Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Adoption - my story

You know I wouldn't normally write a post on a Wednesday, it doesn't fit in with my timetable. This could throw me out for a week, and I lay the blame firmly at Sally Whittle's door. I'm pootling round Twitter, innocent as you please, and I come across this post about adoption.

I was adopted in 1968, so slightly before the clearly youthful Sally, when I was about 8 weeks old. The first I knew about it was when my mum told me she's chosen me out of all the other babies and I was very special because of that because not many people could choose which baby they wanted. That was on my 5th birthday. Mine was an adoption through the local church society and because we lived in quite a small town, people tended to know about it. I remember quite vividly coming home from primary school in tears because one of the bigger girl's had told me my "old" mum was coming to get me back because my mum didn't want me any more.

Apart from that, I guess it wasn't so much of a big deal. I didn't spend a huge amount of time thinking about it but I always knew that my birth mum had written me a letter which my mum looked after for me. I didn't ask about it, or for it, until I was in my twenties. I had many fantasies of what my adoptive mum was like - I suspect lots of other adopted people do too. At first, I imagined she was a sort of princess who'd been forced to give up her baby and was desperately sad, living her royal life without me. Then I imagined she was a celebrity who hadn't been able to keep a much loved baby as she was too much in the public eye. Following that, I imagined she was some beautiful young artist type who hadn't been able to support me while she lived in a tiny little studio painting masterpieces and finally I guessed she was probably a young mum frightened out of her wits.

Not right with a single one of them.

I won't go into the details of just how far wrong I was as I believe it's important to preserve privacy for both of us. I left it until relatively recently to try and trace her, and with the help of an agency, found her in about 24 hours. We struck up a brief conversation over the phone, talked for a little time after that, but it quickly became clear I wasn't what she'd expected and she had no intention of trying to build a relationship with me. For Sally and myself, it was never about being chosen, it was about the not being chosen in the first place. And for me, it was about not being chosen twice. For a while that was hard to deal with.

But you know what? It's a little bit of a cliche, but you don't choose your family, you choose your friends. I have a partner and son who adore me, I have friends who love me, and acquaintances who like me because sometimes I make them laugh so much they cry. There are people here, on the internet, who read what I say because they like it. I'm a good person, and a happy person. Being adopted was neither the beginning or end of my story, it was a little tiny part of it that's had as much influence on me as the schools I attended, the people I've known and the work I've done.

We all have a story, but it's up to us to make the ending of it what we choose it to be.


  1. Wow. I am kind of struggling to find some words here that may fit or even begin to say what I really want to say.

    I have my own issues with adoption (not mine but very close to my heart), maybe one day I'll be brave enough to write about them.

    As long as you truely love your family (adopted or otherwise) and vice versa then you really can't ask for more in life.

  2. I think you have a brilliant attitude. I worry sometimes that so many people seem to define themselves by things they had no control over at all. The way your mum described your adoption when you were a child is excellent! Good for her

  3. Holy cats! (do people say that still?) You've put this issue so wonderfully that everyone involved with adoption so read it. It's beautiful!

    My friend - I have not forgotten you. How could I? I was delighted to see your visit over on mine. Let's keep going back and forth shall we?

  4. What a powerful post. I am totally fascinated by adoption - from all points of view - and only recently found out that I had an older half sister from before my mum and dad met. As a strict Irish Catholic none of us could believe dad had kept this secret for nearly 50 years, and even more bizarely my mum knew but never told him she knew!?!!! Fortunately my half sisters story was a happy one and we are all now in touch - all the more poignant and important as my dad passed away last year. In my view it's just important to know the truth - at least then you can try to deal with it and move on - as you seem to be doing so courageously. x

  5. I was also adopted, and as far back as I can remember always knew about it. My relationship with my mum was second to none. We loved each other dearley and I loved to make her laugh. She was beautiful, well educated and had a sereen presence about her, everybody loved her. When she was 6 both of her parents had died, so my mum her brother and sister were all adopted by members of the family. She was Irish born in Castle Matrix County Limerick, but was braught to England to start her new life without her siblings. As a teenager I would ask her questions about my birth parents, there was very little knowledge about birth parents in those days, (Iwas adopted at 6 wks old in 1960). I have a son who I gave birth to in 1983 then had 3 miscarriages, so, adoption seemed the only thing to do. I also have a daughter who is almost 20 yrs, we adopted her at 4 yrs. My children and I are very close, we are very open and enjoy family time. My husband is my rock and we still love each other after 29 yrs of marriage. My children love each other and have never fallen out ever! Adoption is rareley a first choice, but it is not necessarily a bad choice.
    Sadley my mum collapsed infront of me and died 11 yrs ago with a brain haemorrhage. I never realised how I relied on her emotionally until she was gone. When I was little I missed her when she was not around, and felt safe and content when she was. If I could have chosen a mum for me, any mum, it would be her. A few years after her death I wanted to know who I really was and fill in the gaps, it took 3 yrs of searching, but eventually found my birth father, he was by then 75 yrs and had just been diagnosed with an illness that was only to see him deteriorate rapidley. We had three encounters, many phone calls and many letters exchanged over the sea. It was cathartic for both of us, no blame just both enjoying the knowledge of each other.
    I feel very lucky to have been accepted by his wife and five children and we all have contact from time to time. I feel that if you have an honest open family relationship, and there is love and laughter in your home you won't go far wrong. X