Follow up: A birth mum shares her thoughts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARecent posts about sibling and birth family contact have proved to be quite emotive for many of our readers; and one in particular prompted a birth mum to get in touch to share her own thoughts and experiences of direct contact which we thought deserved to be heard.

“I am a birth mom and I can’t say that I agree that its “always adoptive families” that “action, chase, fight for the best outcome of the child”. The agency I went through has done a lot to help and has a strong desire to help in whatever way they can for all three parties involved. Also, I have reached out, expressed feelings, respected the wishes of the adoptive parents and I have been rejected. It is true that every family is different. I have so much respect for you and other families that try to maintain contact with birth parents for the benefit of your child.” 

 

And here is the original post as it was published on April 10th 2015.

Any Advice Gratefully Accepted

Having read the recent blog about sibling contact I thought I’d write asking if anyone has had any problems with direct birth parent contact. I know that to most this may seem like a strange ‘problem’ to have but here goes…

When I adopted my daughter I agreed to annual direct contact with her birth father. I didn’t want her to hit teenage years with all the possible angst that that can entail and ask why I wouldn’t let her see him when there was no reason for me doing so other than ‘I didnt want to share you’. Had I not been a single adopter and had it been her birth mother who wanted contact maybe I would have felt differently, who knows. Anyhow for one reason or another we fell through the cracks last year and contact was not arranged. I tried unsuccessfully to contact social services leaving voicemails but no one returned my calls. I finally heard from them saying they would chase it up and get back to me but they haven’t and now another year has almost gone by.
I guess what I’d like to ask is whether anyone else has experienced this and also if any of you know whether it is my responsibility to be chasing up contact. I’m also worried that a gap of two years (spanning ages three to five) will make seeing him harder for my little one.
Any advice gratefully accepted.

I’m your baby, mummy

fillipo lippi V&CRecently, our son’s foster mum was visiting with her son. A much-loved, plum and delicious boy of six months. We all hunched over the little miracle, admiring his being. I thought it a lovely moment and added: ‘When you were this little you lived with Rosa, my friend.’ My 3 year-old looked me in the eye and corrected me:

‘I am your baby, mummy. I was with you.’

‘Yes, my darling, you are my baby. And when you were very little you lived with Rosa.’

But he would not hear it. ‘No, mummy. No, mummy, I am your baby.’

He maintained shaking his head. He stood up and repeated the words. ‘I am your baby!!’

Rosa turned to me, speaking softly she said: ‘This is all so complicated. Perhaps we better leave it for now.’

We did. But his stance stayed with me.

A few days later, I brought the subject up again. I took out a book of photos from his life with Rosa and her family, and we sat down on the floor of his room. We flicked through the pictures, something he normally loves. But this time he got angry with me.

‘No!, Mummy. I am your baby!’

‘Yes, my darling, you are my baby. And I love you very much. This is just pictures of the time when you lived with Rosa.’

He stood up and put both his hands over my mouth shouting: ‘I AM YOUR BABY!’

I closed the book, and hugged him close.

‘Of course you are.’ I whispered into his neck and kissed him. ‘You will always be my baby.’

I left it at that. I felt him relaxed in my arms.

Hmmm.

My husband and I discussed these incidents at length and agreed we both needed to throw a few more pebbles in this little pond of his. So far he has shown no interest what so ever in his life story book. So we haven’t forced it. That said we have never shied away from his background either. We are quite open about the fact he is adopted. To him and to the world at large. But perhaps we hadn’t spoken with him about his early life lately, we wondered, in a way that made it accessible to him.

There have been other times when I’ve been surprised at his urge to be born by me. From very early on in his life with us. At no more than 18 months, he wanted to come out of my tummy. We played it over and over. Him hiding under my nightie and popping out into his bed. But the time with Rosa and her little boy was the first time he had voiced the need to be my baby so strongly. Of course it is a great sign of his attachment to me, and I guess to my husband and our little family unit of three. ‘Mummy, Daddy, Digger. Mummy, Daddy, Digger.’ as he likes to chant endlessly. But I was taken aback by the strength of his feeling. And perhaps a little fear of denial.

We left the subject for a while. Placed the book of baby photos within reach so he could look at them if he felt like it. He didn’t.

A couple of weeks later we happened to be in an area I know his birth mother used to live and work. We were walking down the street hand in hand.

‘When I come to this area I often think of your birth mother. She used to live here, you know.’

Long silence. He didn’t look up, but his attention to my words was clear.

‘Would you like me to say you her name out loud?’

He nodded without looking at me. I said her name aloud. Our eyes met and we smiled.

‘This can be our little secret: we both think of her when we come here.’ I suggested.

He nodded again and smiled.

Not long after his foster mum came round again, and somehow we’ve managed to wiggle his early life with her into the fabric of the day. Just little things like: ‘When you used to live with me, you looooved ice cream too. You’ve always loved ice cream. Especially chocolate! You got so messy! You got it all over your face! And your clothes!’

I feel we are back on track. Integrating the stories and details of his first year into the every growing tapestry that is his life.

Until the next time we need to do some adjusting.

Flummoxed, Perplexed and Bewildered

peppaI am perplexed…

Forgive my bluntness, and I’m sorry this blog won’t be more entertaining but I’m desperate for information so I’ve come here to get it off my chest and let it all hang out…
We brought our beautiful three year old daughter home 2 years ago as a 13 month old baby and were informed she was the youngest of five (to our knowledge) siblings and half siblings dotted around the country. All have the same biological mother but apparently (again – to our knowledge) one of them may well also have the same biological father making this a full sibling. This information was tantalisingly and casually dropped into one our many conversations with birth mum’s social worker who hinted at it but couldn’t say more than it was extremely likely.
Our daughter is an only child in our house and talks longingly of wanting brothers and sisters at home with her. I don’t want her to grow up not knowing these siblings if there is a chance she could have a real relationship with them. I also don’t want her thinking that we just didn’t bother; we have and are bothering and yet we are getting nowhere.
Social services did manage to track down one sister (which had me jumping for joy) but her adoptive parents made it clear they would reluctantly accept only yearly letterbox contact despite living not that far away and that this is non- negotiable. My partner and I were flummoxed, then angry; we cannot understand their decision. If it were the other way around, we would definitely be willing to support actual contact on a regular basis. We cannot help but think they are thinking of themselves, not their daughter. We cannot help but think their decision will backfire.

Another family seemed to be completely off the radar yet I was able to find them on a social media site with literally no information other than a name. I duly forwarded this information to social services who then used it to contact the family but got no response. It’s killing me that a sibling is so close and yet the family refuse to respond to invitations for contact.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a rose tinted picture of the Waltons all sitting round a big table in harmony, I just want the best shot at some sort of a relationship for her with her brothers and sisters but it seems impossible.
As far as the other two siblings go, one is literally nowhere to be found – despite having been adopted and therefore known and documented somewhere; and the other one is in the care of a member of the birth father’s extended family. Ironically, at a our meeting with birth mum she attempted to pass us the contact details of this closest sibling but it was intercepted and deemed inappropriate by the powers that be and we are now no nearer to having any contact with this one either.
I’m ranting I know, and it’s probably difficult to even follow the threads of all the avenues we have had to follow to try and find her brothers and sisters. But how do other adoptive parents feel? Is our experience typical? Normal? Do we just have to accept that she will not know her siblings until she grows up and even then, only if they and she feel like it? Couldn’t the biological connection of siblings be a source of security and warmth in her young world, and couldn’t it also have the very real potential to grow and develop into much more in adulthood? Her siblings all seem tantalisingly close yet out of reach and I find it really hard to just accept that it has to be this way.

Scotch Eggs

WAF LOGO DEC 14We are sitting having dinner and both our sons are excited because a friend from school is with us, conversation jumps around and one of them makes reference to ‘Mummy’ at which point the friend says ‘you have two Dad’s because your mummy is dead’, ‘no she isn’t they reply in unison’ and then go on to give two slightly different explanations as to her whereabouts.

We are of course very open about their past and talk about birth Mummy and Daddy as being part of their lives, even though we have no photo’s of them and have had no letter box contact from either of them since the boys were placed with us two years ago. They mention very little about their time before Care and although we never push, we do try to make it clear that they can always be open and talk about anything. We feel that it is not actually a reluctance to do so, but mostly because both the boys were very young when they were taken away – just 2 and 3 years old – and have few clear memories. In fact they actually spent longer with their foster parents than with their birth parents and they both talk openly about their life there.

Also, they were with an older sibling in the foster placement and we do feel that some of the little that the boys have shared about life in their original family is probably ‘borrowed memory’ from their sister who was 6 when they were taken from their parents. She was of course far more aware of the reality of their situation than our boys could have been, especially our youngest and she no doubt has very vivid memories that she would have shared with the boys.

Our oldest seems quite ‘unemotional’ about his birth parents, but to be honest he is a very ‘matter of fact’ little boy and hugely pragmatic, so it’s not so surprising. His brother on the other hand is the complete opposite and is clearly hurt and confused about his past, as a consequence he has little time for his birth parents and clearly has a lot of resentment towards them. On being shown an old birthday card sent from them for his 3rd birthday – that we had stumbled upon in a box of ‘mementoes’ that had arrived with them – he declared ‘they are nasty people, I don’t like them’ and threw the card to the floor.

We have tried to reassure them that they are good people who were just unable to look after them, but we have been armed with such little information, and are aware that there may be things that need acknowledging and dealing with that we have no idea about.

So back to the dinner table.

Our youngest’s explanation as to where mummy is starts with ‘she is not here, she couldn’t look after us’ however his brother declares ‘she is in prison’!

‘No she is not’ I correct. To which they BOTH responded ‘yes she is’.

I thought for a moment and remembering them both sharing the experience of being taken away in a police car and going to the police station, I bring this up and say that maybe they thought she was taken to prison, but in fact she was not.

To which both said ‘no, she had to go to prison’ and the oldest continued ‘she tried to give me away and the police said that was very bad and that she had to go to prison’, his brother finished ‘yes, she didn’t want him, she wanted to give him to somebody else’.

Unsurprisingly, my partner and I were somewhat thrown by this and questioned them further. We are now pretty sure that there is certainly truth in what they were revealing and although we are not as yet sure that she was convicted and sentenced, we are now pretty convinced that Mum was at the very least arrested for ‘trying to give away one of her children’ – our oldest son.

We knew that the information we had been given was a bit vague and somewhat sketchy, but we hadn’t really considered that such huge and important information could be missing.

Over the two years we have been together there have been a number of small surprises and revelations from their past, but until now nothing any more revealing than the time we were walking around a supermarket and our oldest became quite animated and with a look of total glee declares ‘Wow these are my absolute favourite’ and proceeds to pick up a pack of Scotch Eggs – something his new vegetarian parents had clearly been depriving him off.

That was about a year ago and although we loved our wonderful sons with all our heart, had been together for a year and we had assumed that we knew them quite well it made us realise how we still had so much to learn about them. The revelation at the dinner table has displayed JUST how much that could be.

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas: A Christmas Carol

ImageIt’s the season of good will and I have recently been reminded to pause and extend good will towards the woman who gave birth to our daughter. It’s not something I do very often, being busy just getting on with being a mum myself. But the prompt came from an article I read about a retired nurse’s recollection of working one Christmas eve on a busy labour ward when she was still a student. The ward was full of expectant mums and she had been advised that one of them – whose child was to be adopted – was not under any circumstances to be given her child to hold after it’s birth. When her time came, and she delivered a baby girl, the baby was quickly whisked away, but the mum begged to hold her just once. The nurse being a student didn’t know what to do and eventually gave her the infant to hold. The mum then tenderly kissed her baby and said quietly “I love you. My own little Christmas Carol”. They had a quick cuddle before Carol was taken away and given to a foster mum to take home. The tenderness and love of the birth mum towards her child stayed with the nurse over the years and she found herself thinking of her at Christmas time and wondering how both mum and child were doing.

It got me thinking about my own daughter’s birth and how intimate it must have been for her and birth mum in the moments after she was born. I never really thought about it before but how can there be anything more intimate than giving birth? I will never be a part of that bit of her story and yet it’s a massive part of her. This Christmas I would like to thank her birth Mum for delivering my beautiful daughter. I will never forget that she came from you.

The Things Kids Say…

2011-07-12 17.27.34We have two girls – a birth daughter, aged 10 and our youngest, aged 5, who we adopted four years ago…Here’s just a few gems they’ve come up over the years.

1. During a somewhat drawn-out tour of our local secondary school before making the final choices for our eldest daughter for next year, our youngest, after an hour and a half, obviously decided it was time she cut in on the action.

Lightly touching a maths teacher’s arm to gain her attention, and stopping her in mid-flow, our daughter piped up: “I can go to ANY secondary school I want to when I’m old enough…cos I’m adopted!”

“Really?” says the teacher, rising to this magnificently. “That’s great… and I really hope you choose this school when the time comes?”

Our daughter, after a thoughtful pause…

“No. I won’t.”

2. After a particularly (and unusually, these days, I have to say) fractious afternoon recently, wherein it seemed I could do, or say, nothing right by our youngest, I was pretty relieved by the time she was in bed. An hour later, it was time for our 10 year old to go up. Giving me an extra big bedtime hug she said: “My mummy. My only mummy.”

I laughed and said: “Well, I hope so!” And then, after a wee while I added, ruefully: “Though, of course, I’m not your sister’s only mummy, am I? And I sometimes think, especially on days like this one, that she’d probably prefer to be with her other mummy…”

I’d meant it lightly, I thought, but maybe she detected something that needed to be aired? So she considered this statement, solemnly, then nodded and said: “You know, birth mum’s got a huge advantage over you because, basically, well, she gave her life, didn’t she?”

“Yes, good point, love, and that’s just the way it is and there’s nothing I can do to change that,” I agreed.

“But remember, you have an even bigger advantage, Mum – you’re giving her a BETTER life than she would have had.”

3. Our youngest now regularly says she loves us but, recently, she added an extra something: “I love you mum. And I’ll never, in my life, un-love you.”

“Never un-love me,” I repeated, savouring the words and tears pricking my eyes. “I’ve never heard that before – and what a lovely phrase that is…”

She frowned, then: “It’s not a phrase. It’s what I feel.”

4. I got back from a solo overnight stay at my mum’s and the girls wanted to know how nanny’s new rescue dog, TJ, was getting on now? I said how nervous, over-excitable and unpredictable he still seemed, even two months since he’d come to live with mum.

Our youngest put her little hands on her hips, waggled her head and exclaimed, in mock outrage: “Well, whaddya EXPECT mum? He’s been adopted hasn’t he, just like me! And when I first came to live with you, you were just RANDOM people. I didn’t even know you! And really, we’re all still totally RANDOM to him!”

5. A very ordinary teatime, about a year on after we’d adopted our youngest and I’m making boiled eggs. Our eldest casually mentioned how big Auntie V had got now her baby was almost due – and was I that huge when I was pregnant with her? The youngest froze in her tracks and the room seemed to hold its breath: “So, she was born out of your tummy?”

We’d all been upfront from the beginning about adoption and discussing with our youngest her life story, before us. There were no secrets here, we thought. But what we’d not thought of before was her assumption that her big sister was also adopted.

I wiped my hands on a teatowel to give myself time to think and suddenly, thankfully, the words came: “Yes, she was in my tummy,” I said, “and, later on, me and dad and your sister really, really wanted another child to join our family that we could love and look after and keep safe. But I wasn’t able to grow a baby in my tummy anymore. So we decided to find out about adopting a child…”

“And then you came and found me,” she said, a slow smile spreading…

“Yes, we did,” I said “and, I want you to know, although the two of you came to us in different ways, you are BOTH my girls – and I love you just as much as I love your sister.”

I glanced, then, at our eldest, feeling nervous – was this an okay thing to hear, so explicitly? Without hesitation, she came to her sister’s side, smiling, slid an arm around her shoulders, her head against hers. “Yes,” she said, “and I love you too. And now you’re my sister and you’ll be my sister forever and ever.”

Then both looked at me, then, and almost in unison, said:

“Are the boiled eggs ready yet?”

6. On a day out in the park, our youngest, and a close friend of ours, climbed a hill a bit ahead of us, towards the trees. The wind was rustling in the leaves and our friend, in poetic mood, said to her:

“The trees are talking to each other, whispering secrets,”

She didn’t miss a beat:

“Yes. Or it’s the wind,” she said.

Family Resemblance

Wearefamily logoThe first time it happened, I felt it like a pole-axe. “That ain’t even your kid” yelled the woman over her shoulder as she barged past us in the street. I held it together until we got to the playground where we were meeting friends, then burst into tears. Furious on my behalf, one friend insisted, “but she is your child”, in truth although I had felt she was my daughter since some time during introductions, I was still very much aware that until we had the adoption order, anything could happen, and our little family felt fragile.

It happened a few more times, in the street or on trains, helpful strangers observing “your husband must have very strong genes” or “she’s got none of you and all of her daddy”. It still rattled me, but less and less, especially as I realised that because I am a different colour to both of my parents, apart from some similar but not striking physical characteristics, what makes us identifiably family is our mannerisms. I felt heartened by the realisation that my daughter and I will grow more alike the longer we are together.

Today, we went to the hairdressers, and were captive in the salon waiting our turn. One woman was staring hard at us “is that your baby?” she called across the space. I looked her in the eye and with no hesitation and a smile replied emphatically yes. A conversation ensued between her and the man who was cleaning the windows, they unashamedly stared at us and remarked on my husbands incredible strong genes. I didn’t say anything, but they didn’t need me to. They were fuelling their own fire. After a while, the man, who had resumed his window cleaning, remarked casually “just the eyes”. Another hard stare at us and the woman agreed… “that’s it!” she said, as if he had cracked some code, and there was general agreement all round the salon. We have the same eyes.

On the bus home from the hairdressers, we bumped into an aquaintance, who after retrieving my daughter’s dummy from the floor, recounted a story about how her children wouldn’t take a dummy at all, but then she’d breast-fed them all, which apparently explained that. She demanded of me if I’d breast-fed my daughter, and I felt strangely elated that although some strangers may question our relation, to some, who even know us slightly, we are unquestionably family and assumed biological at that.