“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage – to know who we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness”.
– Alex Haley
I entered this world in late 1971, born to a single mother in her early twenties. I was given up for adoption and placed with my adoptive parents in early 1972. I don’t remember at what age I was told that I was adopted but I do remember being read a story from a book that was used at that time for adoptive parents. The book was used to explain to adopted children why they were “chosen”, “special” etc and how they as a family all lived “happily ever after…”
My family consists of my mother, father and an older brother and sister who were also adopted. The three of us were from different birth mothers.
During my childhood I was made to feel different because my family members bore no physical resemblance to one another. When out and about meeting new people we were constantly reminded of this. People would say things like ” oh, you couldn’t be related, sure you don’t look alike…” These comments continued through primary and grammar school and my sister and I were told the same by friends and teachers. Consequently, from quite a young age I felt “different” and was always embarrassed that we stood out so much as a family.
Apart from that, I would describe my early childhood as happy enough, doing the normal things that children do with their families and friends. Thinking of my natural mother is not something that I remember during those early years.
As I grew into adolescence and early adulthood, I started thinking about my natural mother more and more. She was always on my mind. Every birthday and at various times over the following years I would go through periods of wanting to find her. I would often picture our reunion in my head and what it would be like for both of us. Equally, there were a lot of times when I was angry with her and wondered why I would want to meet her when she had given me away. Surely if she really wanted to keep me she would have found a way.
The main reasons that hold adoptee adults back from finding their natural mother is the fear of rejection again and that in most cases she will have married and have had a family. Chances are they may never told anyone about you, although, their parents and siblings would have been told at the time of pregnancy. As a result, you think that they are not going to want you upsetting their lives. The other big factor is the huge guilt that you bear for your adoptive parents. These two people have given you everything in life and yet deep in your heart all you want is your “mummy”.
Four years ago aged 39, I reached the stage where I had a real desire to make contact with my natural mother. My identity and heritage started to mean more to me, which I think is probably something that comes with getting older. I also needed to know if there was any medical conditions of a genetically inherited nature that I should know about.
I made contact with Social Services, found out my mother’s name, age at birth, where she had come from and where I was born. This was the only information that I was given.
Deciding what to do caused me huge anxiety. I had all sorts of thoughts going through my head, I was afraid of upsetting my birth mother’s life and also that of my adoptive parents. I knew that if I found my birth mother and all went well, than my relationship with my parents would never be the same again and they could be deeply hurt. I had also read about cases where adoptee adults had got in touch with their natural mother only to find out several months down the line that they didn’t connect and didn’t want to keep in touch. Added to this was the fact that my sister had not had a successful reunion with her birth mother who rejected her again. My brother was in a similar situation. After a lot of thought I felt that perhaps this was something that for all concerned was best left in a “box” unopened.
However, I knew this wasn’t really what I wanted so I continued to look for her on and off through Internet searches. I was hoping to find even a photograph. On my last birthday I looked her up again on the Internet only to find her obituary. You can imagine the distress and upset this caused me. The final realisation that I would never get to meet my mummy opened up the “box” that I had kept all my feelings in for a long number of years. This has resulted in me needing counselling and medication to help me cope emotionally with the huge loss. In fact I have suffered from mild depression for a number of years, which I now realise, has been linked to my adoption. Because of the stigma of mental illness I have never talked to anyone about this except my husband. I just battled on keeping it in its “box”.
You see, for me as an adoptee adult, it is not only the loss of never having had the mummy that I should have had, but of a whole life with the extended family with whom I should have been brought up. People who I would have looked like, shared personality with, shared mannerisms, had things in common with, all those simple things that “normal” families take for granted. I am left at 43 years of age with adoptive parents who whilst they raised me very well and have always loved me, I do not feel a connection. Through counselling I understand that there would be no connection, as such, because I am not theirs in that sense and so therefore can’t have any of their personality etc. It has also been explained to me that it is a bit of a lottery as to who adopts you and what type of people they are. There are people who are adopted and have a very happy life with their adoptive parents and never feel the need to look for their natural mother. We are not a close family and have never been, though my parents would think we are. I did try over the years to do things with my adoptive mother but gave up about ten years ago because we have nothing in common and we are completely different people. For many years now my biggest regret is the loss of having a lovely Mum that I could go for coffee with, have a day out at a spa, go shopping and have fun, like lots of other mother/daughter relationships. That includes my own relationship with my daughter. I appreciate that there may be people reading this who have their natural mums and don’t get on with them, but at least they are your mums, I never got that chance.
I will be forever grateful to my parents for all they have done for me. However my adoption was never right and should never have happened simply because my mummy became pregnant at a time when it was frowned upon by the Catholic Church.
I do support adoption in cases were people are not fit to raise children or where they have been abused. However my mummy would have been perfectly able. It was just in those days it was an embarrassment to families for their daughters to be pregnant. This makes the whole thing so sad. I am happy that in modern adoptions there is a link maintained in some form with the natural mother.
On a happier note, I have now been reunited with my natural Aunt who is the most amazing person to come into my life and we connected immediately. They are, as a family, extremely sorry for what happened and acknowledge that my adoption should never have happened. I have found out lots of things about my mummy, my grandparents and extended family. I have an album of the most beautiful photographs of her and most special of all is that I have some of her jewellery and several handwritten letters. My mummy wrote these at the time of the adoption when she was trying so hard to find ways of keeping me. I have also met a cousin, his wife and children and there are plans to meet other uncles and cousins over the Spring/Summer. It is so good to finally see someone who I resemble and my daughter who will soon be twenty-five is very like my mummy. It is wonderful to finally know my heritage and for my daughter and some day my grandchildren to know theirs. I can now be who I am. What I find so sad is that my mummy did go on to marry but had no more children. I can’t imagine how she got through her life living with the fact that her only child had to be given up for adoption simply because it was an embarrassment.
What I want to say to any adoptee adults out there like myself is: Please, if you want to find your mummy stop thinking and worrying about it and just do it now. Please stop feeling guilty about your adoptive parents. Don’t feel that you are doing something wrong in hurting them. Put yourself first because this was never your fault. I can’t promise that it will be a happy reunion but at least you will have tried. My failure to do so will be the biggest regret of my life and I am struggling to come to terms with that.
To anyone who is judging me because of my feelings towards my adoptive parents, I would say it’s not as simple as two people raising you and loving you all your life. Remember they chose to adopt and always knew that their children had a heritage of their own and some day would want to find their natural families. We have a right and a need to do so. My parents are not the type who ever talked about the adoption, nor did they actively encourage us later in life to find our natural mothers. I understand this is because of their fear of loss but I feel this is selfish on their part. Please think how you would feel if you had been sent off to another family. Babies deserve to be brought up by their mummy.
And finally to any families who have fallen out. Life’s too short. Make amends and be thankful that you all have each other. What I would give to have had the family in my life that I should have had.
Name has being withheld to protect families involved. For help and advice contact: