Friday, 9 March 2018

Adoption Story - Reunion after 57 years. 1/2

In early February 2018, my daughter, and I traveled to the USA to meet our recently discovered, extended family. This is the story.

57 years ago I was adopted by my mum and dad, Norman and Lily “Pat". Adoption was never a big thing as I’ve always known my sister and I were adopted. There had been no surprises in that area. At adoption time Mum asked "When would be a good time to tell the kids that they are adopted ? ” The Nurse in charge of adoptions said “Take them home, put them on your knee, tell them they were adopted and how special that makes them.”  I was chosen by mum and dad and brought up by them as their very own child.  { Retelling helps mum and dad to normalise the story. }

I have since learned that my birth mother only knew two things about my adoption, besides it being the very last thing in the world that she wanted.  The parents adopting her son had adopted a little girl a couple of years before me, and they were being allowed to adopt another child. To her that meant they were doing a good job and likely to give her son a good home where she could not.  When she waited in the Adoption office for the Sister in charge to take her son to his new parents, there was a file laying open on the desk.  The name on the file was my surname.  She filed it away as a piece of disconnected information. Over the years she held the hope in her heart that, eventually, her son would look for her...and, just in case he did, she had scattered a few electronic breadcrumbs for him to find...and kept her own birth name. As she had lived in Canada and the USA since I was born, she says reunion was rather a forlorn hope...

I had never been particularly curious about my genetic background but these days, in medical terms, genetic heritage is very important. A few years ago my big sister Jayne, took several months through official channels to discover her birth mum.  With further prompting from daughter Alice and darling wife Jenny, with a fresh mug of coffee, I embarked on my family research. The starting paperwork was the court adoption certificate that showed my original name, place and date of birth, along with my post adoption name. I put my original name, date and place of birth into Google, hit 'return' and immediately found what appeared be my birth family.  Using the official route of £10 via the UK passport office to obtain my pre-adoption birth certificate confirmed the research, and provided my birth mother's name.   { Between Tuesday 10:00 and 10:10, coffee still warm, my whole familly landscape changed. }

The Google search had turned up my birth mum's website, with a page she had set up prior to going to  work in Saudi Arabia for 6 months in Spring 2011, thinking it was easier to point people to the page, rather than to try to explain her rather large, extended family.  The page listed my birth mum's other children and my aunts and my nieces and nephews. The siblings all had their numbers with their names... "2", "3", etc.  This was going to be a big family extension.

The blog was so touching, included with the list of her children was an entry describing how her first born had been adopted away at 3 months. Right there was the matching birth name, place and date. And I was listed as “1”.  Making contact with long lost relatives can be a delicate occasion, but the blog entries reassured me that there was no secrecy around the adopted child { in that family}

Reaching out via email eventually led to "friending" my birth mum on Facebook and then to Messenger contact with her and the rest of her side of the family.  Over the next few weeks, lots of email and pictures were exchanged. Turns out I have a lot of family in the USA southwest: 3 sisters in Las Vegas, Nevada, and one in Sacramento, CA, and 3 brothers in San Francisco, CA and one in Tucson, Arizona as well as two aunts and 10 nieces and nephews...and a whole lot of new Facebook friends.

February 2018 visit to the USA will be the family reunions 57 years in the making. Getting to meet my new, extended family is going to be a big, exciting journey. Facebook may show someone's activities, but only meeting in real life can allow you to get to know them 'up close and personal’. 

Journalists will always ask “.. and how does that make you feel ?”  For Mauri (my birth mum), she tells me this is a joyous, life-changing event that resolves a long-standing area of loss and uncertainty. For me, it’s a new family thing to which I am adjusting.  Soon Alice and I will visit everyone.  It’s going to be emotional; it’s going to be fun; and it’s not going to be like any other journey, ever ! 

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