For as long as I can remember, I have thought about my birth mum on Christmas Day.
I used to wonder where she was, if she was happy, if she was thinking about me too. I didn’t even know if she was still alive.
I was adopted in 1982. In those days adoptive families were given very little information, so I only found out about the circumstances around my adoption in 2013, when my brother tracked me down and I read my file for the first time.
It turned my world upside down – not least because I didn’t even know I had a brother.
I struggled emotionally for a long while but a few months later, I finally I got in touch with Sandra, the mother I had always wondered and worried about.
She told me she had wanted to keep me but had a lot of problems, including a violent partner and no permanent address. Rather than allow me to bounce around the system from foster home to foster home, she agreed to my adoption so I could have a permanent home.
She had given me a name (Kelly-Marie) but had not even been allowed to hold me when I was born. And that when I was three years old, she had contacted the agency and asked for a photograph of me, but they refused her request.
Finally hearing her story, understanding the struggles that she went through and that she, too, had thought about me every Christmas, was extremely painful. But it also answered many questions that I didn’t realise I had about her.
Slowly, we started building a relationship from scratch. At the beginning, it felt as though we had very little in common and I was scared that things wouldn’t work out.
Sandra was also extremely anxious and feared rejection – she had always felt guilty that I was taken away and was worried that I would be angry with her. I felt a lot of pressure to ensure that I didn’t cause her any further hurt while also dealing with the enormity of suddenly having this important person in my life.
Gradually, we started to build a relationship from scratch – something that would have not been possible without the support of my wonderful adoptive parents.
Growing up, they had always careful to speak about my birth mum in a way that stressed that she must be a good person, because she had done a very selfless and brave thing by agreeing to my adoption.
Their attitude meant that I generally viewed adoption as a positive thing and shared with a certain amount of pride.
My adoptive mum initially found it difficult when my birth family came back into my life – this wasn’t something she ever expected to happen. I was equally worried about hurting her as my relationship with Sandra grew.
My dad, however, was more encouraging of our budding relationship. I knew this felt positive, but nothing could have prepared me for Christmas Day 2018, which would become perhaps the single most important day of my life.
I Skyped Sandra to wish her a happy Christmas; during the call she and my dad had a long chat and they both thanked the other for their role in my life.
Sandra told my dad what a great job he and Mum had done bringing me up. He pointed out that he could never have done so without her and that she should be very proud of me. I am proud of her, too.
I broke down in tears afterwards. They were mostly tears of relief, as things finally felt like they had come good. I had been so worried about hurting my adoptive parents or appearing ungrateful by being in touch so regularly with Sandra.
But that conversation gave me the confidence that they were happy for me. My parents like Sandra very much – in fact my dad says she reminds him of his own mother. That comment means a lot to me, as my granny and I were very close.
It has been an emotional road getting there, but having both my birth and adoptive families in my life has showed me just how important family is.
When you are adopted, you grow up painfully aware of that importance as you have already lost one family. Many adopted people feel a constant need to please people and ‘earn’ the love of their adoptive family, even where that love is unconditional.
We know the importance of family, as we live in fear of losing them.
Other people may see mine as unconventional, but now, after several difficult years, things are perfect just the way they are.
I’m in touch with Sandra all the time. We message one another several times a day and meet roughly three times a year and talk about everything from the weather to our hobbies and holiday plans. My parents always ask about her when we talk.
I love Sandra dearly, just as I love Mum and Dad – they are all my parents, in different ways, and I couldn’t be who I am today without them.
My husband and I are going away for the holidays this year, but I will be calling all three of my parents on the 25th to wish them a very merry Christmas.
As always, I will feel a strange mix of joy and loss – joy that I have these three people that I love very much, but sadness that I didn’t know more about the mother who gave birth to me, and that I didn’t find her sooner.
If you’ve been affected by any issues raised in this article please contact Adoption UK’s helpline
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