Its essential now to give some background into the response to sharing this search with your nearest and dearest. Those who are closest to you are often those who take things as more about them than about you. I want to make it clear I love my family unquestionably and never set out to hurt anyone.
My goal was to find answers to what I see as my given right to know. Its not everyone who has the skills or opportunity or the level of support that I had so the time was right and I went for it. In telling my siblings the reaction was almost quietly sceptical but seemed supportive as I expected and hoped. Not enthusiastic but enough for me to feel they were on the same page. One of my siblings , my eldest is closest to me than the other , maybe due to time we spent together both single and away from the family doing our own thing, he used to take me shopping in the city, out for curry and we could talk openly about pretty much anything. I loved times we spent just chin wagging and putting the world to rights. As my family circumstances changed and he became an uncle to my daughter we continued to be close but on a different level. I am not an intellectual type of girl as I told you but I do know a fair amount of stuff about a whole load of things, so I get by and can turn my hand to pretty much anything I put my mind to.
Finding my BM either as flesh and bone or an Obituary was going to happen, like it or not , I was doing this. My other brother was less vocal as we grew up but we rubbed along nicely and I loved them both equally as protective big brothers I knew they were very different to me (not just physically as in them being white , me black) But that didn’t matter, in personality too we couldn’t have been more different. I am always looking for the positive and humorous slant on things,they both either see everything at face value or determine the logic in things. I hate logic..its not funny….humour is funny, my mishaps in life are funny…not so at the time but ask anyone…when I relay a story that at the time had me either at the brink of danger or in big trouble, the listener ends up needing a Tena lady or in agony from laughing. I prefer the pain of an aching tummy from a right good belly laugh with my mates than eye bags from crying over the drama of it all. They say that laughter burns far more calories so that’s another bonus . I’ll take it thanks!
So with both siblings on board or at least not objecting, I felt it safe to proceed. Fast forward to getting close to what looked like something tangible after all the stress and tears….an end result, good or bad seemed likely………..My mother was onside from day one and showed understanding and compassion throughout. My mother isn’t an easy woman, generations are different and as anyone who knows me will tell you , over the years our differences have almost broken us and this journey was the hardest issue between us (more of that later) But warts and all , I love her , she raised me and I had a lovely childhood. However I wont say I am grateful for being adopted to anyone or for anything. I think that is crass and unfair as an adopted child is not only getting a life un-chosen but is filling a need for the adopters so it works both ways folks. If that sounds wrong then too bad . I love my family but am also aware I didn’t exactly bring nothing to the party myself . I turned out OK and have some amazing people in my life who have stuck around by my side for a bloody long time so I must be an OK person to be around. So please understand that I do love her. Life is too short to hold bitterness and heartache but its tucked away inside me and surfaces from time to time. Even when faced with information that neither she nor I was aware of, some quite disturbing we shared the news and challenged it and then let it be.
Unfortunately, as I near to the suggestion I might actually locate my BM , my elder brother exploded emotionally without warning and didn’t hold back. In my own house too. Apparently embarking on this search made me the most selfish woman on the earth,how could I do this to my mother?, wasnt everything in my life enough without me raking up the past?, how dare I? etc etc , blah blah blah! I retaliated but saying This was about ME and my child…to which he got even more angry saying I was using her as an excuse and being selfish to even want to find the woman…and so it raged on until I ran away sobbing to bed . The next day he was contrite and accepted he was out of line and we agreed he was and that it was never to be discussed between us again. And yes I still love him but he hurt me more than I can explain and I needed a lot of support to get me back on track after that episode.
When life gives you lemons and all that ….make pancakes?!
The outcome of this outburst was that the negative vibe was passed to my Mother who saved her vitriol until a much later date. Trust me you need to hear that bit but in time.I promise.
The funny (odd, not haha) is that although writing this down finally is very therapeutic, it is also actually causing the same twisting pain in my chest that I experienced during the search. I don’t generally believe in a broken heart but you know its does still hurt reliving it. Odd that as actually I am in a really happy place. Anyway….
Sadly my Hero , my Father,has grown sick over the years and I adore the man he was and still is . I probably just assumed he was onside but never actually asked him his thoughts and I wonder if I should do now at this point? Nothing will change either way but I know the second hand news fed to him by my other family members would not have been put the way I would have liked him to hear it. My lovely dad enjoys small pleasures now, I take him chocolate and cheese every visit and enjoy our gentle banter …I make a point of saying I love you Dad at every opportunity I get as I know in recent years he’s able to say it back to me without hesitation. It comes easier for both of us to say it quietly to each other, often as almost a whisper like we don’t want anyone else to overhear…Guess we both know in our hearts that it needs saying as much as we possibly can now………while we both still can…:-(
Oddly I have no intention or interest in finding my Birth Father as what I learned of him would be unhelpful for him to be faced with my opinions at 70+ .The man does not need me in his world any more than I need him in mine so that’s a search I don’t feel a need to take on.
My Mother did show signs of wavering when information suggested in my Birth file, contradicted information she had given me and reinforced over the years. We were both wrong I said. NO, she said ‘ This is what they told me at the time,. I explained that at the time that was the information they understood, it mattered little now 40 odd years later but faced with paperwork and hand written testimony we could hardly argue with it could we?.
One statement , amongst many that cut me to the very core and will remain with me always was my Mothers declaration that I actually had no right to this information! It was in fact HERS! ? Really, how the hell do you come to that conclusion? Apparently, It was NOT meant to be made public to me at any time in the future. That was her understanding? In 1969 She was told I was hers . She owned me and all Rights to me and my decisions going forward from the date she signed on the dotted line. My adult abilities not withstanding, I had NO RIGHT TO THIS INFORMATION. The end .
Lets look at that just for a moment: You are born…you live a life, you grow up with curiosity unsatisfied . Then you decide to exercise your God given right to find out what happened to you between 0 and 3 months old. THAT is the End of it. Yes I hang onto the hurt and the pain and abject inner fury that was evoked by this conversation. Am I not human, flesh, blood and feelings? According to both elder brother and mother I was doing a selfish act to hurt them , not for myself but to wound those who had raised and loved me from a baby. I will elaborate more on this at a later date but find it hard to relive so I will leave it there for now…
Frankly the naive notion that I would not seek these answers beggars believe. Something heavy sat on my heart that day. It remains there to a lesser degree but I well up now at the memory and disbelief. And then I am saddened to say it , yes I admit it, something kind of died inside me that day.
Facts are facts and however hurtful to the reader it is what it is… right? NO bitterness can be felt now surely , who was this about anyway? Oh yes ME that’s right. NO one else but ME! so I took my little Birth file and read it over and over until the words swam on the page through my tear filled eyes. Much as my eyes are now proof reading this actually! Ha! Damnit!!
How could information and letters from so long ago cut to the quick in a way that words spoken to your face cannot?. Beats me.
You see, you need to be very well prepared for your Birth file to contain stuff that might turn all you felt was true and proper on its head to the point of leaving you questioning so much about yourself, your past, your life and how to proceed. Processing a lot of the information you gather is not easy when you have family who either dispute the correctness in that information or make you feel somehow guilty for ‘digging’ up what is essentially the missing jigsaw piece. Its hard to describe but you have to accept the written words even if presented in a fairly unfeeling way. You have no choice but to face this head on as its in your face, no escaping it. Grab your big girls pants and get on with it.
My SW called me up and simply said You need to come in and go through your Birth File. The file itself was a nightmare to get hold of. The C of E Adoption Society closed down years ago and with it many of the files vanished to different offices in agencies countrywide . So it took a while to track it down, frustrating in itself , not only as I wanted to crack on with the search and skip this red -tape…as I naively saw it at the time. When the time came I said ‘Cant you post it on to me so I can read it at my leisure? Give him his due and in hindsight it makes sense, he insisted he needed to talk me through it to protect me emotionally.
Oh bugger, what a faff…driving across town to the poky plastic office again was a joy…so there we sat again. Face to face , him with his glasses on the end of his nose, me with mine on the end of mine! Anyway……
He opened the plastic covered folder .
A thick pile of headed paper letters from various local authority offices and signed forms dating back to 1969.
The first letters were enough to throw me off kilter like a kick in the gut. No warning, no softeners. Bam! You see, I was told from a very early age that I was given up as my BM already had a 2 year old , no money, single in a room and no means to care for another child. Perfectly understandable and accepted as the reason for all my life. Be clear here, I NEVER felt anger or bitterness towards my BM for giving me a better life, which is exactly how I see it. However I learned on this grey damp day in plastic office that in fact my nearest sibling was born in the January of the same year I was born on Christmas Day. So we were born in the same bloody year. Ok I asked who was the boys Birth Father. I then learn we did in fact share the SAME Birth Father. I took a few minutes for this to sink in. This boy is a full sibling,we share the exact same parentage. The same bloody DNA!! Right then, that’s huge news after over 40 years…and also gave me a nudge as to how I really should try to understand the fear my eldest brother felt when he really thought long and hard about the journey I was about to take without him. Maybe he feared I would find a sibling and latch on to a new life, or maybe he knew I would find something that might cause me pain.
Either way he was out of order , knew it , but I still love him and now understand partly but forgiveness comes in time.
Moving through the file , I am next shown letters from various Adoption departments of several Local Authorities. Fairly mundane red tape but one in particular stood out and later lead to a few wine sodden tears in private.You see I don’t cry that easily but when I do its something I know is healing me and releasing. In this instance I read a letter from the Council my BM was due to give birth in, addressed to a neighbouring Council. In brief it read something like this:
Would you by any chance have any parents seeking to adopt a baby of afro Caribbean parentage. Due December 25th (yes I arrived as planned) . Please get back to our office as soon as possible
The reply was really what threw my a curve ball..you see I get that I am a statistic, a number, in fact I am an unborn entity with no rights as such, but its hard not to take these letters personally when they are actually about you….
Dear Blah Blah
Thanks for your letter dated ……We have looked at our prospective adopters on record and conclude that we may be able to help but only if the child is a girl… We will endeavour to try to house the child if this is the case
So you see, not only did my BM have to go through the remainder of her pregnancy with me hopeful of the Social services finding me a suitable home. She had to worry about what happens if I were a boy? Would I be shoved into a children’s home, or would I end up fostered indefinitely until I was old enough to abscond and live a non productive life in poverty..Back in those days Black baby boys were not very popular. Girls only marginally more so I suppose but that margin was enough in my case . I bet she worried about everything for months and had no way of knowing what to do for the best. My Birth Father seemed to be the man to impregnate and leg-it TWICE in the same year?so guessing she loved him in a funny kind of way….I wonder if he even knew I was on the way? Did he care either way? Had he had his fun and moved on to someone new? Oh well, will never know and don’t really care now if I’m honest
However the next paperwork did make me smile and wonder if we did in fact have a shared sense of humour…She had been asked to sign away her rights to me. Her child. Her unborn. Without malice, I don’t know how someone does that when that little life is kicking your insides to pieces without a care in the womb (so to speak!)
And so one of the sections on this document asked her for details about my Birth Father. Personal characteristics, hair colour, eye colour, height and the like. An interesting question to ask I felt was What were the Birth Fathers Hobbies and Interests?
My BM wrote in curly scripted handwriting , clearly and with irony..
Birth Fathers Hobbies and Interests: Flirting with Women and Riding around in his car showing off
I kid you not, that is exactly what I read and what she wrote 40+ years ago!! I had to smile but felt a deep twist in my chest. Something like heartburn but like an ache for the woman who must have been in utter despair and turmoil at the gravity of her decision. It makes me weepy now as I write this to imagine her nightmares. Sad that the document contains humour that at the time was not expected to be seen as such. Oh well, its there and sums him up pretty much no doubt. Hence another good reason to leave that side of my DNA well alone
SW at this point realises I have had enough for one day. Yes I have. I need peace and space so please can I go home now. I leave. In the knowledge that he was right to go through this stuff with me and not leave me to digest it on my own.
Its not so much that you expect it to be written about you as if they give a shit. But it is sorrowful to read that old style type written script and know that you are in fact ‘infant 2929393’ has no name, no identity, no known future..until their letters and dialogue find these things. This is you on paper. Nothing…Nothing but a wish in the heart of your Birth Mother……
Thanks for reading
Lots of Love
Black Sheep xxx