly say that I’d like to relive the searching experience but I don’t regret it for one moment. I have discovered a fairly minor – but hereditary – health issue and satisfied myself about the maternal side of my medical history. Of course, the very best bit has to be the lovely relationship I have with James, and that my relationship with Mum and Dad hasn’t suffered in any way at all. In fact, Mum and Dad have totally accepted James as my brother and as one of the family; because they love me, they love him in a way because he’s a part of me. Before I started searching, I didn’t feel that my life was incomplete in any way, but now that the search is more or less over, I do feel a huge sense of relief and satisfaction that everything has fallen into place. Added to which, there were several more amazing coincidences to come …

The experiences of the last years provoked an interest in genealogy and on joining a website for family history, I was contacted by a lady who thought we had a name in common on our family trees. The name she quoted was that of my (birth) maternal grandmother, and she asked in what way I was related to this person. I contacted her and explained the adoption situation and she came back with a totally unexpected response - my grandmother was her great aunt, making her my third cousin. My original birth certificate gave my place of birth as a private dwelling and I’d so far been unable to make any connection with the occupants and my birth mother. I asked my cousin if she happened to recognise the names of the people living at that address when I was born and she did – they were her grandparents! She then emailed me a photograph of their house and it was lovely after 40 years to see a picture of my actual place of birth.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

So Many Lies

Wyn’s family had allowed her back to the family home after she’d had Sally, and she then took a job locally. It was there that she met John, who was six years her senior. He claimed to have been educated at boarding school in Ireland and was a qualified accountant, but was currently employed in temporary work until he found a suitable position. John befriended Wyn and I can imagine that here was a young woman, a single mother who had to work to support her child and to prove her worth to her family. She succumbed to the affection and attention given to her, and he wept when he told her that he was unable to father a child. Unfortunately, Wyn found out the hard way that this wasn’t true. This is where the truth starts to deviate from the facts outlined in my adoption records. My intermediary, Maria, had discovered in her first phone conversation with Wyn that John had not in fact been sent away to America. He had firstly denied paternity, and then vanished from his lodgings. A subsequent newspaper article stated that he had been imprisoned for petty theft. I suppose that we would all understand Wyn’s wish not to admit these unsavoury facts. I don’t blame her for wanting to save herself from the embarrassment of having to admit to the Adoption Society that not only had she fallen for such an easy lie regarding his fertility, but that he was also a common criminal.

I felt absolutely no desire to have contact with my birth father, but still thought that it would be sensible to try and obtain his medical history. Even now, I have no wish to make contact with either him or any of his family. He behaved dishonourably towards both Wyn and myself, and I could see nothing to be gained from having any contact with him. Although he has proved extremely elusive (and no wonder – if he could lie about so many things, who is to know whether even his name was correct?) I was able, with some help, to make contact with his then landlady. She informed me that he had only lived in her home for a very short time, and it was her late husband who wanted to provide a room for John as a favour to a friend. However, the most salient fact she was able to provide was that he had not come to the area from Ireland – he had come direct from the nearby psychiatric prison. This was probably the piece of information that upset me the most. I immediately, and as it transpired, wrongly, assumed that his apparent mental illness would be hereditary. On making some enquiries as to the type of prison in which he was held, it appeared that ‘psychiatric’ was used in a fairly loose sense. This tied in with him having told other lies, and it is therefore fairly safe to assume that he was nothing more than a fantasist and petty criminal. I am no nearer finding his whereabouts, as Wyn was not prepared to discuss his possible date and place of birth. Although I am well organised and like everything neatly in its place, I think I will have to accept that this will be one part of my past that I can’t tidy up; it will have to remain outstanding.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

What about a father?

I think it was probably at this point that I started to feel rather sorry for both Wyn and Sally. To this day, I still don’t understand why their reactions were quite so extreme; I can only assume that they had a lot of bitterness and anger inside them that needed to be released. Perhaps this has helped them to come to terms with their respective pasts and they can now move on too? If that were the case, then the distress I suffered would be worth it; for two people to be purged of any shame or stigma lurking in their memories. After all, Sally knew that she was born illegitimately, as her stepfather had legally adopted her upon his marriage to her mother when Sally was five years old. We all process information differently in our minds and therefore our reactions are diverse. Who knows what goes on inside another person’s head?

I think the most important realisation for me is that I don’t hate Wyn or hold any grudge against her. What would be the point of my having anger inside me when I have been so hurt by the anger of others? Of course I can’t forget what happened; the whole episode will be forever etched in my mind, but it need not be an unhappy memory. Perhaps the experience might have made me a nicer person? Or am I more tolerant of others’ grief and distress? I have by no means led a charmed life but I do have much to be thankful for and I don’t take anything or anyone for granted. However, Wyn does appear to think that this whole episode is hers, and hers exclusively. She doesn’t seem able to realise, or accept, that we have both been affected – equally – and therefore I am just as entitled as her to have thoughts, feelings and emotions. Wyn seems to want to blame me merely for existing yet obviously I had no choice in the matter, and this is precisely what I want my inner self to accept – that I should carry no blame.

Of course there is another person with a certain amount of involvement who I have only mentioned briefly in passing – my birth father. Not many adoptees have their birth father’s details on their original birth certificate; a baby’s father either had to be married to the baby’s mother in order to be named thereon, or otherwise accompany the mother to register the child in order to prove that he had accepted paternity. My birth certificate was no different to the norm, and there was merely a line through the ‘father’s details’ box. When there had been mention of my birth father in the past, I was told that there was no chance of him and my birth mother marrying, and so his family had sent him off to America to work in a bank. Indeed, this was exactly the information that was contained in my adoption records, but with a little more detail.

Friday, 24 April 2009

...and two sisters

James and I talked for over an hour, and neither of us seemed to want the conversation to end. We agreed that we would ring, write and email, and then arrange to meet in the near future when we’d got to know each other a little better. I told James that I’d been brought up as an only child and so I’d never had a brother before; his answer? ‘Well, you’ve got one now’! I had never craved siblings at any time in my life, but now that I had one I was thrilled, and what a wonderfully warm welcome he had given me.

A few days later, not only did I receive the photographs and a letter from James (what a handsome brother I had!), but also a letter from Rebecca, my younger half-sister. James had already told me that she was a single mum to two girls and studying for a degree. Therefore, she relied fairly heavily on her parents for childminding and was very close to them, particularly to her father. However, her letter was very pleasant; she was happy to find out that she had another sister and would like to be in touch with me. I rang her and we had a really nice chat, although I have to be honest and admit that the conversation didn’t flow in quite the same way as it had with James. Again, we agreed to keep in touch for a while and then make arrangements to meet, although my instinct was telling me that I might have to work hard to keep this relationship going (so this was the ‘grey’ response!).

I was totally unprepared for the letter that arrived the following week from Sally, my elder half-sister. I had obviously been so pleased by James’ and Rebecca’s letters, that to receive any different from Sally would be out of the question. Sally’s was not only typed but was written in an extremely formal manner, as one might write to a business associate. It was four pages of pure anger, hatred and vitriol. I have never received anything like that directed to me before and truly hope I never encounter such a letter again. She had given me strict instructions on what order in which to read the letter – two pages were written on receipt of my initial letter of contact, and two pages written after she had discussed me with her parents. Oh, I mentioned the anger but I didn’t mention the lies…these were more hurtful than the tone of the letter. Here was one very angry lady – but why? Often when an adoptee puts in an appearance, the child who thought they were the eldest is pushed out of pole position, but this wasn’t the case with Sally – she was still the eldest in spite of me. I have no doubt that she wished to remain loyal to her mother, first and foremost, but perhaps learning of my existence had brought questions to her own mind. Or maybe she had wanted to trace her own roots and make enquiries regarding her own birth father but had been afraid to talk to her mother about it. I tried for a long time to make allowances for her behaviour but I still couldn’t see myself as the blatant troublemaker she was making me out to be. Sally was under the impression that I had been blackmailing her parents; I was appalled at this accusation as I had certainly never had anything to do with her father. I’d only used his name once, and that was on a gift card which I’d sent to Wyn and her husband when they moved house. I even checked the meaning of the word ‘blackmail’ in the dictionary in case I had been under a misapprehension, but no, it was as I thought – it meant either extorting payment, or using threats or moral pressure. Wow, what an accusation! This letter was becoming somewhat surreal; I know that we hadn’t been brought up as sisters, and hadn’t even known of each other’s existence until so very recently, but I still could not comprehend how someone could behave in this fashion towards a blood relative. Sally’s letter finished with a flourish – she would instigate legal proceedings against me if I ever dared to contact her, her parents or her sister ever again. Part of me wished that she had bothered to get to know me, so that she would realise what a wrong judgement she had made of me, but the other part of me thought ‘Well I’m just relieved not to actually know this person’.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

I've got a brother!

By return of post came a letter from my half-brother (the ‘white’ response!). It was a short, but really kind and lovely letter and, looking at the bottom first to see who the letter was from, what touched me most was that he had signed his name with one kiss underneath. He had to be friendly if he’d put a kiss! He confirmed that my facts were correct and that he was indeed my half-brother; he had no idea of my existence and was therefore shocked at the revelation, but pleasantly so. He gave me his phone number and asked what I would like to do next – ring him, write back or meet. Impetuous as always, I opted for ringing him, the quickest option! Obviously my heart was pounding as I waited for him to answer the phone, only to get his wife because he was putting his children to bed. She sounded very nice, and said that she would get James to ring me back soon. The next hour passed incredibly slowly (of course!) and during that time, I must have driven my husband mad as I was imagining that James must have changed his mind otherwise he’d have rung back by now.

Then the phone rang, ‘Hi Mandy, it’s James’. Wow – this was my brother; I could hardly speak for emotion, excitement and fear of saying the wrong thing. I needn’t have worried – our conversation flowed naturally with no awkward silences and I was amazed that we just seemed like two old friends catching up. We answered each other’s questions and told each other about our families; James was married with three sons, which meant that I was an auntie for the first time, and my son would finally have some cousins! I do remember telling James that I’d thought long and hard about writing to him and his sisters, as his mother had told me that they were a very close family and wouldn’t welcome an ‘outsider’. He was really surprised to hear that she had said that, and dropped something of a bombshell – his mother hadn’t spoken to him, his wife or his children for the last six months. Initially, I was horrified, automatically assuming that this was my fault. The last thing I wanted was to cause trouble within an established family. But no – there had been a very petty disagreement which had led to Wyn telling Sally that she wanted nothing more to do with James.

I did find this very odd on the one hand – how could someone not speak to their grandchildren, even if they were cross with their son? – but somewhat reassuring on the other hand – maybe Wyn’s behaviour was a little irrational and I wasn’t to blame for absolutely everything? There were many more issues here but that story is my brother’s to tell, not mine.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Siblings

I desperately needed reassurance that I wasn’t the only adoptee to have been rejected in this way, and I remembered that there was an offshoot of Norcap called Rejection Network. I made contact with one of the two ladies who ran the group and, in fact, we have remained friends ever since. I received so much kindness and so many words of support, and I was shocked to discover that there were adoptees who had actually been rejected in a far worse manner than I had been. I was able to discuss contacting my half-siblings with other people who had done the same, and I took plenty of time to construct a suitable letter to send to them. I also wanted Wyn to have the time to tell her children herself. My Norcap counsellor wasn’t permitted to write the letter, but she did check it over for me, as did the co-leader of Rejection Network. That letter was written and rewritten so many times, but was eventually sent off to all three of my half-siblings at the same time, around six weeks after Wyn’s phone call to me.

I felt it important to write to Sally, Rebecca and James at the same time; I realised that Sally and I had more in common with each other, because Rebecca and James were the only full siblings out of the four of us, but I thought that there would appear to be no ‘favouritism’ if they all received the same letter on the same day. I was fairly certain that out of the three, the one most likely to be welcoming would be my older half-sister, Sally. Despite her only being two years old at the time of my birth, there was a slim chance that she might even remember there having been a baby in the house.

I was to be very surprised. I received three different responses – what you might call black, white and grey.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Sticks and Stones

Back in the 1960s when I was born, being a single mother was not only a stigma but a very difficult existence. To become a single mother for a second time was practically unheard of. There were more babies adopted during the 1960s than any other decade – 30% of all babies born. However, time has moved on so that now, in the 2000s, nobody gives a second thought to a single parent, regardless of how many illegitimate children they have. I was sure that Wyn’s three children weren’t so perfect that they could cast the first stone at her for falling pregnant twice before she was married. Neither were they likely to castigate her for giving up a child for adoption; even as the child who was given up, I respected her decision not to keep me. What I was, and still am, unable to respect is the way in which she dealt with my finding her.

I was too stunned by Wyn’s phone call to cry or indeed show any emotion at all. My son walked into the room and I can clearly remember just saying to him ‘Why do people have to be so cruel to others?’. It was totally beyond me how someone can be so hostile towards the child they gave birth to. I still never fail to be amazed at human beings’ capacity to inflict hurt on others.

Most children, when called unkind names by their school friends, are told by their mums to chant the verse ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’. The flaw in that statement, though, is that physical wounds usually heal, even if a scar is left, but emotional wounds can be far more painful and remain open and raw for longer. How I wished that Wyn had physically slapped or scratched me – some antiseptic and a plaster and I’d have been right as rain in a few days. As it was, the pain of rejection inside me was so intense that I couldn’t imagine ever feeling healed again.

I wanted to grab her by the shoulders, shake sense into her and cry ‘Like me, please, just like me’.

Monday, 20 April 2009

I Didn't Want You

Imagine being sat in a stationary car with the windows down and other traffic whizzing past; you hear snatches of engine noise, music, horns. The day of the phone call has to be one of the most distressing days of my life and all I can remember of the conversation is snatches hurtling through my mind. Wyn had obviously reverted to furious mode and was determined not to have anything further to do with me. She started off by saying that she’d sat down to write a letter to me, the contents of which she knew I wouldn’t like, so she’d decided to ring me instead. I wasn’t feeling too good that day and was about to ask her if we could maybe talk on another day; but every time I started to speak she told me – angrily – that if I dared to interrupt her, then she would hang up on me. This seemed to be the wrong way round to me – she was cross and upsetting me, so surely it would have been my right to hang up on her?! I didn’t try to speak again because I was curious to know just why she was ringing.

‘You’re making me ill …… I didn’t want anything to do with you ….. you kept writing to me … I want to enjoy my retirement without you spoiling it …my health is suffering …. I didn’t want you …. I didn’t bond with you … and I certainly didn’t love you ….you didn’t have to be dragged from me, kicking and screaming …..I never wanted to keep you…..my mother has died, she’s far more important than you…..your parents must have spoilt you rotten for you to turn out so selfish….to think so much of yourself… you’re not part of my family … you never have been and you never will be ….we’re a very close family….you’re nothing to do with my family’

‘……didn’t want you … didn’t bond with you ….didn’t love you ….’

‘……didn’t want you … didn’t bond with you ….didn’t love you ….’

I managed to butt in and remind her that she’d offered to answer any questions I had, and her reply – curiously – was ‘not that sort of question’. When she had finished what I can only describe as a rant, I asked her if she’d told the other children about me, as she had promised on more than one occasion. Oh dear, off she went again. She was livid, despite us having discussed this, and her promising that she would talk to her children when the right moment arose. She’d had a year in which to find the right time, and I did have a strong instinct that these three adults should be aware that they were biologically related to someone else. Whether or not they had contact with me was completely up to them, but they should be given the choice. I suggested that I wait a few weeks and then write to them myself; this wasn’t a threat at all, I did genuinely think that it might be easier for Wyn if someone else told them and took this difficult task out of her hands. I really didn’t want to do something that Wyn didn’t approve of, and yet I couldn’t settle knowing that my biological half-siblings and I would go through life not realising each other’s existence.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Death in the Family

All my life, through both childhood and adulthood, I’d had family holidays in the seaside town where most of my birth family lived. Bearing in mind that Wyn and I had no plans whatsoever to meet up, I gave the matter a lot of thought, discussed it with Maria, and wrote to Wyn to say that we would be in her town soon. I thought it would be best for her to be prepared, so that if she should see me in the area, she wouldn’t jump to the wrong conclusion about why I was there (and of course, she could stay indoors all week if she so wished!). I explained that we always took our holidays there, and that my family would think it very odd if I suddenly decided that I wanted to go elsewhere that year.

In the early summer, I received a postcard from Wyn, even though she hadn’t mentioned going on holiday. She asked for the exact dates of my holiday (I’ve no idea why, but presumably I was close when I thought she might want to avoid me), and then explained that she and her husband were away for a few days because her mother had died, they’d had the funeral and cleared her flat, and were taking a well-earned break. I think there was just a little bit of me that wondered why she hadn’t told me that her mother had been taken ill, or tell me of her death sooner. Wyn had already told me previously that her mother had been very good to her when she was expecting me; sending her regular food parcels and money, and even a Mothers’ Day card with mine and Sally’s names at the bottom. Perhaps Wyn thought that I might suddenly turn up at the funeral of the lady who was biologically my grandmother. Yet that saddened me because did my birth mother really think that I would be so crass as to make my presence felt at such an emotional time for the family? I did think that she ought to know me better than that.

Although it was too late for a sympathy card, I did immediately write a note to Wyn, expressing my sincere condolences at losing her mother. For the next few weeks, I heard nothing more from her; we went on our holiday and had a lovely time, and came back to prepare for the new school term in early September. The cards, photographs, letters and phone call had once again given me a false picture of our relationship, and I thought that despite its shaky start, our friendship would continue. That was until I received a phone call during the day from Wyn, totally unexpectedly.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

On/Off

I didn’t have the answers to these questions just yet, but I was very pleasantly surprised soon after to receive a phone call from Wyn – and even more surprisingly, given her earlier responses, she was so nice to me! In fact, I could hardly believe that I was talking to the same person that Maria had described to me. She was totally rational and we were able to have a really friendly, and lengthy, chat. Wyn had never mentioned her children or grandchildren by name in her letters, but on the phone she constantly referred to her youngest daughter, Rebecca, and her eldest granddaughter. In fact, Rebecca appeared at her door whilst we were talking, so Wyn ended up ringing me back the following day. I was overjoyed that she had been so willing to talk to me and that our conversation had flowed so easily, with no awkward silences. Perhaps she liked me after all? I hadn’t mentioned her other children again, but she broached the subject. She said that she had come to the decision to tell them about my existence, but it would have to be on her terms, when the right opportunity arose. I assured her that I totally understood – I was in no hurry whatsoever and was delighted that she was going to tell them, never mind when. I really wanted to put her at her ease and didn’t want her to feel under any pressure from me at all. Wyn also told me about her mother, who was still alive, and who lived nearby. Despite being in her late 80s, she was apparently still fairly active and very independent; Wyn told me that her mother had just agreed to let Wyn and her husband help with her housework. Our conversation ended with Wyn telling me not to be afraid to ask her any questions I might have. I did have a few questions, they were bound to be rather personal as the whole situation was very personal – but all I wanted to know were a few details to fill in the remaining gaps in my background, my ancestry.

We were now well into the spring and our letters continued. Because of the tenuous nature of our relationship, and Wyn’s tendency to blow hot and cold, I felt that I must word my letters very carefully so as not to risk causing any offence or upset. Admittedly, I felt that I was treading on eggshells, but at least that little bit of contact was there. I remembered her kind offer to answer any of my questions, so I asked a few things like whether Sally and I actually shared a birth father (this would make us full siblings instead of half-sisters).

Friday, 17 April 2009

Letters....or not?

Whilst growing up as an only child, I never had any desperate desire for siblings. I was sociable and able to make friends easily and, as a child, it seemed that my friends blessed with siblings only spent their time together fighting or arguing! Maybe as an adult, though, it might be nice to have an extended family? We are a very small family, and spread fairly widely in the UK and abroad, but then I would come back to the old saying ‘you can choose your friends, but not your family’ and think that maybe good friends were better than a big family. It was still peculiar to think that there were three people out there in the world who were my half-siblings, related to me by blood, and of course the possibility of other relatives too. However, I’d discovered the information that I needed and so that should be the end of the matter. I prepared myself to close the book in my mind and move forward in my life.

I was therefore surprised to receive a letter a few days later, forwarded to me by Maria from Wyn. The letter had been written to Maria, with Wyn saying that she had received a very nice note from me, thanking her for the information and photograph, but stating that I obviously didn’t want to keep in touch because I hadn’t given my address. Now, I know that Wyn didn’t specifically say that she wanted to continue our contact in the form of correspondence, but Maria and I both read between the lines and drew the same conclusion – that Wyn wasn’t closing the door on me. Once again, I made it quite clear to Maria that I wasn’t seeking (or expecting) a meeting with Wyn, but it might be rather nice to just keep in touch as friends. So this is what happened between myself and Wyn; we wrote to each other every few weeks and I even took a bit of a gamble by sending her a photograph of myself. In her next letter, she said that I certainly looked like her. I also received a Christmas card from Wyn and, soon after, another (unprompted) photograph of Wyn at her retirement party. I had sent her both a retirement and a birthday card. This pleasant exchange had lulled me into a false sense of security, so that I was shocked when I received Wyn’s next letter in which she informed me that my appearance had made her ill (this was the first I’d heard of any illness), that she was now on medication and having counselling thanks to me (again, something else that hadn’t been mentioned before), and finally that she didn’t want to hear from me again so that she could enjoy her retirement.

This is not a criticism of Norcap, but I hadn’t been warned at any point about the possibility of both acceptance and rejection – I had assumed that it would either be one or the other. I still tried very hard to see my appearance from my birth mother’s perspective, but it was becoming increasingly difficult. My being hypersensitive and over-emotional compounded this – I take everything very personally. My birth mother wasn’t getting at the baby she gave up; she was getting at me. It was at this point that I did the one thing that I will always bitterly regret – surprised and upset by this unexpected rejection, I rang her on impulse and left a very tearful message on her answer phone. I didn’t go so far as to ‘beg’ her to keep in touch, but I did let her know that I was very hurt and would she please reconsider? I still didn’t want to meet her, or have an intense relationship but would it really hurt her to keep in touch? Couldn’t we just carry on writing the odd card and letter every so often? How could she possibly not want to keep up a form of contact with the child she had carried? Why couldn’t we be friends? So many questions going over and over in my mind.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

A Photograph Arrives

I’m not keen on the phrase ‘emotional rollercoaster’ but I can’t think of a better way to describe what was going on. I really tried hard to see things from Wyn’s point of view; after all, I’d had plenty of preparation time but it had come out of the blue for her. However, I was finding it extremely difficult to understand why she was hostile one minute and friendly the next.

I’ve been asked several times if I have any regrets about making this journey, whether my past would have been best left alone. My answer is, quite categorically, ‘no’. I had no desire to ‘find myself’ – I’m perfectly aware of, and fairly happy with, who I am – and the yen for discovery was by no means all-consuming, yet there was both the need to finish what I’d started, and the intuition that something good would come out of this. All I really and truly wish is that I’d had access to an adoptee’s ‘warts and all’ story of adoption searching. The only people who truly understand an adoptee are other adoptees, regardless of how much support one receives from family and friends. Being prepared for rejection is not necessarily being sufficiently prepared for the possibility of so much associated turmoil.

So, back to the photograph. Opening the envelope and seeing my birth mother looking at me was another strange moment. She reminded me of someone and I puzzled for a long time before I realised who it was … me! Apart from our different hair colour, there was no doubting the family resemblance, but it was still very odd to find out after nearly 40 years that I looked like someone.

At this point, I remembered my manners and thought about writing a letter of acknowledgement, but because of Wyn’s earlier hostility, I had to think long and hard about exactly what to write. I didn’t want to upset her further by ignoring the fact that she had complied with my request for information and a photograph, but neither did I want her to feel hounded by me. In the end, I handwrote (I thought she might appreciate this more personal touch than typing) a brief but friendly letter, thanking her for her help. I omitted my address at the top of the letter so she would realise that I wasn’t expecting any further contact.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Fury

Apparently, my birth mother had phoned Maria and immediately launched into an angry tirade. Although the 1975 law change had been made very public, and adoption features quite heavily in the media nowadays, Wyn claimed to be totally unaware that I would ever be able to find her; that I had ruined her life once and was now trying to do so all over again. Maria let her have her say, then gently tried to explain that I had done nothing illegal in tracing her, that I genuinely didn’t want to upset the new life she had made for herself, and that all I wanted was my medical history because my son and I had some health problems; this is why the initial contact had been made via an approved intermediary and the letter written in a very sensitive way. Then there was more to hurt me – I asked Maria what Wyn’s response had been to discovering that I wasn’t well, and all she had responded with was a very flat ‘Oh dear, I’m sorry’. I had been assured that even birth mothers who don’t want contact with their adopted children are at least relieved to know that their child is alive and well – but mine seemingly wasn’t. Despite Maria’s letter being suitably vague, Wyn was still furious that her secret might now be let out, even though her husband already knew of my existence. Eventually, Wyn calmed down and Maria discovered that she was about to go on a fortnight’s holiday with her husband, so Wyn promised that she would think things through whilst she was away, and then ring Maria again on her return with the medical information I had asked for.

The fortnight passed, and then another week, and Maria heard no more from Wyn. It was disappointing that she hadn’t kept her word; I suppose I can be a little na├»ve sometimes and assume that when someone promises to do something, then they will. Of course, adoptees are notorious for their impatience! Maria then wrote again but advised me that this was the last time she could make contact – if a Norcap representative makes contact more than twice, it can be construed as harassment. We were both then thrilled when Maria received a phone call in response to her letter, and Wyn gave her the basic details of the family’s medical history. Maria took a bit of a chance here and hesitantly asked if Wyn would consider sending a photograph of herself, just to satisfy my curiosity really. She agreed, and Maria rang me soon after to tell me that she was forwarding a photograph to me.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Waiting Game

Wyn proved surprisingly easy to find, and it was merely a few weeks until I heard that Karen, the researcher, had successfully traced her current address. Wyn had remained in the small seaside town where I was born until she got married and had another child; her and her family then moved back to the town from where she had originated, and she had a fourth child. Although the whole family had then moved to yet another seaside town, she was still married and the surname was slightly uncommon. So not only was I provided with a current address for Wyn, but I also learned that besides my older (half) sister (who had been adopted by Wyn’s husband on their marriage), I now had a younger (half) brother and (half) sister as well. And for 38 years, I’d thought I was an only child! There was no question at this point of involving any other birth family members – I was very keen not to disrupt the new life that Wyn would have made for herself, and wanted to be as considerate as possible to her feelings. Maria drafted an initial letter to Wyn and sent it to me for amendment and approval. It was a very tactfully worded letter, almost bordering on vague, so that if by any chance someone else other than Wyn opened it, they wouldn’t realise that it was referring to an adopted child of Wyn’s. It asked Wyn to make contact with Maria, either by letter or by phone.

What response was I expecting? Well again I return to my ‘instinct’. Although I had heard very much about birth mothers longing for the day when their adopted child ‘found’ them and were welcomed with open arms, I had a feeling that this might not be the case where I was concerned. I have no idea what made me feel this way, but I had been counselled to expect any eventuality – besides a possible ‘rejection’ there was also the chance that my birth mother could have died. So it really was a case of ‘wait and see’. Maria posted the letter first class on a Monday morning, so Wyn would have received it on the Tuesday. Three interminably long days and nights passed, and finally the call I’d been waiting for came on the Friday evening. I sensed it was Maria even before I picked up the phone. She said ‘I have news for you, but it’s not good.’ I knew straight away that my birth mother didn’t want contact with me.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Searching

Linda was incredibly supportive and suggested that I give myself some breathing space before starting the search for Wyn. She also recommended that I make use of the national adoption counselling organisation/charity, Norcap. Still reeling from the bare facts, but consoled by the way in which they had been presented to me, I went home to discuss my new-found knowledge with my husband and son. My husband has always been supportive of anything I have done, and my teenage son showed a maturity and understanding of the situation well beyond his years. Along with Mum and Dad, they understood why I needed to make this journey, and it was clear that they would be there beside me whenever I needed them.

Contacting Norcap was the next step; I became a member and read the literature and advice that was sent to me. I realised that it would be far better to use their intermediary service than to make a direct approach to any member of my birth family myself. Their intermediaries are trained and experienced, and are on hand at all reasonable times to give support. I explained that I had no plans at that time to actually meet my birth mother – all I wanted was to have details of my family medical history. The co-ordinator promised that she would choose my intermediary very carefully with this in mind and I was very fortunate to be allocated Maria, a highly respected Trustee of the organisation. My details were forwarded on to her and as soon as she had familiarised herself with them, she contacted me and we had a really friendly chat. The first thing was to actually locate Wyn, and ensure that she was indeed the right person. Having no knowledge at that time of tracing people – alive or dead – and living some distance from Public Record Offices, I decided that I would employ the services of a Norcap-accredited researcher. I should point out here that no underhand methods are ever used by Norcap – not that I would have had the nerve to agree to them doing that anyway! – and birth families are traced purely from public records, and information in the public domain, eg birth, marriage and death records, and electoral rolls.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Not the first...

Linda said that she had applied for access to my birth records and would give me a call when she had more information for me. During this brief wait, my birth certificate arrived … only to find that no, I didn’t have a middle name after all. This was bothering me so much! There was simply a line through the box marked ‘father’ (which I’d anticipated, because there were no father’s details on the application form) but my birth mother’s last address and my place of birth were given on the birth certificate. Then I got the phone call from Linda to say that she had received some details from the adoption agency and would I like to call in and see her. My adoption had been arranged through a Church of England Society and not Social Services, but this didn’t stop Linda from giving me all the help and advice I needed. The Society was also extremely helpful; birth records were only held on microfiche but they kindly provided me with a typed summary of the salient facts.

I met with Linda and she warned me that when my birth and adoption details were in front of me in black and white, it would seem like pretty powerful stuff and I could expect to become emotional. She also said that I should be prepared for one particular fact that I probably wasn’t expecting. How right she was. I must have read that A4 sheet three or four times before it all started to sink in and become reality rather than a fairy story. I think it would be fair to generalise here and say that adoptees who haven’t traced their birth families (yet) would naturally assume themselves to be a ‘one-off teenage mistake’ – I most certainly did. But I was wrong. Not only was Wyn 21 years old when I was born, but I wasn’t a one-off either – I was her second child!!

My half-sister, Sally, had been born two years previously; there were no details about her other than her name and the fact that Wyn had kept her, not given her up for adoption. This really was a shock; not only to discover that by the age of 21, Wyn had had two children by two different fathers – and wasn’t married to either of them – but also why had she kept Sally and not me? The fact that I had been given up for adoption had never bothered me from the point of view of being ‘unwanted’ but now the facts were stacking up against me, and I was starting to feel that maybe I was some sort of reject baby, sub-standard, surplus to requirements. What was wrong with me? No matter how many times I reminded myself that Mum and Dad wanted me so much, and were the best parents ever, I still could not get rid of that ‘unwanted’ feeling.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

What's in a Name?

I was fairly sure that Social Services would be a good place to start, and I was right. Although I wasn’t adopted anywhere near the small town where we now live, the department was very helpful and gave me lots of useful information and advice. As I had been adopted before 1975, I needed to have one statutory counselling session with Social Services. This was because prior to 1975, birth mothers were protected by the law from ever being found by their adopted offspring, and had been told as much when they gave their babies up; however, the law then changed and allowed adopted children to trace their birth families. Of course, some of the mothers who had been told that they would never be found had subsequently resigned themselves to this and got on with their lives – and probably would not welcome the intrusion of their child appearing after all these years. The counselling is to prepare adoptees for the possibility that their birth families might not actually want to have any contact with them.

As I wasn’t in any hurry to embark on my search and, even then, all I really wanted was my medical history, my social worker, Linda, was satisfied during that first session that I was in the right frame of mind to go ahead. She gave me a yellow form with which to apply for my original birth certificate (adoptees are issued with a Certificate of Adoption in their new name when the legal process is complete) but I was totally unprepared for the huge surge of emotion I felt when I saw mine and my birth mother’s names on that piece of paper. I can honestly say that, up until that point, I had never given any thought to our names. I suppose I must have known that I’d legally taken on my mum and dad’s surname, and that they had chosen my first names – but I’d never thought to ask about the name I’d been registered with. I didn’t feel as if I was a different person, it just felt very strange to think that I’d had a completely different name for the first six weeks of my life.

After just a few minutes, another thought hit me – even stronger this time – I only had one first name, no middle name. My birth mother had obviously made her decision to give me up and therefore couldn’t be bothered to give me any more names than were absolutely necessary. For some reason I still don’t really understand, I found this incredibly hurtful and I think it was at this point that she finally became a real person in my mind. Maybe there was another explanation for not having a second name? Or perhaps the person who filled in the form just hadn’t copied down my full name properly?

Friday, 10 April 2009

The Journey Begins

This vague curiosity soon subsided as I got on with being a wife and mother. We moved back nearer to ‘home’ and my mum and dad moved nearer to us so that they could take an active part in their only grandchild’s life. When he was old enough to start school, I returned to work part-time and life moved on. In relation to my adoption, the only slightly annoying issue was having to explain – seemingly time after time – in relation to both myself and my child, that I had no knowledge of my medical history.

Then, within the space of four years, my son and I were both diagnosed with medical conditions – him with epilepsy and myself with ME. I realised that it would be sensible to have some idea of any medical conditions in my birth family. And having a reduced immune system, it would also be helpful to be prepared for anything that might affect me in the future.

But this was tricky now. After brushing aside any interest in my origins back when I was a teenager, how could I broach this subject with my mum and dad? I couldn’t possibly do anything at all that would hurt them in any way. How would they react if they thought that I wanted to trace the very woman who gave me up? I spent a considerable time – years even – going over and over these questions, and the possible outcomes, in my mind. Weighing up the pros and cons, what could be gained .. and lost. My mum and dad had been such wonderful parents that I had to put their feelings first and foremost but, at the same time, I was sure that finding out more of my background was the right thing to do. I also knew without any shadow of a doubt that my relationship with Mum and Dad wouldn’t change at all.

I will say here that I am very instinctive – I tend to go very much by ‘gut reaction’ and although there have been a few occasions when that has let me down, for the most part, my initial intuition has been a good guide. I then heard news that an adopted friend of mine had been diagnosed with a cancer that is renowned for being hereditary. Amazingly, the disease was caught in good time, she was treated and made a full recovery. However, this did give me an opening to broach the subject with Mum and Dad, as she was well known to them too. I tried my best to explain that this was the very situation I was trying to avoid for myself and my son – and they understood! Well actually, I’m not sure that they did really understand, but they could see that I had given the matter a lot of thought and so they trusted me to do the right thing. And so started the next stage of my journey – where did I begin?

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Who Do I Look Like?

Four years later, our planned, wanted and much-loved baby boy was born, but unfortunately his birth wasn’t straightforward. I became ill during my pregnancy and he had to be born eight weeks early by emergency Caesarean section in order to save my life. Due to these circumstances, he was also very poorly and had to be moved to another hospital that could give him the Neo-Natal Intensive Care he required. This meant that by the time I came around from the anaesthetic, my baby had been whisked off by ambulance, under police escort, and so I didn’t see him for the first time until he was 10 days old.

Now was the time when thoughts of my birth mother sidled into my mind, albeit briefly. This ten-day-old baby was placed in my arms; he was virtually a stranger because although I had carried him for seven months and felt him move inside me, I had taken no part at all in his birth. Yet he was mine – I bonded immediately with him – so it was easy to understand how Mum and Dad could love a baby that Mum hadn’t given birth to. It was more difficult to imagine how my birth mother could possibly have let go of her child – what a terrible situation for her to have been in, and how would she ever get over the emotions of the day she gave me up? The condition from which I suffered can prove fatal – if I had died, who would have told my birth mother? Would she care whether I lived or died? Even though she had given up her baby, her rights to the motherhood of that child, and had hopefully been able to move on with her life, surely there would be a small part of her that would care what happened to the child to whom she had given life? Then there was this new baby who, in the first few hours of his life, looked distinctly like his paternal grandfather. Who did I actually look like? One of my birth parents? Or maybe both of them? Or possibly some other birth relative?

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Biological parents

The woman who bore me was young and unmarried; she was very much in love with a young man and accidentally became pregnant. His family sent him away to work, and her family would not allow her home with a child but no husband; she came from a good home and was smart and nicely spoken. She therefore had no choice but to give me up to a decent, married couple who were unable to have children naturally.

This was enough for me. I can’t even say that I had any images in my mind of what my biological parents might look like, what they were called, or any other facts about them. As far as I was concerned, the whole thing was straightforward; Mum and Dad were my parents, and the only difference was that mum hadn’t physically given birth.

Even into my teens, being adopted was just a part of my life – no issues, no problems – and it wasn’t a subject that I ever brought into any of the usual teenage arguments that I had with Mum and Dad. And I could be pretty horrific at times! Where did my stubborn streak, my quick temper, my dramatic tantrums come from? My generosity, caring, kind-heartedness? Nature or nurture? Prospective adopters were very carefully matched with babies and their birth mothers, so I was just as likely to take after my adoptive parents as my birth parents. With all the wisdom of youth, I flippantly turned down the offer of looking at the few papers in Mum and Dad’s possession when I came of age. Mum asked me several times whether I had any interest in my past, otherwise she felt the time had come to get rid of the few bits and pieces she had relating to my adoption. Of course I didn’t – for goodness’ sake! – she was my mum, nobody else!

I became an adult in age and made some very adult decisions early on; I became very disillusioned at school, where my love of music and the arts received no encouragement whatsoever, so I left and started work. A year later, I met the man who became my husband just after my 20th birthday and, on our marriage, I moved away to live with him. This was a huge change in my life. I left my home, my parents, job, friends, church and home city – all in one fell swoop. Yet, still, there were no thoughts in my mind of my origins.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Being adopted wasn't a secret

My earliest childhood memory must be when I was about four years old and at nursery. Keith, a little boy from our road, went to the same nursery and, on this particular day, he was spending far too long in that lovely red pedal car. I really, really wanted a turn but he was being so selfish and wouldn’t get out. So I gripped the underside with both hands … and tipped him out. When the ensuing wail went up to ‘Miss’, I very kindly put my arms round the sobbing boy and asked poor Keith what the matter was, ‘Oh dear, Keith, why are you crying? Miss, Keith’s crying!’

But what I certainly can’t remember from my childhood is being sat down and told that I was adopted – I just always knew it – so my mum and dad obviously never kept it a secret and made sure I knew right from a very early age. I do remember that I always had another present exactly six weeks after my birthday, which was to celebrate the day that they brought me home, and which made me feel very special and loved. And I also remember that the word ‘adopted’ wasn’t often used, I was more used to hearing that I had been ‘chosen’. Mum and Dad couldn’t have children; couples who were able to have babies just had to take what was sent to them, but some lucky people got to choose! Wow – they had picked me! Not one of the other babies, but me – the chubby baby girl with hardly any hair (well it was mere fuzz really and stayed that way for a couple of years!). And due to circumstances, mum and dad didn’t adopt any more children, so I was brought up as their only child.

Throughout my childhood, being adopted was never an issue for me. My parents had never kept it a secret, so why should I? I didn’t broadcast it, but if it was relevant to whatever was being said with friends or at school, then I mentioned it. I did get asked what I considered to be some very silly questions; one school friend regularly asked if my ‘real’ mum came to visit me at all. I was at great pains to explain that she wasn’t my ‘real’ mum, she just had me and then my mum became my mum – and why on earth would she want to visit me when she wasn’t my mum? I wasn’t told any fairy stories about my background either, just enough facts to satisfy any childish curiosity that I might have had – and I certainly didn’t have much of that in relation to my adoption (although ‘curiosity’ should definitely have been one of my middle names!).

Monday, 6 April 2009

Was I to blame?

My exterior is very different to my interior. I’m very good at putting on a front. If you asked people what their first impression of me was, they would more than likely say that I laugh and smile a lot, I’m friendly and sociable, even the life and soul of the party sometimes. But inside I’m cringing. I desperately need these people to ‘like’ me although, more accurately, I don’t want them to ‘dislike’ me. I don’t want to get it wrong, I must do the right thing and please people. It’s very hard to differentiate between wanting people to like you and attention seeking but, to me, there is a huge distinction. I don’t want praise for doing the ‘right’ thing, I just need to know that I haven’t done the ‘wrong’ thing. I desperately seek approval; if I am going somewhere or doing something and my close family are pleased about it, then I can enjoy the situation much more, knowing that they are happy with my actions. Ridiculously, I also feel that when something beyond my control goes wrong, it is in some way my fault; I will willingly take the blame for anything (or so it seems!).

There does seem to be an animal instinct inside us that binds us to the person who gave us life. The ‘nature versus nurture’ debate rages on, and genetics are very powerful. My ‘adoptive’ mum (I hate the term ‘adoptive’ – she’s my mum – but I use it in order to distinguish between the two at this point) and I are very similar indeed, which points to nurture. However, despite never even having met my birth mother since the day she gave me up, let alone spent any time with her, my half-brother tells me that there are alarming similarities between us too. On more than one occasion, he has been amazed at a gesture or reaction of mine because it was so much like those of my birth mother, hence pointing to nature. If certain traits are ‘inherited’, then there must be a tie between mother and child, despite who actually brings the child up.

Why am I torturing myself by raking up the very distant past? To absolve myself from any blame. To reassure myself that I was given up because of circumstances, because of being an unplanned baby, just another statistic, not because I’m ‘me’. I didn’t do anything wrong, I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I wasn’t sub-standard, a reject, a cast-off. I don’t need to prove my worth to anyone, I can just be myself and be happy to be myself. Writing this paragraph is the hardest thing I’ve done in a long time because it is the first time I’ve ever sought – and found – a reason for my searching. To free myself from guilt and responsibility … easier said than done, but now I’ve said it, I will have to do it.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Good Adoptee/Bad Adoptee

Think about it. I was carried in the womb for nine months, I heard my birth mother’s voice and, most probably, the voices of those close by. She gave birth to me and took care of me for the first six weeks of my life. Then without any warning, my birth mother’s voice, smell, feel are all taken from me and replaced with …. well, she’s a woman but she doesn’t look like my mum, sound like my mum, smell like my mum – where is my mum? This new one sounds nice and feels nice, but she’s different. Where has that other little voice gone? My big sister who used to lean over the carrycot and talk to me, stroke my cheek, try and make me giggle. Who and what is this other person who keeps wanting to pick me up? I’ve never heard a deep voice like this before and I’m frightened so I’ll scream, maybe my mum will come back ….yes, here she is … oh, it’s not the one I knew in the beginning but this one obviously loves me, she’s kind to me and she’s very similar so that’s alright, I’ll be safe with her. Apparently this other person is my dad and he’s a man, which is why his voice sounds so different ….I’ve never heard a man’s voice before, or been picked up and cuddled by a man. He loves me too so I’ll be okay with this one as well.

Then along comes the ‘Good Adoptee/Bad Adoptee’ theory; black and white, no grey areas. ‘Bad’ adoptees are the rebellious ones who go off the rails whilst at the opposite end of the scale are the ‘good’ adoptees who are desperately eager to please for fear of abandonment for a second time.

As a child, I didn’t think for one moment that I would be given up to a further set of parents, neither did my mum or dad ever threaten me that I would ‘be sent back’ if I was naughty; so where does this fear of rejection come from? We’re back at the primal wound again, because I certainly act out the part of the ‘good’ adoptee very convincingly as an adult.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

The Primal Wound

I’ve never been a devotee of our current-day counselling and self-help culture; being encouraged to talk about our innermost thoughts and feelings. I’m not one to bottle things up or sulk - I do talk a lot and prefer to have things out in the open, but this is different to self-analysis. I’ve always been of the opinion that in trying to look deep inside ourselves, we just end up finding stuff that might not even be there, as if we are looking for an answer or a reason and are determined to find one, whatever the cost.

Because I had a very successful adoption placement, and a perfectly normal and happy childhood, I have subconsciously denied any connection between being adopted and my traits and behaviours. I had believed that being adopted was simply a non-issue; what has being adopted got to do with anything?

I’ve also refused point blank to read books on adoption, even autobiographies, despite one title coming up again and again – ‘The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child’ by Nancy Verrier. I’m going to give in very ungraciously and reluctantly, and read it sometime soon.

An adoptee friend has unwittingly forced me into looking deep inside myself to find, and acknowledge, the existence of my own primal wound. Because, like it or not (and I don’t like it), it’s there. By one of those strange coincidences, at the same time that this friend was suggesting that I ‘come clean’ and admit to myself that being adopted as a baby is still affecting me now, I also had reason to see a GP recently. The adoption issue crept in by the side door and he explained that although a baby doesn’t consciously remember being removed from its mother, it is still aware that it happened. I later discovered that this GP really knew what he was talking about because not only was he involved in counselling, but also he and his wife were going through the adoption procedure themselves.

A cautionary tale...

Adoption issues have become popular news over the last few years, seemingly with the world and his wife searching for their birth families. The media feeds us with happy reunions, birth mothers having been forced to give up their much-loved babies and waiting in the wings for years in the hope that their offspring will come looking for them. The law was even changed a few years ago to enable birth families to trace the adopted child, albeit it with compulsory support from an authorised mediator.

However, what about those adopted children whose birth mothers didn't want them and couldn't wait for the time when they could give them up? Admittedly, these children thankfully seem to be in the minority but they do exist, and there is always the chance that the adoptee's search might have a totally different outcome to the one they were hoping for, even expecting.