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This week 1 - 7 November is National Adoption Week in the UK which is campaigning to raise the importance of adoption highlighting the fact that every child deserves a family.
Adoption can make an enormous difference to a child's life and in this country there are still children for whom family life is a distant dream.
I was one of the lucky ones because I was adopted as a baby. My adoptive parents Phillip and Daphne were unable to have their own children and it was many years before Daphne found out the reasons why. It was 1957 and Phillip aged 34 years was a teacher and Daphne, also aged 34, worked for an insurance company and all that was missing from their lives were children.
They decided to adopt through the Church of England Childrens Society and in the 50's there were a lot more babies available for adoption. This was a pre Pill era and unwed pregnant girls were frowned on and discouraged from keeping their babies, often being convinced that the child would be better off with a family.
And so after leafing through photos of possible babies, I was taken from foster care at 4 months to live with my new parents.
Me on the day after they brought me home in July 1957!
Awww I look so flippin cute there, like a really happy little soul. A perfect first baby for Philip and Daphne.
By the time I was about 3 years old my parents decided to adopt another baby, this time a boy. It was at this time that my father told me I was adopted. It made sense really that this was an appropriate time as my mother had a friend who was pregnant and yet we had a photo of a baby boy who was to be my brother.
My father sat on the end of my bed and told me that I was different from other children as I had been specially chosen by them. I think at that time I didn't quite comprehend what that actually meant and the whole notion of having another mummy I didn't know was an incredibly overwhelming thing for a three year old to grasp. I remember a funny feeling inside me as he told me and I asked questions that only a three year old can ask. On reflection the feeling was probably anxiety or a sense of helplessness and I know I felt extremely small.
Of course all that disappeared when we picked up my special brother to add a new dimension to our family. Jason was a beautiful baby boy and I completely adored him.
A pic of my brother Jason and I just after he arrived to live with us.
People often remarked how alike we looked!
It wasn't really until I was in late primary school that I thought more about my adoption and what it meant for me. I would lie in my room staring at the ceiling, tracing the cracks and making up stories about lost babies being found in the woods and being cared for by fairies. I never knew why these babies were lost, they just were, they would be easily found and in no obvious danger. My stories didn't actually reach any conclusion and on reflection I think they were a way of me coming to terms with my own adoption, albeit in a rather fantastical way that only a child can imagine.
As I got older my questions became more rooted in reality as I wanted to know why I had been given up for adoption and what my 'real' mother was like. I always called her my 'real' mother which I guess subconsciously relegated my adoptive parents. My adoptive mother, who was quite a controlling women, instilled in me an assumption that I wouldn't need to ever trace my birth mother as I was happy. We never had the conversation that I feel I really wanted, the one about how we all felt and what we wanted from life. The net result was that I grew into adulthood with an overwhelming sense that there was something fundamentally missing in my life.
One says that you cannot miss what you never had, however I disagree as I do believe I missed out on the mother daughter relationship that I am now blessed to have with my own daughter. I never felt quite settled with my adoptive parents, although I was keen to make them proud of me and loved them with my heart, I still felt a sense of distance and difference.
I often wondered what it might have been like if I had lived with my 'real' mother. It is a strange feeling when you try and think to yourself of a life that is different from your own but that you feel is yours anyway. I would try and imagine what my mother was like and how she would speak. If she liked the same things I did or if she even looked like me. I wondered about other brothers and sisters, about aunts and uncles and fabricated grand visions of what life might have been like if I had not been given away.
As a family we had our ups and downs and both my adoptive parents had some emotional and mental health issues. My mother had researched the reasons for why she couldn't conceive and once the diagnosis was confirmed I think she found it extremely hard to deal with. My father suffered from manic depression which went untreated for a number of years during which time there were numerous misdiagnoses. He spent a spell as an in patient in an institution and I wold visit him often. On one visit I was mistaken for a patient which was a bit disconcerting! LOL
Both my adoptive parents are now dead and I have been fortunate to meet my birth mother but that's a whole different story............
At 18 I managed to get myself pregnant and so ended up having a baby that I gave up for adoption...... so I am able to empathise with my own birth mother regarding the sense of loss that stayed with her until we finally met. I too have been fortunate in being re-united with my own son and whilst this is also one of the most happy times in my life it has also been one of the most traumatic.
Adoption is far more complex than the mere placing of a child with a new family. One cannot underestimate the intense and often overwhelming feelings that individuals on all sides face. No two people are affected the same and to try and comprehend the feelings is difficult. Words are often too insignificant to explain the feelings which can consume ones life and steer ones direction.
I am currently starting to write my autobiography to try and explore the feelings and emotions from both sides in order to share these insights with others.