A Stronger Sense of Self

Published in Adoption Today Magazine December 2018 issue | Written by Polly Fielding

"When I had you, I had no one to turn to and then I had to work, and it was so hard to find anyone to take care of you. I gave you up, so you would have a happy life with a mother and a father, but I dreamed, loved and prayed for you all these years." These words were part of a letter to me from my biological mother after I finally traced her when I was 37.

In the past, an adoption order was final. All contact was severed between the adoptee and their birth family. Nowadays, when a placement order is made there is a sensitivity to the child's biological parents, the siblings they may have known, the culture they come from. That child has a history, which continues, when it's in the child's best interest to do so, rather than gets abruptly cut off. And this ongoing contact, albeit only once or twice a year, can provide an important link between past, present and future for the adoptee as well as for the biological and adoptive family. When this works as intended, it can benefit all concerned.

For me to know from an early age that my birth mother had not just abandoned me but had continued to love and care about me from the day I was born, would have meant so much to me. For her to have had news about the things I liked to do, my progress through school, drawings she would have treasured might have eased her feelings of guilt and pain at parting with her nine-month old baby.

I like to think that I would have developed a clearer sense of my own identity if I had known that the 12-year-old me, who wanted to become a singer and an actress, had a birth mother who also had the same ambitions when she was young. Even sharing a similar sense of humour about life was another discovery that linked me with her.

Perhaps, in an ideal world, any letterbox agreement would have actually worked better via my aunt rather than directly with my natural mother, since I was totally unprepared when I finally met a severely overweight, handicapped woman who differed so greatly from the photo she'd sent me of herself in her early thirties. Yet, despite there being no fairy-tale ending, I do not regret finding my birth mother.

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