When I was at primary school – very young five or six – I used to tell everyone –
“What’s that mean?” My classmates would ask.
My Mum described it to me that way. I’d always known I was adopted. The picture in my head consisted of a room full of babies in cribs and prospective parents walking along the rows until they saw a child who took their fancy. Pointing,
“I’ll have this baby please.”
Of course, the reality was very different.
My teenage birth-mum, a Catholic, became pregnant in the late 60’s.
Later, when I found out my birth-dad was a sailor, I envisaged my conception taking place down a dark alleyway before he was summoned back to the ocean by the sound of a ship’s horn blowing in the background. Vivid imagination even in those days.
I was born in a Catholic mother and baby unit. Writing to the authorities, my birth-mum informed them she had decided to keep me. Her wishes were ignored. Can you imagine having your baby snatched from you?
For the first six months of my life, I lived with a foster family. Then my Mum legally and joyfully adopted me.
My birth-mum had a nervous breakdown. Do they still use that term? She then married the first man to court her and within eighteen months of my birthday, had another baby. Named him after me. Her tale continued along a tragic vein but this is the story of my roots so…
Very early on in life, I remember staring in the mirror and feeling like I didn’t belong. Confused, thinking I looked different and was in the wrong nest. A very serious child, I’ve certainly become more childlike as the years have passed by. Being told I had been chosen made me feel special. But when I informed my primary school buddies, they went home and came back the next day with :
“That means your Mum is not your real mum, I came out of my mummy’s tummy. You didn’t come out of your Mum’s tummy.”
Suddenly it didn’t feel so special and the feeling of being a cuckoo became stronger.
My Mum was wonderful. I loved her. She was glamorous, loving and cooked so well. Unable to have her own children – TB infected her womb and she had a hysterectomy. Her Mum, my Gran, was an incredible woman. A well-educated individual, years ahead of her time. I was lucky. I also had a couple of fantastic uncles who nurtured me. My Dad, well he was a different matter.
So I learned early on not to tell too many people that I was special and different because I had been chosen. By the time I was seventeen only a few people in my life were privy to this information. At secondary school, I knew a boy who was adopted. He was forever bleating on about how awful it felt – in a quest for sympathy from the girls. I could see he had a great life. Well educated, well off and with very decent, caring parents. I wanted to slap him. It was important for me to be respected and appreciated. Not pitied.
Even with this pride in place, looking back I didn’t really feel I had any roots. There was a disconnect between me and most others. Don’t get me wrong – I was liked and had a friendship group that chose me as a member. But I didn’t feel I belonged with my adopted family or my peers.
In those days the law dictated that your birth mum could not contact you. Also, the information given to my Mum regarding my parentage was minimal. As a young woman, I went to St Catherine’s House records office with my birth certificate and started to search. This was a difficult topic to bring up with my Mum even though we were reasonably close. I found out my original name and took things from there. Soon I had my file sent to me from the Catholic Society. That’s when I found out how old my birth-mum had been and the fact that my birth-dad was a sailor. Reading the letter she had written about wanting to keep me was – let’s just say difficult.
This was a huge amount to take in. I processed it for many months. The turning point was having my first child – the experience was a revelation. Looking down at this tiny, tiny person I realised she was the first blood relative I had ever seen or touched. The enormity of this moment should not be underestimated. But she was the future and I knew it was time to delve into the past and find out about our roots.
Once I discovered I had a few half-siblings, a chap online was confident that with a last known address he could find anyone. I trusted him and he delivered the whereabouts of one of my half brothers
Tentatively I wrote him a letter.
Anxiously I awaited a reply.
I knew I might be opening a can of worms. What if I was a dreadful secret and my birth mum had another family who knew nothing about me?
When the letter arrived I put it on the table and there it stayed for about half a day. Then, with my heart in my mouth, I opened it. The first line read,
“We have been waiting for you.”
The effect that had on me was
My birth-mum had always talked about me and told her other children I was their big sister. She was happy I was finally in contact. All my half-siblings welcomed the idea of me with open arms.
They lived many miles away so I organised a trip to visit them and stayed at a hotel for a few days. The initial meeting was incredible. I felt extremely akin to these people. We shared mannerisms and physical features. They embraced and enchanted me in all ways. One of my half-brothers had checked out the details regarding our heritage. So finally I knew about my ancestors.
Because of the loyalty I felt for my Mum I kept my birth mum at arm’s length, but not my half-siblings. Getting to know them was an intense, amazing experience. It threw up so many emotions and even though they’d had a tough upbringing, I was envious. I wanted my time again. To be the big sister. To talk about boys and make-up with my little sister. Irrational feelings, but understandable? I suppose. These people were able to get under my skin in a way that nobody else had managed.
That terrified me, and I retreated.
Now it’s nearly twenty years since I met them all and I’m in spasmodic email contact with one of my half-siblings. I used to tell myself I didn’t want regular contact because of not wanting to hurt my Mum’s feelings. But she died seven years ago and I still have chosen to keep myself to myself.
Maybe that will change. But maybes are for tomorrow.
In my job, I travel all around the UK. Today my roots are with my man, my daughters and wherever I lay my hat.
And that is how I came to write under the name May More – it is derived from the name on my original birth certificate.
There are many issues around adoption laws, past and present, that I want to discuss in a future article.
With thanks to Wicked Wednesday. Because of this weeks prompt, I finally got around to writing this post 😉