Monday, 2 July 2012

Finding the son I'd never met

As a teenager growing up in the 1960s, Andrew Ward fathered a child who was immediately placed for adoption. Thirty years later he set out to find the son he had never met.

I learned about the baby by chance. My parents and I returned from holiday abroad and called in to see old friends in the town where we used to live. I borrowed my parents' car and went to visit Carol. It was 10am one Sunday morning and the curtains were closed. That was very unusual. It was normally an up-and-at-em, crack of dawn household. Maybe there was a death in the family. I knocked on the door and nobody answered.

I went away and then returned an hour later. This time the door was opened. Her parents seemed sombre as they escorted me into the lounge. I felt like I was going into the headmaster’s study. I sat down and they told me that Carol had just had a baby.

A wave of shock dropped from the ceiling. It tied my hands behind my back, stuffed cotton wool into my mouth and pinned my stomach to the chair seat. The quiet lingered.

'Can I see her?' I asked at last, when I'd learned how to talk again.
'No, that wouldn't be for the best.'
'Boy or girl?' I asked.
'Boy. Do you admit that you're the father?'
I didn't see Carol. I never saw, touched or smelled the baby. It became clear that the notion of adoption was uppermost in the minds of Carol's parents.

My memories of the adoption aftermath are hazy. It was as if I was hypnotised. I was incapable of putting up a fight. I was expected to be like a cuckoo rolling someone else’s egg out of the nest with no concern about whether or not it would land safely. The adoption decision was presented to me in such a way that I had to be very strong in order to scupper that decision and find another option. I had a dearth of information and insufficient experience of life. I ruled out the prospect of Carol and me jointly raising the child because I assumed that she was going along with the adoption and that our relationship was over.

A fortnight later I borrowed my father's car and drove 200 miles to see a social worker in the town where I’d first met Carol. Carol's parents had told my parents that I had to be adamant about the adoption and adamant that Carol and I would never get married. I'd had to look up the word adamant in my dictionary. It wasn't a word that suited my personality at the time.

The social worker was jolly and friendly. She asked me questions about my school and my A levels. Then she looked for ways to describe me.
'What are your hobbies?'
'Bridge and chess.'
'Oh, chess. That's good.'
I never wanted to play chess again after that.
'Are you willing to sign a consent form?' she asked.
'I suppose so.'
I didn't understand what was happening. It didn't really matter whether I signed a form or not. Carol's signature was all they needed to crank up the adoption process. The family adopting the child had the right to change Christian names and surnames and thereafter the path to my son grew mistier, murkier and muddier.

You can read more of Andrew's story in The Birth Father's Tale. If you need info or advice about adoption search and reunion, please visit the ASR website.

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